Analysis: The plight of political prisoners in the Islamic Republic of Iran

By : Rachel Avraham

From Benyamin Gholizadeh to Arash Sadeghi and Mansour Arwand, the plight of Iranian political prisoners is quite dire. Iran is so determined to go after the dissidents that they are even willing to engage in cross-border raids, to create obstacles for Iranian refugees in foreign countries, and to hold an innocent professor hostage just so they can harm political dissidents.

The late Iranian Kurdish dissident Mansour Arwand Photo Credit: Muhammed Alizadeh
After Iranian refugee Benyamin Gholizadeh had an interview with JerusalemOnline that exposes the plight of Iranian refugees in Turkey, UNHCR has decided to stop giving him his monthly stipend of 30 euros. Following this, his existence within Turkey is even more precarious and without being accepted by a third country, a horrible fate awaits him if he will ever be forced to go back to Iran.
According to Iranian human rights activist Shabnam Assadollahi, Iranian Canadian academic Homa Hoodfar recently came to Iran in order to conduct research and despite not being involved in politics, she was arrested and is now being held hostage so that Iran can use her as leverage so that Canada will be compelled to send duel Iranian-Canadian citizen Mahmoud Reza Khavari to Iran: “After the Iran deal and 5+1 empowering Iran and since the West has lost her sanity and is in friendship with terrorism, I would not be surprised if Iran even bargains with Trudeau liberals asking Canada to hand over the Iranian Canadian patriots to Iran.”
According to the Globe, Hoodfar is being held in the notorious Evin Prison where prisoners are routinely tortured. The report noted that Professor Hodfar has a neurological disorder and where she is being imprisoned, she is unlikely to have access to the medical treatment that she needs. However, Professor Homa Hoodfar is not the only apolitical person in Iran to face persecution from the regime.  According to the Boroujerdi Civil Rights Group, 35 college students were arrested and given 99 lashes each for attending a mixed gender graduation party, where the women did not dress in accordance with Islamic law.  In addition, 23-year-old Mohammed Mohsen Bakhtayri is now getting prosecuted merely for publishing forbidden books and engaging in activities in cyberspace that the regime did not like. It should be noted that Iranian prisoners who are political active and are on the frontlines of the struggle against the regime can expect an even worse fate than Professor Homa Hodfar, Mohammed Mohsen Bakhtayri and these 35 college students.
Arash Sadeghi, an Iranian student activist and human rights defender, used to document human rights abuses that occurred inside Iranian prisons, where he reported on the torture, maltreatment, lack of visitation rights and access to a lawyer, and the lack of medical treatment for prisoners. He also protested on behalf of imprisoned Iranian human rights activists Narges Mohammadi and Gholamreza Khosravi.  For these crimes, Sadeghi is now serving a 15-year-prison sentence for insulting Khomeini, disseminating false news and rumors, colluding against the state and engaging in propaganda against the system.
Via this sentence, Sadeghi’s 4-year suspended prison sentence was activated for assembling against national security and spreading propaganda against the state that he received after protesting against the regime in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Thus, in total, Sadeghi will serve 19 years in prison, even though Iran’s Newly Revised Penal Code limits a prisoner to serving only the most serious out of the sentences, which in this case is the 15-year-sentence. When Sadeghi was being sentenced, he was denied access to a lawyer. His wife Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee also got a 6 year prison sentence for insulting the sacred and spreading propaganda against the state.
According to the Boroujerdi Civil Rights Group, the Iranian authorities have a long history of mistreating both Sadeghi and his family. When the Iranian authorities raided his father’s home in 2010, his mother suffered a fatal heart attack and died. In 2014, Sadeghi was tortured by the Iranian authorities, which resulted in him suffering from a broken rib and shoulder.   To date, he has not received medical treatment for this condition. Given that he is now at the beginning of serving his 19-year-sentence, it remains a huge question mark whether he can survive this sentence and if so, what his health condition will be like afterwards.
“I have not seen many who can survive 19 years of imprisonment in Iran under conditions like malnutrition, illness and many other unexpected dangers and challenges like cancer which is the newest fast spreading situation going on in prisons. If we don’t help Arash and keep silent on this accusation and punishment or if we censor him based on our thought differences, then we have crossed the line of humanity,” Behrouz Javid Tehrani, the former political prisoner and human rights activist, said.
