In an open letter to foreign ambassadors in Iran, who recently visited Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, political prisoner Maryam Akbari Monfared has declared that even a minimum of prisoners’ human rights are not respected in Evin and other Iranian prisons.
“What you saw,” Ms. Akbari Monfared reminds the ambassadors, “was only the made-up face of the Islamic Republic’s prisons”.
Ms. Akbari Monfared, who has been held in various prisons and is currently doing her eighth year behind bars in Evin, reiterates, “Dear ambassadors, when I saw your pictures visiting Evin, I immediately wished that those tall, lavish trees under the shadows of which you were chatting, could talk and tell you what they have witnessed from the time they were just small saplings. They could have testified to many inmates’ blood spilled there”.
Maryam Akbari Monfared has been imprisoned since December 2009, serving a 15 year prison sentence for “enmity against God” (moharebeh). Her conviction, according to Amnesty International (AI), is solely based on the fact that she had made phone calls to her relatives, who are members of a banned group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), and had visited them once in Iraq.
Maryam Akbari Monfared’s sister Roghieh and brother Abdolreza were among several thousand political prisoners, serving their sentences in 1988, when they were executed in secret and without trial.
They were then dumped into mass unmarked graves, AI says, adding: “Most of those executed were prisoners who had been imprisoned for political reasons, including prisoners of conscience, and had already spent years in prison for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedoms of expression, association and assembly.”
During past eight years behind bars, Ms. Akbari Monfared writes, “I have witnessed conditions and moments that my pen is incapable to express.”
The ambassadors’ visit to the prison on July 5 was praised by the deputy secretary general of Iran’s Islamic human rights headquarters, controlled by the judiciary.
“The prison’s condition and social workers serving there amazed the ambassadors,” maintained Kazem Ghariabadi.
However, the visit -- guarded by state minders and preceded by a red-carpet welcome -- excluded certain areas of the prison, according to political prisoners currently held there.
In her letter, Akbari Monfared has lambasted Gharibabadi’s comments, by asking, “If your prisons’ conditions are so excellent, why didn’t you even allow former UN Special Rapporteur Ahmad Shaheed, and the current one Asma Jahangir to enter Iran, let alone visit prisons?”
Referring to Gharibabadi’s comment on “invaluable” healthcare services in prisons, Akbari Monfared raises another question, “Wasn’t it at these same prisons where Mr. Mohsen Dogmehchi got sick due to lack of medical care and eventually lost his dear life? Is it not true that Mr. Hoda Saber lost his precious life in this very Evin prison for he was not urgently sent to the clinic?”
Furthermore, Akbari Monfared insists that unbearable prison conditions in Iran is not limited to Evin, “I’ve witnessed inmates’ furious eyes, and feeble, wretched women being beaten with batons by prison special guards. I’ve witnessed fights over food and bread in prison’s dining hall, which was renamed as beating room by inmates”.
Akbari Monfared maintains, “Prison food was so little that hungry inmates were forced to collect the left over on the trays as well as the food which spilled on the ground, and a little while later, throwing trays and chairs, and fighting over the remaining food”.
Earlier, in a letter to the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi had condemned the visit by 45 foreign ambassadors to Tehran’s infamous Evin prison, as “a state-choreographed visit”.