Geneva (6 October 2020) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday expressed deep concern at the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders, lawyers and political prisoners held in Iran’s prisons and called on the authorities to release them in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iran is the country most affected by COVID-19 in the region. Its prison system suffers from chronic overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions that have worsened during the pandemic. Shortages of water, hygiene products and disinfectant, insufficient protective equipment and testing kits as well as a lack of isolation spaces and inadequate medical care have led to the spread of the virus among detainees and have reportedly resulted in a number of deaths.
In February, the Iranian judiciary issued directives on temporary releases to reduce the prison population and avoid further spread of the virus. Some 120,000 inmates benefited from such schemes, according to official figures. These schemes appear to have been suspended, and prisoners have been required to return in large numbers. In addition, people sentenced to more than five years in prison for ”national security” offences have been excluded.
As a result, most of those who may have been arbitrarily detained — including human rights defenders, lawyers, dual and foreign nationals, conservationists, and others deprived of their liberty for expressing their views or exercising other rights — have been placed at a heightened risk of contracting the virus.
”Under international human rights law, States are responsible for the well-being, as well as the physical and mental health, of everyone in their care, including everyone deprived of their liberty,” Bachelet said. ”People detained solely for their political views or other forms of activism in support of human rights should not be imprisoned at all, and such prisoners, should certainly not be treated more harshly or placed at greater risk.”
”I am disturbed to see how measures designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have been used in a discriminatory way against this specific group of prisoners,” she added.
One of the most emblematic cases is that of prominent human rights lawyer and women’s rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh, who received a combined sentence of over 30 years in prison on charges related to her human rights work. In protest against the continued use of arbitrary
detention, as well as inadequate medical care in prison, Sotoudeh began a second hunger strike in August, which ended after nearly 50 days due to her rapidly deteriorating health. Her heart condition requires specialized treatment.
”I am very concerned that Nasrin Sotoudeh’s life is at risk,” the UN Human Rights Chief said. ”Once again, I urge the authorities to immediately release her and grant her the possibility of recuperating at home before undergoing the medical treatment of her choice. Over the years, she has been a persistent and courageous advocate for the rights of her fellow Iranians, and it is time for the Government to cease violating her own rights because of the efforts she has made on behalf of others.”
The High Commissioner expressed her concern about the persistent and systematic targeting of individuals who express any dissenting view, and the criminalization of the exercise of fundamental rights.
”It is disheartening to see the use of the criminal justice system as a tool to silence civil society. Expressing dissent is not a crime. It is a fundamental right that should be protected and upheld,” Bachelet said.
”I urge the Iranian Government to review, in light of Iran’s international legal obligations — including the right to a fair trial — all sentences of people detained without sufficient legal basis. And I call for the unconditional release of human rights defenders, lawyers, political prisoners, peaceful protesters and all other individuals deprived of their liberty for expressing their views or otherwise exercising their rights,” the High Commissioner said. ”It is particularly important to rectify such injustices at a time when COVID-19 is coursing through Iran’s prisons.”
Execution and Death Sentence
Death penalty violates fundamental rights and international law, report shows
The use of the death penalty in Iran violates numerous fundamental human rights and is inconsistent with international standards, a new report released by FIDH and its member organization League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) today shows. The report, titled “No one is spared – The widespread use of the death penalty in Iran,” documents key trends, patterns, and cases related to the application of capital punishment in the Islamic Republic.
The report is released ahead of the 18th World Day against the Death Penalty (10 October). The theme of this year’s World Day focuses on access to effective legal representation for defendants charged with offenses that are punishable by death.
“The unchecked use of the death penalty in Iran is an indelible stain on the country’s human rights record. The government can make concrete progress towards the abolition of this outdated and brutal practice by simply respecting international treaties to which Iran is bound.” FIDH Secretary-General Adilur Rahman Khan.
For many years, Iran has consistently ranked second on the list of the world’s top executioners, after China. At least 251 people were executed in 2019 and more than 190 in the first nine months of 2020.
Various international human rights monitoring mechanisms have regularly criticized numerous aspects related to the application of the death penalty in Iran for being blatantly inconsistent with fundamental provisions of international law.
