Iran: Gohardasht political prisoners on hunger strike

Special Report (2)

On July 30, the Warden of Gohardasht Prison along with special execution guards known as Black Masks, attacked Hall 12 of Ward 4, beating prisoners there and damaging their belongings.

The prisoners were subsequently transferred to Hall 10 located in the maximum-security section used for detention of prisoners affiliated with ISIS and al-Qaeda.

More than 60 surveillance devices and 40 closed-circuit cameras have been installed in this hall. CCTV cameras have been installed even in toilets and bathrooms, denying the prisoners their minimum privacy rights. All openings and windows have been covered and sealed with metal sheets.

At least 20 prisoners have gone on hunger strike, protesting this transfer and the inhuman conditions they have been forced to endure.

In an apparent attempt to punish the prisoners, some of the prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement with handcuffs and shackles.

Hunger striking prisoners include Saeid Shirzad, Khaled Hardani, Ebrahim Firouzi, Vahid Nasiri, Payam Shakiba, Majid Assadi, Reza Shahabi, Hamid Babaei, Mohammad Nazari, Hassan Sadeghi, Reza Akbari Monfared, Abolghasem Fuladvand, Mohammad Bannazadeh Amirkhizi, Shahin Zoghi, Arash Ghaziani, Saeid Masuri, Mohammad Ali Mansouri, Jafar Eghdami and Saeid Pourheydar.

Prisoners are in critical health conditions. Some of them can barely stand on their feet and repeatedly fainted during visitation. They also strongly shake due to weakness despite hot summer.

Some of the hunger strikers urgently need special medical care outside of the prison but the head of the prison is refusing to authorize their transfer to hospitals. A prison doctor told the prisoners that they were not allowed to offer them care because the warden does not recognize their hunger strike.

Political prisoner Hassan Sadeghi was transferred to Tehran’s Farabi Hospital on Monday, August 21. He is suffering from glaucoma due to severe blows to his eyes under torture. Physicians say that his optic veins may have been torn and he might lose his eyesight. The hunger strike has deteriorated his eye condition.

Prison guards have recently transferred one of the hunger strikers, Amir Ghaziani, to solitary confinement.

Prison authorities refrain from responding to the families of prisoners. Majid Assadi’s mother said, “It’s been about one month that prisoners have gone on hunger strike, they are in poor conditions, they cannot talk or eat. Majid suffers from gastrointestinal problems and back pain. The prisoners’ conditions are horrible and no government agency is accountable. Every organization we refer to; they defer us to another. They refuse to give any answer. Yesterday, along with several families of prisoners, I went to the Prosecutor’s Office. Mr. Moradi referred us to Tehran’s Prisons Organization. They referred us back to Gohardasht. The Warden of Gohardasht, Mr. Mardani, did not even show up and we were mistreated by Prison guards.  Prison guards pushed one of the ladies down the stairs. We don’t know where to go and what to do.”

Political prisoners in other Iranian prisons including the political prisoners of Ardebil Prison; Atena Daemi, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and Maryam Akbari Monfared detained in the women’s ward of Evin Prison; Ali Moezzi, Mehdi Farahi Shandiz, Arash Sadeghi, Arzhang Davoudi and Maher Ka’abi have expressed concern and support for the hunger strike of political prisoners in Gohardasht Prison.

In a statement on August 22, Amnesty International called on the Iranian authorities to allow international monitors, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, to conduct independent, unannounced inspections of Raja’i Shahr Prison and other prisons across Iran.

“The fact that detention conditions have become so poor that desperate prisoners feel they are forced to go on hunger strike to demand the most basic standards of human dignity is disgraceful and highlights the urgent need for reforms to Iran’s cruel prison system,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International.

“The horrendous conditions at Raja’i Shahr prison point to a pattern of cruel and inhumane treatment that has repeatedly characterized Iran’s ruthless attitude to prisoners in its custody. All prisoners should be treated with dignity and humanity, in line with international human rights standards. Those in need of specialized medical care must be transferred to hospitals outside of the prison,” Mughrabi added.

Despite an international wave of support for the demands of hunger striking political prisoners, Tehran’s prosecutor declared on August 22 that the judiciary will not “surrender” to the prisoners’ hunger strike.

The state-run Mehr news agency cited Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as saying, “We declare to some prisoners who have gone on hunger strike or launched other threats, that such measures are doomed to fail. The Judiciary will not surrender to such affairs. The punishment of prisoners must be fully implemented. We are not supposed to be affected by some prisoners’ actions, including hunger strikes.”

In the latest development, the hunger strikers have sent out a letter, reaffirming their pledge to continue their hunger strike until their demands are met.

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