Community Organizer Forced Into Exile, Fears for Family's Safety In Iran

Co-author: Staff has recently learned that prominent community activist, Reza (Arash) Hampay Gharamaleki, the founder of Hamyaran-E-Mehrandish Association, was forced to flee Iran this January due to a heightened number of threats and summons by Iranian intelligence forces. Since his recent arrival in Turkey, Gharamaleki has growing concerns over the safety of his remaining family and network.

Gharamaleki is not the first in his family to have been singled out by Iran's security forces. His father, Ali-Akbar Hampay, was shot and killed by paramilitary basij after being abruptly fired from his job at a tractor manufacturing company nearly two decades ago. Fearing that he would share in his father's untimely fate, Gharamaleki sought refuge in Turkey following a number of brutal beatings and arrests during which he was placed in solitary confinement. The 29 year-old activist, whose primary efforts consist in providing much needed medicines, clothing and food to impoverished brick makers* was originally arrested by Iranian officials out front of Tehran's UN office where he attended a rally on October 7, 2005 against the UAE's alleged involvements in the sex-trafficking of young Iranian women on the long contested Persian Gulf island of Abu Musa.

Following his release, Gharamaleki was arrested again on December 5, 2008 and was sent to the country's notorious Evin Prison where he spent one month behind bars. In 2009, following Iran's highly disputed presidential elections, Gharamaleki was beaten by officials for participating in the popular uprisings, suffering injuries to his face and the loss of nine teeth. He was subsequently arrested for having met with the families of 2009's victims and this time, sent to Ward 350 of Evin for a total of four months.

Most recently, Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, chaired by the notoriously cruel Judge Mohammad Mogheyseh, sentenced Gharamaleki to three years in prison on the vague charges of "insulting to Supreme Leader of Iran" and "propaganda against the regime of Iran". The 29 year-old was taken to Ward 350 to begin serving his sentence on December 16, 2013.

A promising turn in Gharamaleki's case was short-lived when he was granted pardon and released from prison on July 21st of last year. However, just this past September, Gharamaleki was again accosted and beaten by plain-clothes police officers who seized his cameras and personal footage. His difficult decision to go into exile was made after receiving a call from officials threatening him anew with his arrest and another 15 year prison sentence. Gharamaleki is going public with his experiences over fears for the safety of his friends and loved ones.

*Bricks in Iran are not manufactured in factories; Instead, they are made by hand inside hot, deep and very dangerous pits, the kinds of harsh working conditions that both attracts and relies on Iran's increasingly impoverished labor force.