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Call On Iran To Free Female Prisoners Of Conscience Amid Coronavirus Threat

Iran human rights activists Narges Mohammadi and Nasrin Sotoudeh who have been denied furlough from prison despite the risk of contracting coronavirus. FILE PHOTOS

In a statement released on Thursday, twenty human rights organizations called on Iran to immediately free female prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners who have not been allowed to go on furlough despite the catastrophic situation on the ground, particularly in prisons.

According to the statement published on the website of the International Federation for Human Rights, prisoners of conscience are confined to overcrowded rooms at the women's ward of Tehran's notorious Evin prison where they have to sleep on triple bunk beds with little space in between and despite running out of medical and cleaning supplies in the early days of the outbreak.

The vulnerable female prisoners whose health and well-being has already been compromised by torture, denial of medical treatment, other ill-treatment and their own hunger strikes, are at greater risk of contracting the virus than the general prison population, the statement said.

The signatories of the statement include human rights organizations such as Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights and the European Parliament Vice-President Heidi Hautala on behalf the Community of Sakharov Prize Laureates.

The statement lists 25 female prisoners including 19 who are held in Tehran's Evin Prison. Five other female prisoners named in the statement are held in the notorious Qarchak Prison in the south of Tehran.

The statement also names Narges Mohammad who was banished to Zanjan Prison as a punishment for her dissidence and activism. Ms. Mohammadi, an Andrei Sakharov prize laureate for her outstanding work to uphold human rights, has repeatedly been threatened by another inmate who is serving for homicide and drug-trafficking.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, prominent lawyer and human rights activist, anti-capital punishment activist Atena Daemi as well as French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah and British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert are among the female prisoners held at Evin Prison who have been denied furlough.

Ms. Sotoudeh who is serving a 38-year term for defending women's rights, has even gone on hunger strike to protest to the keeping of political prisoners in jail despite the coronavirus and putting their lives at risk.

According to Iran's Judiciary officials, more than 85,000 prisoners including some political prisoners have been allowed to go on furlough while even despite the coronavirus epidemic several activists and others have been sent to jail for their beliefs during the same period.

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    Maryam Sinaiee

    Maryam Sinaiee is a British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National, who contributes to Radio Farda.