Free Aras Amiri
Free Aras Amiri
Aras Amiri is a UK-based arts curator and student at Kingston University, London. In March 2018 on returning from a 7 day visit to her sick grandmother in Iran she was arrested by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence on unspecified charges relating to "national security".
Aras was placed in solitary confinement, was not permitted access to a lawyer and forced to make statements under duress during 50 days of interrogations from morning till night. She was released in late May 2018 pending a trial to be announced. During this time she was asked to work as an informant for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence in the UK which she refused. She was then re-arrested in September 2018 and has since been held in Evin prison, Tehran.
On 13 May 2019, after nine further months in prison, a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary announced to international media (before Aras's lawyer had been informed) that she had received a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. Her actual charge was "setting up and running an illegal group subject to Article 498 of the Islamic Penal Code", in reference to her work as an Arts Officer at the British Council in London. Aras had no role in "setting up and running" the British Council that was founded in 1934. Aras did not manage any projects or programmes in Iran, and the British Council's Iran desk had not operated in Iran since 2009.
Aras submitted a formal appeal to her sentence in June 2019 which along with signed letters, the support of ministers, MPs and officials as well as many artists, writers and academics in Iran and internationally, stated that these accusations were entirely false and the subsequent sentence completely unjustifiable.
Aras is an Iranian citizen who held a UK work visa and was an employee of the British Council (the UK's international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities) since 2013. She worked in London and with the permission and cooperation of the Iranian government's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, her role was to support cultural programmes enabling the presentation and appreciation of Iranian contemporary art, literature, film, theatre and music across the UK.
On 18 August 2019 Aras's family received the news which was then relayed to Aras that her appeal had been rejected and her 10 year sentence confirmed.
Aras has made a significant contribution both to UK and Iranian arts and culture in presenting the extraordinary work of Iranian artists working across cinema, music, literature, theatre and visual arts. She has enabled UK audiences to better understand the unique and outstanding achievements of Iranian art and culture and the complex and long history between both Iran and the UK.
To arrest, imprison and sentence a cultural worker who respected and followed all correct procedures is an act of scapegoating and an unjust abuse of power against an individual who respected the laws of her country.
This petition is a statement of support for Aras Amiri, a dear friend and student who worked tirelessly in her commitment to the arts and Iranian culture. We urge the relevant authorities to ensure Aras's release without delay.