Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Dear friends, family, human rights activists, journalists, and every single individual who has helped me in my pursuit for my brother’s freedom:

The past seven years have been painful and traumatizing for Saeed, me and the rest of the family. We have endured much hardship, but your tremendous support has encouraged us to remain patient and steadfast in our pursuit of freedom. Thank you for helping raise awareness about my brother’s case and pushing for his release. In 2012, when Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed Saeed’s death sentence, your strong objections to the unlawful verdict moved world leaders to also support the case, which ultimately led Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to call off the execution order. But, our nightmare is not over yet, Saeed is still in prison and he’s sentenced to life. It is very hard to believe that Iranian authorities are refusing to release Saeed even though they have never possessed a single piece of evidence to convict him. We have written multiple letters to Iranian authorities requesting from them to review Saeed’s case and release him, but we have always been faced with silence. With every day that passes it becomes increasingly clear that Iranian authorities have no intention of releasing Saeed until his imprisonment becomes a liability for them. There are talks of the government of Canada looking to open diplomatic relations with the government of Iran, this would be the right time for Foreign Minister Stephane Dion and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to secure Saeed’s release from prison and safe return to Canada.

I need your help once again to shine a spotlight on Saeed’s case in order to get world leaders to take action for Saeed’s freedom. I hope you will continue to stand with me and help push for my brother’s release.


If you’re a Canadian, please help me collect signatures for an official petition to the House of Commons that calls on the government of Canada to intervene on Saeed’s behalf to the government of Iran for the coordination of his immediate release. Please click here to download the petition. I need you to print it out and collect a minimum of 25 signatures from Canadian residents. Once you have at least 25 signatures, you will need to deliver the petition to your local Member of Parliament. If you need help finding your local MP, click here.

For everyone else, please sign a new petition I created for Saeed on Change.org and distribute widely. Canadians, please also sign the Change.org petition and share it.

If you would like to do more, please write a letter to Justin Trudeau or Stephane Dion and ask them to help secure Saeed’s release.

Contact information for Justin Trudeau:
Email: justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca
Mailing Address:
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Fax: 613-941-6900

Contact information for Stephane Dion:
Email: stephane.dion@parl.gc.ca
Mailing Address:
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario Canada
K1A 0A6
Fax: 613-996-6562


Maryam Malekpour

Read Full Post »


I’m still waiting for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to respond to the joint letter that I sent him before the Christmas holidays. In the meantime, I have also written a letter to Canada’s Foreign Minister, Stephane Dion. Hoping the Trudeau government will issue a response soon.

To The Honourable Stéphane Dion,

My brother Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian resident, is imprisoned in Iran and his case requires your urgent attention. On behalf of the Malekpour family, I am requesting from the Canadian Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister to intervene on Saeed’s behalf to the government of Iran for the coordination of his immediate release.

We have been living a nightmare for the past seven years, since 2008 when IRGC agents kidnapped Saeed. To this day no evidence has ever been presented to prove the trumped up charges against him. He was held in prison for two years without charge then sentenced to death in a sham trial in 2010. The so called evidence the Judiciary used to convict him were hours of confessions my brother gave under extreme physical and psychological torture. In 2010 Saeed released a letter from prison stating on record that his confessions were false and detailed some of the tortures he has endured.

We are grateful for the help the Canadian government and human rights groups have given to Saeed in pushing for his release. Global attention on the case helped pressure Iranian authorities enough to quash Saeed’s death sentence in 2015. However, the five years he spent living with the fear of execution will likely stay with him, and so will the five years our family spent in a state of hell worrying for his life while trying to get the Iranian authorities to hear us out. Though we are no longer living in the shadow of death, we still need to get Saeed out of prison. We have taken every avenue possible to reach out to Iranian authorities, but to no avail.

There is no sign that they plan on releasing him any time soon. It is clear that to the Iranian authorities Saeed’s case was never about moderating “obscene” websites, my brother is a political hostage who will only be released with the right amount of diplomatic pressure. I ask you to ensure that human rights – especially the case of Saeed and other Canada-linked prisoners (like Mostafa Azizi) – is always placed at the forefront of any talks with the government of Iran. I have heard Canada is thinking of reopening diplomatic relations with the government of Iran, this would be the best time to call for Saeed’s release and safe return to Canada.

Saeed, a freelance web programmer, immigrated to Canada in 2004 and was awaiting Canadian citizenship when he returned to Iran in October 2008 to visit our fatally ill father. Shortly after his arrival, he was illegally nabbed by agents of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and brutally tortured. He was accused of moderating pornographic websites without any evidence presented to convict him. In an attempt to intimidate the family into silence, Iranian authorities issued multiple threats against us. It got so dangerous that I was forced to flee Iran. With the help of the Canadian government I was able to seek refuge in Canada. I am now safe in Canada and have started building a life while also advocating for my brother’s release.

