On the second day of nationwide protests in November 2019, Pouya Bakhtiari was shot in the head accompanying his mother on the streets of Mehrshahr, Karaj. His father, Manouchehr Bakhtiari, never stopped talking about the 27-year-old. He renounced the Islamic Republic regime in totality including its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, several times. Manouchehr, a veteran of Iran-Iraq war, became the voice of Pouya and an icon for justice seeking families.
Bakhtiaris, since November 16, 2019, have been very vocal against the regime. Manouchehr and Nahid Shirpisheh (Pouya’s mom) have been arrested several times, adding to their popularity among dissidents. Their prominence reached then US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, when he condemned their arrest in December 2019.
In another instance, Manouchehr was arrested to be used as a tool by the Islamic Republic intelligence goons for Qassem Soleimani’s death, which backfired.
In July 2020, he was arrested when on vacation in Kish Island. He condemned the regime for the 25-year agreement between the Islamic Republic and China when on the Island. A month later, when Bakhtiari family gathered in front of the Interior Ministry demanding Manouchehr’s release, the entire family including his elderly mom were beaten and arrested violently. Pouya’s mother, Nahid Shirpisheh, was one of the main witnesses at “Aban Tribunal.” She described how Pouya was shot in the head during Nov 2019 protests.
The family has been under constant pressure and threatened by authorities to prison and even death. However, Manouchehr never backed down from his demands to seek justice for Pouya.
After several “catch and release”, he was taken away in a trunk of a car, violently, in April 2021. The Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced him to 3.5 years in prison, 2.5 years exile and 2 years ban from leaving the country. A month later, he sent out a message from prison: “The only way to save the Iranian nation is to overthrow the Islamic Republic!”
After being on several bouts of hunger strikes, physical and psychological tortures, “constant transfer from cell to cell and prison to prison,” he needs surgery on his GI tract. However, the regime officials deny him medical furlough. He warned several times in his voice message from prison, released on June 18, 2022, “My life is in danger!”
Amnesty has reported several deaths in custody because Islamic Republic has refused to provide medical care. There have been various underlying causes of deaths, with gastrointestinal complications as one of the main issues. Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s Director of MENA, says: “The Islamic Republic authorities’ chilling disregard for human life, has effectively turned Iran’s prisons into a waiting room of death for ill prisoners, where treatable conditions tragically become fatal.” Manouchehr is now in the “death’s waiting room!”
Meanwhile, Islamic Republic officials claim they “defend human rights” and the horrendous atrocities mentioned in the UN Secretary General annual report to the OHCHR were “Copy-pasting unsubstantiated allegations churned out by Javaid Rehman tarnishes the UN credibility.”
Manouchehr Bakhtiari has always supported Iranians in their quest to reach freedom. It is time for the “captive people of Iran” to unite and demand his freedom. International human rights organizations have an obligation to be his voice too. Save Manouchehr before it is too late.