Afarin Chitsaz

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Intelligence officers of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps arrested Chitsaz, a columnist for Iran, a popular state newspaper affiliated with IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, on November 2, 2015, according to local news reports. The next day, local media outlets with close ties to the Revolutionary Guards reported that five local journalists had been arrested for being part of an “infiltration network” with links to Western countries. Saham News, a news website with close ties to detained opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi, reported that Chitsaz was one of the five journalists.

Chitsaz is a former actress and costume designer. She began working as a journalist a few years before her arrest and mostly covered foreign policy stories. Saham News reported that she was closely associated with high-profile officials in President Hassan Rouhani’s government, but did not elaborate.

On March 26, 2016, Branch 28 of Tehran Revolutionary Court convicted Chitsaz of “assembly and collusion with the intent to disrupt national security” and “collaboration with a foreign government” and sentenced her to 10 years in prison. On April 29, the journalist’s mother told BBC Persian that her daughter had been held in solitary confinement in Evin prison for six months that and her interrogators had subjected her to physical abuse.

In September 2016, Branch 36 of Tehran’s Appellate Court reduced the journalist’s sentence to two years in prison.

On July 5, 2016, Chitsaz was granted a three-day furlough on bail of 10 billion riyals (roughly US$320,000), according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. She returned to prison. According to Center for Human Rights in Iran, on July 21 she was transferred to a hospital to undergo surgery for her right knee. On September 10, she returned to Evin prison.

On September 28, 2016 the reformist news website Kalameh reported that Chitsaz had fainted from knee pain while climbing stairs in Evin prison, and that she had been denied family visits.

A family member, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, told CPJ that the journalist had not had knee problems prior to her incarceration, but that now Chitsaz needs surgery for both her knees, including the one doctors had already treated.

In September 2017, Chitsaz’s lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, said in an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran that the journalist had been due to be released that month. However, authorities refused to include the period that Chitsaz spent in a hospital being treated for her knee injury as time served, which added three more months to her sentence, the lawyer said.

Radio Farda reported that Afarin started a hunger strike on September 3, to protest the judiciary’s decision. In October 2017, the pro-opposition website Saham News reported that after more than two weeks without food, Afarin broke her hunger strike after receiving assurances from senior Evin Prison officials that her sentence would include time spent in the hospital.