This press release was issued on January 22, 2012 by “Free Parastoon and Marzieh,” a blog created by a group of Parastoo Dokouhaki and Marzieh Rasouli’s concerned friends to accumulate and archive what the world is saying about their arrest and continuing detention by Iranian authorities. For more information on the fate of these women, please visit: http://parastoomarzieh.blogspot.com

Parastoo Dokouhaki and Marzieh Rasouli, Iranian journalists and bloggers who were arrested last week, are being kept in solitary cells at Tehran’s Evin prison. Latest reports from Iran indicate that the two are held by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Sepah or IRGC) in the so-called ‘Ward AA’ (do Alef). The AA Ward of the Evin Prison is not under the jurisdiction or supervision of the Iranian Prisons Organizations, and is illegally run by the Intelligence Department of the IRGC.

Last week, agents stormed the houses of Dokouhaki and Rasouli and arrested the aforementioned, confiscating their laptops and other personal belongings. The two have been charged with “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the regime” – loosely defined charges that are repeatedly used in a range of cases. The real reasons for the arrests are, thus, not clear.

So far, the journalists have been denied the right of access to attorney and no visitation with their family has been granted. Dokouhaki and Rasouli are not the only journalists arrested within the last few days; Sahameddin Bouraghani, Fatemeh Kheradmand, Ehsan Houshmand, Said Madani, Farshad Ghorban Pour, Mohammad Soleimaninia, Nasrin Nematollahi, Peyman Pakmehr, and Shahram Manoucheri are among the many journalists, bloggers and Web activists who have been arrested in the recent weeks. Furthermore, family members of reporters employed by Persian media outlets outside of Iran, such as BBC Persian, have been harassed or detained. In addition, a number of university students and ordinary citizens were called for questioning and subjected to beatings.

In light of the wave of arrest of the journalists and bloggers inside Iran and the pressure placed upon those outside the country, it seems that in the run-up to the March 2012 Parliamentary Elections, the Iranian government is trying to cut off the free flow of information by whatever means necessary. The journalists and bloggers inside Iran, as well as the families of those working for news services outside Iran, thus seem to be the victims of a pre-emptive action by Islamic Republic to tighten its grip and block the free flow of information.

We ask the Iranian government  to release these journalists immediately. We further ask all human rights organizations and the international community to condemn the pressures and fear mongering perpetuated by the Islamic Republic, and encourage all to follow up on this case and demand their speedy release from the IRGC run prison.

To get further information about the recent arrests and obtain contact information of the relatives and family friends of those arrested in order to conduct an interview, please contact: free.parastoo.marzieh@gmail.com

About Parastou Dokouhaki

Parastou Dokouhaki, journalist, blogger, and woman’s rights activist has been detained at Evin prison since the eve of Sunday, January 15, when agents stormed her house and arrested her along with confiscating her laptop and other personal items. Parastoo Dokouhaki’s activism dates back to 1998 when she started working with Zanan, a feminist journal. As a journalist, she worked for newspapers such as Yas-e Nou, Eghbal, Etemad-e Melli, and Shargh. One of the most famous female bloggers, Dokouhaki wrote extensively about social issues with a focus on women-specific issues. In 2005, her weblog won the award for the best journalistic weblog from Deutche Welle. She was actively involved with groups working on various women’s rights issues, such as the women’s rights to enter the soccer stadiums. In 2007 she went to UK to continue her education. She received a masters’ degree in Media Studies from University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) after which, she returned to Iran. Prior to this arrest, Dokouhaki was arrested in March 4, 2007 and charged with “action against national security” from which she was acquitted in court in May 25, 2010.  In recent months, Dokouhaki was collaborating on a project with Shariati Foundation. Dokouhaki has a chronic illness and must use medication under the supervision of her physician.

About Marzieh Rasouli

A literary and cultural journalist and famous social blogger, Marzieh Rasouli has been imprisoned at Evin prison since Tuesday January 17 when agents stormed her house and confiscated her personal belonging and laptop along with arresting her. When her house was stormed, Rasouli was logged into her email account. After she was arrested, emails were sent from her account to some of her friends stating that she is not arrested and that the news of her arrest is a mere rumor, which the matter has caused serious concerns amongst her friends. Rasouli has worked in the literary and cultural section of ISNA (Iranian Student News Agency) as well as newspapers such as Iran, Shargh, and Etemad. In 2005, her collection of cultural reporting for Shargh newspaper won her the first place in the Printed Press Festival of Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. In October 2010, while attempting to leave Iran on a leisurely trip, her passport was confiscated at the airport and she was told that she is exit-banned. While pursuing her case to reclaim her passport, she was informed that she stands accused of spying. However, a few weeks ago, Rasouli was told that she was cleared of all charges and that her passport will be returned to her. Rasouli has been interrogated numerous times by the Ministry of Intelligence.

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