Imprisonment for peaceful political activity, religious belief, or for defending a fellow citizen’s rights is a horror and a travesty.
In Iran, the horror is accentuated by the brutal treatment, appalling living conditions and lack of medical care too often visited upon political prisoners.
Human rights monitors have recently voiced concern over the well-being of more than a dozen such prisoners who have gone on hunger strikes to protest horrendous conditions in the notorious Raja’i Shahr prison. In July, over 50 political prisoners were reportedly transferred without notice to a new area, with windows covered by metal sheets, little access to clean drinking water, food, beds, or medicine. The prisoners included human rights activists, trade unionists, journalists, students, peaceful dissidents, and members of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i community, according to Amnesty International.
“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,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International.
In a late August interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran, the mother of one of the prisoners, Jafar Eghdami, said her son had been on hunger strike for almost 30 days and could barely stand or walk.
Asma Jahangir, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, says she is “deeply alarmed” by reports of the deteriorating medical conditions of the prisoners on hunger strike in Raja’i Shahr and of their continuing “torture and ill-treatment.” She called on Iranian authorities to find a “prompt solution to the extreme situation,” one “ensuring full respect for [the prisoners’] dignity.”
In its annual human rights report on Iran, the United States also noted the “harsh and life-threatening conditions” in Iran’s prisons, including “commonly reported methods of torture and abuse,” such as severe and repeated beatings, overcrowding, sexual humiliation and denial of medical care.
Earlier this year Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed the hope that during Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s second term, Iran would restore to the Iranian people their fundamental rights.
Such a life necessitates the release of all political prisoners unjustly held in Iran, as well as the reformation of Iran’s prison practices to conform to Iran’s own laws and the international standards agreed to by the government.