It is very clear there is no legal justification for Saeed’s imprisonment. What he has gone through in Iran is a an insult to any Canadian’s sense of justice. Opening up relations with the government of Iran while Saeed remains in prison would place Canadian values at stake. Please do whatever you can to ensure Saeed’s release and safe return to Canada.


Maryam Malekpour

Read Full Post »


Dear friends and supporters in Canada,

I am requesting from ALL residents of Canada to help me collect signatures for an official petition calling on the government of Canada to intervene on Saeed’s behalf to the government of Iran for the coordination of his immediate release. Please click here to download the petition. I need you to print it out and collect a minimum of 25 signatures from Canadian residents. Once you have at least 25 signatures, you will need to deliver the petition to your local Member of Parliament. If you need help finding your local MP, click here.

Please help me bring Saeed back home to Canada. He is a political hostage who will only be released with the right amount of diplomatic pressure. I hope our collective effort will help highlight the petition in Canada’s House of Commons and allow me the chance to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Foreign Minister Stephane Dion in person to discuss the details of my brother’s case.


Maryam Malekpour


We, the undersigned, the residents of Canada, draw the attention of the House to the following:

THAT Saeed Malekpour, a Permanent Resident of Canada, is unlawfully imprisoned in the Islamic Republic of Iran since October 2008.

THAT Saeed Malekpour, a Permanent Resident of Canada, immigrated to Canada in 2004 and was awaiting Canadian citizenship when he returned to Iran in October 2008 to visit his fatally ill father and was arrested by Iranian authorities on trumped up charges of moderating pornographic websites.

THAT Saeed Malekpour was forced to give televised confessions after enduring repeated torture by the Revolutionary Guard interrogators.

THAT Saeed Malekpour was sentenced to death twice by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court based solely on the confessions he gave under torture.

THAT the forced confessions are the sole evidence that has ever been presented in Iranian courts against Saeed Malekpour to justify the charges against him.

THAT Saeed Malekpour was held in Evin Prison for the first two years without charge.

THAT Saeed Malekpour has never been given adequate access to a lawyer or the right to view his case file.

THAT Saeed Malekpour has been physically and psychologically tortured throughout his imprisonment and also denied a fair trial.

THAT Saeed Malekpour lived with the fear of imminent execution for five years before his death sentence was commuted to life in prison.

THAT Saeed Malekpour has spent the majority of his imprisonment in a solitary confinement ward in Evin Prison that does not fall under prison jurisdiction and is in full control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.Saeed Malekpour’s basic prisoner rights were completely violated in this ward.

THAT Iranian authorities continue to hold Saeed Malekpour in prison without any evidence against him other than forced confessions.

THAT Saeed Malekpour’s basic prisoner rights continue to be denied and violated.

THAT the imprisonment of Saeed Malekpour serves as an insult to any Canadian’s sense of justice.

THAT opening up relations with the government of Iran when no arrangements have been made for Saeed Malekpour’s release would place Canadian values at stake.

THAT human rights, namely the situation and wellbeing of Canada-linked prisoners like Saeed Malekpour and Mostafa Azizi, must be at the forefront of any talks between the government of Canada and the government of Iran.

THEREFORE, your petitioners call upon Parliament to urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister to intervene on Saeed Malekpour’s behalf and appeal to the government of Iran for his immediate release from prison.

Read Full Post »


Joint letter by me and Parastoo Azizi, the daughter of jailed filmmaker Mostafa Azizi, to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

– Maryam Malekpour

November 10, 2015

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

Congratulations on your election victory.

Our names are Maryam Malekpour and Parastoo Azizi, we are the family members of two Canadian residents who require your urgent attention.

Saeed Malekpour, a web developer, is being held captive in Tehran’s Evin Prison for seven years now. In court the authorities did not present any evidence to prove the outlandish charges against him, except for forced confessions which were extracted from him under torture. Saeed has been subjected to brutal physical torture and was forced to live in the shadow of death from 2008 until 2014 (when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei commuted his death sentence to life in prison). There is no sign that the authorities are planning to release him any time soon, even though there is no logical reason why he continues to be in prison.

Mostafa Azizi, a writer and filmmaker, is also being held captive in Evin Prison. Mostafa is an active member of his community in Toronto and even opened and managed a hub of culture called “Farhang Khane” in North York. Iranian authorities have sentenced him to eight years in prison for his writings and nonviolent social media activities. He has spent time in solitary confinement and been subjected to interrogations which lasted at least one month. Mostafa is being punished for exercising his right to freedom of speech and expression.

