Sponsoring Political Prisoners In Iran

To increase pressure on the Iranian regime, activist Daniela Sepehri asks politicians and public figures to sponsor political prisoners in Iran.

Daniela Sepehri at an event hosted by the International Society for Human Rights (IGFM) in Berlin on March 1, 2023. Here she explains her sponsorship program, which can be accessed through the website www.hawar.help.

Public political pressure can protect lives. Daniela Sepehri is sure of that. She and her fellow activists Mariam Claren and Mina Khani arrange sponsorships for political prisoners in Iran. The activists mainly approach politicians, but also public figures like artists and musicians.

Sepehri and her colleagues have already arranged 370 sponsorships since mid-November 2022. According to Sepehri, each sponsorship has the effect that local politicans become personally more involved with communicating the fates of the prisoners. That creates public pressure on Iran and improves the situation of the prisoners.

„92 of these 370 prisoners have been released on bail,“ the activist explains, „five or six death sentences have been overturned. Several people have been moved from the isolation wing to the general wing.“ But Sepehri also knows that it’s not these sponsorships alone that are improving the situation. In fact, changing circumstances and many different actions contribute.

For Sepehri it’s all about visibility. „The regime has kept itself alive over the last four decades by being able to maintain a semblance of law and order to the outside world.“ In this regard, she points to a public that needs always to be and stay informed. „A name the world knows is a name that the regime can’t easily make disappear.“ That’s what her sponsorships intend to do.

It is Sepehri’s specific interest to draw attention to ethnic and religious minorities, who are particularly targeted by the Iranian regime. „Since September 16, 20,000 people have been arrested in Iran,“ she says about the situation in general.

In direct conversation with her, it becomes more clear that such sponsorships can also be established by other people than politicians and prominent figures. The decisive factor seems to be a personal connection. „For example,“ she explains, „there are also school classes that sponsor imprisoned teachers.“

(c) Text und photo: Jan-Christian Petersen