For the prisoners within the judicial system of Iran, life is hard and a struggle. Many have to go without the basic necessities because they can’t pay for them and the prison doesn’t provide them. Drinking water is one of the biggest concerns. One prison had its water system break and demanded the prisoners pay for water or pay to repair the system, as there weren’t funds in the prison’s budget to address the issue.
These conditions make it difficult for the Iranian prisoners, especially those who have been imprisoned under suspicious circumstances. Political prisoners are often subjected to multiple violations of their basic rights. Prisoners have been moved into solitary conferment, while others have been relocated into sections of a prison where they are under constant surveillance, even when they are in the restroom or taking a shower.
The Kerman Director General of Prisons and Security Measures, Reza Amiri, recently said that 69.5% of prisoners were under 40 years of age and that 95% of the prisoners in Kerman province did not have diplomas. “There are 12 prisons in Kerman Province,” said Amiri. “The province is one of the three densely populated provinces of the country.”
He also noted that 22% of Kerman prisoners were single, but 82% of the married prisoners had at least one child. Prisoners’ families are among the poorest families in Iran. This is due in part to the fact that men, normally the primary earners, are in prison and unable to work for their families.
For those prisoners who want to protest the conditions of the prison, there are few options. One used consistently is the hunger strike, but the regime has begun to push back. Those who go on hunger strikes now risk being put into solitary conferment, in order to keep others from attempting the same type of protest. At the same time, solitary confinement is meant to break the spirit of those who would stand up to the regime or argue for the humane treatment of these prisoners.
Kurdish political prisoner Ramin Hussein Panahi was arrested by the Sanandaj’s Intelligence Agency on July 2 and initially was not told why he is being detained. Since then, he has been charged with enmity against God, a vague charge used frequently by the regime. He went on a hunger strike starting on December 5. His family has visited him and been encouraged by prison officials to get him to end his hunger strike. Yet, his resolve is firm, according to his family, and he is determined to hold out until his legal demands are met.
Those who use hunger strikes as a protest run the risk of having their medical conditions ignored, which can be fatal. The regime leaves these prisoners to suffer, not allowing them to receive anything beyond minimal medical care that can be provided in the prison. For those who initiate a hunger strike, there is the very real possibility that protest could end up leading to their death. Yet, the resolve of these prisoners has not been broken.
Other means of punishment include being confined to quarantine, often in unhygienic conditions. Prisoners are also denied their right to contact family or to receive visits. One prisoner was arrested for criticizing the government in a Facebook post. He has remained in prison since 2013.
“Sasan Aghaee and Yaghma Fashkhaie have been kept in solitary confinement in the Revolutionary Guards Corps Security Section for several months… Their families have said that these individuals are not even being interrogated. One wonders that if there is evidence against them, why has there not been a trial? Which civil or administrative institution has legal supervision over the military-security sections? How many prisoners have to say that interrogators have told them that they will stay in solitary until they confess?” said Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist and prisoner, in a letter from her prison.
She called the use of solitary confinement torture and argued the regime was using it on innocent people to get them to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.
“How many people have to be hospitalized and suffer from severe illnesses for someone to feel mercy? How many people have to say that the evidence for their sentences were confessions that were taken from them in solitary confinement because they could no longer tolerate the inhumane torture, for authorities and the media to find the courage to investigate the torture? Unfortunately, the effects of solitary confinement have broadened,” said Mohammadi.
No matter who you are in Iran, the point of prison and this inhumane treatment is to continue a violent repression of the Iranian people. Activists and those who choose to speak out against the regime’s human rights abuses find themselves in prison and often being tortured. For the international community, there has to be a point where the economics of doing business with Iran does not weigh more than the human lives being harmed by this regime.