What has happened to Saeed and Mostafa is unfair, they should be released from prison immediately and unconditionally.  Every minute they remain behind bars is torture for us; we feel helpless and imprisoned ourselves. We hope you will stand with us and defend the fundamental human rights of our family members, in order to help bring them back home to Canada where they can live a peaceful and safe life.


Maryam Malekpour
Sister of Saeed Malekpour
Edmonton, Alberta

Parastoo Azizi
Daughter of Mostafa Azizi
Toronto, Ontario

Read Full Post »


Saeed’s 40th birthday is on June 5th. One of his supporters has created the above art work. Saeed’s family thanks you for the lovely gift.

Read Full Post »


By Paul Dewar

Last June, people around the world wished Canadian permanent resident Saeed Malekpour a happy birthday. The hashtag #HBDSaeed went viral.

Saeed Malekpour is a software engineer — a techie. If he had been able to see the online wave of well-wishers, I am sure he would have been pleased. But Saeed doesn’t have access to basic rights, much less Twitter. For nearly seven years, Saeed has passed every birthday, and every other day, in a cell in Iran’s notorious Evin prison.

In 2008, Saeed was a permanent resident of Canada, with a home in Richmond Hill, Ont. He wrote a blog, and was preparing to begin graduate studies at the University of Victoria. But during a trip to Iran to visit his terminally ill father in 2008, Saeed was arrested. He was charged with blasphemy, and accused of developing software subsequently used by a pornographic network. According to a letter he was able to smuggle out of the prison, he was tortured physically and psychologically — whipped with cables, paralyzed with electrical shocks, and thrown for nearly a year in solitary confinement without medical attention. When Saeed’s abusers finally extracted a forced confession, he was sentenced to death.

After four years of heavy pressure from governments and civil society worldwide, Saeed’s sentence was commuted in 2012 to life imprisonment. This progress is proof of the real power of international opinion, even on an authoritarian regime like Iran’s. It is testimony to the importance of naming and shaming individuals and states that violate human rights, democratic freedoms, due process and the rule of law.

Yet this commutation is small consolation to Saeed’s sister Maryam, who now lives in Edmonton, and other members of his family. And it does nothing to remedy the greater problem of a continued pattern of horrific and unacceptable human rights abuses in Iran, and particularly in the Iranian prison and justice systems. Tragically, Saeed’s arrest, sham trial, and illegitimate conviction on charges of blasphemy are far from unique.

Freedom of religion and expression are not just essential elements of democracy: they are non-negotiable and non-partisan principles that Canadians support and expect their elected representatives to defend. The criminalization and punishment of expression contrary to certain religious interpretations is arbitrary and reprehensible. The imposition of the death penalty or life imprisonment in such cases is especially egregious and abhorrent.

In Saeed’s case, this already illegitimate law was stretched to preposterous limits. If pornography is a crime, Saeed did not commit it. He designed and developed software that was then sold on for further use — he did not determine and is not responsible for how that software was used. His conviction would be farcical, perhaps even laughable, were it not so appalling.

Yet if we are to hold Saeed responsible, it should be to thank him. Saeed’s work made it easier for everyday people in Iran and around the world to express and share their thoughts and beliefs quickly, creatively and effectively. He made the world a bit more free. In doing so, he ran up against those who seek to curtail that freedom, and to couple repressive practices with regressive policies.

President Rouhani has spoken of the need for “constructive engagement,” and the Iranian people have given him a clear mandate for reform. Yet his administration persists in violating and ignoring its own international legal and human rights obligations. So long as Iran prevents and prohibits the free exercise of free speech, its government cannot and will not be accepted or welcomed in the international community.

Two years ago, I was proud to receive unanimous support from all parties for my parliamentary motion marking the 25th anniversary of the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners in Iran. This motion made Canada the first country in the world to officially recognize this mass atrocity for what it was: a crime against humanity. Just as we must remember the crimes of the past, we must speak out and stand up against the crimes of the present.

Saeed Malekpour moved to Canada because he loves this country and what it represents. All Canadians can be proud of what Saeed represents. We must not rest until he is home.

National Post

Paul Dewar is the NDP foreign affairs critic and MP for Ottawa Centre.

Read Full Post »


June 5th is Saeed’s 40th birthday. Though he’s no longer living with the imminent fear of execution, he is still sentenced to life in prison. A life sentence is a slow death sentence. June 5th will be Saeed’s seventh consecutive birthday in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

Send Saeed birthday greetings online. His family is collecting messages for him.

