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Source: DW

Jan 27, 2024

Iran sentences niece of DW journalist to jail

Ghazaleh Zarea, whose uncle Farhad Payar was a journalist with DW Persian, has received a three-year prison sentence from Iran's Revolutionary Court. "Collaborating with Deutsche Welle Persian" was one of the charges.

By Youhanna Najdi

Human rights sources reported on January 22 that Ghazaleh Zarea, who lives in Khorramabad, Lorestan province, Iran, has been sentenced to three years in prison by the city's Revolutionary Court.

Zarea received a one-year prison term for "propaganda against the regime" and a two-year sentence for both "forming groups and factions to threaten the security of the country" and "collaborating with individuals from opposition groups abroad."

Farhad Payar, Zarea's uncle, until his retirement just weeks ago, was a longtime colleague with DW's Persian desk and is editor-in-chief of Iran Journal, a German-language website that covers developments in Iran.

Zeroing in on the women's activist

Zarea, 47 years old, is a journalist, civil activist and the founder of two associations engaged in "helping working children" and "assisting female victims of domestic violence."

In 2018, Zarea opened a cafe in Khorramabad. It serves as a venue for numerous meetings and workshops, primarily focused on "psychology and self-improvement."

All gatherings have been public and conducted within the legal framework of the Islamic Republic, including discussions about books authorized by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

Her most recent workshop in May 2023 was about the book "Unlimited Game," the publication of which was also approved by the ministry.

Arrest, sentencing designed to intimidate

Ghazaleh Zarea was arrested in Khorramabad on July 30, 2023, just four days before she was due to travel to Germany to visit her uncle.

Zarea's uncle, Farhad Payar, was a journalist with DW Persian and is editor-in-chief of Iran Journal

Image: privat

Payar believes his niece's arrest and subsequent prison sentence in Iran can be attributed to his journalistic activities with DW Persian and Iran Journal, even though Zarea never collaborated with these media in any way.

"Two weeks after Ghazaleh's arrest, I received a message from her mobile phone. Initially, they tried to pretend that Ghazaleh herself contacted me, but it was clear that they were interrogators intending to threaten me directly," Payar told DW.

During the call, Payar asked about his niece's location and what she was being charged with. In response, he was told: "Cooperation with you [Iran Journal] and Deutsche Welle Persian and...."

Payar disclosed that the interrogators directly threatened him during this conversation with sentences such as, "You had better watch out."

Zarea spent 23 days in solitary confinement and an additional 10 days in the regular women's section of Khorramabad prison. She was ultimately released on bail.

Payar further asserted that the accusation of "collaboration with foreigners" in Zarea's case is directly tied to his association with Iran Journal and DW Persian.

"In my opinion, Iran's government is aiming to accomplish three objectives: to penalize Ghazaleh for her civil activities, to impart fear among individuals like Ghazaleh, and to silence me or at least smother any reaction toward the injustice and oppression in Iran," he said.

'Another dark moment' for Iran

Manuela Kasper-Claridge, editor-in-chief of Deutsche Welle, said: "This destructive action by the Iranian regime is senselessly ruining the life of an innocent woman and her family.

It is yet another dark moment in Iran's failed attempts to silence independent journalism abroad and our DW Persian journalists. But such tactics will not work — brave Iranian journalists will continue their reporting. We stand with Farhad and his family and call for the unjust verdict against Ghazaleh Zarea to be reversed."

Zarea will be appealing the three-year prison sentence.

According to Payar, his niece has also been mandated to recite and memorize portions of the book "The Future of the Islamic Revolution" by Morteza Motahhari for six months. Motahhari was one of the founders of the Islamic Republic and later became one of its most outspoken critics.

In the history of the Islamic Republic, there have been extensive efforts to intimidate journalists living outside of Iran. Exerting pressure on their family members within Iran is a method frequently employed by the Iranian government.

Edited by: Lucy James

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