The overwhelming majority of capital crimes in Iran fails to meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” and, as a result, is in contravention with the country’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Capital offenses that do not meet the “most serious crimes” threshold include, but are not limited to: sex-related offenses; religious offenses; political offenses; drinking alcoholic beverages; drug-related offenses; economic offenses; and cyber crimes.
For several decades, Iran has also been the world’s top executioner of children. From 2009 to September 2020, at least 67 executions of juvenile offenders were reported. Iran imposes the death penalty against minors and executes them when they turn 18 or, occasionally, before. The use of the death penalty against minors is in breach of the country’s obligations under the ICCPR and the Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC), both of which expressly prohibit the imposition of capital punishment on individuals who were under the age of 18 when they allegedly committed the crime.
Women are also subject to capital punishment as a result of the discriminatory nature of several laws that directly concern them. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals can face capital punishment as well because of the criminalization of certain same-sex conduct, which is punishable by death in Iran.
The death penalty in Iran has also been used against members of the country’s ethnic communities – such as Kurds, Arabs, and Baloch – and religious minorities – such as Sunni Muslims, Baha’is, and followers of the Shia Ahl-e Haq sect.
The report also focuses on the link between the denial of the right to a fair trial and the use of the death penalty. In Iran, many death sentences are imposed after proceedings that fall far short of international fair trial standards. Death row prisoners are routinely sentenced on the basis of vague charges and “confessions,” which are usually made under torture or other ill-treatment during pre-trial detention. Defendants who face charges for offenses that are punishable by death are often denied access to lawyers of their choosing.
In addition, Iranian authorities have a long record of persecuting and prosecuting lawyers who represent individuals who are charged with capital offenses. Some lawyers involved in defending death row prisoners, such as human rights lawyer and 2012 Sakharov Prize Laureate Nasrin Sotoudeh, have been punished with imprisonment for their work. Iranian authorities have also been traditionally hostile towards critics of the death penalty, and anti-death penalty campaigners have been frequently repressed.
The report offers numerous recommendations to the government of Iran to make progress towards the progressive abolition of the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances.
FIDH, a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, and LDDHI oppose the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances, and actively work towards its abolition worldwide.
Iran HRM Calls for the Abolishment of the Death Penalty in Iran https://iran-hrm.com/index.php/2020/10/08/iran-hrm-calls-for-the-abolishment-of-the-death-penalty-in-iran/
October 8, 2020 – On World Day Against the Death Penalty, Iran Human Rights Monitor calls for a halt to the executions of political prisoners and the abolishment of the death penalty in Iran.
The death penalty is gradually being removed from the list of legal punishments in today’s world. The clerical regime does not have any intention of abolishing the death penalty in Iran. On the contrary, they defend and support extensive use of this punishment.
The question is: Does the Iranian Judiciary use the death penalty in Iran as a legal verdict, or as a tool for repression?
The Iranian regime has executed thousands of people over the past four decades. This includes the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988.
The developments in recent months attest that the regime has resorted to the execution of protesters after the November 2019 uprising. Beset by irremediable domestic and international crises, the regime is intent on preempting public protests.
They believe that they could terrorize the public by issuing death verdicts and in this way prevent any likely future protests. They seek to suffocate any voice of protest and all calls for freedom in the chaotic situation that prevails Iran.
In many cases over the past months, the regime accused the protesters arrested in previous years of “corruption on Earth.”
According to Article 183 of the Islamic Punishment Law, the punishment for “corruption on Earth” are among the harshest, including the death penalty.
Despite worldwide outcry, the clerical regime executed Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old wrestling champion, on September 12, 2020. The extra-judicial execution was hastily carried out, without informing the victim, his family or his lawyer, and outraged international and domestic public opinion.
Mostafa Salehi was one of the protesters who had been arrested during the protests in December 2017-January 2018. He was hanged in Dastgerd Prison of Isfahan on August 5, 2020.
Both victims had been viciously tortured during their detention and under interrogation. They were forced to make false confessions against themselves. They were also deprived of access to legal counsel. Both of them denied the charges levelled against them during all the stages of their sham trials.
At least 200 people were executed in Iran in 2020 by the end of September. This includes five women and four people who were minors at the time of their crime. At least 18 people were also executed on drug related charges.
Furthermore, at least seven political prisoners have been executed in Iran. A partial list of the political prisoners executed is as follows:
The names of the executed political prisoners are as follows: Mostafa Salimi, Abdolbaset Dahani, Hedayat Abdollahpour, Saber Sheikh Abdollah, Diako Rasoulzadeh, Mostafa Salehi, Navid Afkari Sangar.