Read Full Post »


Saeed Malekpour is spending Nowruz in Evin Prison for the seventh year in a row. He’s currently held in a general ward, which means there is less pressure on him now than compared to when he was held in Ward 2A. He hasn’t had any visitors for the past year, prison authorities won’t allow him any; this is torture. But, things were much worse for him his six years in ward 2A: a place that doesn’t fall under prison jurisdiction and is fully run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He was transferred after his case received much international attention in spring 2014.

Saeed lived in the shadow of death for five of the years in Ward 2A, sentenced to die for waging war against god and corruption on earth through allegedly moderating multiple pornographic websites. To this day no Iranian authority has presented any evidence other than forced confessions to prove that Saeed’s “guilty” of any type of “crime” that warrants imprisonment or the death sentence. His execution was stopped twice – the first time by the Iranian Supreme Court due to irregularities and inconsistencies in the case file, the second time by Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei through a pardon; but the imprisonment sentence remains for no given reason…It’s not certain when the authorities will release him.

For the first two years of Saeed’s arrest he was abused to extreme levels by IRGC officials. They tortured him to the point that he agreed to give televised confessions. Some details of his torture are in the letter he wrote and smuggled out of prison: http://persian2english.com/?p=8921 His sister Maryam Malekpour has said that the full letter is too gruesomely disturbing to share publicly.

In 2008 the IRGC had established a group known as the Iranian Cyber Army. Their main goal is to crackdown on obscene and immoral websites online. Their first main project consisted of bringing down pornographic websites and tracking down their moderators/owners. The main target was called Avizoon, a site which at that time was among the top three most visited in Iran. The IRGC brought it down in 2009.

When Saeed returned to Iran from Canada in 2008 to visit his ailing father, the IRGC authorities hit the jackpot, they captured him and locked him up. They accused him of moderating porn sites, namely Avizoon. Despite the lack of evidence, Iranian authorities insisted he was the moderator, but according to Saeed, he had created a picture upload program for a client whom he acquired through freelance, and was unaware of which sites the code was used in. Apparently, the authorities found the code along with Saeed’s name in it when they hacked Avizoon.

Now that they had Saeed, they were able to close the case on Avizoon, which meant that they could receive more money for a next project. According to sources, the cyber army was receiving millions of dollars for each project. They became very rich after Saeed.

Every day that Saeed remains imprisoned, it becomes increasingly clear that to the Iranian authorities, he is just a pawn in a bloody chess game. Even though he is now in the general ward and no longer living in the shadow of death, his fate still remains in the hands of the IRGC and, ultimately, the leader of Iran.

May Saeed be released any day now.

Last night Amnesty Toronto held an event for Nowruz and highlighted several political prisoners, including Saeed. His sister sent a note that was read to the audience:

This is the seventh Nowruz that Saeed is spending in prison. This is the seventh Nowruz that Saeed is not by his family’s side. Thank you to all the people who have stood by Saeed’s and my side and continue to do so. I hope that this will be a good year for us all – a year where we can celebrate the release of our dear ones from prison – a year where all the locks and chains are opened and all the pain, suffering and distance become nothing more than memories – a year where we are all feeling good. Happy New Year.

Read Full Post »

Saving Saeed

maryam malekpour

By Olivia Ward
Toronto Star

If a woman in Iran can have it all, Maryam Malekpour came close.

At 27, the striking, dark-haired mechanical engineer had a university degree, a reliable job at a Tehran oil and gas company, a husband, a devoted family and a lively circle of friends. Days were a mellow round of work, swimming, tennis and hanging out in the city.

But all that changed on Oct. 4, 2008, when her brother, Canadian resident Saeed Malekpour, vanished into a dark vortex that would drag Maryam down into its depths and alter her life forever.

What awaited Saeed was a six-year ordeal of kidnapping, torture, rigged trials, death sentences, repeals and imprisonment at the hands of Iran’s ruthless security services. Now aged 39, he is serving a life sentence in Evin Prison on widely decried charges of masterminding an Internet pornography network and, more sweepingly, “corrupting the earth.”

Maryam, meanwhile, was forced to run for her life without a home, family or country, afraid to speak out for fear that disclosing her own ordeal would worsen Saeed’s. Now in Canada, and preparing to lead a campaign for his release, she is telling her story for the first time.

“Sometimes you think things can’t get worse, but they do,” Maryam says, from her home in Edmonton, half a world away from Tehran. Her voice on the phone is shaky, and at times she is on the edge of tears. Some of the trauma is tamed now, but many nights it still claws her from her sleep.

saeed malekpour
Saeed, the eldest of five siblings, was her closest brother, best friend and mentor. He was the one to whom his little sister brought her growing pains: a brilliant scholar and problem-solver whose computer skills earned him the nickname “The Genius.” Saeed admired Maryam’s quick mind and he was the role model who inspired her to study engineering.

