Tortured to death for posting on Facebook?
Each time Sattar Beheshti clicked the 'submit blog' button, he knew that he was playing jeopardy with his life. Yes, he used a pseudonym - as most do bloggers. But he also knew that it would not take much for the Iranian authorities to identify him. And he also knew that given the repressive situation in his homeland, the consequences for criticising the authorities were severe.
And still he blogged.
This morning as I blog in tribute to Sattar Beheshti, a blogger in Iran who was reportedly tortured to death while in custody at Iran's notorious Evin prison, I do so from the comforts of Amnesty's east London office, a place where I can freely exercise my right to express my opinion.
Arrested by Iran’s Cyber Police last week for what the Guardian described as ‘criticising Iran on Facebook’, the 35-year-old blogger had reportedly complained that he was mistreated and tortured while in prison. A week after his arrest, he was dead.
On the Today programme this morning, an Iranian journalist who had interviewed Sattar before he had been arrested, spoke of his irrepressible nature to speak out in defiance of the authorities. Masih Alinejad told Today that Sattar had said to her: "I was told to keep silent. But I cannot be quiet. That means I would be dying if I don't write anything and I don’t criticise the government's brutality... I cannot keep silent."
We at Amnesty regularly criticise authorities in Iran and other countries around the world, largely without the fear of our lives being put at risk. But across Iran, there are thousands like Sattar – journalists, human rights defenders, your average punter who wants to make a point – who risk their freedom at best, and lives at worst, simply by expressing their opinions.
This week the Internet Governance Forum is taking place in Azerbaijan. My colleague Niall blogged about the notable irony of the choice of location given Azerbaijan’s ferocious clampdown upon bloggers critical of the government. Emin Mill – an Azerbaijani dissident told us: “They don’t jail all the bloggers. They pick up two or three who go – in their view – too far.”
In far too many countries, people are persecuted for freely expressing their opinion.
As I press the ‘submit blog’ button today, I do so in tribute to Sattar Beheshti and all the other bloggers in Iran who bravely do so – at their peril.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.