Society & Culture

Jailed Persian Twitter Personality Promises Fans: I Will Return

June 30, 2022
OstanWire
1 min read
Literary editor Hossein Shanbehzadeh is to serve a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for 'insulting the sacred'
Literary editor Hossein Shanbehzadeh is to serve a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for 'insulting the sacred'

Well-known Persian Twitter personality Hossein Shanbehzadeh has been summoned to Evin Prison to begin serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence. The 34-year-old tweeted on Thursday after announcing the summons:

A literary editor and activist, Shanbehzadeh was known for his lyrical and tongue-in-cheek posts about Iranian society and culture. He had been on a six-month hiatus from the platform since January 7, when he posted a poetic tribute to Reera Esmaeilion, a nine-year-old girl killed aboard Flight 752, to mark two years since the tragedy.

Prior to this he had also posted about Karun Hajizadeh, a primary school student in Kerman who was assassinated along with his father in September 1998, during the Iranian state-backed chain murders of dissidents and intellectuals.

The charges against Shanbehzadeh include "insulting the sacred", "propaganda against the regime" and "insulting the Supreme Leader". Originally he was facing six years in prison, later reduced by the Court of Appeal. Breaking his silence on Thursday, he wrote: "Hi guys. I missed you more than you think."

In the accompanying thread, he wrote: "I go proudly to prison, and I'll come out more proud. Although... Why lie... I am not [student political prisoner] Majid Tavakoli. I'm afraid of going to prison. I didn't see prison in my worst nightmares. I'm barely a political prisoner, and I don't think I've done enough harm to anyone that I deserve three and a half years in jail. But now that I'm going, I'm not ashamed at all."

Shanbehzadeh said his sister Fatima had posted bail for him, and the conditions had been ripe for him to leave Iran. But, he said, he had chosen to stay in his country of birth rather than flee and become a refugee: "I believe that this land, of whose soil I don't hold a single inch, is my blood... they can't force me out of my house so easily."

Shanbehzadeh has been a prolific Twitter user since 2016 and used to write under the pseudonym Unicorn Editor before he was identified by the security agencies. Messages of support and grief at his detention from long-time readers flooded the platform on Thursday under the hashtag #Hossein_Shanbeh_Zadeh.

In his parting messages, hte writer added that he would miss the films of Hayao Miyazaki and the songs of Mohammad Reza Shajarian behind bars, urging his followers to copy the example of murdered showman Fereydoun Farrokhzad: "Be free... I will return. I will return with my hands full."

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