“This is the regime with which six super powers signed a nuclear treaty. Iran’s deal supporters are absolutely responsible for our loved ones’ lives in the Iranian prisons. Unfortunately, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the human rights situation is astonishingly in grave danger, but the international community and so-called human rights organizations are not taking the proper and effective steps toward solving the problem. I kindly ask global villagers to urge their governments to bring a real pressure upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to release the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in the country,” Kaveh Taheri, a political activist, journalist and human rights activist, told the BCR Group.
According to Muhammed Alizadeh of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, there are many Kurdish political prisoners within Iran and they are suffering the worst fate out of the political prisoners. Recently, Iran just executed one of their activists, Mansour Arwand: “Mansour Arwand was a patriotic and revolutionary Kurd who chose to join the ranks of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran 10 years ago as part of his efforts to struggle for the Kurdish nation and he started to work with the KDP’s underground team in Eastern Kurdistan. It is also important to note that Mansour Arwand was involved in many patriotic activities and many efforts to support the freedom of the Kurdish people even before he joined the KDP. He was a sportsman and was greatly respected by the Kurdish people, especially the youth, for his patriotic, pro-freedom and pro-democratic activities. Mansour Arwand was one of those KDP members and activists that greatly empowered and energized other activists and organization members in Mahabad. Although he had a family and was aware of the fact that the secret service was monitoring him because of his activities, he was always committed and dedicated to this struggle and his activities related to the KDP. Duo to his efforts, a large number of youth in Eastern Kurdistan has engaged with the KDP and become political activists.”
According to Alizadeh, Arwand was arrested in 2011 and was brutally tortured for over a year while he was imprisoned in Mahabad: “All government efforts were centered around torturing Mansour Arwand in order to break his will so that he will make false confessions and the government can execute him on false grounds.”  In 2012, he was given the death penalty but the regime continued to torture him and threaten his family: “He was transferred from prison to prison and the government came up with excuses after excuses but they did not manage to break his will or his dedication to his nation. With the execution of Mansour Arwand, the Kurdish Democratic Party lost a precious member. We send our condolences to Arwand’s spouse and to all of his relatives, the people of Mahabad, and all of the activists who are striving for freedom and democracy in Kurdistan.”
The execution of Mansour Arwand is part of Iran’s efforts to systematically persecute the Kurds. In recent days, at least 5 Kurdish civilians including 3 children were injured as part of Iran’s cross-border shelling into Iraqi Kurdistan: “Many residents have fled the bombing. A witness in the area reported an Iranian military helicopter flying very low along the border. It is believed the aircraft was providing information for forces on the Iranian side of the border firing artillery into the Kurdistan Region on the pretext of the presence of forces and bases belonging to the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran.” According to Alizadeh, this action highlights that Iran does not limit their actions against political dissidents to ones located within their borders for the Iranian regime is even willing to engage in cross-border attacks in order to attack Kurdish Iranian dissidents based in Iraqi Kurdistan.
This means that Iranian activists like Benyamin Gholizadeh are not safe in Turkey or even in far-away countries like Canada for the Iranian regime is dedicated to going after all political dissidents regardless of their location. This is why Iran arranged to sabotage Gholizadeh receiving political asylum both in the US and Canada. This is why Iran arranged for Gholizadeh’s UN aid to get cut off after he spoke to an Israeli journalist.  And this is why Iran took an Iranian Canadian professor hostage so that they could pressure Canada into getting their hands on another Iranian that they want to prosecute. For the Iranian dissidents, there is virtually no safe location in the entire world.
Source : Jerusalemonline