Iran sentences art gallery owners to death

March 22, 2017 • 3:43 pm

By Grania

Although it has been not been reported very widely in the Western press, on March 12th Iran sentenced Iranian-American Karam Vafadari and Afarin Nayssari to death.

They were originally arrested on charges of serving alcohol in their home and hosting mixed-gender parties. Vafadari is Zoroastrian and thus is technically not bound to these Islamic laws. Minority religions in Iran are protected in their Constitution.

Kateh Vafadari, the sister who lives in the USA claims that the case is really about “extortion, property seizure and national security threats“. Former Italian ambassador to Iran, Roberto Toscano, agrees:

“The reason must be a different one…political blackmail toward the US (of which they are also citizens), envy for their success, intimidation toward the Zoroastrian community, desire to grab their properties, [and] repression of contemporary art (the reported destruction of works of art at their home would point in this direction).”

Earlier this month these charges appear to have been changed to now include attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran and recruiting spies. The Center for Human Rights in Iran says these charges are completely without evidence, and notes:

The imprisonment of Vafadari and Nayssari also appears motivated by greed: the Islamic Republic has a long and documented history of unlawfully confiscating private property, especially that belonging to those with whom the authorities do not favor. The family of Vafadari reported continuous calls right after the couple’s arrest demanding money, and noted that the charges brought would allow the seizure of the couple’s extensive properties.


FDD’s Senior Iran Analyst Tzvi Kahn agrees:


The prognosis is not good. The New York Times notes:

The continued inclusion of Iran among the six predominantly Muslim nations in Mr. Trump’s revised visa ban has only aggravated matters, according to Iranian-American advocates. Iran, which has described the ban as insulting, has retaliated by prohibiting most American visitors.

“The problem is that no one has a clue about Trump administration policy,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran. With the American prisoners in Iran, he said, “there is limbo, really.”


Hat-tip: Malgorzata


Further reading:

Former Italian Ambassador to Iran Denounces Detention of Iranian-American Dual National and Wife

Grave and Baseless New Charges Against Imprisoned Iranian-American and Wife

New York Times

The New Yorker


16 thoughts on “Iran sentences art gallery owners to death

  1. Thank you for this post. Such repressions are the reason why Zoroastrians, Christians and Jews in Muslim-majority countries, over time, “voluntarily” convert to Islam (or flee).

  2. The continued inclusion of Iran among the six predominantly Muslim nations in Mr. Trump’s revised visa ban has only aggravated matters, according to Iranian-American advocates. Iran, which has described the ban as insulting, has retaliated by prohibiting most American visitors.

    Of course, everything is Trump’s fault. Iran was a totally rational country a few months ago.

    Gorton, Manchester, is to hold a by-election soon. Labour have put forward an all-Asian shortlist. Three of the five candidates are shills for Iran and have been photographed at celebrations of the Iranian Revolution.

    But never fear, George Galloway is going to stand as an independent. Galloway is a shill for the Saudis and has announced that he will be prioritising the struggle of Palestinians against the wicked Zionists. So a British by-election is being fought as a proxy war between opposing factions of Islamofascism. Because northern British towns don’t have issues of their own that need addressing.

    Iran needs to take responsibility for its own decisions. More, it needs to be held accountable for those decisions by people who should know better. Israel isn’t executing people from countries that ban Israeli travellers.

    1. The Iranian response to the change in our administration reminds me a lot of our own conservatives, being anti- whatever Obama or Hilary was for. In the case of Iran, when Obama was for rapproachment, they were aginst it. Now Trump is frosty towards Iran, they’re against that.

    2. I think you’re missing the point here. No-one is blaming this on Trump. They’re simply pointing out that as relations are now frostier, to put it mildly, the US is less likely to be successful in trying to intercede on behalf of its incarcerated citizens. /Grania

  3. We are always talking about Islamic terrorists trying to cause damage and mayhem in the West. But here is a good example of authoritarian state terrorism against citizens.

    1. I am afraid that one of the sinister effects of Islamism is that we are so preoccupied with our own plight that we have become quite callous to people suffering in other countries. Few care about oppression in Muslim countries, as long as they are not sending migrants to us.

  4. The rationales quoted above all seem to downplay religion as a motive. That’s wrong. Let’s grant for example the government is greedy and wants their wealth. They still need to sell the policy to the average man in the street, and the Iranian courts. Religion serves that purpose.

    1. Indeed, religion’s still the behavior-controlling/motivating factor regardless of any machiavellian motives.

  5. Iran successfully bullied Obama. He’d huff a bit but generally they go their way (hostage issues, Navy sailor issues, ‘treaty’ which was not really a treaty). I’m not sure what Trump will do, the more you give them, the more they take.

    Meanwhile they’re using their new cash and freedom to fund Hezbollah and build missile assembly in Lebanon.

    [They got a billion dollars… originally secretly until it was found out then the new explanation ‘it was payment part of previous agreements’– sure: cash flown secretly at night from Switzerland in leased planes. And we’re expected to believe this was business as usual. Ben Rhodes bragged (in the NYT) that it was easy to feed stories to the news media because they were so gullible.]

  6. As someone who had at least visited Iran, I have to comment. Firstly, while it’s government does some despicable things, both on the world stage (most notably in Syria at present) and, as you have highlighted, to political prisoners, the people of Iran are the warmest, most welcoming people I have found anywhere. Secondly, although the people are almost universally Shia, they are extremely proud of their pre-islamic history and Zoroastrian symbols abound in the country. The people I met were well versed in popular western culture and the persecution described here is, in part, aimed at stifling this inclination, I believe.

    1. Yes, many people in Iran want their country more democratic, more secular, more friendly to the West. They mounted huge peaceful protests in 2009 but were crushed. Now, few in the West remember that Neda Agha-Soltan ever lived.

    2. I can second that. Iranians are, however cursed, it seems: from a repressive Shah to even more repressive Ayatollahs. Horrible war with Iraq, a laughable (if it weren’t so tragic) justice system, repression of even the most modest expression of free thought, etc,etc.
      Of the three Iranians that I financiqlly ‘guaranteed’ for their stay in Europe, at least 2 (don’t know about the 3rd) have become apostate atheists.
      Iran has such a great heritage and a tradition of, how shall I call it, free thought? It could/should be one of the leaders of the free world. But….

Leave a Reply