Iran Human Rights Monitor, 2018 Annual Report
This year, Human Rights Day marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being.
The people in Iran, however, are deprived of their most basic rights due to the horrendous violations of human rights committed by the clerical regime ruling the country.
This oppression culminates in horrific scenes of public hangings, floggings, and even limb amputations.
Prisons are overwhelmed with inmates, and conditions are intolerable and inhumane. Political prisoners, specifically, are subjected to horrendous mistreatment by the authorities.
Iran’s judicial and security organs systematically wage a vicious crackdown on human rights defenders, lawyers, women’s and civil rights activists, teachers and labor activists, students, journalists and online media activists in blatant disregard of international and domestic standards.
Hundreds of activists are imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights.
Here is a glance on the regime’s record in 2018. It must be stressed that the figures cited in this report have been compiled from official sources or from reliable non-governmental sources inside Iran who risked their lives to obtain the data. Therefore, they should be considered as minimums due to lack of transparency and censorship on the part of the Iranian regime and the absence of free access to information under the clerical regime.
The Iranian regime has a dismal report card of at least 285 executions as of December 2017, including the execution of four women and six individuals who were sentenced to death for crimes they allegedly committed as children.
An estimated 8,000 arbitrary arrests were made in the course of the month-long protests in January.
At least 58 were killed during the 2018 protests and 12 jailed protesters murdered under torture.
Iran must understand its atrocious crimes will not go unpunished. While more strong measures against Tehran are necessary, emphasis should be placed on Tehran’s human rights violations.
The sanctions adopted by the US targeting institutions which have quashed dissent and are heavily involved in human rights violations, are welcome.
Iran Human Rights Monitor urges the international community to hold the mullahs accountable for their crimes against humanity, and stand by the Iranian people in their struggle to achieve their basic human rights.
Freedom of expression, association and assembly
The Iranian authorities crushed the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, by cracking down on peaceful protesters. The swift and violent suppression of the protests and the number of deaths in custody suggest that freedom of assembly and expression has deteriorated.
The protests that erupted in nearly every Iranian province since late December 2017 were met with a state response that was notable for its harshness and disregard for the law.
According to reports from inside Iran and from within the regime, the number of detainees of the protests amounted to at least 8,000 by the end of the second week of the protests. Detainees were denied access to legal representation and threatened with more serious charges if they sought counsel.
Despite the regime’s attempts to conceal the number of arrests, it admitted to parts of it.
Meanwhile, officials openly spoke of “preemptive” arrests to curb further disturbances.
There are also reliable reports that detainees were administered pills of an unknown substance, as well as methadone, without the presence of a doctor, in what appears to be a concerted attempt to depict the detainees as drug addicts.
Twelve inmates died in custody under suspicious circumstances.
Vahid Heydari, 22, is an example of those who died in detention at the 12th Police Station in the city of Arak, Central Province, sometime between the closing days of December 2017 and the beginning of January 2018. The authorities claimed he was a drug addict who committed suicide—a claim that his family has vehemently denied and for which there is little credible evidence.
Another detainee who officials claimed committed suicide, Sina Ghanbari, 23, was arrested on December 31, 2017, during protests in Tehran and taken to Evin Prison. A week later, judicial officials claimed he had hanged himself in the bathroom of the prison’s quarantine unit on January 6, 2018. His body was delivered to his family on January 9.
Numerous videos circulated widely on social media channels showed authorities using potentially lethal force against protesters. At least 50 protesters were directly shot dead by the state security force during the street protests.
In August, more than 1,000 people were arrested during protests in Tehran and other provinces over deteriorating economic conditions and corruption. A protester was murdered in Karaj, during the week-long protests.
There is grave concern that several hundreds of thousands of those arrested in 2018 protests may still be in custody.
The Iranian Judiciary has convicted the protesters on vaguely defined national security charges and handed down heavy sentences.
More recently, in the 15 HEPCO workers, to intimidate protesting and striking workers, the Judiciary of Arak condemned 15 HEPCO workers to 74 lashes, one to two years in prison and five-year suspended sentences for their protest in June last year against non-payment of their salaries and benefits, and the government’s failure to delivers on its promises. They were charged with “disrupting public order” and “spreading propaganda against the regime.”
As for the truckers who held a nationwide strike over high prices and non-paid wages, a judiciary official warned them of “harsh penalties” if they continued their protests, state media said in September.
