The General and Revolutionary Prosecutor-General’s Office of the north-eastern city of Mahabad, in West Azerbaijan province, has dismissed the charges against Dr. Yasser Rahmanirad, a general practitioner who was arrested during the 2022 nationwide protests, and closed his case.
Prosecutors informed Dr. Rahmanirad he had been cleared of the charge of “gathering and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security.” Nevertheless, his clinic in the city of Khorramabad, capital of Lorestan province, remains sealed, and his medical equipment and medication that this doctor had brought to Mahabad have been confiscated by the judiciary.
Dr. Yasser Rahmanirad, a native of Khorramabad, was arrested with two other doctors in Mahabad last year because he helped victims of the Islamic Republic’s brutal crackdown on demonstrators.
In an interview with IranWire, the 34-year-old Rahmanirad spoke about the problems he has faced since his school days due to his dedication to human rights and the well-being of his fellow citizens.
“I was born on September 21, 1988, to a relatively religious family. My father was both a teacher and a reporter for the newspaper Kayahan. In the small town where we lived we had a small bookstore, so I was in an environment where books and newspapers were available. There was no middle school in our town, and after finishing primary school I passed the tests of the National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents (NODET). So, from the first year of medical school until receiving my highschool diploma, I lived away from my family in the dormitories of these NODET schools.”
Going back to the time when he graduated from highschool, Rahmanirad says: “I was interested in politics, news and literature. Without taking any extracurricular classes or classes on entrance exams, I passed the national entrance exam in medicine with a double-digit rank, although I was talented in technical fields. I scored 100 percent in the math and physics exams, but my family wanted me to be a doctor, so I also participated in the exam for medical school.”
After passing the university entrance exams, Dr. Rahmanirad chose to enroll in Shiraz University although he could have continued his studies at Tehran University: "Because of the cultural atmosphere in Shiraz, because of the tombs of [Persian poets] Hafiz and Saadi, I chose Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. The president of the university at the time was Dr. Mohammad Hadi Imanieh, who is now the governor of Fars in the administration of [President] Ebrahim Raisi. From the very beginning of my studies at the university, he didn’t like me because I held book reading and poetry recital sessions that were very popular. ‘You want to change the atmosphere of the university,’ he used to tell me.”
Rahmanirad’s revelations about illegal actions committed by Dr. Imanieh as university president changed dislike into hatred and vengefulness.
Namazi Hospital, one of the best in Iran, was founded in 1955 by Mohammad Namazi, a successful merchant who also donated 22 residential villas for the hospital’s doctors: “I disclosed that, in contravention to the late Namazi’s endowment and will, Dr. Imanieh had given the custody of the villas to the university’s security department instead of the doctors who were not residents of Shiraz.”
Rahmanirad continued to annoy the university’s president: "When I was in 5th semester, I had an interview with Radio Zamaneh about the atmosphere in Shiraz University and the student movement, and this raised the hostility of the university’s authorities toward me to a higher level."
After the interview was broadcast, university officials accused the student of “spreading lies” and filed a complaint with the university’s disciplinary committee: “According to the bylaws at the time, the disciplinary committee could do no more than suspend a student for two semesters. At that time, Dr. Imanieh was deputy to Health Minister Kamran Bagheri Lankarani. So he used his influence to send my case before the disciplinary committee of the Health Ministry, which could expel me from university. After only one meeting during which I defended myself, the committee ruled to expel me from the university.”
According to the verdict issued by the ministry’s disciplinary committee, his charges were “membership in heretic groups," "promotion of heretic beliefs and schools of thought" and "illegitimate relations:" "The last accusation stemmed from the fact that I had shaken hands with a few female students. The result of my defense against the charges was my expulsion from the university and a 10-year ban on participating in the national entrance examination."
To annul the disciplinary committee’s ruling, Rahmanirad was offered to give an interview to Fars news agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, and say that the members of the Office for Strengthening Unity, a pro-democracy student organization, at Shiraz University were connected with the People’s Mojahedin Organization and “apologize” to the university’s president.
After his forced confessions, Rahmanirad's expulsion order was suspended: "I was banned from entering the university for two months. I was banned from studying for four semesters and then I had to study at different universities to prevent me from building relationships or networks in any of them. I was deprived of all amenities, including access to the dormitory and the hospital pavilion, food and loans."
Starting Medical Practice
Eventually, Rahmanirad finished his studies after 10 years and started to work as a physician, but this was not the end of his problems.
“At the time, Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Company worked with a contractor company to provide medical services for its employees,” he told IranWire. “I signed a contract with this company and started working as a doctor for the staff of Halt-Tappeh. At the same time, and before the start of my military service, I passed the test to pursue my studies for specialization. Two or three months after starting my job, Haft-Tappeh workers' protests started. I was witness to the fact that the children of these fellow human beings were malnourished because they couldn’t afford adequate nutrition. In response to this injustice, I posted a note on my Instagram and wrote, ‘I will join your protests tomorrow.’ This was when my problems started.”
After posting this note, Dr. Rahmanirad came under pressure from the security forces: "The calls and threats by security agencies didn’t stop. This time, I took a video before being arrested and posted it on YouTube. In the video, I said, ‘if I’m arrested and any kind of written or oral confession of me is published, you must know that it was extracted by force, under duress and torture, and it’s not valid.’ The pressure from the security forces on the contractor forced the company to fire me, and they did not pay my back wages."
After being fired from his job, Dr. Rahmanirad got a permit to open his private practice and started his military service in Khorramabad: "I had no problems until 2021 when my military service ended. However, the pressure from the security agencies and their focus on my activities didn’t stop. They didn’t like that I visited needy patients for free and said I was doing this to promote my own beliefs. Or they asked, ‘Why do you advocate [prenatal] screening?’ Screening was not illegal at the time, but they closed my clinic which was only reopened on the advice of the Medical Council of Iran.”
Arrest, December 2022
In November and December of 2022, Mahabad was one of the epicenters of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests. Amid reports of continued casualties inflicted by security forces in the city, Dr. Rahmanirad, Behnam Ohadi, a psychiatrist, and Homayoun Eftekharnia, an anesthesiologist, announced on Instagram on November 30 they were traveling to Mahabad to help the injured.
Then, on December 4, came the news that agents of the city’s Intelligence Bureau had arrested the trio.
Dr. Rahmanirad described his incarceration: “After confiscating all the medicine and medical equipment, I was taken to a solitary cell of the Security and Intelligence Police of Mahabad. I was remanded in solitary confinement for 46 days, and later I was transferred to the detention center of Mahabad Prison. On January 18, we were temporarily released after posting a bail of 600 million tomans. The gentlemen were not pleased when I reported about what I had witnessed in solitary confinement and in the common ward, both about our own conditions and the conditions of other prisoners.”
“We were stripped in front of the interrogators and officers and were subjected to a body search upon entering the detention center. Through long sleep deprivations, by telling us lies about the death of my father and the heart attack of my mother and other psychological tortures, the interrogators wanted to force us to confess to having connections with the opposition Kurdistan Democratic Party. However, in the end, we were cleared of all charges. Nevertheless, I’m still not allowed to resume my medical practice.”
“My office is still closed. I’ve repeatedly received death threats by phone. After the charges were dismissed, I received less threats, but they didn’t go away. Even if my clinic is reopened, I would be afraid to go there.”
Since the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini sparked nationwide protests, at least two doctors – Parisa Bahmani and Aida Rostami have been killed in suspicious circumstances, while several doctors and nurses have been arrested.