A brief report at the side event of Human Rights Council in Geneva, June 2011

The Islamic Republic of Iran, Human Rights, Prison and prisoners

Rouhi Shafii

The Islamic Republic of Iran has from birth endorsed the strategy of intolerance of freedom of speech and thought and the right of individuals to live freely in society and choose their way of life. The Islamic Republic has demonstrated its lack of understanding of the concepts of freedom, liberty and individuality by continuously and persistently interfering in all spheres of public and private of Iranians. It has introduced and enforced specific forms of behaviour for all Iranians without due consideration to the diversity and multiplicity of the Iranian society and the changing times. 

The Islamic Republic has carried out a more or less stable strategy in dealing with those who oppose its strategies or even criticise them. The strategy of intolerance has always ended with restriction, denial of opportunities, detention, torture, intimidation, long term prison, deprivation and diversion from normal life.

Raiding homes in the middle of the night; searching and ransacking in front of children and other family members and taking the suspect into custody without an official order, which in many cases has turned into abduction where no news is heard for weeks even months. Such a strategy knows no discrimination. There is no difference between the suspects. One might have been in high offices such as the prime minister, speaker of the parliament or presidential candidates such as Mousavi and Karubi, or a student such as Majid Tavakoli and Bahareh Hedayat, a high ranking clergy such as Ayatollah Boroujerdi or a simple clergy student, or a syndicate leader such as Mansour Osanloo, a woman’s rights activists such as Alieh Eghdamdoust or a lawyer such as Nasrin Sotudeh, a doctor or worker. Treatment of all such people is similar to those who are imprisoned for burglary, murder and armed robbery.

The Islamic Republic has implemented a stable and consistent strategy in dealing with potential opponents and that is the strategy of creating instability in the minds and souls. No one is immune from the repeated inquisition, torture throughout prison terms. Sending prisoners into solitary for no apparent reason for weeks even months, mixing political and ideological prisoners with murderers and drug addicts, refusing to release prisoners or calling people and re-detaining them long after they have served their terms or forcing them to “confess” and sign letters all serve the strategy of instability in the individual.

The strategy of terror and intimidation is not limited to one suspect. All family members even children are subjected to extremes psychological torture. Lawyer Nasrin Sotudeh is spending time on a crime she has not committed, her husband and two young children are also tortured by denial of visitation and intimidation. Narges Mohammadi was a healthy woman when detained. She was released when it was feared she might die any time. After release, her husband is constantly harassed and detained and her children are suffering from constant anxiety. Mousavi & Karubi had been taken into the abyss along with their wives without any formal charges or court orders.

The strategy of unsubstantiated accusations which has sent hundreds into prisons is sometimes so bizarre that even talking about their looks more like a bitter joke than reality. “Moharebeh” or acting against God or “acting against national security” or “Espionage” for criticising the supreme leader or even the president! For such accusations, no documents is ever presented to the court.

The interference of security and intelligence in the judicial system has made a mockery of judiciary and justice in Iran. At present, a chain of lawyers is in prison. Nasrin Sotudeh, Mohammed Seifzadeh, Ghasem Sholeh Sa’adi, Khalil Bahramian, Hutan Kian, Maedeh Ghaderi. The lives of these lawyers’ lawyers are under threat as well.

Dangers that threaten the lives of prisoners are immense. Political and ideological prisoners are transferred into wards where murderers and drug addicts are kept. Zia Nabavi, a student who was sent to serve his prison term in exile in the notorious Karun prison in Ahwaz. He has recently written in a letter “ we don’t call ourselves humans anymore. We are half-human, half-animal”.

In May this year in an open letter sighed by 26 prisoners various forms of torture were mentioned especially on those who were detained after the disputed presidential elections. This letter was sighed by Bahman Ahmadi Amouie, Hamzeh Karami, Masoud Bastani, Abdulah Momeni, Shahab Tabatabaie.  In recent weeks a number of known political prisoners in the notorious Raji Shahr prison such as Isa Saharkhiz, Mohammed Nourizad, Mansour Osanloo, Heshmatolah Tabarzadi and Majid Tavakoli have gone on hunger strike but no one has paid any attention to their demands.

What has caused concern among families and human rights activists is the recent unexpected changes in the structure of prisons. In May this year, the political wing of Rajai Shahr prison was closed down and women prisoners were transferred into common wards among criminals and drug addicts where their health and safety was put in immense danger. Women guards suddenly disappeared and the infighting among female criminals was put down by male guards who beat up everyone indiscriminately.

In another development about 600 prisoners were transferred to Gharatchak prison; a place outside Tehran in the town of Varamin which resembles the notorious Kahrizak detention centre. The place is neither a prison nor a temporary detention centre. There are barely any provisions of running water or a shop where prisoners can buy necessities.

Among political prisoners, in there Shabnam Madadzadeh and Mahboubeh Karami are critically ill and need immediate attention but no one is responding to families who are unable to travel the long distance to visit their loved ones. Also, 25 females have been transferred to the notorious ward of common criminals in Evin called the Methadone ward and they have been denied access to phones to talk to their families.

During 2010 the number of people detained on various political charges is unknown. In places such as the Azarbayjan province and according to a report published in the  South Azarbayjan Student Movement website, more than 181 people had been detained, tortured on various charges which range from supporting their favourite football team to objection to the drying out of Orumieh lake due to the government incompetence and neglect.

Recently, on a trip to South Africa, Mr Javad Lari Jani, head of so-called Iran’s human rights council announced proudly that Iran has not imprisoned any Bahai. What a lie and a blunt joke!  The 7 men and women heads of the Yaran Bahais are currently serving long term prison sentences in Tehran. Tens of Bahais had been imprisoned in various cities and their properties confiscated. Children of Bahais are deprived of higher education and in a recent raid, an online university for the Bahais was closed down and its properties confiscated and its staff detained on charges of “espionage”.

What actually and truly goes in Iran is out of the limits of this talk. We hope that one day the Islamic Republic will stand trial in the International criminal court of justice and answer to the crimes it has committed against the Iranian people. But before such time comes, we urge the international community especially the United Nations Human Rights Council to urgently appoint a Rapporteur to visit Iran and make the Iranian authorities to imply to their international obligations; to permit access to families whose children and loved ones are either in prison or killed by the Islamic Republic and also visit the prisons and talk to the prisoners. Should such visit bear fruitful we urge the Council to make the Islamic Republic accountable to comply with the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur.

We, as human rights activists are deeply concerned about the increasing manoeuvres of the Iranian regime, the blatant lies to the international community and the unlawful detentions, torture confessions under duress, the sentences were given to individuals by the courts, the instability in the strategy of running prisons, the general conditions in prisons and the danger to the lives of thousands of the political, ideological and ethnic minority prisoners in the Iranian prisons. Thank you

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