These executions provoked massive public outrage. Social media users have millions of times tweeted #StopExecutionsinIran and the Persian hashtag of #DoNotExecute. In this way, they expressed their denunciation of the death penalties issues, upheld and carried out in Iran.
The Iranian Judiciary, however, has continued to crack down on protesters and political prisoners and put pressure on them by handing down heavy prison sentences.
The Iran Human Rights Monitor urges all human rights organizations, the UN and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary Executions and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran to take urgent measure to stop the executions in Iran.
Amir Hossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi were all sentenced to death for their participation in November 2019 protests in Tehran and for being “riot leaders” according to the regime’s Judiciary.
Amir Hossein was brutally beaten by security forces during interrogations after his arrest. According to a source close to his family, he said that he was subjected to electric shocks and told
that if he did not cooperate, his stay in solitary would be prolonged. He also said that an agent stood on his chest, damaging his rib cage.
Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi have said they were kicked, hung upside down and repeatedly beaten.
Amir Hossein’s “confessions” were used as evidence by the court to convict all three. He told the judge during his trial that he was forced to confess under torture and retracted his confessions.
Saeed and Mohammad fled to Turkey after Amir Hossein’s arrest but were deported back to Iran where they were arrested.
The 2nd Branch of the Isfahan Revolutionary Court sentenced Hadi Kiani, Mehdi Salehi, Mohammad Bastami, Majid Nazari, and Abbas Mohammadi to death in March.
Hadi was detained on March 10, 2019, for participating in nationwide protests in January 2018. He was tortured during interrogations for at least 40 days after his arrest.
The revolutionary court had brought eight accounts of vaguely defined national security charges against the five Iranian death row protesters including “corruption on earth,” “moharebeh” (enmity against God), and “baghi” (armed rebellion) through the use of firearms.
RSF and Iran’s Defenders of Human Rights Centre urge Iran to halt executions
October 9, 2020 – On the eve of World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Iran’s Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC) urge the Iranian authorities to end executions, which often target prisoners of conscience, including journalists.
The two organizations also call for a campaign, using the #notoexecution hashtag on social media, to denounce Iran’s use of capital punishment and to save the lives of Iranian journalists and other prisoners of conscience.
Iran’s execution of 27-year-old wrestler Navid Afkari on 12 September triggered an international outcry. Around 40 members of the UN Human Rights Council, UN human rights experts and the European Union condemned what some called a “summary execution.” Afkari was convicted of murdering and of “moharebeh” (waging war against God) – charges he always denied.
Iran executes more people than any other country in the world except China. Based on the Sharia, Iran’s Islamic criminal law provides for the death penalty for many crimes. Around 30 people are currently waiting in Iranian prisons for their death sentences to be carried out. They include AmadNews Telegram channel and website editor Rouhollah Zam, who was sentenced to death on 30 June.
“At least 30 prisoners of conscience are currently waiting on Iran’s death rows to be executed,” Nobel peace laureate and DHRC president Shirin Ebadi said. “Iranians have been fighting for years for the death penalty to be removed from the penal code. It is now urgent for the international community to come to their aid.”
At least 20 journalists, citizen-journalists and bloggers have been sentenced to death in Iran in the past 20 years and, according to official figures, the Islamic Republic has executed more journalists than any other country in the past 50 years. In the immediate aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, around 20 journalists who were either close to the Shah’s regime, such as Ali Asgar Amirani, Simon Farzami and Nasrollah Arman, or to left-wing circles, such as Said Soltanpour and Rahman Hatefi-Monfared, were executed by firing squad.
“Iran has executed thousands of men and women since 1979, including a score of journalists who were all convicted by unfair courts,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Sentencing prisoners of conscience including journalists to death is the most extreme way to suppress freedom of expression. It is time the Islamic Republic finally abandoned these cruel punishments from another era.”
Iran has never signed the second optional protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which calls for abolition of the death penalty, and has voted against all UN General Assembly resolutions calling for a moratorium on use of the death penalty.
Iran fell three places in RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 173rd out of 180 countries.
Torture in Public: Parading and Humiliating Detainees in the Streets
October 8, 2020 – The State Security Force agents have been parading people in the streets of Iran over the past weeks, humiliating and torturing them psychologically in the open.