Mohseni Ejei warned truck drivers who have continued their protests despite several rounds of arrests. “Harsh penalties await those who … block lorry traffic on roads,” he was cited by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying.
General prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said that protesting drivers may face death sentences under stern laws against highway robbery, the state broadcaster IRIB reported.
At least 264 of striking drivers were arrested for allegedly blocking roads and trying to pressure colleagues to join the strike, according to Iranian news agencies.
In yet another case, the head of the Revolutionary Court warned that those arrested in the January 2018 protests could face the death penalty.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Torture and other ill-treatment are still common practice, especially during interrogations.
What needs clarification is the fact that Iran prisons are infamous for widespread use of tortures and inhumane and unbearable conditions.
At least seven individuals were tortured to death while many others were subjected to ill-treatment such as prolonged solitary confinement in cells with no windows, ventilation and lavatories.
Commonly reported methods of torture in prisons also include tying the inmates to a pole in cold or hot weather, mock execution, kicking and punching; beatings with cables or whips.
The reports pointed to common use of physical or mental pressure on prisoners including isolation to coerce them into making false confessions.
Reports obtained from inside Iran prisons indicate use of methods such as burning, electric shocks, pharmacological torture, and sleep deprivation.
Prisoners endure cruel and inhuman conditions including overcrowding, limited hot water, inadequate food, scarce beds, poor ventilation and insect infestations.
Political prisoners were locked up with dangerous criminals, murderers and ex-members of armed gangs.
As an example, Iran’s judiciary used the Great Tehran Penitentiary, originally designed to detain drug offenders, to incarcerate dissidents and anti-state protesters convicted of politically motivated charges.
Soheil Arabi was transferred from Evin Prison to the GTP on January 29, 2018. He was kept with dangerous and belligerent criminals who have assaulted him several times and threatened his life. His family members said prison guards have turned a blind eye on the systematic harassment and ignored complaints made by the prisoner.
2018 reports indicate inmates are also subjected to rape.
Taymour Khaledian, a civil activist, revealed on May 19, 2018, that he had been “severely beaten and sexually tortured” at a State Security Force base during his detention last winter, after he was arrested in protest gatherings. He explained that he was punched, kicked and beaten by shockers and batons. He was so tortured that he did not have the power to sit for some time.
Political prisoners were denied medical care, held in solitary confinement and faced fresh criminal charges in reprisal.
The judiciary, in particular the Office of the Prosecutor, and prison administrations continued to deliberately prevent political prisoners’ access to adequate medical care in many cases to extract “confessions”.
Iranian authorities deliberately deprived Arash Sadeghi from his cancer treatment. Arash Sadeghi was diagnosed with a cancerous bone tumour in August. However, authorities at Raja’i Shahr prison repeatedly impeded his access to potentially life-saving medical care.
The Iranian authorities’ treatment of Arash Sadeghi is not only unspeakably cruel, in legal terms it is an act of torture, Amnesty International said in a September statement.
Arash Sadeghi was sentenced to 19 years in prison in 2016, for his peaceful human rights work.
Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment
A number of cruel punishments were handed down in 2018, including hand amputations and floggings.
• At least 110 people received flogging sentences
• At least one instance of hand amputation was reported
• At least 11 people were flogged
Iranian authorities publicly flogged a man in July for drinking alcohol. Identified only as M.R., he was 14 or 15 years old when he consumed alcohol at a wedding party. He received 80 lashes on the back in Niazmand Square in the city of Kashmar, northwest Iran.
Authorities in Iran amputated the hand of a convicted thief in a prison in the country’s northeast, according to the state-run ISNA news agency. The January report said one hand of the 34-year-old convict identified only as Ali was cut off by “guillotine” in a prison in Mashhad. The report said Ali was detained in 2011 for allegedly stealing sheep, jewelry and motorbikes.
Iranian courts, and particularly the revolutionary courts failed to hold fair trials. They allegedly used confessions obtained under torture as evidence in courts including in cases which ended up with death penalties. Iranian law restricts a defendant’s right to access a lawyer, particularly during the investigation period.
Iran’s judiciary in June approved a list of 20 lawyers to represent people accused of national security crimes, i.e. human rights activists, in Tehran’s courts during the investigative stage. Despite the fact that Tehran has more than 20,000 lawyers registered with its bar association, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency published the names of 20 defenders cleared to represent individuals charged with political, security or media crimes. However, even prior to the approved list, human rights organizations had noted a pattern of detainees being denied access to legal representation.
