|Occupation||civil rights activist|
|Known for||2018–2019 Iranian general strikes and protests|
On November 18, 2018, Sepideh Gholian, who had previously worked with several publications as a citizen journalist, was reporting on a labor protest organized by the Workers Union of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro Industrial Company (Persian: شرکت نیشکر هفتتپه), when she was arrested by the Iranian security forces. Union spokesman Esmail Bakhshi and a dozen other trade unionists were also arrested during the protest. All of those arrested, except Gholian and Bakhshi, were released within days. Gholian and Bakhshi were held without charge or legal representation for 30 days and were eventually released on bail.
On November 29, 2018, while Gholian and Bakhshi were still detained, The Vahed Syndicate, a trade union representing over 17,000 transit workers, revealed in a statement that Esmail Bakhshi had been briefly hospitalized due to torture he had suffered while in government custody. Immediately upon release, Gholian confirmed that both she and Bakhshi had been subjected to torture by the security forces. Following their release on bail, Bakhshi and Gholian gave Amnesty International an account of the torture they suffered while in custody of police and ministry of intelligence officials in the cities of Shush and Ahvaz. They told Amnesty that they had been beaten, slammed against walls, shoved to the ground, humiliated with flogging, and threatened with sexual assault and murder. Gholian stated that during her daily interrogation sessions, which started around 10am and lasted until the early hours of the following morning, intelligence officials repeatedly subjected her to sexual insults such as "whore”, accused her of having sexual relationships with workers, and threatened to make sure that her family would receive information that would make them murder Sepideh for "honor". This revelation led to immense public backlash, especially on Iranian social media. In response to public outrage various Iranian state organizations issued denials of Gholian's accusations and characterized her and Bakhshi as instruments of foreign interest.
On January 19, 2019 the Iranian state television broadcast what it claimed to be a documentary showing that Gholian, Bakhshi, and other activists have connections to the Trump administration, communist groups and other Iranians in diaspora who pursue overthrowing of the Iranian regime.  The broadcast, recorded during their detention, contained videos of a visibly distraught Gholian and Bakhshi confessing to their crimes against the state. Gholian responded on Twitter that this broadcast is by itself further proof of torture. Farzaneh Zilabi, Bakhshi's attorney, described the broadcast of statements obtained from her client under duress as a violation of the law. “Broadcasting of this documentary is unjustifiable and unacceptable. Now that the confidential information in this fake case have been made public through a deceptive, selective and unfair documentary, Mr. Bakhshi demands a public and transparent trial.” According to Zilabi, the broadcast was a violation of Article 96 of Iran’s Criminal Procedures Regulations, which prohibits and criminalizes to reveal the identity and images of suspects before conviction.
Gholian and Bakhshi were arrested again on January 20, 2019. According to Amnesty International, the timing of their arrest strongly suggests it is an attempt to silence and punish them for speaking out about the abuse they suffered in custody. In a phone interview, Gholian's father told a reporter: "At 7 in the morning, 12 male and 2 female officers violently raided my home, broke my son's teeth, assaulted me and my wife, and told us they'd kill our daughter."
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