Iran’s state media have published videos and reports of the public parading and humiliating locals who were charged with “public thuggish behavior”.
The men are paraded in police trucks, while masked security forces slap and manhandle them, forcing them to “repent” in public.
In some of the videos the detainees can be seen being forced to use vulgar words directed at themselves to “apologize” for their actions. This inhuman treatment aimed at terrorizing the public violates the international law and all principles of human rights.
Such criminal measures have outraged Iranian citizens. Social media users expressed their abhorrence at these humiliating treatment.
Security forces arrest these young men under the pretext of dealing with “thugs and hooligans.” These young men do not stand any trial before being paraded around the city, and being brutalized and humiliated in front of the public by hooded agents. The humiliating “parades” follow the regime’s repressive plans to station IRGC hit squads in all streets and neighborhoods.
Hossein Rahimi, Tehran’s Police Chief, declared on September 17, 2020, that they will deal harshly with detainees, whom he described as “thugs and hooligans.” He reiterated, “We will break their neck and deal with them in the harshest manner according to the law.”
On October 5, 2020, Hossein Ashtari, Commander of the State Security Force (SSF), announced: “The State Security Force will deal decisively with anyone who disrupts public order and security. This is some sort of worship.”
On the same day, the notorious Chief of Judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, told the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, “Deal decisively with villains, thieves and robbers. Prosecutors should cooperate as in the past. There should be no legal leniency towards villains.”
In this way, the highest officials of the Judiciary and the State Security Force officially sanctioned torture of detainees through humiliation, brutalization, insults and violent treatment, in the streets and in front of the public.
On September 17, 2020, SSF agents paraded several detainees in Tehranpars district of the capital, Tehran.
The Young Journalists’ Club called this “the Police’s Plan to deal with thugs and hooligans.” The YJC wrote that “a number of the accused detainees were paraded in these districts.
Rights of Peaceful Protest
October 9, 2020 – Thousands of Iranians gathered outside Tehran’s Jam Hospital last night after it was announced that legendary Iranian singer and composer, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian passed away from kidney cancer at the age of 80.
The iconic vocalist master of Persian traditional music was known for publicly speaking out against the regime’s brutal suppression of the 2009 nationwide protests and for his anti-regime rhetoric.
The large crowds that gathered outside Jam Hospital last night chanted “death to the dictator” echoing Shajarian’s own chant during the 2009 protests. The video showing Shajarian in his car holding up a peace sign while saying “death to the dictator” during the protests was widely circulated on social media.
His fans also chanted against state-run TV and radio which had banned his image and voice until his death yesterday.
Reports and videos indicate that a large number of security forces attacked Mohammad-Reza Shajarian’s fans last night beating them with batons. Several people were also arrested.
Netblocks, an organization that monitors international Internet outages, reported internet disruptions in Tehran as the commemoration gathering for Maestro Shajarian turned into anti-regime protests.
Thousands of Iranians also gathered today in Ferdowsi’s Tomb, where the iconic singer and composer will be buried. They sang some of his famous songs, shrouded in political allegory, in unison. A video circulating on social media showed an official at the Islamic Culture and Guidance Organization telling his fans that his funeral would be held on Saturday. Still, many Iranians were reluctant to leave due to their lack of trust in the government and security forces who had tried in vain to disperse crowds and prevent a gathering from taking place.
Shajarian’s legacy in “standing with the people“
Although Mohammad-Reza Shajarian was a legendary Iranian artist who changed the face of classical Iranian music, he was also beloved by the masses because of his willingness to speak out against the regime. In a 2015 interview with Euronews, Shajarian said he was popular not only because of his music, but because he stood with the people, not the ruling elite.
“Artists have to be very careful about how they behave. The community is very intelligent and conscious. I have tried to take the side of the people. My music is for the people, not for ministers and statesmen.”
He was also a firm believer in freedom and said in several interviews that Iranians would eventually prevail against the regime.
“The mentality of the majority is a priority over the mindset of one person and in the end, the majority will prevail”, he said in an interview with Australia’s SBS TV in 2010.
In another interview he said that “the people will fight for what they want and will eventually succeed.”
Shajarian sided with protesters during 2009 protests across Iran when millions took to the streets against election fraud which saw the re-appointment of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president.
