Crackdown on Iranian Political Prisoners Reveals Rouhani’s True Colors

While Tehran and its diplomatic system has been making efforts to display a moderate image of the Iranian regime, the real picture in the country reveals a different truth.

According to the author Amir Basiri, Several days before the inauguration of Hassan Rouhani ‘s second term as president, Gohardasht Prison, located in Karaj (60 kilometers west of Tehran) was raided by special guards. Around 50 prisoners were forcibly transferred by the guards, not allowing them to take their personal belongings, including medicine. Many of the prisoners protested the unlawful act, and were, as a result, beaten and injured in the process.

The inmates have been moved to Hall 10, which is a high- security ward. The hall has listening devices and security cameras installed in every corner, which includes bathrooms as well, in order to keep the inmates under control. The hall also lacks the basic facilities like beds and hygienic accessories, and all windows are sealed which prevents ventilation.

Apparently, the measure is a reaction to the inmates’ protest to their decaying conditions and their incognito communications with international figures about the inhuman treatment of prisoners in Iran’s jails.

Prisoners have gone on a hunger strike, demanding to be transferred back to the previous prison and to have their personal possessions returned. After roughly a month, in spite of their deteriorating health and the continuous threatening by prison guards to take them into solitary confinement or execute them, inmates have remained solid in their resolve to restore their rights.

The callous treatment of the inmates has stirred the world, sparking condemnation by human rights activists. Iranian resistance supporters have staged multiple protests in a number of countries, and have demanded the international community to hold the regime accountable for its brutal violation of human rights.

“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 and highlights the urgent need for reforms to Iran’s cruel prison system,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for Amnesty International, in a statement published on the organization’s website.

Amnesty International urged authorities in Iran to allow international monitors, including the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, in order to carry out independent, unannounced inquiries of Gohardasht Prison, as well as other jails in the country.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran has released multiple statements, giving warnings against the threatening to the lives of the inmates and urging international human rights organizations to take actions.

The Iranian regime has a history of unleashing its rage against political prisoners when it finds itself in dire straits.  In 1988, Khomeini, Iran’s then-supreme leader, ordered the execution of 30,000 political prisoners when he feared for the future of his regime.

The regime is once again facing a precarious situation. It no longer has the elusive support of the Obama administration and is now dealing with escalating activism and protest by opposition supporters inside the country. The increased pressure against political prisoners could be a prelude to a bigger disaster.

This is yet more evidence that moderation within the religious dictatorship ruling Iran is a myth.  In the past three decades, the presidency of Iran has been occupied by so-called ‘reformists’ and ‘moderates’ for most of the time.  However, there’s been no sign of improvement on the human and civil rights fronts – only hollow promises and deceitful rhetoric that have yielded no results.  During Rouhani’s first term alone, more than 3,000 executions were carried out, a figure that dwarfs that of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is considered a hardliner by Western politicians.

On August 23, Tehran’s general prosecutor, Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, who is subject to sanctions by the European Union for serious human rights violations, reiterated the regime’s decision to continue mounting pressure against political prisoners, claiming, ‘The judiciary would not succumb to the hunger strike of prisoners.’

Shamefully, since the beginning of the hunger strike of Gohardasht prisoners, the international community has done little hold the Iranian regime to account for its actions.  If Western politicians are waiting for the government of Hassan Rouhani to show a sign of moderation, they’re in for a big disappointment.  Meanwhile, the lives of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners hang in the balance, and they’ve resorted to a hunger strike, the only measure they have to defend their lives and dignity.