When Saeed married and immigrated to Canada in 2004, the two kept in close touch by phone and email, and Maryam looked forward to his visits. But the fall of 2008 was different: their father had a rapidly advancing brain tumour and a short time to live.

Saeed’s arrival — although weighted with sadness — was a relief for Maryam. In his absence, she was the mainstay of the family, keeping up her mother’s spirits and holding the grieving family together.

What happened next struck like forked lightning.

“The day after Saeed arrived I talked to him around noon and everything was fine,” Maryam says. “But at night my mother phoned me, really worried. She’d been calling and calling him and there was no answer.”

The answer came shortly before midnight. “Five huge guys came to mom’s house without any ID or authorization. They went straight to the bedroom and took away everything of Saeed’s. They took his laptop, even some vitamins he brought for mom.”

The men refused to answer questions, but said Saeed was “in a good place.” Then they left the house. For two weeks the desperate family reached out to every contact who might help to find Saeed, but without success. It would be weeks before they knew that he had been arrested, and four months before they were allowed to visit him.

“I kept asking myself, ‘What did he do?’” Maryam says. “He was always a quiet guy, doing his job, and not interested in politics. He left Iran to keep on studying and get his PhD and find a good job in Canada.”

What Maryam didn’t know was that Saeed was caught in a web of intrigue spun by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, to trap, punish and repress the growing cohort of Internet users. It was a time of mounting tension leading up to the 2009 re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — and the “Green Revolution” protests that would see thousands arrested and dozens killed.

Iran’s security forces viewed the Internet, and especially social media, as morally and politically subversive, and were building a squad of cyber police to counter them. They also looked on émigrés as traitors who were working with foreign agents against the clerical regime.

Saeed ticked both those boxes. Awaiting Canadian citizenship, he was taking advantage of his stellar computer skills to support himself as a freelance computer programmer while preparing to take a postgraduate degree in engineering at University of Victoria in B.C. He prided himself on developing algorithms and writing codes that he would sell to clients. Unknown to him, the stage was set for a terrifying drama that had no end.

“My arrest resembled an abduction,” Saeed said later, in a letter that was smuggled from prison. “I was handcuffed, blindfolded and placed in the back of a sedan.”

The torture began, he said, at the interrogation centre: “most of it was by a group. Several individuals with fists, cables and batons struck and punched me. They would flog my head and neck. Sometimes they used extremely painful electrical shocks that would paralyze me temporarily. Once they stripped me while I was blindfolded and threatened to rape me with a water bottle.”

 Maryam Malekpour holds mementos made by her brother, Saeed Malekpour, who was imprisoned while visiting his dying father in Tehran six years ago.

Maryam Malekpour holds mementos made by her brother, Saeed Malekpour, who was imprisoned while visiting his dying father in Tehran six years ago.

Their aim was to force Saeed to sign papers he was unable to see or read — documents implicating him in a western-sponsored plot to corrupt the Islamic Republic by spreading pornography through the Internet. Then they tried to make him read a prepared “confession” in front of a video camera. “I lost consciousness several times,” he wrote. “Each time they would wake me up by splashing water on my face and continue with the torture.”

Half his body was paralyzed, he wrote, he could barely walk and one ear was bloodied. The torture would go on intermittently for more than a year, and during one session his teeth were broken and his jaw dislocated when he was kicked in the face. For 320 days, he was kept in solitary confinement — considered a form of psychological torture — and denied medical attention.

Still his tormentors persisted, hoping to get the admission that would publicly humiliate Saeed, convict him and ensure his execution as a warning to others who viewed “immoral” or political websites. After months of physical and psychological abuse he was forced to recite what he later called a spurious confession, the final step to conviction in a Revolutionary Court, which accepted no defence and quickly condemned him to death.

While her brother endured torture, Maryam struggled against emotional breakdown. After Saeed’s arrest her mother was inconsolable, her father close to death. Friends distanced themselves and her anxious husband urged her to stay away from Saeed.

Her first prison visit, four months after his detention, left her weak and shaken. “I couldn’t even recognize him,” she said. “He had a full beard and he looked so scared. He didn’t seem like the same person.”

But the worst was to come.

“My father’s funeral was on the first day of Nowruz (the Persian New Year in March 2009.) Most of the guests had gone, and then we heard Saeed’s voice on TV.

“It was like a nightmare. He was saying awful things against himself — that western countries gave money to spread corruption to the Iranian people, and he got software from the U.K. to hack computers so he could do that.

“My brother Hamid was speechless and shaking. My mother had a heart attack. I just felt paralyzed. I couldn’t move or think. I told my niece to take her to the hospital. At that moment I couldn’t cope.”

Although the family, like many Iranians, knew the authorities routinely use forced confessions as propaganda, they also understood it was the first step toward a death sentence. Ten months later, Saeed was brought to court and condemned.

