Reporting by PMOI/MEK
Iran, March 18, 2020—A group of political prisoners in Greater Tehran Prison (Fashafuyeh) have gone on a hunger strike in protests to the government’s intentional refusal to take the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) among prisoners. The move comes while Iran is grappling with the contagious spread of the virus due to the regime’s secrecy and mismanagement. So far, COVID-19 has claimed more than 5,950 lives across Iran.
“They are burying us alive,” the prisoners wrote in an open letter in which they declared their hunger strike. “A number of people died in this prison due to coronavirus.”
Part of the political prisoners’ statement reads as follows:
As political prisoners and those arrested in the November 2019 protests, we felt obligated to go on a hunger strike because we feel that we are being buried alive. None of us has committed a crime. Our only “crime” is protesting government corruption and the country’s economic situation. It is our right to protest. But instead of holding the true violators accountable, authorities have arrested us, and we are being tortured and buried alive. A person died of coronavirus in a prison cell adjacent to us. Visits have been banned and we can’t do anything. Those who are remaining in prison were arrested for protesting government actions. However, those arrested for financial corruption are free. None of us have any financial violations. We are in prison for the sole reason of seeking justice. Our only crime is writing columns or participating in protests. A number of people have died in this prison due to coronavirus. The virus will most certainly come to our cell, too. Furthermore, a number of November 2019 protesters are transferred to cell no. 4 and are now suffering from skin diseases. Their bodies are bruised and this is an infectious disease. We are deprived of public trial and are tortured during interrogation.
The Iranian Resistance has repeatedly called for the release of prisoners, especially in the Greater Tehran Prison.
On March 14, Iranian opposition President Maryam Rajavi, head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), once again called on the UN and the Security Council to intervene urgently and secure the release of prisoners, especially in Fashafuyeh prison, where political prisoners are on hunger strike. Prisoners say that we are dying as several inmates have already died of coronavirus.
Iran’s prisons and detention centers were one of the most vulnerable centers hit by coronavirus due to the regime’s criminal negligence. According to reports received from prisoners, especially those who are detained for political reasons, inmates in the Greater Tehran, Evin, Gohardasht, Ghezelhesar, Urumia, Sheyban Ahwaz and Kashan prisons are infected with coronavirus.
The prisoners’ families are worried about the facilities’ closed atmosphere, inappropriate food, lack of necessary health and medical facilities, high population density and coronavirus suspected cases in some prisons.
Javaid Rahman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran, also warned that the lives of prisoners are in danger and criticized the Iranian regime officials for refusing to provide furloughs to prisoners.
The regime’s Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi claimed that the regime will be sending prisoners on temporary furlough. This is a deceptive tactic and applied to very few prisoners. Political prisoners were excluded.
It is worth noting that political prisoners, as well as the entire Iranian society, is fighting two viruses: coronavirus and the Supreme Leader’s rule.
Time after time, NCRI President Rajavi has drawn attention to the plight of prisoners, particularly political prisoners, in view of the coronavirus outbreak in prisons, reiterating that refusing to release the prisoners under these circumstances is a major crime against humanity, for which Khamenei and other regime leaders are directly responsible. Madam Rajavi called on the UN Security Council, the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner, the Human Rights Council, and the European Union and its Member States to take urgent action to save the lives of prisoners, emphasizing global intervention is more important than ever to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.