Iran has released the prominent Kurdish Yarsani activist Kheyrollah Haghjouyan from Dizel Abad Prison of Kermanshah on a bail of 500 million Iranian Tomans – nearly 20,000 USD.

Haghjouyan is a member of the Yarsan Civil Rights Activists’ Advisory Council in Iran.

On 28 June, the district court of Sahneh in Kermanshah province summoned the activist and imprisoned him in Dizel Abad Prison for “insulting the sanctities and officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

Haghjouyan had gone on hunger strike since his detention, protesting against the accusations against him and the large sum of bail he was asked for his temporary release.

A group of the Yarsan Civil Rights Activists’ Advisory Council members and several other Yarsani activists went on hunger strikes in various cities on 4 and 5 July to show solidarity with Haghjouyan.

A Yarsani civil rights activist in Kermanshah said that a group of Yarsani activists welcomed Haghjouyan after his release and that they were on their way to Sahneh.

He will end his hunger strike at a welcoming ceremony at his house, added the activist.

A source previously told the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) that Haghjouyan was questioned and charged in connection with his political and civil activities in his court hearing.

The investigator issued a bail of 500 million Iranian Tomans – nearly 20,000 USD – for the temporary release of the Yarsani activist. However, he refused this large amount of bail as he denied the charges against him, it added.

The Yarsan Civil Rights Activists’ Advisory Council stressed in a statement that criticising the country’s political situation and criticising government officials “could not be considered as an insult”.

Kheyrollah Haghjouyan is a prominent Kurdish Yarsani activist. In recent years, he has given speeches in various ceremonies independently or on behalf of the Yarsan Civil Rights Activists’ Advisory Council, criticising the political and economic situation of the country and especially discriminations against the Yarsani community.

Haghjouyan gave his latest speech on 5 June on the grave of the self-immolated Kurdish civilian Nikmard Taheri in the city of Sahneh.

Nikmard Taheri was a Kurdish civilian from Sahneh, Kermanshah, who lost his life in June 2013 due to a self-immolation protest. His death was one of the three cases of self-immolation of the followers of the Yari religion (Yarsan) that took place in June and August in Hamadan and Tehran that year.

A day before Taheri, a civilian named Hassan Razavi from Pol-e Shekasteh village in Hamadan province set his body on fire in front of the governorate building.

Nearly two months later, Mohammad Ghanbari, from the village of Qarah Dash in Qazvin province, died in a similar self-immolation action in front of the Islamic Consultative Assembly building in Tehran.

This chain of self-immolation protests was a deadly reaction to the legal discrimination against the Yarsani people and the insult to their customs.

The forced shaving of the moustache of one of the followers of the Yari religion in Hamadan Prison was the spark that ignited the protests. The shaving of moustache is an act that is considered an insult to the believers of this religion.

Following these three people’s sorrowful self-immolations and deaths, a group of Yarsan political and civil rights activists felt the need for concerted action to protest against discrimination against the Yarsani community and forming a group to plan and pursue their demands.

Consequently, 100 Yarsan activists gathered in Kermanshah and formed the Yarsan Civil Rights Activists’ Advisory Council. They said that they had formed the council to pursue the demands of the Yarsani community in all possible, peaceful, civil ways.

Since its foundation, the Yarsan Civil Rights Activists’ Advisory Council has written several open letters to Iranian government officials, including the Supreme Leader and the President of the Islamic Republic.

All these letters demanded the end of discrimination against the Yarsani community and the recognition of this religious minority. The letters have not received any official response. And the verbal promises of the officials to pursue these demands have not had any visible effect on improving the lives of these people.

Yarsani community is one of the religious minorities in Iran that is not recognized as an independent religion in the constitution. Its followers are deprived of many political and social rights.

Yarsanis mostly live in the provinces of Kermanshah, Lorestan, Hamadan, Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Qazvin, Alborz, Tehran, Gilan, and Mazandaran. Kermanshah province is known as the main centre of this religion.

Although there are no official statistics on the number of followers of this religion, the population of Yarsanis in Iran is mentioned in various sources to be one to three million people.