Iran Human Rights (IHR); May 3, 2019: Iranian Shia cleric Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi has recently issued a fatwa (religious verdict) saying that an exiled Iranian journalist is an apostate (Murtadd) because of the content of his poems and must be punished. Following the fatwa, the Iranian journalist and poet Mohammad Tangestani who lives in Belgium, has received several death threats from the members of Basidj. Basidj is the volunteer paramilitary section of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) and one of the Iranian authorities important instruments of oppression.
Iran Human Rights (IHR) condemns the attempts by the Iranian authorities to restrict the freedom of expression and urges Belgian authorities to take the case very seriously and guarantee the safety and the right to free expression of the journalist by every means they can.
IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said, “By these threats, the Islamic Republic authorities want to spread fear and self-censorship among writers and civil activists, and extend their repressive behavior beyond the Iranian borders. We call on all of the human rights organizations, writers and activists, to protect the freedom of speech by supporting Mohammad Tangestani.”
The fatwa was issued when an individual presenting himself as a member of “Basiji students” had filed a question to Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi about Tangestani’s poems. The questioner claimed that Mohammad Tangestani insult holy figures of Islam and asked: “what should be done with such a person?” The Ayatollah wrote to them that “if he is a Muslim, he would be a “Murtadd”. This is a term used for an apostate. According to Sharia, apostasy is punishable by death.
This is not the first time Iranian authorities attack the free expression by issuing religious verdicts. Seven years ago, clerics in the Islamic Republic issued fatwas calling Shahin Najafi, an Iranian Germany-based rapper, an apostate.
In 1989 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill British-Indian Salman Rushdie for writing a novel called Satanic Verses. The fatwa sparked violence around the world, with bookstores firebombed and several attempts to kill Rushdie.