Political activist Mohammad Maleki, 80

At a February 4 speech at a gathering of university chancellors and heads of educational and research centers, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani asked the Iranian academic world, “Why is the university silent? Why should a bunch of illiterate individuals who get paid from certain sectors talk, but the eminent, the academics, and our professors are silent? Why is it that when an international event takes place, the professors write private letters to the president? Why don’t you shout? Why don’t you enter the scene? We need a Socrates-like attitude. Those who participated in the Geneva talks and negotiated are also from among the academics and are considered our university professors.”

The next day, February 5, Mohammad Maleki, the 80-year-old former Chancellor of Tehran University, wrote an open letter to Hassan Rouhani, stating that his practice of not keeping silent has brought the wrath of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry not only on himself, but also on his family, who have been persecuted and deprived of social rights due to his years of political activism. Referring to the Intelligence Ministry’s summoning his son and him for questioning that same day, Maleki wrote, “I don’t understand what could be the reason for them to contact my son, for whom they have caused thousands of problems over the years, and put pressure on him. You confiscated Abouzar’s college diploma for years, because he is Mohammad Maleki’s son, and you wouldn’t give it to him. You have summoned him to the Intelligence Office several times, and have put him under pressure, asking him questions that have nothing to do with him. You prevented his participation in university examinations and have disrupted his wife’s and his life’s peace, and have caused dozens of other problems for him, only because he is the son of Mohammad Maleki.”

In his letter, Maleki informs Rouhani that over the years, he has not kept silent about the “tension-making and violence-producing” policies of the government, “the violations of human rights,” and “the unchecked wave of executions,” and the result has been “the situation they have created for me and my family.”

The letter, translated in full below, is not the first one in which a political activist written about the persecution of their family members by Intelligence forces who wish to silence them through intimidation. On January 26, former political prisoner and dissident blogger Mehdi Khazali wrote a letter addressed to the Iranian Minister of Intelligence, Mahmoud Vaezi, reporting the many illegal forms of intimidation used against him and his family by “vigilante groups” inside the Ministry. “Mr. Minister, the well-known ‘vigilante groups’ [from the Ministry of Intelligence] continue to loiter around our Institute and our home, robbing us of our peace and security. The Judiciary disavows knowledge about them. Please order immediate review of this important issue. I am suspicious of my interrogator…. This is the same individual who has caused much physical damage to me, from my spine in the neck area and breaking my arm, to injuring my foot and breaking my teeth…. This is the same individual who has gone to my father’s home several times and has said a bunch of lies and fabrications, and has of course also had repeated meetings with me, my wife, my children, my brothers, and my sisters, and has threatened my wife, my child, my brothers, and my acquaintances…. This is the same interrogator who orders the Ministry of Culture to prevent publication of my medical books!” Mehdi Khazali wrote in his letter to the Minister of Intelligence.

There have been many other reports about the intimidation of family members of dissidents, activists, and journalists. The Campaign has previously reported on the harassment of family members of journalists working for BBC and Voice of America’s Persian services.

A full English translation of Mohammad Maleki’s open letter to President Rouhani is below.

Why Don’t You Leave the Families Alone?

A Word with the Country’s Security Officials

I have been resting at home due to the cold and the snow and an intensification of my illness. My son Abouzar called me today at 6:00 p.m. and said that Mr. Interrogator had called and said that he and I will have to go to the Intelligence Office. “If you have the interrogator’s number, please call him and say that I’m not in a condition to go see him. And any way, I will not go anywhere when I’m summoned on the phone. If they need me, they should summon me in writing,” I said.

I don’t understand what could be the reason for them to contact my son, for whom they have caused thousands of problems over the years, and put pressure on him. You confiscated Abouzar’s college diploma for years, because he is Mohammad Maleki’s son, and you wouldn’t give it to him. You have summoned him to the Intelligence Office several times, and have put him under pressure, asking him questions that have nothing to do with him. You prevented his participation in university examinations and have disrupted his wife’s and his life’s peace, and have caused dozens of other problems for him, only because he is the son of Mohammad Maleki.

At [a gathering] at the university and in the presence of academics today, Mr. Rouhani asked why the university is so quiet, and why the professors are so silent.

Mr. President, during these years, I have not kept silent and I have objected against the tension-making and violence-producing actions of the ruling officials which have led to the crippling sanctions against our nation.

Mr. President, I have not kept silent and I have objected to the violations of human rights in my country and the imprisonment of political and conscience activists.

Mr. President, I have not kept silent and I have objected to the unchecked wave of executions and promotion of violence in the society.

Mr, President, I am an academic and I have not kept silent during these years, and this is the situation they have created for me and my family.

Mr. President, only a few hours after your speech, they contacted me and my son from the Intelligence Ministry, so that they may force me into silence. Over these years, I have said over and over again, I will not keep silent, give me whatever ruling you wish! Now, do you expect the academics to break their silence?

I had endured so far, never speaking publicly about the persecution my family has suffered. But I have lost patience, and would ask the regime officials—f you have an issue with me, what is my family’s fault, and what do you want with them? Why do you harass Abouzar so much? Why have you banned my foreign travel, preventing me to take a trip to see my son? Why do you issue threats, so that my son, Ammar, cannot come home to visit with his parents?

Many political families have such problems and suffer from these issues. Gentlemen, stop this and fear God and learn from the endings other experienced.

If this persecution continues, I will directly file grievances with international human rights organizations and the UN Special Rapporteur about it.