“After the president insulted the people and said that protesters were just ‘dust and trash’ I immediately told the BBC that I was also part of that ‘dust and trash’. My voice has always been for the ‘dust and trash’ and I won’t allow state-run TV and radio to use my voice anymore,” he said in another interview.
In 2002, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian said Iran had yet to see democracy and that his music reflected the pain and suffering of the people.
“Just look at our history. It’s full of war, killings, misery, pressure, and tyranny. And we still have not seen democracy. My music reflects this situation. You can’t ask music to turn a blind eye and just have fun and dance. We still have not reached the time to use that kind of music. For now, our music reflects our pain. This is all derived from tyranny and oppression. All our art has changed to reflect that.”
Because of his massive popularity, the regime was only able to retaliate by banning his concerts and albums which only made him more popular. After an 11 year ban, the state-run IRIB TV, showed his image only to announce the news of his death on Thursday.
Narges Mohammadi released from prison
On 8 October 2020, in the early hours of the morning, woman human rights defender Narges Mohammadi was released from Zanjan prison. Her release comes after the ratification of a law on 11 May 2020, reducing prison sentences for political prisoners. According to Ismail Sadeghi Niaraki, chief justice of the northwestern Zanjan province, the defender was made eligible for release under the law.
n 28 September 2016, Narges Mohammadi was sentenced to 16 years in prison for ”forming and managing an illegal group” among other charges. According to Islamic Penal Code, she was to serve the conviction with the longest sentence, which stood at ten years. UN human rights experts made repeated calls for the release of Narges Mohammadi, most recently on 22 July 2020, after she fell ill with COVID-19.
Freedom of Expression
October 07, 2020 – Since the November 2019 protests and the most extensive Internet shutdown in Iran’s history, Iranian authorities have continued to shut down the Internet everytime protests take place across the country.
In 2019, the blackout made it easier for the state to carry out gross human rights violations including attacks on civilians. Amnesty International has documented that at least 304 protesters were killed while one Reuters media report puts the number at over 1500.
These shutdowns continue to disconnect Iran from international media and secure communication and the only national telecommunication methods left available are insecure, censored and surveilled.
On 7 October 2020 ARTICLE19 will launch their latest, and the most extensive, digital rights briefing on the November 2019 Internet shutdowns, ‘Tightening the Net 2020: After Blood and Shutdowns’.
This report takes a close look at the mechanisms, infrastructure, law and policies that led to mass disconnection between 15 to 27 November 2019 and:
1-Reveals the complex infrastructure and the opacity in decision making processes that have allowed the Iranian government to repeatedly shutdown the Internet whenever they choose.
2-Examines how US sanctions have contributed to further isolating Iranians.
3- Considers the risks of the National Information Network, and the broader outlook for Internet governance and connectivity in Iran.
4-Outlines clear solutions to address this problem.
October 9, 2020 – Siamak Moghimi, a young man who has been arrested by security forces during the November 2019 protests, has attempted suicide several times due to his psychological problems.
In the latest reports, Siamak Moghimi attempted suicide in the Greater Tehran Penitentiary by slitting his neck on Sunday.
Moghimi was among at least 80 prisoners who were forcibly moved to the prison’s section two on September 30, where the condition is reported very poor.
Siamak Moghimi has attempted suicide more than ten times during his detention by cutting his wrist and neck or other methods.
This situation is so tragic that it has affected other prisoners as well, making the situation even more difficult for them.
According to informed sources, he suffers from psychological problems which has been deteriorated in detention.
Moghimi had taken care of the sick mother and provided for his family before being arrested in November 2019 for participating in protests over sharp hike in petrol price in Iran.
Now that he is in prison, his family is enduring difficult conditions without a guardian and breadwinner.
To bring more pressure on him, the authorities once threatened him with death and told him that he had been sentenced to death by a revolutionary court, aggravating his psychological condition.
He has been serving a five-year prison sentence on the charge of “assembly and collusion against national security.”
Political prisoners who have been forcibly moved to another ward inside the Greater Tehran Penitentiary, have refused meals to protest dire conditions.
The political prisoners say that they had provided some appliances for the hall (Hall Two of Unit Five) at their own expense which they were not allowed to bring with them. Besides, ward 2 has very poor conditions.
