Thursday, 2 September 2010

RNW: Family have “failed” Dutch-Iranian prisoner

Zahra Bahrami has been in detention in Tehran since the end of last year on charges of endangering national security and possessing drugs. But her family is not doing enough to secure her release, according to the son of another Dutch-Iranian political prisoner. In total five Dutch nationals are currently in jail in Iran. Ms Bahrami's daugher says her mother has never been a member of a political party.

Zahra Bahrami could be facing a death sentence, according to Radio Netherlands Worldwide’s Tehran correspondent Thomas Erdbrink. Dutch caretaker Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has expressed his concern about her fate to the Iranian ambassador. The Netherlands has called for her to be given a fair trial.


45-year-old Zahra Bahrami had travelled from the Netherlands to Iran to visit her daughter when she was arrested. She is one of thousands of Iranians detained in the aftermath of the summer 2009 elections. “Like everyone else, my mother took part in the demonstrations in Tehran,” said Ms Bahrami’s daughter, Banafsheh Erfani, speaking on the Dutch current affairs TV programme NOVA. “She had contact with Iranian broadcasters abroad. But she has never been a member of a political party. Never, I know for certain.”


Adnan al-Mansouri was shocked to learn of Zahra Bahrami’s imprisonment. “I heard about it yesterday on the radio. It’s terrible news,” he said, speaking from his home in the southern Dutch town of Sittard. Mr Al-Mansouri feels for the family. He has been campaigning for his father’s release from an Iranian jail since 2006.

But the news about Ms Bahrami also makes him angry, says Mr Al-Mansouri. Not just with Iran, but also – despite his sympathy – with her family.

“They haven’t done enough. They’ve failed her, and also themselves. I understand that Ms Bahrami has been in detention since last year. It’s reprehensible that we should only find out about it now. Not only have human rights organisations like Amnesty International only now been informed, but the same goes for the Dutch government.”

Independence campaigner

Zahra Bahrami may not be a political activist according to her daughter, but Adnan al-Mansouri’s father is a different story. Abdullah al-Mansouri was granted political asylum in the Netherlands at the end of the 1980s. From the southern Dutch city of Maastricht he headed the Ahwaz Liberation Organisation (ALO), which strives to establish an independent state for Arabs in the Ahwaz region of Iran. In 2006 he was arrested in Syria and extradited to Iran. Since then his son Adnan has been campaigning from the Netherlands for his father’s release.

Other Dutch detainees

Mr Al-Mansouri and Mr Bahrami’s cases are not isolated. In a statement in response to the Bahrami case, the Dutch foreign ministry confirmed that a total of five Dutch citizens are in jail in Iran. Four of them – including Ms Bahrami – are accused of involvement with opposition movements.
In the European Parliament, Dutch MEPs for the D66 party have appealed for the European Union to take action. MEP Marietje Schaake appealed to the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton to raise the matter with Tehran. At present, sanctions against Iran are only directed at the country’s nuclear programme – “A missed opportunity,” says Ms Schaake. “Security and human rights are linked.”

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