This is just one more example of Iran’s judiciary trampling over due process.
Iranian courts are controlled by hardliners who are accountable to the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They often act swiftly and harshly against dissidents and civil activists on vague charges and behind closed doors.
Serious concerns remain that judges, particularly those presiding over Revolutionary Courts, are appointed on the basis of their political opinions and affiliations with intelligence bodies, and lack legal qualifications.
Iran is the world’s leading executioner per capita, with many hangings carried out in public. At least 285 people were executed in the period spanning December 2017 to December 2018. The real numbers were likely to be much higher as use of capital punishment in Iran is often shrouded in secrecy.
• At least 285 people were executed
• At least 11 people were executed in public
• At least 10 political prisoners were executed
• At least 4 women were executed
• At least 6 individuals were executed for crimes they allegedly committed as minors.
Several scheduled executions were postponed in the last minute to add to the mental and physical ordeal of imprisonment on death row. Thousands remain on death row.
One of the infamous cases in 2018 was the executions of three Kurdish political prisoners hanged on September 8.
Cousins Zaniar Moradi and Loghman Moradi were held for nine months at Raja’i Shahr Prison of Karaj without access to their lawyers and families before being executed.
They said they had confessed to murder under torture. They were punched, kicked, and tied to a bed and flogged. They had been also threatened with rape. Their request for a judicial review of their case was repeatedly ignored.
The third Kurdish activist, Ramin Hossein Panahi, was accused of “taking up arms against the state” in June 2017.
The executions took place despite a call to halt the executions by two U.N. human rights special rapporteurs, Javaid Rehman and Agnes Callamard, who said in a statement that the men had not been given fair trials.
Another example was the execution of a 51-year-old man from Iran’s largest Sufi order, the Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, which was carried out despite serious unfair trial concerns.
Mohamed Salas was executed by the Iranian authorities at dawn on June 18, 2018. Amnesty International condemned in the strongest terms the execution asserting: “Mohammad Salas’ trial was grossly unfair. He said he was forced under torture to make a ‘confession’ against himself. This ‘confession’, taken from his hospital bed, was broadcast on state television weeks before his trial and used as the only piece of evidence to convict him. He was not allowed access to his chosen lawyer at any point before or during his trial, and his independent lawyer’s repeated demands to the authorities to allow critical evidence indicating his innocence were dismissed outright.”
In fact, the Iranian regime uses the death penalty as a tool to suppress and silence a disgruntled public the majority of whom live under the poverty line, are unemployed and deprived of freedom of expression.
Freedom of religion and belief
The Iranian regime is among the top violators of the rights of religious minorities. Widespread and systematic attacks continued to be carried out against religious minorities.
Among religious groups, Baha’is and Christian converts from Islam were seriously discriminated against. They faced systematic discrimination, including in education and employment, and were persecuted for practicing their faith.
Followers of the Baha’i faith are systematically harassed and persecuted under the clerical regime in Iran. They are denied equitable access to employment, education, political office and exercise of their economic, social and cultural rights.
Systematic violence against members of Baha’i community further included arbitrary arrests, lengthy imprisonment, torture and other ill-treatment, forcible closure of Baha’i-owned businesses, and confiscation of Baha’i properties.
In the time period under study, at least 72 Baha’i people have been arrested while 69 were deprived of education. 18 Baha’I owned businesses have been shut down.
The Iranian regime continues to harass, interrogate and arrest Christians. Many have been charged with spurious, security-related charges such as “acting against national security” and sometimes handed prison sentences of 10 years or longer.
Most recently, Saheb Fadaei and Fatimeh Bakherti, both converts from Islam, were sentenced to more than a year in prison for “spreading propaganda against the regime,” a common charge used against Christians along with “acting against national security.” Fadaei was already serving a 10-year sentence.
In yet another case, two Christian converts were detained on November 16, in what some human rights activists are calling a rash of arrests in the area.
Behnam Ersali and Davoud Rasouli, both converts from Islam who live in Karaj, had arranged to meet in Mashhad, according to advocacy organization Middle East Concern (MEC), but their calls are believed to have been intercepted by the Iranian intelligence.
Rob Duncan, regional manager at MEC, said: “It reveals how closely the Iranian authorities are monitoring the Christians.”
Followers of Ahl-e Haq or Yaresan were also arrested in large numbers, brutalized and imprisoned.
