Iran Authorities Ignore Starving Political Prisoners at Rajaee Shahr Prison, Restrict Family Visits

Forty days after more than 15 political prisoners went on a mass hunger strike in Iran’s Rajaee Shahr Prison, the authorities are preventing some of the strikers in the poorest physical condition from receiving outside medical treatment and punishing the protesters by restricting family visitations, Payvand reports.

The hunger strikers Saeed Masouri, Reza Shahabi, Abolghasem Fouladvand, Shahin Zoghitabar, Mohammad Nazari and Mohammad Banazadeh Amirkhizi were denied outside medical care, a relative of one of the protesters informed the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on September 7, 2017.

“The prisoners who are on hunger strike are being punished with a ban on personal visits while the other inmates are being rewarded with more frequent visits,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CHRI. “They are trying to create tension between the prisoners.”

More than 15 political prisoners began refusing food on July 30, 2017, after at least 50 were illegally transferred without notice from Ward 12 to the high-security Ward 10 at Rajaee Shahr Prison, located west of Tehran. In addition to protesting the presence of additional visual and audio surveillance devices in the new ward, the prisoners have been demanding their personal belongings.

“Refusing to transfer the sick hunger strikers to a hospital is not the only problem,” the informed source told CHRI. “The prison clinic staff are also saying they cannot do daily checkups because the prison authorities are not acknowledging that the hunger strike exists. This is a very dangerous situation.”

On August 23, Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi described the hunger strikes as “threats” that the judicial system would not “surrender to.”

Some of the hunger strikers are also seeking a review of their prison sentences. Prominent labor activist Reza Shahabi has completed his sentence and is demanding to be freed unconditionally while Kurdish political activist Mohammad Nazari is seeking a review of his life sentence. Nazari has so far spent more than 23 years behind bars for engaging in peaceful political activism.

Twenty former political prisoners who served time in Rajaee Shahr Prison have meanwhile written a joint letter calling on judicial authorities to respect the protesters’ demands while asking the protestors to protect their health.

“What the prisoners are demanding is nothing beyond what is in the prison regulations and ignoring them is a violation of the law,” said the letter, a copy of which was sent to CHRI on September 6.

“What is most worrying is that since the protest began, the judicial authorities, including prison officials, have made no effort to realize the prisoners’ legitimate demands and are ignoring their plight with their silence and indifference.”

The letter continued: “We ask the judicial authorities, including the new minister of justice [Alireza Avaee], to look into the prisoners’ demands and the factors that led to their hunger strike in order to return the ward back to normal.”

“At the same time, we sincerely ask the imprisoned protesters not to endanger their health more than they already have and make their worried friends and families happy by stopping their hunger strike,” added the letter.

The letter was signed by former political prisoners: Sarang Ettehadi, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, Farhad Eghbali, Mahmoud Badavam, Masoud Bastani, Majid Tavakoli, Kamran Rahimian, Keyvan Rahimian, Didar Raoufi, Ahmad Zeidabadi, Riazollah Sobhani, Issa Saharkhiz, Davoud Soleimani, Aziz Samandari, Farhad Sedghi, Keyvan Samimi, Mehdi Mahmoudian, Saeed Madani, Shahin Negari and Mostafa Nili.