For Maryam it was a turning point. The unfair trial and court’s rejection of the smuggled letter that detailed the torture, false accusations and forced confession, convinced her to fight back. She began a media campaign to free Saeed, drawing alarming attention from the security services. Under intense pressure, her marriage crumbled. Sick with fear for Saeed, she could barely register the peril that faced her.

“I was desperate to help because Saeed could be executed at any time. Sometimes I gave five interviews a day to the international media, in Persian. Then they put my name on the (security service) website. They called me a liar and threatened me. It was very scary, but I was ready to go to jail.

“Saeed was my dearest friend. Without him, I felt that I had nothing.”

Maryam’s campaign succeeded in focusing worldwide attention on Saeed’s case and his execution was stayed temporarily. He was tried again, and once more sentenced to death.

By August 2012 Maryam knew her days in Iran were numbered. She had ignored a summons to Evin Prison, knowing it would be a trap. In the clerical regime it is common practice to put pressure on prisoners by arresting and abusing their relatives, but Maryam was in additional danger: she had already fallen afoul of the authorities.

When Saeed warned her in a phone call that he had been shown all her interviews, and was told that she was under threat, it was urgent for her to exit Iran.

Sometimes, Maryam learned, life imposes unbearable choices. And this was the most wrenching of her life.

“I booked a tour of Turkey, before they had a chance to stop me from leaving the country,” she said. “I took very little with me, to avoid suspicion. But I knew I could never return.”

Leaving her distraught family and most of her possessions behind, she entered the world of stateless refugees, thousands of whom had fled the killing fields of Syria. The UN refugee agency in Ankara was mobbed by traumatized people who lined up for weeks and months in the hope of obtaining the crucial registration papers that would allow them to move on to other countries.

For Maryam, the destination was clear. “I knew I had to go to Canada. That was where Saeed had lived, and he loved the country. I’d heard so much about it that I felt I already knew it.”

She had no time for a lengthy bureaucratic process. Iran has many tentacles abroad, and sends agents to infiltrate sites where refugees congregate. By now, Maryam knew, she would be on its wanted list and at risk of kidnapping, or worse.

“In Turkey, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t trust anyone there,” she said. “I was afraid to say my own name.”

She contacted Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, a Toronto-based human rights campaigner and founder of the Persian2English website, who had worked with her to publicize Saeed’s case on social media. With her help, and that of other Canadian advocates for Iranian rights, Maryam’s plight reached the office of then-Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The Harper government had spoken out against Saeed’s death sentence and imprisonment, and his case was well known in Ottawa. Recognizing the danger Maryam faced as long as she lingered in Turkey, Kenney issued a special permit that allowed her to enter Canada in November 2012.

“Even on the plane I was afraid that something bad could happen,” she recalls. Her destination was Vancouver, close to Victoria, where Saeed had lived until his arrest. There she hoped to settle, find a job and wait for his return, all the while avoiding anything that could attract the attention of the Iranian regime.

But the relief of her safe arrival soon gave way to a dark night of guilt, fear and homesickness.

In Evin Prison, Saeed was under a second death sentence, and Maryam was tormented by the knowledge that she could do nothing to help him. Without her steadying influence, her family was adrift. Burdened by the need for secrecy, and cut loose from everything and everyone she knew, she forced herself to get through each day, studying English and watching the seemingly endless rain.

“I felt useless,” she said. “Sometimes I would think, ‘Why not just go back to Iran, even if they put me in jail?’”

While grateful to be in Canada, she was also in legal limbo. Officially she was not a refugee, her permit to remain in the country was temporary, and although renewable, gave her no status or stability. With her money and possessions in Iran gone forever, she hunted for any job she could find, and at first survived only on a small fund opened by Amnesty International.

On the invitation of friends of Saeed, she moved to London, Ont., and found a rare internship in Western University’s engineering department. But as a pipeline specialist with experience in one of the world’s major oil-producing countries, she knew her future would lie in Alberta.

Even in Edmonton, where she now works, lack of permanent residency has held her back from resuming the promising career that was shattered by her sudden flight. Nor could she afford to pay the fees of a foreign student and enrol in a Canadian master’s degree to better her career chances.

That could change this fall if Immigration Canada grants her residency when her temporary residence status runs out in October. “We understand that (Maryam) Malekpour is anxious to gain permanent status and we look forward to the finalization of her case,” it said in an email to the Star.

But even as Maryam struggles to find her balance, fate has aimed a new blow: her brother Hamid was diagnosed with cancer and her widowed mother is too ill and overwhelmed to cope. Under Iran’s sanctions-shredded economy, the cost of his treatment is unaffordable.

