Majid Tavakoli (Persian: مجید توکلی ; born 1986, Shiraz, Iran) is a prominent Iranian student leader, human rights activist and political prisoner. He is a member of the Islamic Students' Association at Tehran's Amirkabir University of Technology, where he studied shipbuilding. He has been arrested at least three times by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence — most recently on 7 December 2009, during the student protests over the disputed Presidential Election of 2009 — and is currently in prison. His arrest and imprisonment is the subject of a campaign of protest by Iranian men photographed wearing hijabs.
In 2006, he was imprisoned for 15 months for insulting religion and the country's leadership in student publications, an accusation he denies.
December 2009 Arrest
Tavakoli was arrested on 7 December 2009 after addressing a crowd at Amir Kabir University of Technology on National Student Day (one of many protests over the disputed June 2009 presidential election). After his arrest, semi-official new websites including Fars News and Raja News published pictures of Tavakoli dressed in women's clothing or "hijab," taken while he was in custody, claiming Tavakoli attempted to avoid arrest by dressing in "women's clothing".
According to human rights activists however, eyewitnesses present at the time of his arrest "have denied all the news published by pro-Ahmadinejad media", and stated he was forced to put on the hijab by security forces to discredit and ridicule him. In their report, Fars News Agency had compared Tavakkoli to Iranian ex-President Abolhassan Banisadr, who according to "an old allegation", dressed as a woman while escaping Iran.
In solidarity with Tavakoli, hundreds of Iranian men have posted pictures of themselves in Islamic hijab, on various websites, under the slogan, "Be a man". The campaign calls for an end to mistreatment of Iranian prisoners including Tavakoli. Some of the website's readers also call the campaign a gesture of solidarity with Iranian women, who are compelled by law in Iran to wear the hijab.
Trial and imprisonment
Following a trial which he was reportedly not allowed to attend, Tavakoli was convicted of offenses which included "participating in an illegal gathering", "propaganda against the system", and "insulting officials" and sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. From January to May 2010, he was held primarily in solitary confinement in Evin prison.
On 17 May 2010, he began a hunger strike. On 26 May, his mother joined his hunger strike in an attempt to raise awareness of his imprisonment. While on hunger strike, his health deteriorated quickly, and on the fourth day, he suffered from stomach hemorrhage and was unable to speak due to weakness and dehydration. In August 2010, he was moved to Raja'i Shahr prison to be housed with violent offenders.
Tavakoli suffers from a respiratory ailment, which reportedly has worsened due to his continued imprisonment.
In 2009, Tavakoli was awarded Homo Homini Award, annually bestowed by People In Need on people who have contributed significantly to the cause of human rights. Tavakoli was awarded beside Abdollah Momeni, one of the student leaders from 1999 protests, which became the biggest rising since the Islamic revolution.
- Take Action at Amnesty International website
- "Iranian men don hijabs in protest at student's arrest". BBC News. 12 December 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2009.
- Majid Tavakkoli profile at Amnesty International
- "Arrest of Majid Tavakoli in Women's Clothing Puts a Shameful Stain on the Extremists Skirt". Fars News Agency. 9 December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-10.
- Mackey, Robert (9 December 2009). "Iran's State Media Mocks Arrested Student Leader Pictured in Women's Clothing". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-10.
- "MAJID TAVAKKOLI, IMPRISONED STUDENT LEADER". Amnesty International. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
- "Health Concerns Surround Majid Tavakoli, Heart Of Iran's Student Movement". Radio Free Europe. 26 May 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- "Majid Tavakoli in critical health after hunger strike". BBC Persian. 27 May 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
- "Homo Homini Award went to two arrested Iranian student leaders". People in NEED. 10 March 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
- "Iran: Charge or Release Iranian-American Still in Detention". Human Rights Watch. 21 September 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
- ["http://www.studentpeaceprize.org/assets/StudentPeacePrize2013_en.pdf "The Winner of the Student Peace Prize 2013"] (PDF). Student Peace Prize. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
- Photographs of Tavakoli in Raja News (in Persian)