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Iranian Dissident Awareness Program

The Iranian Dissident Awareness Program was created so that members of Congress can stand with the people of Iran. Members from both sides of the aisle have the opportunity to fight for the persecuted, the dissidents, and the political prisoners. We cannot turn a blind eye to their struggle. A regime that does not recognize the basic human dignity of its people will never be an honest broker in the international community.

During the Cold War, President Reagan made Soviet human rights abuses a central point of American foreign policy. Soviet dissidents became household names and their struggle for freedom was well known. Today, the Iranian government - like the Soviet regime - is an oppressive dictatorship. It denies its people human rights while threatening the world with nuclear weapons. In Iran, freedom of expression does not exist. Thousands of peaceful protesters have been arrested, and others are imprisoned because of their politics, their religion, or simply because they dare to fight for basic human rights.

The following dissidents and political prisoners are fighting for freedom and democracy in Iran. Click on the profiles below to learn more.

Currently Imprisoned

Shiva Nazar Ahari , Women's & Human Rights Activist
Shiva Nazar Ahari is the spokeswoman of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), an Iranian human rights group founded in 2006. Shiva became a teacher of street children and of Afghan refugee children. She was arrested at work. Learn more .


Atena Farghadani Political Cartoonist
Atena Farghadani is a 29-year-old Iranian painter and women’s rights activist prominently known for illustrating political cartoons. She is currently serving a 12 year, 9 month prison sentence for exercising her inherent right to free speech and expression.

Fatemeh Ekhtesari Iranian poet
Fatemeh is an Iranian poet. On December 8, 2013, she was arrested in her home by Revolutionary Guards Intelligence agents and transferred to a solitary cell at the Guards’ Ward 2-A at the notorious Evin Prison. She was released on bail on January 13, 2014, but only after being forced to conduct a false confession. Aside from being broadcast on the state-run TV, this forced false confession also comprised the main evidence used in her sentencing. Even though she refuted the charges in her trial, Fatemeh was sentenced to a total of eleven and a half years in prison: seven years for “insulting the sacred”, three years for “publishing unauthorized content in cyberspace”, and one year and a half for “propaganda against the state.” 

Laleh Hassanpour , Writer, Women's & Human Rights Activist
Laleh Hassanpour was arrested for participating in human rights activities, "conspiracy against national security" and "insulting the president." She has been placed under severe pressure by the authorities to give a false televised confession. Learn more

Bahareh Hedayat Student & Women's Rights Activist 
Bahareh Hedayat was active in Daftar-e Takhim-e Vahdat (Office for Consolidating Unity), Iran’s pro-democracy student movement, and the One Million Signatures Campaign to end legal discrimination against women.  Learn more .


Keywan Karimi, Award-Winning Iranian Filmmaker
In 2014 his short film, “The Adventure of Married Couple,” received special mention at the 18th La Fila de Cortometrajes Film Festival in Spain, and “Best Short Fiction Film” at 6th Iberoamericano De Cine Azul SURrealidades Film Festival in Colombia. From 2012 to 2013, his film, “Broken Border,” received special mention at four separate film festivals, including both the Tolfa and Magma International Short Film Festivals in Italy and New Zealand, respectively. It also received Best Documentary Film at four separate film festivals, including the both the FiloFest in Slovenia and the Vagon F.C. in Mexico.

Navid Khanjani , Student Activist & Member of the Baha'i Faith
Navid Khanjani has engaged in peaceful human rights activities and is affiliated with human rights organizations, for which he was arrested. During his detention, Navid was forced under duress to record self-incriminating video confessions. Learn more .


Siamak Mehr , Blogger
Siamak Mehr (aka Mohammed Reza Pourshajari) is an Iranian blogger who was wrongfully imprisoned and has been repeatedly denied access to the health resources he needs to survive. Learn more.



Narges Mohammadi Journalist 
Narges Mohammadi, a journalist, has written about human rights, women's rights and issues important to students. Due to her promotion of Iranian human rights, the Iranian Government banned her from leaving the country and threatened further consequences if she didn't end her activities. Today, Mohammadi is in Zanjan Prison. Learn more.


Zia Nabavi , Student Activist
Zia Nabavi is a member of the Council to Defend the Right to Education, a body set up by students barred from studying because of their civic and political activism. Zia was arrested after protesting the fraudulent June 2009 presidential election. Learn more .


Jafar Panahi , Award Winning Filmmaker
Jafar Panahi is a world-renowned filmmaker. He has received awards at the Venice Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival. Jafar was arrested for making a film that was "anti-regime," by depicting the protests following the 2009 elections. Learn more .


Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki , Blogger & Human Rights Activist
A student of computer programming, Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki was one of the earliest and youngest bloggers to begin challenging regime internet censorship. He was imprisoned for his opposition to censorship without regard for due process. Learn more .


Leila Tavassoli , Engineer & Protester
During a peaceful protest, Leila witnessed a man being killed when security forces intentionally ran him over with their car. She gave interviews as a witness and was later arrested for participating in peaceful protests and giving interviews. Learn more .





Released Prisoners

Mahdieh Golroo , Student & Women's Rights Activist
Mahdieh Golroo was imprisoned along with her husband after security forces raided their home. Mahdieh’s arrest followed her participation in a four day sit-in at Allameh Tabatabai University to protest politically-motivated education bans on students. Learn more .


Nasrin Sotoudeh , Lawyer & Women's Rights Activist
Nasrin Sotoudeh is an avid defender of juveniles facing capital charges, abused children, and has represented human rights activists in Iran. She was arrested after defying threats by the Iranian authorities to stop representing her clients. Learn more .


Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani , Christian Pastor
Arrested for protesting compulsory Islamic instruction in schools, Pastor Youcef was found guilty by an Iranian court of apostasy, or renouncing his Islamic faith in favor of Christianity, and has been sentenced to death by hanging. Learn more .


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