New Coronavirus has swept through the entire globe infecting more than 1,464,000 people and has taken the lives of more than 85,390 in 211 countries. It started in China where the ruling Communist Party lied about the extent and mortality rate of the disease, a subject that’s coming up a lot these days, even from Islamic Republic, a close ally of China. Most countries, especially the ones with the majority of cases have decided to take it easier on non-violent offenders, either by shortening their sentences or chose to use alternative punishments more often. Islamic Republic announced the same approach, at least in appearances and as usual using propaganda in their favor.
Like anything else in Islamic Republic regime, you shouldn’t be surprised if the law, which is signed by their own officials, is not followed and they pick and choose which prisoners they want to let go, whichever that has the most benefit for the regime. The famous ones, the ones that media would be on them immediately, painting the kindest picture for Khamenei and Raisi possible. Let’s look at some examples to digest this inequality, lie and cruelty.
During November 2019 protests more than 7,000 people have been arrested, according to UN. Amnesty International paints a horrific picture from their situation, many of those detainees are children. But these children and detainees who took on the streets asking for freedom, are not eligible for any leave, even during COVID-19 outbreak. Instead, Shabnam Nematzadeh, daughter of a former minister, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison because she embezzled millions of dollars from public funds, goes on leave because her father knows people in the right places! Even before COVID-19 outbreak in prisons, you just need to have the right genes! Hossein Ferydoon, president’s brother, was arrested under bribery charges. He was released a day later on bail. After court sessions behind closed doors, he was sentenced to 7 years in prison which in appeals court was reduced to 5. He spent 4 days in prison when he was given “leave”!
On the other hand, regime also has let Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe go on leave, extended it for another 2 weeks and there is a possibility of her return to UK. While it’s all well and we wish Ms.Ratcliffe nothing but freedom and return to her family, but this happens only because she has less than 1 year left on her 5-year sentence, and the regime is using it as a bargaining chip in a prisoner swap with Britain. Let’s not forget how much media attention this has brought for Khamenei and his gang.
Deputy Minister of Justice in Human Rights and International Affairs (yes, Islamic Republic has a “human rights” department!), Mahmoud Abbasi, said, “Given the current sensitive situation and the COVID-19 outbreak, we have been consulting with countries since February to exchange prisoners between the two countries, and our follow-up has yielded positive results.” But what about the political prisoners right here at home dying from COVID-19? Mehdi Rabiei, 41 years old, convicted of financial crimes died of the disease in Greater Tehran Prison on April 4. He was denied of all medical services, and the cause of death is listed as “heart attack” on his death certificate. How many people have been infected and are in danger because he wasn’t taken care of properly? Four more prisoners are COVID-19 positive in the same prison which have been transferred to solitary confinement instead of hospital. What about the ones in Amir Abad Prison in Gorgan, the ones in Qarchak, Varamin, and the list goes on and on!
Mohammad Hossein Sepehri, a teacher and one of the 14 people who asked Khamenei to resign because of his incompetency and dictatorship, is spending time in Vakilabad prison in Mashhad. He’s a suspected case of COVID-19. In a phone call to his family, which he’s constantly interrupted by a guard to not talk about his condition, he reveals how the doctor was surprised that he wasn’t in quarantine. he’s in a solitary confinement with no medical care, not even a doctor visits him! At the end of the call he says, “I swear to God, I’m dying.” This is just one case of thousands! But who’s there to care? The regime sees all this as an opportunity to suppress its opposition even more.
Some of the prisoners were only given as little as 2 weeks furlough and are summoned back to prison immediately. For instance, Samaneh Nowruz Moradi, 34 years old, was arrested on September 2018 because of her activity on social media against the regime, sentenced to 45 months in prison, summoned to prison in April 2019. She was given 19 days leave on March 18. Despite her severe medical condition and doctors’ orders (lupus arthritis and mastitis) she’s been denied medical care and has been asked to return to prison on April 5.
The scale of disaster going on in Islamic Republic’s prisons and Judiciary system is beyond anybody’s imagination. As believed by many, regime is using Coronavirus to eliminate as many as its opposition that it can! The ones that are not famous, or their names isn’t mentioned in the media, or are not foreigners, are destined to rot in those horrific places. International organizations need to do something or their whole existence should be questioned. Human rights activists need to name all political prisoners without exception to pressure the regime. This is a matter of life and death!