In spite of Maryam’s almost unbearable burden of stress, Saeed was always uppermost in her mind. Since his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in December 2012, she has been awaiting a time to break her silence. This month she will launch a new campaign for his release.

Ottawa has signalled its support.

“Canada remains deeply concerned for the well-being of Saeed Malekpour and we continue to advocate on his behalf through all available channels,” said Adam Hodge, a spokesperson for Foreign Minister John Baird.

“Iran consistently denies fair treatment and due process to all those in its prisons and before its courts. Canada will always hold the Iranian regime to account as long as it continues to flagrantly disregard its legal and human rights violations.”

Maryam’s ultimate hope is that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — who holds the power of life and death in the Islamic Republic — will focus attention on Saeed’s plight and release him.

“There is no evidence against Saeed,” she says. “He is absolutely innocent and he has been held in prison and tortured. That should be investigated. The Supreme Leader commuted Saeed’s death sentence to life imprisonment. I hope that now he will find it in his heart to order him released.”

For the Malekpours, suffering has come down like a waterfall. And mercy has arrived, if at all, in tiny drops.

“I keep wanting answers,” says Maryam. “Why Saeed? Why my brother? Why does he deserve to be treated like this?”

Via Toronto Star http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/09/08/meet_the_iranian_woman_who_risked_everything_to_save_her_brother_from_a_death_sentence.html

Read Full Post »


Saeed Malekpour Campaign – On June 5, 2014 imprisoned techie Saeed Malekpour turns 39 years old in Evin Prison. To commemorate his birthday we’re drawing attention to his case on Twitter. Join NGOs, activists, and concerned citizens around the world for the all-day Tweet Storm on Thursday, June 5th. Make sure you join in at the peak of the storm, 1pm EST.

Thousands of people around the world will mark Saeed Malekpour’s 39th birthday on Thursday with a tweet storm on social media. More information via the Toronto Star’s Olivia Ward

Won’t have time to tweet on June 5th?UseHootsuite.comto schedule your tweets from beforehand.

“Like” the official Facebook Page for Saeed Malekpour’s Global Campaign



  • To spread awareness about Saeed Malekpour’s situation and remind Iranians and the international community, including media and world authorities, that this web programmer is still locked up behind bars since his arrest in October 2008.
  • To urge the international community to help Saeed and his family seek justice by calling on Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to do the right thing by releasing the #techie from prison.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Tweet Storms


  • Tweet messages related to the campaign’s goals as often as you wish. During the peak hour of the tweet storm, 1pm EST on June 5th, it is recommended that you tweet once every two minutes.
  • You can either create your own original tweets or copy the tweets that the campaign has provided as suggestions below (scroll down)
  • Remember to include the hashtag #HBDSaeed in every tweet.


  • When you include #HBDSaeed in your tweets you’re contributing to the growth and popularity of the Tweet Storm campaign.
  • The more recognition the Tweet Storm receives then more we increase the chances of #HBDSaeed trending on Twitter. If enough people use #HBDSaeed we can get Saeed Malekpour’s cause to be featured on Twitter’s top trends section. A trending hashtag gains the attention of the media and world powers.


No. You can participate in the Tweet Storm as much as you like, even if you like to just tweet once.


  • If you tweet too fast (more than one tweet tweet every 30 seconds) then Twitter bots may detect your activities as spamming. In order to avoid any issues on Twitter, it is best to tweet at most once every two minutes.


  • We suggest you send SOME of your tweets to world leaders and media groups as an FYI. Please avoid activity that could land you in “Twitter jail”.


  • No. You need a Twitter account or access to one in order to participate in a Tweet Storm.
  • Just open a Twitter account; it doesn’t need to be a personalized one including your personal or private information.
  • Please make sure your Twitter account is set to public in order for your tweets to be visible.



You can just copy and paste any of the tweets below onto your Twitter:

