The precise whereabouts of opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi (pictured above, right), a former Speaker in Iran’s parliament, and former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi (left), and their respective wives Fatemeh Karroubi and Zahra Rahnavard are unclear. Mehdi Karroubi and his wife are believed to have been taken from their home, while it is not clear if Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife have been arrested, or if they are held under house arrest, in conditions amounting to incommunicado detention.
Both leaders were candidates in Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential election. Since protesting at the unexpected announcement that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election, they have continued to voice criticism of the government’s conduct and have condemned human rights violations by security forces.
Zahra Rahnavard, a former Chancellor of Al-Zahra University in Tehran, and Fatemeh Karroubi, a former Deputy Minister of Social Affairs under former President Khatami, have both campaigned on behalf of their husbands in 2009, and have spoken out against human rights violations, including attacks on their families and others.
On 5 February 2011, the two men had addressed an open letter to Iran’s Interior Ministry requesting permission to hold a rally on 14 February in support of the people of Egypt and Tunisia. The authorities did not grant permission for any demonstration.
Against the backdrop of attacks against them in official media and increasing restrictions on their movements, the severing of all forms of communication with the two couples raises fears that they are being held in conditions which amount to enforced disappearance.
The Iranian authorities have not formally acknowledged holding the two couples. The authorities have denied reports that they are held in Heshmatiyeh Prison, Tehran or held in a “safe house” belonging to the Revolutionary Guards, part of Iran’s armed forces under the Supreme Leader’s authority, and have said that they are still in their homes. On 28 February 2011, the State Prosecutor said in a press conference that the movements and communications of an “internal anti-revolutionary current” had been blocked, “as a first step”.
Sources close to Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard have told Amnesty International that not even their three daughters know where they are since all communication with them was cut off on the night of 13 February 2011, although the authorities claim that they are still in their home.
One of Mehdi Karroubi’s sons related what his parents’ neighbour said happened on 24 February: “at midnight … eight vans belonging to security forces appeared…where Karroubi's house is located. Minutes later, they left inside a car....once they left, the building was completely vacated and the lights to the residence were turned off.”
The authorities have repeatedly denied requests made by members of each family to see them. Denied access to family and friends, any medical assistance as may be required and legal counsel of their choice, at the very least they appear to be held incommunicado detention, out of reach from the outside world.
Amnesty International calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately clarify the whereabouts of Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, as well as Mehdi Karroubi and his wife Fatemeh Karroubi, including by allowing them to confirm their whereabouts to their families and lawyers, and to ensure that they are not arbitrarily detained. If they are indeed detained, they must be given access to their families and to lawyers of their choice, as well as adequate medical care. They should be immediately released or charged with an internationally-recognizable criminal offence.
Image: © Private