Yashar Khameneh, known in the cyber world as “Naghi Pajooh” for his contributions to the Facebook page “Campaign to Remind the Shias of Imam Naghi,” told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that his father, who was arrested because of his son’s activities, is being threatened in prison.
“On Wednesday, May 23, security forces entered our home. My mother was home then, too. My father contacted me and said, ‘Forces have come for my arrest with orders from the Prosecutor’s Office. They want some information from you. If you don’t given them the information they will take me away.’ He blamed me and said he had forewarned me about my actions. They wanted my passwords for the Imam Naghi Facebook page and for my blogs. I didn’t give them my passwords, but told them I would immediately delete all my accounts, which I did, but they took my father with them,” said Yashar Khameneh.
According to Khameneh, Intelligence Ministry officials told his father that so long as the “Campaign to Remember Imam Naghi” is active, his father’s situation would remain the same. “My biggest fear is that they make my father confess under pressure to things he has not done. He has never had any activities and he has always opposed my activities,” he said.
The “Campaign to Remind Shiites about Imam Naghi,” which has over 21,000 fans on Facebook, gained widespread attention around the time a fatwa was issued for rapper Shahin Najafi’s death, after his song “Naghi” went viral. Naghi is the tenth Imam in Shia Islam. The Facebook page mocks and criticizes various political and religious issues, jokingly attributing these comments to Imam Naghi.
Last week, Yashar Khameneh published a letter detailing his father’s arrest and transfer to Evin Prison. The Intelligence Ministry has not yet reacted to the letter and Yashar Khameneh’s statements.
Part of the letter reads:
I am ‘Yashar Khameneh,’ who is known in cyberspace with the pseudonym ‘Naghi Pajooh.’ I am a student abroad. Since the day the ‘Campaign to Remind Shia’s of Imam Naghi’ started, along with many other Iranian youths, I have engaged in writing satire to challenge superstitious beliefs. Today, as I write this letter, my father has been a hostage of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry. He has no lawyer, no case file has been presented for him, and he has not been allowed to visit with the family. His only crime is that he is my father.
Yashar Khameneh, a 25-year-old Iranian student in the Netherlands, told the Campaign that in his last phone call from prison, his father said tearfully that, “if Yashar doesn’t hand over the information the security forces want from him, I will be executed.”
Asked why he chose to come forward weeks after his father’s arrest, Yashar Khameneh said, “I was forced to do it for my father and my family. The way things have progressed during the weeks since my father’s arrest, the threats and confrontations my family has faced, and after I realized my father does not have a lawyer, nor a [judicial] case file, and his facing false accusations, all led me to the conclusion that the only way I can help my father a little and reduce the pressure on my family would be to disseminate information, even if it leads to exposing my name and its potential consequences. I just wanted to do something for my father.”
Khameneh, a management student, has been studying in the Netherlands since September 2009. He has been using the pseudonym “Naghi Pajooh,” a name under which he contributed to a Facebook page entitled “Campaign to Remind the Shia’s of Imam Naghi.”
“My father was charged with participating in my anti-religion activities through sending me money. Intelligence Ministry forces told my father that according to their research, I was not studying in the Netherlands and that I spent the money he sent me for my education on anti-religion activities. This is an absolute lie, because I have sent them all my educational records. I have been a student here since September 2009. Now my biggest fear is that they make my father confess under pressure to things he has not done,” Khameneh told the Campaign.
“They said that I manage the Imam Naghi [Facebook] page, and so long as that page is up my father’s conditions would remain the same, and he may be executed. This is an absolute lie, as I was merely a member of this page. The forces have asked me to close this page and return to Iran and provide details about all members of this campaign, but as I have said hundreds of times, all the people who wrote for the campaign used pseudonyms and I don’t know anyone’s real identity. I have not been active with this page since my father’s arrest,” explained Khameneh.
When asked about how authorities identified him, Khamaneh said, “When the campaign first started, I wrote with my real name. At the time there was not so much sensitivity about the page, as it was a simple campaign. Later, I wrote with a pseudonym, but I didn’t change my first name. It is not too hard for the Iranian Intelligence organization to identify people.”
“Four days after his arrest, my father called home and told my mother, ‘I have seen Yashar’s friends in prison. They have all confessed and said that Yashar was the manager of Imam Naghi Facebook page.’ But this is an utter lie. I was not the manager for this page, this is why I became concerned that maybe they have put pressure on other people to force them to confess against me, I don’t know. My mother said that if I didn’t give them the information they were requesting, they were going to execute my father. My sister said during the same call that the only thing I could do was to make a video of myself and request forgiveness. It was a terrible situation. I was forced to make a video of myself and express regret in the video. I sent the film but they did not reduce the pressure on my father,” added Yashar Khameneh.
Khameneh told the Campaign that during his last call to his family, his father was in terrible psychological condition. “He said tearfully that, ‘if Yashar doesn’t hand over the information the security forces want from him, I may not be alive much longer.’ A few days later, about two weeks ago, my mother said during a phone call that the forces have summoned her, too, saying that if I don’t cooperate with them, they would arrest her, too. Thank God my mother has not been arrested yet,” he told the Campaign.
“My father was not active in politics at all. He was a cautious man and when he heard some things about my activities, he advised me against them,” he added.
Asked whether other members of the Imam Naghi Campaign have been arrested, Yashar Khameneh said, “I have no reliable information, but I noticed that simultaneous with my father’s arrest, several people who were previously active on the Imam Naghi page had disappeared. I am not sure whether they stopped their activities, or are writing under other pseudonyms.But when I remember what my father said about having seen my friends in prison and their having made confessions, I think maybe there were a lot more arrests but nobody has dared to report on it. Perhaps because of the sensitivities this page has raised, they did not wish their identities be known for fear of potential consequences.”
Addressing the Iranian judicial authorities, Yashar Khameneh said, “No moral and legal principles support the arrest of a father for an individual’s actions, nor putting pressure on that individual’s family. My request of my country’s authorities is to separate my father from his son’s deeds, that’s all. My request is that they refrain from putting pressure on my father and my family for my actions, regardless of whether my actions were right or wrong.”
“If, from the first day, I knew that my activities would lead to my father’s arrest, I would have never written what I wrote. It was all a joke. A joke that turned into heightened sensitivities all of a sudden. It was not an insult on religion. It was just a joke,” said Khameneh.