  1. #June5th techie Saeed Malekpour turns 39 in Evin Prison- his 6th consecutive birthday behind bars. #HBDSaeed #Iran #Canada
  2. Please help be an imprisoned techie’s voice for justice. #HBDSaeed
  3. Amnesty Toronto has released a @YouTube video http://goo.gl/gsfpAs in commemoration of Saeed Malekpour’s 39th birthday. #HBDSaeed!
  4. We’re tweeting in support of #techie Saeed Malekpour for his 39th birthday on June 5! #HBDSaeed
  5. Use #HBDSaeed to Tweet in support of prisoner of rights Saeed Malekpour & call for his release http://on.thestar.com/1nh7BWm @TorontoStar #Iran
  6. #HBDSaeed. May your gift be your homecoming party. #Canada
  7. Saeed Malekpour wrote this letter from prison in defense of the charges against him: http://goo.gl/rHY8Qu #HBDSaeed
  8. نامه تکان‌دهنده #سعید_ملک‌پور از بند ۳۵۰ اوین/ شرح بازجویی، شکنجه و اخذ اعترافات اجباری از وی http://goo.gl/q6S35P #HBDSaeed
  9. #HBDSaeed, you’re not alone. #Iran #Canada
  10. [you can include the poster with this tweet, perhaps create URL for poster?]
  11. Happy 39th Birthday to Saeed Malekpour. In prison on false charges for the past 6 years, and counting. Free Saeed now! #HBDSaeed
  12. Thousands of people around the world are marking #SaeedMalekpour’s 39th birthday on #June5th with a tweet storm. #HBDSaeed
  13. It’s as though somebody who created @instagram was arrested because some user posted nude shots. – @GissouNia #HBDSaeed #Iran
  14. Saeed’s locked in #Evin since Oct 2008, serving life sentence on widely decried charges of running a porno network. #HBDSaeed @TorontoStar
  15. #SaeedMalekpour’s a techie, so we’re urging people to join a tweet storm in his support. The hashtag is #HBDSaeed.
  16. It’s shocking. Founding a startup and designing an app could result in a death sentence or life in prison in #Iran. #HBDSaeed
  17. Amnesty International Toronto branch is campaigning for Saeed. http://goo.gl/32PaSa #HBDSaeed
  18. He was detained by #Iran’s IRGC after he left his home in Victoria BC 6 years ago to visit his dying father in Tehran. #HBDSaeed
  19. At a time of rising tension in Iran he was caught in a crackdown meant to discourage Internet users who disobey clerical regime. #HBDSaeed
  20. #SaeedMalekpour is a metallurgical engineer who graduated at the top of his class at a prestigious Tehran university #HBDSaeed
  21. According to a letter Malekpour wrote from #Evin, he was tortured to extract a forced confession http://goo.gl/rHY8Qu #HBDSaeed
  22. A former cellmate reported that Malekpour’s jaw was broken under interrogation http://goo.gl/kyRcji @TorontoStar #HBDSaeed #Iran #Canada
  23. He’s being punished for the content that was shared on a tool he developed. – @GissouNia @UnlockIran #HBDSaeed #Iran #Canada
  24. Iran’s top leader has commuted Malekpour’s death sentence to life in prison. Do more right and free him, @khamenei_ir! #HBDSaeed
  25. Tweet storm brewing to free Saeed Malekpour in Iran http://goo.gl/kyRcji via @TorontoStar #HBDSaeed
  26. His family has appealed to @HassanRouhani to release him. But Rouhani replied that the case was “out of his hands” #HBDSaeed #Iran
  27. “There is only one person in Iran who holds real power” – @GissouNia And he is @khamenei_ir #HBDSaeed
  28. We’re aiming to bring Iran’s @khamenei_ir out of the shadows to demand justice for Malekpour and bring an end to his imprisonment #HBDSaeed
  29. “Only one person wields power in #Iran. We’re looking directly to @khamenei_ir for Malekpour’s release” @GissouNia #HBDSaeed
  30. #HBDSaeed. You’re not alone. http://goo.gl/32PaSa photo via @AmnestyToronto
  31. Join Unlock Iran and thousands of activists and concerned citizens around the world to tweet for Saeed’s freedom. #HBDSaeed
  32. Free Saeed Malekpour now. #HBDSaeed
  33. World auths incl Canadian & UN officials have repeatedly called for Saeed’s release to no avail #HBDSaeed. Only @khamenei_ir can free him.
  34. It’s as if there’s no one in this world who can help Malekpour seek justice- no one except for @khamenei_ir. #HBDSaeed
  35. Iran’s top leader @khamenei_ir is the only person in the world who can secure #SaeedMalekpour’s freedom. #HBDSaeed
  36. #SaeedMalekpour was arrested by Iranian plainclothes forces in October 2008, three days after arriving to Iran from Canada. #HBDSaeed
  37. Would you want to spend your birthday in an Iranian prison? #HBDSaeed
  38. Iran’s IRGC controls Malekpour’s fate. The only person in Iran who has higher authority than the IRGC is @khamenei_ir. #HBDSaeed
  39. Too many crimes committed by the authorities in Malekpour’s case for this techie to still be locked up. #HBDSaeed
  40. His crime is knowledge and education.   Free #SaeedMalekpour, @khamenei_ir. #HBDSaeed #Iran #Canada
  41. #SaeedMalekpour‘s sister: There’s no one to help us save my brother but Supreme Leader @khamenei_ir. #HBDSaeed
  42. Help #techie Saeed seek justice on his 39th birthday.  #HBDSaeed!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »