Iran Human Rights Monitor Monthly Report – February 2020
February was marked by the outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) in Iran, progressively spreading throughout the country.
Since the outset, the Iranian regime disseminated false information in a bid to cover up the scope of the outbreak. It did not take preemptive measures or distribute adequate medical supplies to the public. The regime also continued its flights back and forth to China. In this way, the regime contributed to the rapid spread of the Coronavirus all across the country and the rising numbers of victims, as well as the transmission of the disease to neighboring countries.
There is no accurate assessment of the scope of the outbreak and the actual numbers of victims of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) in Iran since the regime’s officials have deliberately tried to minimize the scope of the catastrophe. Local reports from various provinces, however, indicate that the virus has spread widely and people are increasingly concerned.
The official figures announced on since February 26 saw a steep rise. The rate of increase has been 100 persons per day. The official figure rose from 140 to 388 on February 28 within only two days. The regime puts the death toll at 34. The new figures still seem to be inaccurate and unrealistic.
Gholam-Ali Jafarzaeh Imenabadi, MP from Rasht, said: “Unfortunately, the statistics are being repeatedly concealed from the public. Let me say it explicitly that the figures so far announced are still not real… Reports from the cemeteries, also reports from our friends, indicate that the numbers are dreadful and could not be concealed. I have received reports from Behesht-e Zahra, Tazeh Abad, and Bagh-e Rezvan in Rasht on the number of those who lost their lives due to the Coronavirus. I must say that the numbers are much higher than these.”
In such circumstances, the regime’s officials including Hassan Rouhani, say that they are not considering to quarantine any city or neighborhood. They accuse “the enemy” of trying to shut down Iran.
No preemptive measures have been taken in cities and hospitals. The regime claims that they are providing free face masks and gloves to the public. However, there are numerous reports from Iran indicating that there are no face masks or gloves even for the medical staff in medical centers.
Many pharmacies have posted up signs saying, “Please do not ask. We have not face masks or gloves.”
A local source in Isfahan reported, “I went to several pharmacies in Baharestan of Isfahan to purchase face masks and disinfectant gel. All pharmacies had posted a placard or a hand-written sign either on their windows or on the counter, saying, ‘We do not have face masks, gloves, red and white ethanol alcohol, disinfectant solutions, and disinfectant gel. Please do not ask.’ The pharmacy staff were not wearing gloves and in the best form, they were wearing face masks made with fabric.”
Another source from Tehran said, “One of my relatives is a nurse. She said, ‘We don’t have any resources. We just hospitalize people without having the means of attending to them. We just give them regular medications. If they stay alive, there is no problem. If they die, we have been instructed not to hand over their bodies to their families.’”
A source in Mashhad said, “The regime is trying to conceal the situation. Pharmacies neither have face masks nor any disinfectant. The situation is very bad.”
Another tragedy is the outbreak of the Coronavirus in prisons. Overcrowded wards and the disastrous state of the hygiene in prisons foretell of a major disaster being underway.
Khamenei’s Judiciary Chief, Ebrahim Raisi, had promised to make prisons and prisoners immune to the Coronavirus, but reports from various prisons say he did not deliver on this promise and the lives of prisoners are in grave danger.
The closed space of prisons, low quality of food, lack of medical and health resources, overcrowded rooms, and emergence of victims of Coronavirus in some prisons, have caused serious concern among prisoners and their families.
In some prisons, including the prisons of Khorramabad (capital of Lorestan Province) and Sanandaj (capital of the Iranian Kurdistan Province), inmates have demanded to receive medical and health resources, as well as having prisoners suspected of contracting the virus being quarantined. They have threatened to go on hunger strike if prison authorities fail to respond to their demands.
The situation in other prisons including in Karaj, Urmia, Tabriz, and Tehran is volatile.
The lives of prisoners, especially political prisoners, are in danger in Iranian prisons.
According to the data collected from material published by the Iranian state-run press, human rights activists and their websites, or from private sources in touch with Iran Human rights Monitor, the Iranian regime has executed at least 22 people in February 2020.
The actual figures could be higher as most executions in Iran are carried out in secret.
The executions were carried out in the cities of Karaj, Isfahan, Qom, Shiraz, Isfahan, Borujerd, and, Kermanshah.
Based on information Iran HRM has collected 19 of those executed were convicted of first-degree murder, three were hanged for major narcotics and drug trafficking convictions.
Torture and cruel punishment
In addition to torture in Iran’s prisons, the authorities have also issued at least 42 flogging sentences for social and political offenses and has carried out one case in public.
The Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of the northeastern city of Tabas said that “tourist” was lashed on February 1 for drinking alcohol on a tour, the IRGC affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported.
