Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi is a high-ranking prominent dissident clergyman in Iran. He has strongly called for separation of religion and state, and he condemns Islamic radicalism, fundamentalism, and terrorism. He is opposed to political Islam and the rule of Velayet-e-Faqih (Islamic custodianship over people), the theocratic system that governs Iran. Boroujerdi has many supporters and is known as Iran's Mandela.
"He has long advocated for the abolishment of execution, and cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishments; such as torture, stoning and whipping. He rejected anti-Semitism and advocated religious freedom. He established charities and welfare centers to help the poor and assist victims of natural disasters. He condemned personal financial gain from religious activities. His call has been welcomed by an increasing number of followers to the point that, until his arrest, his gatherings surpassed the theocracy's organized ceremonies, by their sheer size and numbers."
For these humanitarian endeavors, he was sentenced to execution by the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, due to international pressure, in 2006, the Iranian regime changed the judgment to 11 years in Iran's most notorious prison, Evin.
Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi, in his prison cell in Iran (undated photo).
He spent 11 years enduring heinous conditions with no medical care or access to a lawyer. There was no fair and due process.
He was convicted of ambiguous charges such as "waging war against God". As Amnesty International wrote in a report:
"He [Boroujerdi] was arrested at his home in Tehran on October 8, 2006, along with more than 300 of his followers. He and some of his followers were initially sentenced to death after an unfair trial in Branch 3 of the Special Court for the Clergy in June 2007. His sentence was commuted in August 2007 to eleven years in prison. In addition to this, Ayatollah Boroujerdi was defrocked (banned from wearing his clerical robes and thereby from practicing his clerical duties), and his house and all of his belongings were confiscated. He had reportedly been found guilty of at least 30 charges, including "waging war against God" (moharebeh); acts against national security; publicly calling political leadership by the clergy (velayat-e faqih) unlawful."
He was frequently tortured. Several attempts to kill him in prison led the Human Rights Watch to pressure Iran into conducting an investigation. According to Amnesty International:
"Ayatollah Boroujerdi has reportedly been tortured and otherwise ill-treated on numerous occasions since his arrest. He is said to have been beaten, thrown against a wall, and had cold water thrown on him when he was sleeping. He suffers from a heart condition, pulmonary issues, diabetes, severe problems with his eyes including untreated cataracts, and kidney stones. His legs are swollen which makes it very difficult for him to walk. His hands also shake as a result of his Parkinson's disease. While in detention, he has not been receiving necessary medical treatment and has lost a considerable amount of weight. He was reportedly attacked and beaten in prison on November 17, 2013, perhaps in retaliation for letters he wrote that have been published on various web sites."
In a letter to then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, titled "I Implore You to Sympathize with Our Plight," Ayatollah Boroujerdi revealed the Iranian regime's atrocities, oppression, and support of terrorism:
"Greetings to the respected United Nations General Assembly. I am writing you as a political prisoner from the dreaded Evin Prison. I have been imprisoned and tortured for the past eight years for simply speaking out against political Islam and the cruel crimes committed by the government of Iran against its citizens due to implementation of religious laws. I would like to bring to your attention that Iran's natural resources along with its national wealth are being spent -- as a matter of priority -- on funding Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and Iraq by the authorities while Iran's own citizens are enduring widespread poverty, unprecedented unemployment along with high rates of depression and physical ailments. People in Iran have therefore lost hope."
Boroujerdi's prison sentence was recently completed, but it is critical to point out that he is still nowhere near free. He is still deprived of basic needs, he is under house arrest with heavy conditions and bail has been imposed on him.
Ayatollah Boroujerdi released a message recently, according to his representative:
"Our teacher of monotheism, Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi in his new position, just like in the past, demands for fulfillment of the rights of the innocent Iranian nation. The approaches and manners which the opposition groups in exile have adopted with regards to defending the rights of our deprived people have proven to be devoid of faithfulness and sincerity in fulfilling their promises. The shady dealings and political tampering which have become common practices these days have resulted in increased injustice, unfairness, and lack of freedom. This political-ideological prisoner is crying out and protesting against prejudices and against those who by adopting inhumane policies tend to ignore his tireless efforts and self-sacrifices in fighting oppression and tyranny, and those following their own personal interests, factions and cliques in campaign against this regime."
The International community, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Iran's opposition groups need to pressure the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Ayatollah Boroujerdi.
Finally, as Ayatollah Boroujerdi articulately stated:
"It shall be noted by future generations that I have made the world aware of the dire situation in Iran numerous times. Those of you, who are well aware of our desperate plight, hear our cries and remain indifferent shall be remembered for generations to come. I implore you to sympathize with our plight and understand that we are being silenced. We are asking for help once again."
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, political scientists and Harvard University scholar is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He can be reached at Dr.email@example.com.