An Iranian writer will serve five years in jail for translating a book about a Kurdish-led uprising in Syria that was seen by the authorities in Iran as a threat to national security.

Arash Ganji was arrested in December 2019 over his Farsi translation of a collection of writings about Kurds in the Syrian civil war called A Small Key Can Open a Big Door: The Rojava Revolution, said rights groups.

He was detained in solitary confinement at Tehran’s Evin prison and later convicted of national security charges, membership of an anti-regime group and propaganda.

He was sentenced to a total of 11 years but will serve five, said freedom of expression group PEN America. He was bailed at the time but summoned to prison last week to serve his sentence.

“From the start of this investigation, the Iranian government has been targeting Ganji with the baseless claim that his translation of a book poses a threat to national security,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, of PEN America.

She called for this “farcical sentence criminalising the translation of a book” to be struck down.

“His wildly disproportionate sentence and imminent imprisonment are part of a broader pattern of legal harassment against writers in Iran.”

Kurds make up about 10 per cent of the population of Iran and the leadership fears that events elsewhere could inspire Kurdish uprisings in the country. Iran carried out a major military campaign against a Kurdish guerrilla group in 2011 that left hundreds dead. It has routinely executed Kurdish activists.

Ganji, who has medical problems, is the latest figure targeted by a regime that jails the fourth-highest number of writers and intellectuals globally, according to PEN America.

He is a senior member of the Iran Writers Association, which has been banned since the 1980s.

Dozens of global literary figures last month, including Margaret Atwood, Orhan Pamuk and J.M Coetzee, called on President Ebrahim Raisi to release three other senior IWA figures who were jailed in 2019 on spurious national security grounds.

Source » thenationalnews