Iranhumanrights.org – Fatemeh Haghighatjou, a former reformist member of Iran’s Parliament currently living in the United States, is desperately seeking information about her sister, Leila Haghighatjou, who was arrested on December 19, 2016 in Tehran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and is being held without access to a lawyer.
“The only thing the authorities have told us is that my sister is being held on ‘security charges’ and that the IRGC is responsible for her detention, but we don’t know anything else,” Fatemeh Haghighatjou told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on January 11, 2017. “They haven’t said what the ‘security charges’ are exactly. Unfortunately, in Iran when they don’t want to say someone has been arrested for political reasons, they use the term ‘security charges.'”
The Revolutionary Guards is a powerful, ultra-conservative military force functioning alongside Iran’s traditional military that was founded soon after the country’s 1979 revolution to aid the newly born Islamic Republic in consolidating its power. It has long harassed the relatives of Iranian dissidents living abroad in an effort to intimidate them and silence critical media coverage of the government.
Fatemeh Haghighatjou, who regularly appears as a frequent guest on foreign news channels as an Iranian political analyst, was a reformist MP in Iran’s sixth parliament from 2000 to 2004. She has been based in the U.S. since 2005 and currently heads the Nonviolent Initiative for Democracy in Boston, Massachusetts.
“We demand Leila’s immediate release,” said Fatemeh Haghighatjou. “She’s not and never was a political activist. It’s still not clear what she has been charged with and she has no access to a lawyer. Imagine the psychological pressure she’s under. It’s illegal to hold someone for a long period without charge. My mother wants the Judiciary chief, the president and the detaining authorities to free Leila immediately.”
“What’s strange about this is that before her arrest, Leila had neither been threatened nor received any kind of summons,” she added. “Suddenly one day agents raided her home and took her away. Leila is not involved in politics, so we can’t guess why she has been detained.”
“On the evening of December 19 when the arrest took place, only Leila and her 12-year-old son were at home,” she continued. “The agents showed a warrant, searched her home, and then took her away after confiscating her mobile phone, computer and tablet along with her other personal items. But the agents said nothing about the charges against her. Her terrified son was left alone until his father returned home.”
Leila Haghighatjou is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in art history and works as an appraiser at Iran’s Cultural Heritage Foundation. Previously she worked as an artwork restorer at the Golestan Palace Museum in Tehran.
“Leila has phoned home several times and spoken to her husband and her son, but the conversations were very short,” Fatemeh Haghighatjou told the Campaign. “All she said was that she was well and asked them not to be worried. She told her son that she has to do some homework and she’ll be back when she’s finished. She didn’t talk about anything else.”