“We have suffered a lot. We had cleaned Hall 2 of Ward 5 and made it habitable. Now, why should we move, especially despite the Covid-19 conditions?” the prisoners asked.
The transfer comes at a time when Covid-19 is prevalent in the prison, could spread to a high number of inmates and endanger the lives of political prisoners.
Unit Two of the Greater Tehran Penitentiary has three rooms and four toilets. About 90 inmates were transferred to this unit. So, there should be 30 inmates per room. Due to hygienic conditions and Covid-19 being widespread, there is a risk that these prisoners will contract the virus and other diseases.
Amnesty International described Iran’s prisons as “catastrophically unequipped for outbreaks.” The organization reported that Tehran has ignored appeals from prison officials to provide resources aimed at combatting the spread of the virus and treating prisoners. To no avail, jails have requested disinfectant products, personal protective equipment, and medical devices.
The crackdown on the inmates of Greater Tehran Penitentiary comes against the backdrop of increased repressive measures against political prisoners across Iran.
Religious Minorities’ Right
A group of Iranian Baha’is summoned to begin prison terms for practicing their faith were denied an appeal to delay their incarceration at a jail where they would risk coronavirus exposure, according to a knowledgeable source.
An Iran-based source familiar with the situation of the eight Baha’is told VOA Persian that the group received letters on September 28 summoning them to report to the prison in the eastern city of Birjand by October 10. The source said an appellate court in South Khorasan province, of which Birjand is the capital, sentenced the six women and two men to prison terms of 15 months to 2 years on September 8.
The source named the eight Baha’is as Farzaneh Dimi, Nasrin Ghadiri, Ataollah Malaki, Ataollah’s daughter Roya Malaki, Saeed Malaki, Arezoo Mohammadi, Banafsheh Mokhtari and Atieh Salehi.
The lower court sentence of a ninth Baha’i prosecuted with the group, Rahmatollah Dimi, was vacated by the appellate court due to old age and Dimi was acquitted, the source said. Earlier, the group was convicted of disrupting national security and spreading anti-government propaganda in relation to the practice of their faith, the source added.
Iran’s ruling Shiite clerics consider the nation’s estimated 300,000 Baha’is to be heretics with no religion and routinely arrest them for practicing their faith, charging them with national security offenses without disclosing evidence. Most are charged with “propagation” of the Baha’i faith, which Iranian authorities consider to be a form of anti-government propaganda.
VOA’s source said several of the Baha’is who received the prison summons and two lawyers representing the group had appealed to Iranian authorities to either delay the summons or to allow those who had been summoned to serve their sentences at home with electronic monitoring of their movements. The appeals were made to spare the eight Baha’is the risk of contracting the coronavirus at the Birjand prison.
As of Tuesday, the source said the appeals were rejected, meaning the eight Baha’is must voluntarily report to prison by October 10 or face arrest unless authorities relent. There was no mention of the Baha’i cases in Iranian state media.
Conditions exacerbated by COVID-19
Iran has suffered the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. In a statement released Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the Iranian prison
system’s chronic overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions have worsened during the pandemic.
Shortages of water, hygiene products and disinfectant, insufficient protective equipment and testing kits as well as a lack of isolation spaces and inadequate medical care have led to the spread of the virus among detainees, reportedly resulting in a number of deaths, Bachelet wrote.
“I call for (Iran’s) unconditional release of human rights defenders, lawyers, political prisoners, peaceful protesters and all other individuals deprived of their liberty for expressing their views or otherwise exercising their rights,” Bachelet said. “It is particularly important to rectify such injustices at a time when COVID-19 is coursing through Iran’s prisons.”
In a Monday tweet, the Baha’i International Community’s Geneva-based representative to the U.N., Diane Alai, said the eight Baha’is must not be imprisoned.
“Firstly, because they are innocent and secondly because of the appalling COVID-19 situation in Iran,” she wrote.
Raids on Baha’i holiday The nine defendants were part of a wider group of 18 Baha’is whose homes in Birjand were raided and whose belongings were confiscated by Iranian security agents in October 2017. The raids coincided with a religious holiday observed by Baha’is around the world.
