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Iran: three human rights activists on hunger strike after two transferred to notorious jail

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and her husband Arash Sadeghi, both jailed and both on hunger strike © Private

Shahr-e Rey prison is a disused chicken farm with no safe drinking water and a reputation for inmate and staff violence

Stoning story writer Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and anti-death penalty campaigner Atena Daemi forcibly transferred from Tehran’s Evin prison to the jail

The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release human rights activists Atena Daemi, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and her husband Arash Sadeghi, Amnesty International said today, amid reports that all three have begun a hunger strike to protest against the unlawful transfer of Atena Daemi and Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee to the notoriously dangerous Shahr-e Rey prison.

Shahr-e Rey prison is a disused chicken farm in the city of Varamin holding several hundred women convicted of violent offences in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, without access to safe drinkable water, proper food, medicine or fresh air. 

Reports from the facility indicate high levels of assault towards inmates both by other inmates and prison staff, as well as rampant drug use and infectious diseases. The Iranian authorities have repeatedly failed to address concerns about the inhumane treatment of prisoners at Shahr-e Rey. Instead, they’ve often threatened outspoken female prisoners of conscience with transfer to the jail and have occasionally acted on these threats. 

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and Atena Daemi were transferred from Tehran’s Evin prison to Shahr-e Rey on 24 January. They said that male prison guards physically and verbally assaulted them - including through sexual slurs, kicking and punching - after they protested that their transfer was illegal and violated Iran’s own regulations on the separation of different prisoners’ categories. The women have been on hunger strike ever since.

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee was jailed for three years in 2016 for writing an unpublished, fictional story about stoning women to death for adultery. Atena Daemi is serving a seven-year prison sentence for her peaceful activism, including charges related to distributing anti-death penalty leaflets, and posts on Facebook and Twitter criticising Iran’s execution record. 

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee’s husband, Arash Sadeghi - also a human rights activist and prisoner of conscience - has been on hunger strike since 27 January. He’s demanding the return of his wife and Atena Daemi to Evin prison, pending their release. 

Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“We have grave concerns for their safety and well-being. No-one should be imprisoned in such appalling conditions.

“We are extremely concerned about Arash Sadeghi’s critical health as he protests his wife’s cruel and illegal treatment by the Iranian authorities. His body has already been weakened by previous hunger strikes and this protest could endanger his life.

“This incident further demonstrates the horrendous environment for those who dare defend human rights in Iran, where any form of dissent or peaceful activism is criminalised by the authorities. 

“Arash Sadeghi, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and Atena Daemi are prisoners of conscience who have bravely dedicated their lives to building a more humane and just society. It is appalling that they are so viciously punished for their steadfast commitment to human rights. They must be released immediately and unconditionally.”


Arash Sadeghi’s hunger strikes for his wife

This is the second time that Arash Sadeghi has gone on hunger strike in defence of his wife. In October 2016, he went on a prolonged hunger strike when his wife was first imprisoned. 

Doctors have repeatedly advised that Sadeghi requires long-term hospitalisation to receive specialist treatment for his worsening health conditions. These have prevented him from eating solid food and have caused severe digestive, kidney and respiratory complications, abdominal bleeding and heart arrhythmia. However, the authorities have intentionally blocked his transfer to hospital, apparently as a means to further punish him.

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