Torture to obtain forced confessions
Niloufar Bayani female environmentalist who is serving a 10-year sentence in Iran said her interrogators tortured and threatened her with sexual assault.
In a letter written in February 2020, Niloufar Bayani described the interrogations and wrote, the agents forced her to “mimic sounds of wild animals.”
Bayani has also revealed that her interrogators continually made sexual threats against her, showed her pictures of torture tools, made her listen to descriptions of others’ tortures and execution for hours, and pretended that they were going to give her a paralyzing or lethal injection.
Bayani has revealed that she wrote to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other high-ranking officials such as former Chief Justice Sadeq Larijani and described the abuse and torture, but her torturers became even bolder.
Bayani’s interrogators also showed her a photo of Kavous Seyed-Emami, the head of the environmental institute that she worked for. Seyed-Emami’s body was found in his prison cell two days after his arrest and officials claimed he had committed suicide.
Right to assembly and peaceful gatherings
Iranian security forces attacked a peaceful student rally on February 16 at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University of Technology. The rally was organized by students to mark the 40th day of the death of the 176 victims of Ukrainian international flight PS752, shot down by the regime in early January.
Hundreds of students gathered on the campus of Amir Kabir University, also known as Tehran Polytechnic, holding up signs that criticized the regime. They also called for a national boycott of upcoming February 21 Majlis elections.
Freedom of speech and belief
Court of Appeals affirmed the total sentence of 58 years in prison for eight environmentalists who have been in detention since February 2018.
Speaking at a press conference in Tehran on February 18, Gholamhossein Esmaili said the case of the environmentalists “is a case of acting against national security”.
The sentences announced by Esmaili are as follows:
Amir Hossein Khaleghi: 6 Years
Abdolreza Kouhpayeh: 4 Years
Houman Jowkar: 8 Years
Morad Tahbaz: 10 Years
Niloufar Bayani: 10 Years
Sam Rajabi: 6 Years
Sepideh Kashani: 6 Years
Taher Ghadirian: 8 Years
Three months past Iran protests in November 2019, Iranian judiciary officials have not yet reported on the number of those arrested and their place of detention but are trying and issuing sentences for a number of them.
- Gita Horr, 28, arrested on November 20 was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “rallying and collusion against national and international security” and “propaganda against the system” by the revolutionary court.
- Mozhgan Eskandari, 51, was sentenced to three years in prison for “collusion through presence in illegal rallies.
- Siamak Moghimi, 18, was tried by Branch 24 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehranand was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “assembly and collusion,” “propaganda against the state,” and insulting Khamenei and Rouhani.
- Milad Arsanjani, 31, was sentenced to five years by Branch 1 of the Court of Shahriar in south Tehran on the charge of “assembly and collusion against the state,” and insulting Khamenei and Rouhani.
- Kianoush Jamali, 27, was arrested on November 19, 2019 by agents of the IRGC Sarallah Corps. He was tried by Branch 26 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for “assembly and collusion against the state” and insulting Khamenei and Rouhani.
- Branch 10 of the Criminal Court of Sharhriar sentenced 29-year-old Mohammad Eqbali Galhin on charges of “destroying public property”, “disturbance of public peace and order” to 11 years in prison, 74 lashes and one year exile to Rask, a city in Sistan and Baluchestan Province.
- Ali Nanvaii, student of Tehran University, was arrested on November 18, 2019 by intelligence agents when he was leaving the university. He was tried by the Revolutionary Court of Tehran on charges of “assembly and collusion against the state” and “disruption of public order” and sentenced to six years in prison and 74 lashes of the whip. His sentence has been suspended for two years. According to this verdict, Mr. Nanvaii must write from three books designated by the court: “The boy selling Falafel,” “the foot left behind” and “three minutes on the reckoning day.”
- Abolfazl Maghsoudi, 18, worker of a stone masonry, was arrested on November 17, 2019 in Pardis, Karaj, by agents of the Intelligence Police. After completion of his prosecution, he was transferred to the Greater Tehran Penitentiary. He faces the charge of “disruption of public order.”
- Amir Hossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi, and Mohammad Rajabi who were arrested during the nationwide Iran protests in November 2019 were sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court of Tehran. They were additionally sentenced to 38 years in prison and 222 lashes of the whip.
- Khalil Assadi Bouzhani, Sohbat Omidi and Mehdi Abdali were sentenced to a total of 17 years and six months in prison on charge of “rallying and collusion against national security and being a member of opposition groups.”
- Branch 36 of Tehran Revolutionary court has sentenced Samira Hadian who was also arrested during the protests on November 20 to eight years in prison.
- Maryam Alishahi and her son were sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court on charge of ” insulting the supreme leader, rallying and collusion, disrupting public order and propaganda against the state.”