VOA’s source said the other nine Baha’is whose homes were raided were detained for a month, released on bail, and later sentenced to prison terms of several years. The five men and four women, Sheida Abedi, Bijan Ahmadi, Firouz Ahmadi, Khalil Malaki, Sohrab Malaki, Saghar Mohammadi, Simin Mohammadi, Maryam Mokhtari and Bahman Salehi, are serving their sentences at Birjand prison, the source added. In a May briefing with reporters, U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said he was “particularly” concerned by Iran’s treatment of its Baha’i prisoners.
The world is mustering all their resources to fight and overcome the Coronavirus pandemic. Iran’s ruling regime, however, is concentrating all its resources on expanding the presence and activities of security forces.
Instead of finding ways to ensure compliance with hygiene protocols to check the rising number of casualties, the regime is focused on beefing up its armed forces.
The clerical regime’s red line is preempting the outbreak of street protests. This was best demonstrated in the developments of the past month:
· Launching Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “hit squads” in all neighborhoods to crush any protest before inception.
· Establishing a central headquarters intended ostensibly to fight thugs and hooligans, but originally to arrest protesters.
· Handing down death sentences and carrying out the executions of detained protesters.
· Ramping up control of social media posts, by arresting and summoning the users. · And finally, launching Hijab campaigns –-code-named Nazer—apparently to enforce the mandatory Hijab. However, they seek to arrest more women.
All these measures aim to suppress fundamental freedoms and terrorize the public in a bid to prevent eruption of any form of protest. Something that is spearheaded by women as the most dissatisfied sector of Iranian society.
70% of the people of Iran oppose mandatory Hijab – expert
Iran is the only country in the world where women are flogged 74 lashes if they appear in public without covering their hair. In many cases, however, the punishment does not stop there.
The punishments also include widespread arrests and long-term prison sentences for “improper veiling” and “spread of corruption and prostitution.”
Saba Kord Afshari was sentenced to 24 years in prison for showing her opposition to the mandatory Hijab. She is presently serving her term in the women’s ward of Evin Prison.
Increasing pressure on Iranian society and women, however, has produced opposite results.
Mehdi Nassiri, former managing editor of the state-run Kayhan daily newspaper said this in a television interview on September 16, 2020: “70 percent of the people of Iran oppose mandatory enforcement of Hijab. Every year sees some 5 percent decrease in the number of women complying with the Hijab.”
“Even in religious cities like Qom, the majority of people oppose the mandatory Hijab.”
Resentment against the mandatory Hijab is extensive, compelling one of the Judiciary officials in Qazvin to acknowledge it. Nourollah Qodrati said there were 110 legislations, directives and ratified documents on Hijab the regime could not enforce. (The state-run Tasnim news agency – September 5, 2020)
Call to make society unsafe for opponents of mandatory Hijab
The Friday Prayer Leader of Isfahan, central Iran, recently called for formation of special court branches to tackle “moral abnormalities.”
Yousef Tabatabaii-Nejad urged the authorities to grant greater powers to the State Security Force (SSF) to deal with Hijab offenders. His comments came in a meeting with a top Armed Forces’ security official and the SSF Commander of Isfahan Province. By “Hijab offenders” he meant women who oppose the mandatory Hijab and display their opposition in various forms.
Tabatabaii-Nejad said: “The social atmosphere must be made unsafe for these people whose number is scarce. But they must not be allowed to be relaxed in streets and parks while breaking the norms.” (The state-run Mehr news agency – October 2, 2020)
The mullah also called on the courts to support those who forbid evil and promote virtue. He refers to Bassij forces who target women in the streets, violently forcing them to observe their mandatory Hijab.
Growing public resentment vs. escalating repression
The state media use the term “public distrust” to describe the volatile state of public detestation of the regime.
The mullahs spend all their time and energy to hold their grabs on power even if for one more day. To do so, they send young people to the gallows and boost the pressure on enchained prisoners. They deliberately expose them to the coronavirus to cause their gradual death.
To rein in the explosive public discontent, the regime has also resorted to worn-out measures, further proving its incompetence. The “Nazer” Hijab Campaigns send thousands of security forces to the streets to harass and arrest Iranian women and girls. The regime justifies its Hijab campaigns under the pretext of “moral security” and dealing with “improper veiling.”
The focus on Hijab campaigns is of special importance to the regime. The officials are all too familiar with the remarkable impact of Iranian women on anti-regime protests. They have experienced women’s presence in Resistance Units who lead and organize the regime’s opponents.