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Amnesty International Report Discloses “Abuse of Women Prisoners” In Iran

A statement released by London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Friday May 25 has disclosed serious abuse of female prisoners at a prison in the outskirts of Tehran.

The AI statement says that female prisoners of conscience from Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish religious community are being subjected to “verbal abuse, including sexual slurs, and denied proper medical treatment,” at a prison in Shahr-e Rey.

“The doctors at the prison, a former industrial chicken farm in Varamin, are routinely dismissing the women’s complaints of pain and discomfort as ‘fake' while refusing to prescribe them medication on a timely basis or carry out thorough diagnostic tests,” The Amnesty International reported based on testimonies.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, says, “Deliberately denying medical treatment to any prisoner is unlawful, cruel, and inhuman and can amount to torture.”

“These women from Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish community should not even be imprisoned in the first place. It is deplorable that the Iranian authorities are seeking to intimidate and torment them further,” said Luther.

Luther has called upon Iranian authorities to ensure all individuals in custody receive adequate health care and are treated with respect and dignity.

“Any prison staff suspected of abusing or withholding medical treatment from detainees must be investigated and prosecuted in trials that meet international standards,” Luther added.

Reports say at least 10 women from Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish community are serving their sentences at Shahr-e Rey prison based on arbitrary trials. The AI says they have not had access to their lawyers, since February 2018.

They were arrested for their peaceful participation in a protest in Tehran by members of the persecuted minority, which turned violent when security forces used water cannons, firearms, and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The AI says these women have been suffering various illnesses and problems such as head injuries, broken arms, and vaginal bleeding a result of their ill-treatment by security forces and that they also have been denied adequate treatment for pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

The AI characterized the women’s interrogation process at the prison as “hostile,” adding that they have been insulted during questioning and by prison doctors “for their beliefs.”

The AI’s statement has also maintained, “There are concerns that doctors have also sought to degrade the women by exploiting cultural taboos around sexuality, asking the women intrusive questions about their sexual relations, such as whether they have 'boyfriends' or are 'sleeping around.'"

“A lack of stretchers and wheelchairs has resulted in fellow detainees being forced to carry sick prisoners out of their rooms and into the clinic, which has led to falls and other accidents,” AI has cited detainees as saying.

“The international community, including the European Union, must demand that the Iranian authorities urgently grant access to international monitors including the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, so that they can carry out unannounced inspections of Shahr-e Rey Prison, including private interviews with prisoners,” the AI demanded.

The Amnesty International observed that Shahr-e Rey Prison is a disused chicken farm that holds hundreds of women convicted of violent offenses in conditions falling far below the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules). Common complaints include “urine-stained floors, lack of ventilation, insufficient and filthy bathroom facilities, prevalence of contagious diseases, poor-quality food containing small pieces of stone, and salty water,” the AI report added.

Amnesty has named the 10 detained women from Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish community as Shokoufeh Yadollahi, Sepideh Moradi, Maryam Farisani, Nazila Nouri, Sima Entesari, Shima Entesari, Sedigheh Safabakht, Maryam Barakouhi, Elham Ahmadi, and Avisha Jalaledin, adding that an 11th woman, Shahnaz Kiani, who suffers from health problems including high blood pressure, abdominal pain, and diabetes, was released on May 23 after months of being denied adequate medical care.

They are charged with fabricated accusations such as “gathering and colluding against national security," “disrupting public order," and “spreading propaganda against the system."