Iranian authorities arrested 600 Dervishes during street protests by Iranian Dervishes in Tehran.
Amnesty International said some families were not informed of their whereabouts and the detainees were denied access to lawyers until their interrogations were complete.
Dozens of the arrested Dervishes have received heavy sentences so far.
Dervishes involved in the February protests had been demanding the release of arrested members of their community and the removal of security checkpoints around the house of their 90-year-old leader.
Members of the Sufi Muslim religious sect long have complained of harassment by Iran’s Shiite Islamist rulers, who view them as heretics.
Thousands of prisoners are being held under the worst conditions possible. They face numerous issues of concern. Prisoners’ objections are met by prison guards attacking and beating them.
Following is a brief review of the conditions in a few of these prisons:
Evin Prison is a vast complex that consists of multiple buildings, generally up to three floors high with two sections on each floor. Several reports point to inhumane and unsanitary conditions at Evin Prison. Chronic overcrowding, severely limited hot water, poor ventilation, and infestations of cockroaches and mice, particularly near kitchen areas, are among the most common complaints. Prisoners are forced to sleep on the floor during cold winter months due to a shortage of beds. According to the reports from inside the prison, meals are little and “barely edible.” Hungry inmates have to collect food residues from other trays or the ground.
Raja’i Shahr Prison
Due to the presence of dangerous criminals, bloody clashes among prisoners is a common incident in this prison. Ordinary criminals are detained in the cell neighboring political prisoners.
Usually, there is no water and prisoners can use the bathroom only for limited hours. Warm water is available only one hour a day and the rest of the day, prisoners have to take shower with cold water.
Prisoners are beaten and denied medical care. Inmates and their families face degrading treatment during visits through invasive and abusive body searches. In Section 4, Room 12, where political prisoners are held, air ventilation is poor as the windows are covered with metal sheets.
The Great Tehran Penitentiary
Located in Tehran Province’s Fashafouyeh district, 20 miles southeast of Tehran, the Great Tehran Penitentiary was built in 2015 primarily for holding inmates convicted of drug-related offenses. Iran’s judiciary has also used the GTP to incarcerate dissidents and anti-state protesters.
Multiple former detainees have pointed out the inhumane living conditions in the GTP, the largest detention facility in the country. A journalist recently described it as “beyond the limits of human tolerance.” There is running water for only one hour a day. There is only one toilet for every 170 prisoners. Sanitation and health conditions are so bad that several prisoners have got serious infections.
Ticks and lice infestation are common in overcrowded cells. Prisoners have to take a shower with a single pitcher of water. There are prisoners with HIV and hepatitis who are not being treated or segregated from other prisoners. The authorities have not taken any action to deal with this problem.
Diezelabad Prison of Kermanshah
The cells made for three, are filled with seven prisoners. The cells are inspected every other day, the inmates’ belongings confiscated and their books torn. Prisoners get fresh air for only half an hour. The cells lack any form of ventilation, heaters or cooling system. The prison’s store sells only wafers, tea and artificial fruit juice and prisoners do not have access to any other item. To extract confession, interrogators commonly threaten prisoners with rape.
Karaj Central Prison
Karaj Central Prison was built for 2,000 inmates. Currently, 8,300 inmates are in extremely inadequate conditions at this facility. A 20 square meter room is home to 45 inmates using three-level bunkbeds. There is no medical care for the inmates. Food quality is very low.
In response to their complaints, the ward chief says they are given 37,000 rials (around 25 cents) for each inmate and they do not have enough money to provide food.
Persecution of ethnic minorities
Ethnic minorities including Kurds, Baluchis, Azeris, Lors and Arabs have been subjected to oppression for years at the hands of the Iranian authorities.
Hundreds of people were arrested around Ahvaz last year amid protests against the regime’s discriminatory policies, water and power cuts and poverty.
Fifteen year-old Ma’edeh Shabaninejad was one of those arrested in March at her aunt’s house in Ahvaz, where she was hiding after security forces raided her own home and confiscated her poems.
In a sweeping crackdown against the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority in recent months, authorities arrested at least 700 of people in Khuzestan province. The wave of detentions follows a deadly armed attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz in September. Amnesty International believed that “authorities are using the attack in Ahvaz as an excuse to lash out against members of the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority, including civil society and political activists, in order to crush dissent in Khuzestan province.”
Iranian authorities did not disclose the fate and whereabouts of hundreds of the detainees being held without access to their families or lawyers.
