The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release human rights activists Atena Daemi, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and her husband Arash Sadeghi, Amnesty International said today, amid reports all three have begun a hunger strike to protest the unlawful transfer of Atena Daemi and Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee to the dangerous Shahr-e Rey prison in Varamin outside Tehran.
Shahr-e Rey prison (also known as Gharchak) is a disused chicken farm that holds several hundred women convicted of violent offences in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, without access to safe drinkable water, decent food, medicine and fresh air. Reports from the facility indicate high levels of assault towards inmates both by other inmates and prison staff, as well as rampant drug use and infectious diseases.
“The appalling conditions in Shahr-e Rey prison place Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and Atena Daemi – both wrongly imprisoned for their peaceful human rights activism – in serious danger of assault, violence, and exposure to infectious disease in addition to overcrowding and poor sanitation. We have grave concerns for their safety and well-being. No one should be imprisoned in such appalling conditions,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
The Iranian authorities have consistently failed to address the concerns about the inhumane treatment of women prisoners held at Shahr-e Rey prison. Instead, they have often threatened outspoken women prisoners of conscience with transfer to Shahr-e Rey prison and have occasionally acted on these threats.
Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and Atena Daemi were transferred from Tehran’s Evin prison to Shahr-e Rey prison on 24 January. They said that male prison guards physically and verbally assaulted them including through sexual slurs, kicking and punching after they protested that their transfer was illegal and violated Iran’s own regulations on the separation of different prisoners’ categories. The women have been on hunger strike ever since.
Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee’s husband, Arash Sadeghi, also a human rights activist and prisoner of conscience, has been on hunger strike since January 27. He is demanding the return of his wife and Atena Daemi to Evin prison, pending their release.
“We are extremely concerned about Arash Sadeghi’s critical health as he protests his wife’s cruel and illegal treatment by the Iranian authorities. His body has already been weakened by previous hunger strikes and this protest could endanger his life,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.
“This incident further demonstrates the horrendous environment for those who dare defend human rights in Iran, where any form of dissent or peaceful activism is criminalized by the authorities. Arash Sadeghi, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, and Atena Daemi are prisoners of conscience who have bravely dedicated their lives to building a more humane and just society. It is appalling that they are so viciously punished for their steadfast commitment to human rights. They must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee is serving a three-year prison sentence for writing an unpublished, fictional story on the practice of stoning women to death for adultery. Atena Daemi is serving a seven-year prison sentence for peaceful activism, including charges related to distributing anti-death penalty leaflets and posts on Facebook and Twitter criticising Iran’s execution record.
This is the second time that Arash Sadeghi has gone on hunger strike in defense of his wife. He went on a prolonged hunger strike in October 2016 when his wife was first imprisoned. Doctors have repeatedly advised that he requires long-term hospitalization to receive specialist treatment for his worsening health problems, which have prevented him from eating solid food and caused severe digestive, kidney, and respiratory complications, abdominal bleeding and heart arrhythmia. However, the authorities have intentionally blocked his transfer to a hospital in order to torment and punish him.
Amnesty International has previously stated that this abusive practice amounts to torture in these circumstances. Amnesty International launched a campaign in September 2017, urging the Iranian authorities to stop their crackdown against those defending human rights and allow them to work in a safe environment without fear of persecution.