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Majid Sharif, translator and author, found dead after disappearing for four days

(WiPC/IFEX) - WiPC reports that Majid Sharif, aged about 45, left his home
on 20 November 1998 and his family lost sight of his whereabouts. On 24
November they were summoned to identify his body in a morgue in Tehran.
While it is at present unclear what occurred, there are fears that his
disappearance and death may be connected to his calls in his writings for a
more modern interpretation of Islam.

WiPC is expressing concern having learned of Sharif's death. A writer,
translator and devout Muslim, he was a key member of a group calling itself
"The Committee for Research into the books of Dr. Shariati." Shariati, who
died during the time of the Shah, was a Sorbonne-educated university
lecturer and Islamic scholar who advocated a more modern approach to Islam
and a separation of religion and state. After the revolution which brought
the Ayatollah Khomeini to power, Shariati's books were all banned. Sharif,
through his work with the Committee, called on the Iranian government to
make them freely available once more.

Sharif was author of several books. One of these, entitled "Islam Without
Democracy", argues that the time has come for Islamic communities to embrace
democracy. He translated books and poems, including the works of Khalil
Giran. He also wrote essays on
political and sociological topics for an influential journal called "Iran
Farda" ("Iran Tomorrow").

Earlier this year, when several magazines were closed down and journalists
arrested, Sharif was summoned repeatedly by the Ministry of Information for
questioning. He nevertheless continued with his work.

On Friday, 20 November, a holiday, he left home. One report suggests he
meant to travel to the mountains near Tehran to go walking, another that he
intended to go on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mashad. On 24 November, a
mortuary in Tehran contacted a colleague of his and he and Sharif's family
were asked to come and identify his body. The body bore no signs of beating
or torture. A story in the official press suggests he had suffered a heart
attack, but the literary community in Iran is calling for a full
investigation into his disappearance and death.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the President:
  • expressing concern at Sharif's death in mysterious circumstances
  • expressing the fear that his case may be reminiscent of that of another
    translator, Ahmad Miralai (who was found dead after disappearing in 1995,
    see IFEX alerts of 29 October 1996 and 30 November 1995), and noting that
    his body was found only two days after the brutal murder of the opposition
    activists Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar
  • calling on him to order a prompt and exhaustive inquiry and, should it
    emerge that foul play was indeed involved, to arrest those responsible and
    bring them to justice, in order to assuage the natural alarm and suspicion
    aroused by Sharif's sudden death, and ensure that other writers and
    commentators on events in Iran are not chilled into silence

    Appeals To

    His Excellency Hojatoleslam val-moslemin Sayed Mohammad Khatami
    President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
    The Presidency
    Palestine Avenue
    Azerbaijan Intersection
    Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran.
    Fax: + 98 21 311 6276 (via Foreign Affairs, ask for fax to be forwarded)
    e-mail: [email protected]

    Please send copies to the Embassy of Iran in your country. In Canada, send
    copies to:

    His Excellency Dr. Seyed Mohammad H. Adeli
    Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
    245 Metcalfe Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K2P 2K2
    Fax: +1 613 232 5712

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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