At the same time, Ahwazi Arab activists outside Iran told Amnesty International that 22 men, including civil society activist Mohammad Momeni Timas, have been killed in secret.
Azerbaijani Turkic minority rights activists were also targeted.
Iranian authorities arbitrarily detained 120 people in connection with two separate Azerbaijani Turkic cultural gatherings that took place in July and August 2018.
They were targeted solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, including through their advocacy promoting the rights of the Azerbaijani Turkic minority in Iran.
There were disturbing reports of torture and other ill-treatment committed by security forces during and after the arrests, particularly those which took place in July.
Iran’s Baluch minority numbers between one and four million people, based mainly in the southeastern region of Sistan and Baluchestan.
Discrimination and poverty in Baluchestan region have led to many security implications. Even the state’s own research institutes have maintained that discrimination against the Baluchis has created poverty in the region.
Recently, IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim published a research that poverty in the province has led to a marked increase in the number of those who leave schools, concluding that the rise in drop-outs has had various social, economic, cultural and security implications.
In the meantime, several Baluchis have been killed while smuggling gas-oil to make ends meet in this unemployment-stricken area. Security forces are not answerable for the murders.
Baluch human rights activists believe that more than 100 people, including innocent bystanders, are killed every year in anti-smuggling operations in Iran’s Baluch populated province.
Regime forces, mainly the IRGC, continued to unlawfully attack and even open fire on scores of unarmed Kurdish men known as Kulbars who carry huge packs of goods on their backs and cross the border on foot to supply them with goods not widely available in Iran, like alcohol, foreign clothing, and other consumer goods.
At least 81 Kurdish porters were shot dead by the state security forces in 2018 in the mountainous border region.
Iranian security forces began in December 2017 to block footpaths kulbars use to carry goods into Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan. Much of the local economy in Iran’s predominantly Kurdish region relies on such trade.
The border blockade deprived residents of imported products to sell in local stores, which have suffered from a lack of customers because of widespread poverty in the region.
There was a heavy police presence across Kurdistan province to confront protests in the majority Kurdish regions with merchants going on strike to highlight the financial losses they’ve suffered since Iran closed the border. The state security forces arrested at least 30 Kurdish people during the protests.
In March, the state security forces also arrested 20 Kurdish activists in the run-up to Nowruz celebrations, which mark the start of the Persian new year. The arrests took place in the village of Nay, in Marivan County, Kurdistan Province.
Around the same time, 11 Kurdish rights activists, including outspoken journalist, Adnan Hassanpour, were arrested in Marivan. All the detainees were reportedly accused of participation in a rally for supporting the city of Afrin and its residents in Syria, where was surrounded by Turkish military units at that time.
Discrimination against women and girls
Women are discriminated against in law and practice, including in access to divorce, employment, equal inheritance and political office, and in family and criminal law.
The Global Gender Gap 2017 report ranks Iran 140th among 144 countries.
Women’s participation in City Councils amounts to 1.7 per cent. “Women almost disappear in senior management positions.”
Women were the first victims of Iran’s bankrupt economy in light of the flagrant discrimination against women institutionalized in the law and numerous restrictions imposed on their employment and education.
Hassan Ta’ii, job market advisor to the Minister of Labor, said in September 2017, that working women receive %77 of men’s wage for equal work, and as such they lag 10 years behind their male colleagues.
Many colleges educated women resort to jobs with salaries as low as one-third of the minimum wage.
Leila Falahati, from the presidential Directorate on Women and Family Affairs, set women’s economic participation rate at an optimistic 17 per cent in Iran. This leaves Iran way behind other economic powers in the Middle East region. (The state-run ISNA news agency, January 13,2018)
This is while the latest estimates according to official figures stood at 11.8 per cent.
The unemployment rate among young women doubles that of men. Only 16.2 per cent of the 21 million-strong workforce are women.
Women’s employment in Iran is contingent on gender segregation at the work place. If women’s place of work is not separate from men, companies and workshops are not allowed to employ women.
Also, many of the public places including classes, university entrances, parks, city buses, trains and etc. have already been segregated.
Authorities have defied ongoing public pressure to open football stadiums to women spectators.
Acts of violence against women and girls, including domestic violence and early and forced marriages are widespread.
The phenomenon of child brides in Iran has taken on catastrophic dimensions.
At least 180,000 early marriages are registered in Iran every year.
At least 37,000 of them are given to marriage between 10 to 15.
