AP: Crammed in filthy cells, political prisoners fear infection

AP: Crammed in filthy cells, political prisoners fear infection

Published by on April 1, 2020
(AP Photo/Arash Ashourinia, File)

International Liberty Association: This is about a report by MAGGIE MICHAEL, SARAH EL DEEB and LEE KEATH published by Associated Press about the frightening situation of the prisoners in Iran, particularly prisoners of consciences, human rights defenders and political prisoners. For a full report please click here.
CAIRO (AP) — Reza Khandan got the word from friends locked away in Iran’s most feared prison, Evin. A prisoner and a guard in their cell block had been removed because they were suspected of having coronavirus, and two guards in the women’s ward had shown symptoms.

It was frightening news. Khandan’s wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, one of Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyers, is imprisoned in that ward in close quarters with 20 other women. Only days earlier, the 56-year-old Sotoudeh — known for defending activists, opposition politicians and women prosecuted for removing their headscarves — had held a five-day hunger strike demanding prisoners be released to protect them from the virus.

“The virus has entered the jail, but we don’t know the extent of it,” Khandan, who had until recently been imprisoned in Evin as well, told The Associated Press by phone from Tehran.

“It will be impossible to control,” Khandan warned.

Tens of thousands of political prisoners are jailed in Iran, Syria and other countries around the Middle East, punished for anything from advocating for democracy and promoting women’s or workers’ rights to holding Islamist views, protesting or simply criticizing autocratic leaders on Facebook or YouTube.

Alarm is growing over the danger the coronavirus pandemic poses to prisoners: if one guard, visitor or new inmate introduces the infection, the virus could race rampant through a captive population unable to protect itself.

Conditions are prime for the disease to spread rapidly. Inmates are often packed by the dozens into dirty cells with no access to hygiene or medical care. Torture, poor nutrition and other abuses leave prisoners weaker and more vulnerable.

So far, Iran, which faces the Mideast’s biggest outbreak with thousands infected and hundreds dead, has not confirmed any coronavirus cases in its prisons. But Khandan’s is one of several reports of cases that have emerged from Iranian facilities. Egypt and Syria, which have large numbers of political detainees, also have not reported any cases within prisons.

ILA had reported recently regarding the “Riots in Iran Prisons due to Coronavirus Outbreak

Help end the danger in the middle east, and stop the suffering

Read Petition
Sign Petition Now