Attempts to Persecute Human Rights Defender Mehrangiz Kar by Silencing Her Husband
May 10, 2002




Mehrangiz Kar, journalist and Iranian women's rights activist, who was jailed in April 2000 for her writings and speeches on women's rights, was allowed to leave Iran for medical treatment for breast cancer in fall 2001. After she arrived in the United States, her husband, journalist Siamak Pourzand, was disappeared. He was brought to the phone a number of times to call Mehrangiz and their daughters Leila and Azadeh to pass on the message that they must refrain from speaking on his behalf and must avoid contact with the media.

Realizing the more profound danger in submitting to censorship, Mehrangiz and her daughters decided to expose the situation and spoke freely with representatives of the media. Mehrangiz has appeared on PBS television, and has spoken on VOA, BBC, NPR, and numerous European radio networks in the hope that international pressure will help save her husband. Their many attempts to get information concerning Siamak's condition and the status of his case from various government entities and several human rights organizations in Iran has met with failure.

Siamak, who is being held hostage to silence his wife and daughters, is in danger of losing his life. We urge our friends and colleagues to pass on this information to their networks and to use their advocacy vehicles to bring attention to this case.

Appeal from Mehrangiz Kar and the family of Siamak Pourzand

We wish to inform all human rights organizations and individual activists and all those striving for justice and freedom of expression that Siamak Pourzand, a seventy-one-year-old journalist, was disappeared on November 24, 2001. Six months after his disappearance we are still not told where he is being held. Because of the pressures exerted upon him by his captors he does not dare accept the lawyer chosen by his family. The court assigned lawyer is reluctant to gather information about the case or defend the rights of his client. Up to this point no one outside of the authorities has had access to his file. There is no information regarding the actual charges against him nor about the circumstances under which confessions have been extracted from him.

On Saturday, May 4, 2002 the newspaper "Iran" stated that Siamak has been sentenced to eight years in prison. Last Friday, his eighty-year-old sister, who was last permitted to meet with him two months ago, called to tell us that finally she had been allowed to visit with him once more and that she had found Siamak totally devastated physically and psychologically. It was obvious to her that Siamak, who has suffered two heart attacks within a week, was denied the simplest means of healthcare and personal hygiene.

We, the family of Siamak Pourzand, cognizant of his deteriorating mental and physical condition are appealing to all people of conscience and all organizations dealing with justice and human rights to help pressure the Iranian government to allow him to be hospitalized at the family's expense and to receive the medical care that he desperately needs. It is obvious to us that the authorities-- in order to avoid any investigation into the abuses of Siamak's rights, and the illegal and inhuman treatment he has received-- refuse to provide him with medical treatment in the expectation that, given his deteriorating condition, the abuse and violence they inflict on him will allow them before long to release news of his death. We hope that human rights organizations across the world will take note of the urgent nature of this case and support us in our effort to bring Siamak Pourzand the medical attention he desperately needs.

The family of Siamak Pourzand

Please send your letters of concern to the following officials:

1. Your Country's Ambassador to Iran

2. Your Country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

3. Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Office of the President
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, The Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: 98-21-646-4443 or

4. Mary Robinson
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
CH 1211, Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel: 41-22-917-9000


On April 30, 2000, the Islamic Republic of Iran imprisoned Mehrangiz Kar and other activists and intellectuals because they had participated in a conference on the future of Iran held in Berlin, Germany a week before. She was denied access to her lawyer and was not allowed to receive medicines during her nearly two months in solitary confinement. She was charged with "acting against the internal security of the state and disparaging the sacred order of the Islamic Republic." Two charges were filed against her in the Islamic Revolutionary Court-- acting against national security and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran-- and three additional charges in Iran's Public Court-- violating the observance of hejab, denying the Islamic instructions stated in the Qu'ran, and insulting Islam. Such spurious charges are often used to silence and imprison political dissidents. Accusations relating to the observance of hejab are particularly common against women whom the courts wish to intimidate and harass. There was therefore grave international concern about the safety of Ms. Kar who has frequently been singled out by the regime as a foremost proponent of women's human rights in Iran.

On June 21, 2000 Mehrangiz Kar was freed on bail. She had to post the equivalent of US$60,000 for her release. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, Ms. Kar appealed to authorities to be allowed to seek medical care in the Netherlands and the United States. Denied this humanitarian relief, Ms. Kar underwent a mastectomy and a regimen of chemotherapy of Iran. Almost concurrent with her medical treatment, her case went to trial.

In January 2001, the Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Mehrangiz Kar to four year's imprisonment. It was considered completed in exchange for money. The three charges against her in Iran's Public Court are still open, for which she may again be arrested upon her return.

For more information, see previous alerts issued by WLP.)