Every Saturday, Simin Eyvazzadeh picks up a photograph of her son - children rights activist Omid Alishenas - and sets out for Evin Prison. For many months, she has participated in protest rallies with the families of other political prisoners outside of the notorious prison. However, this time, security officers in normal clothing confronted the rally and arrested several of the protestors, including Simin – her son was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for his work as an activist.
Two other women, both of whom were protesting against the arrest of Mohammad Ali Taheri, a doctor of alternative medicine, were also arrested. All three women were taken to Gharchak Prison in Varamin, situated not far from Tehran, where female prisoners of conscience are held in difficult living conditions.
The father of Saeed Zeinali - a university student who was arrested in 1999 and whose fate remains unknown - was also arrested. According to Radio Zamaneh, journalist and filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad, who also participated in the rally, was later arrested at his home on Monday, November 23.
“Every Saturday, my wife went to the rally. Usually, by noon, the rally is over and she comes home but this time, she didn’t,” Omid’s father Attila Alishenas told IranWire. “It was almost 4 pm when one of the other protestors told me that Simin [his wife] had been arrested. And by five, I found out that Simin and two other women had also been taken to Gharchak Prison.”
Ever since her son’s arrest, Simin Eyvazzadeh has given numerous interviews, despite security forces repeatedly threatening her with arrest if she speaks to foreign press. In July 2015, she gave an interview to IranWire where she said “I decided to not stay silent any longer. I want my voice to be heard by human rights activists outside of Iran. I want to say: Don’t allow our children to be treated in this inhumane and unjust manner.”
Then in October, Simin and the family members of several other political prisoners marched from Evin Prison to the Parsian Hotel in protest of the inhumane treatment of prisoners and the poor living conditions at Evin Prison. At the time, a German delegation that included the German foreign minister was staying at the hotel.
“I wanted the German delegation to know about the situation of human rights in this country and to hear our voices,” Simin told IranWire. “We can’t make our own authorities hear us, even though we’ve written letters to them. We have sent numerous letters to Mr Rouhani who promised to improve the human rights situation in the country, as well as to the judicial authorities, but nothing’s changed.”
An hour before Attila Alishenas spoke to IranWire, Simin called him from prison. “The only way for us to communicate is by telephone,” Attila says. “She and the other two women have now gone on hunger strike. They object to their arrests and say that they’ll continue to strike until they’re released.”
Her son Omid has also learnt of the arrest and he too has gone on hunger strike. “I didn’t tell Omid anything but he found out anyway,” Attila said.
Over a Year in “Temporary” Detention
Security agents arrested Omid Alishenas at his home on September 4, 2014. He was tried on March 5, 2015 at Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, which was presided over by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh, who sentenced him to 10 years in prison. He was charged with participating in illegal gatherings, propaganda against the regime, conspiracy against national security and insulting the Supreme Leader.
Although Omid appealed the ruling, no date has been set for a review of his case and the authorities have yet to release him on bail. His family have repeatedly asked for bail but to no avail – the authorities give a different reason for rejecting the request every time.
“My son served children,” mother Simin told IranWire. “He shouldn’t have been imprisoned. He struggled so people could have a better life. Why have these efforts landed him in prison?”
During their phone conversation, Simin told her husband neither she nor the two other women had been interrogated or informed of the charges against her. “They haven’t been told anything but we managed to find out the charges against them from another source,” husband Attila says. “They give a printout to prison officials for every detainee so that they can register them and in this her charges were participating in an illegal gathering and supporting [Mohammad Ali Taheri]. But my wife participated in this rally in order to protest the conditions of our son.”
Attila Alishenas has received conflicting information as to whether his wife will be released on bail. The latest thing he was told by someone official was to go to the prosecutor’s office at Evin Prison on Saturday, November 28, with a lawyer.
Attila adds, “Both Simin and my son are on hunger strike. Simin has high blood pressure and heart arrhythmia. And they’re living in very difficult prison conditions. They both tell me on the phone that they’re OK, but would they tell me if they weren’t? Probably not.”