One of the main reasons is the law that sets the legal age of marriage for girls at 13 and allows fathers to wed them even earlier. At the same time, the mullahs’ parliament has been refraining so far to pass a bill seeking to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls.
Shahrbanou Imami, member of Tehran’s City Council and former member of the mullahs’ parliament, told an IWD gathering at Tehran’s Melli University that there were 15,000 young widows under 15 years of age in Iran. (The state-run ILNA news agency, March 8,2018)
Not only the Iranian regime does not take any significant or effective measures to confront the trafficking in persons, but it does facilitate the operations of human trafficking gangs since it profits greatly from sex slavery both domestically and abroad.
The Global Slavery Index 2018 has classified Iran among “the 10 countries with highest prevalence of modern slavery.”
According to the Global Slavery Index 2018, Iran is also “the subject of various UN Security Council resolutions reflecting the severity and extremity of the situations there.”
The U.S. State Department has classified Iran’s ruling regime since 2006, in the third tier of countries involved in trafficking in persons. Tier 3 countries do not fully comply with the minimum standards, and are not making significant efforts to do so, as opposed to Tier 2 countries that are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with the standards.
According to the U.S. State Department ’s annual Trafficking In Persons 2018 report, in Iran, “trafficking victims reportedly continued to face severe punishment, including death, for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.”
Government officials were allegedly complicit in the coerced recruitment of Afghan men and boys as young as 13 years old residing in Iran to fight for Iranian-supported militias operating in Syria.
Referring to how the Iranian regime uses child soldiers fighting in the most dangerous combat situations, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations said “Since at least early 2015, the Iranian regime has used the Basij to recruit and train Iranian children to fight in Syria to support the brutal Assad regime. The Basij also targets Afghan immigrants in Iran, some as young as 14 years old, to fight in Syria.”
Inhumane treatment of prisoners
Ill-treatment of prisoners remained common.
As an example inmates of Karaj Central Prison, located west of Tehran, are held in the worst conditions possible.
Prison time with hard labor may not be specifically mentioned in the Iranian regime’s laws, yet these prisoners are placed are under such harsh conditions. Some prisoners are forced to provide documents permitting authorities to use them for any physical labor outside of the prison. The inmates work from morning until the afternoon. The money provided on a monthly basis for the work of these inmates is deposited into the prison’s account. If the inmate seeks to enjoy any leave, they must agree to do physical labor. These inmates are only allowed a monthly leave of two or three nights.
300 to 350 of these inmates are currently working on a highway stretching north of Tehran, and none of them are receiving any money. This is just one example of the harsh labor authorities are forcing these inmates into.
Political prisoners were mostly targeted. Female political prisoners Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and Atena Daemi were illegally transferred from Tehran’s Evin prison to Shahr-e Rey prison on 24 January. They said that male prison guards physically and verbally assaulted them including through sexual slurs, kicking and punching, after they protested that their transfer was illegal and violated Iran’s own regulations on the separation of different prisoners’ categories.
In 2018, prisoners faced denial of medical care, refusal to transfer inmates to hospital despite life threatening illness, indefinite solitary confinement, poor nutrition, denial of family visits.
Denial of treatment
Political prisoners, including elderly inmates, are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of medical care. The threat of withheld medical care has also been used as an intimidation tool against prisoners who have challenged the authorities or filed complaints.
Yet no Iranian official has been held accountable for the multiple documented cases of death or irreparable harm suffered by political prisoners due to the lack of proper medical care in prison and the authorities denying them adequate recovery time or outside medical treatment and care.
Furlough, temporary leave typically granted to prisoners in Iran for a variety of familial, holiday and medical reasons, is routinely denied to political prisoners as a form of additional punishment.
The Iranian authorities tortured jailed human rights defender Arash Sadeghi, who has cancer, by deliberately depriving him of the specialist medical care health he desperately required.
Zeinab Jalalian, a Kurdish prisoner who is serving a life in prison sentence in Khoy prison in West Azarbaijan province, is reportedly in urgent need of medical treatment for her eye.
Imprisoned Iranian teacher Mohammad Habibi, a member of the board of directors of the Iran Teachers Trade Association – Tehran, was denied the specialized medical care he required. In August 2018, this human rights defender, was briefly transferred to a hospital in Tehran, where he was seen by a general practicing doctor who said that he needed to have his kidneys examined urgently by a specialist physician. Despite this, he was taken back to prison without receiving the specialized medical care he needed.
