Following the closure of the offices of the Center for the Defense of Human Rights in Tehran by government agents, Rooz spoke with Narges Mohammadi the spokesperson for the group. She stressed that with the closure of the offices, their work would not stop and that in fact they would work even harder. Read on for the details.
Rooz (R): Tell us about the closure of the offices?
Narges Mohammadi (NM): We planned to organize a simple event on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But intelligence agents, the police and plain-clothes forces surrounded our offices that day. Tens of camouflaged cars equipped with cameras filled the surrounding streets. The size of the police and security agents in the Yusefabad was unbelievably large. Eventually about 10 to 15 of these agents entered the building. We tried to stop them and asked for a warrant. They not only ignored our demands but even verbally attacked and abused me and others. One of them was so violent that other agents had to restrain him before he attacked me. Eventually, they shut the offices, sealed the doors and threw us out.
R: Had the invitees arrived?
NM: The agents stopped anyone who tried to come and dispersed the guests. They even cracked down on journalists and photographers and prevented them from entering the building. They even confiscated the cameras and the film, erasing them or taking them with themselves.
R: Did they also take any equipment or belongings from the offices?
NM: No, all the equipment in the offices is in their hands. This is why we shall not accept anything that they may later claim. The security agents did not allow us to prepare a list of the items in the offices and have them signed. No matter how look at the actions of these agents, what they did was illegal, from the absence of a warrant to that of a list of items in the offices.
R: Was Shirin Ebadi present on the scene at the time?
NM: Yes. We, including Ebadi, and Messer Shirazi, Soltani and Ismailzadeh, tried for an hour to stop them from sealing the offices or at the least do it in a legal fashion, but our efforts were all futile.
R: What do you think is the reason for sealing the doors of the offices?
NM: Even thought these people did not present any reasons for their actions, we think this is the consequence of the work that the Center does. The Center is active in political work in three areas: Regular reporting on the violations of human rights in Iran; the provision of free legal defense to ideological and political defendants; and, defense of family members of political and ideological prisoners.
R: Did you need a license to have the event that you planned?
NM: No because no license is needed for an indoor event. But still, we had informed the chief law enforcement official of the district in advance.
R: Did he oppose the event?
NM: No. Not only that but he even raised his objection to those who had come to shut the offices and asked them why they wanted to shut them. He told them that we had coordinated our plans with him, adding that they were present then. It was clear that there was no coordination among the forces.