In 2018, several political prisoners in Iran, embarked on hunger strike to protest their prison conditions and to have their rights recognized.
Lack of due process
In many cases, prisoners were denied due process.
48-year-old physician, Farhad Meysami, had limited access to his lawyer since arrested by agents of the Intelligence Ministry on July 31, 2018 and was only allowed to retain one more than a month after he was arrested. He was told that he would have to choose his lawyer from a list hand-picked by the head of Iran’s judiciary.
Meysami launched a hunger strike demanding full due process, dropping of the “false” charges against, and stopping harassment of his family by security officials.
Prominent teachers’ rights activist Hashem Khastar, who mysteriously disappeared October 23 in the city of Mashhad in northeast Iran, was detained by the Intelligence Ministry at a psychiatric hospital.
Mr. Khastar’s wife, Sediqeh Maleki, insisted that her husband was not suffering from any mental or physical illness, and that he had been detained for unknown reasons without clear charges.
Denial of family visits
Iran Human Rights Monitor has documented multiple instances wherein political prisoners, including the mothers of small children, have been banned from seeing their families or talking to them on the phone.
Political prisoners Atena Daemi, Golrokh Iraee and Maryam Akbari Monfared, were deprived of family visits in September upon an oral notice by the head of the women’s ward. Prison agents argued that the reason for this illegal measure was the prisoners’ verbal conflict, shouting slogans in the meeting hall.
The daughter of imprisoned defense attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh was threatened to be deprived of visiting her mother if she did not observe the veil. The threat was made on September 16, 2018, when Mehraveh Khandan, and her brother had gone to Evin to visit their mother. Meanwhile, the prosecutor sent a letter to Sotoudeh warning that if she did not observe the hijab, she would not be able to have visitation. Sotoudeh gave up her family visitation right in protest against the prosecutor’s demand that she receives visitors fully draped in a hijab.
Indefinite solitary confinement
Iran used indefinite solitary confinement, sensory deprivation and isolation as a method of putting pressure on prisoners.
Iranian teacher and political prisoner Arzhang Davoodi, held at the quarantine section of the Zahedan prison is currently suffering from deteriorating physical conditions. There has been no news of Mr. Davoodi since March.
In his previous message, Davoodi had said that he had been transferred to a small solitary confinement unit and was deprived of family visits, phone calls and any communications with other prisoners. He was also deprived of free airtime, reading, television, and access to medication and food suitable for his health condition.
According to the latest news that was obtained in March, Davoodi had been on hunger strike in the quarantine section of Zahedan prison since February. Davoodi had described the reason for going on hunger strike as such: “I am on hunger because I have been deprived of free air and sunlight since August.”
Lawyers, human rights defenders
Iran Human Rights Monitor detected a surge of political repression targeting human rights defenders, lawyers, Women’s and civil rights activists, teachers and labor activists, students, journalists and online media activists as part of an escalating crackdown to quash Iran’s civil society.
Iranian leaders have often accused independent civil society groups and activists of acting on behalf of Tehran’s western enemies.
During 2018, at least seven human rights lawyers, 150 student activists, 55 environmentalists and other civil society activists were arrested by Iranian authorities and charged with vague national security offences. Five environmentalists were charged in Iran with national security crimes punishable by death.
The arrests happened within the context of the numerous protests that have been taking place in Iran since the beginning of this year.
The attorneys are sometimes handed harsh sentences for speaking out on behalf of clients, and subject to absurd irregularities.
In January, Mohammad Najafi, a lawyer from the central Iranian city of Arak was arrested. He faces years behind bars for publicly revealing the fate of a protester killed in prison.
Then in September, Mr Najafi’s lawyer, Arash Keykhoshravi, was also arrested. Two weeks later, two more lawyers were arrested while visiting Mr Keykhosravi’s home to confer with his family.
Among the other lawyers targeted was Abdolfattah Soltani, who was serving a 13-year sentence on national security charges.
Abdolfattah Soltani, one of Iran’s most famous human rights lawyers, was briefly granted a prison furlough in August to attend the funeral of his 30-year-old daughter, Homa, whose burial was turned into a political protest. He has been released on probation.
In addition to lawyers, Iran rounded up women’s rights activists, including lawyer Hoda Amid, Najmeh Vahedi, and Rezvaneh Mohammadi.
Dozens of teachers and labor activists were targeted solely for exercising their human rights.