The wife of Behnam Mahjoubi, a Gonabadi dervish currently languishing in jail in Iran, has penned a fraught open letter about his worsening health.
Mahjoubi, a civil activist and prisoner of conscience, was transferred to Ward 8 of Evin Prison – a section usually dedicated to people accused of financial crimes – on June 20 this year.
He has since gone on hunger strike twice: once to demand his neuroleptic medication and once in solidarity with Nasrin Sotoudeh, an imprisoned human rights lawyer who is on hunger strike in Evin to agitate for the release of political prisoners.
In an open letter published on Thursday, August 27, Mahjoubi’s wife Salehe Hosseini claimed the prison doctor has prescribed her husband up to 14 tranquilizer pills a day and threatened to transfer him to Aminabad Mental Hospital if he does not take them.
Warning that her husband’s physical and mental state is reaching crisis point, Hosseini also said Mahjoubi has now been blocked from accessing the drugs he needs by prison officers. In recent days, Mahjoubi’s arms and legs have gone numb due to a long-standing neurological disease that is now going untreated.
Below is the text of Hosseini’s message to the authorities, which IranWire has chosen to publish in full.
"I, Salehe Hosseini, the wife of Behnam Mahjoubi, express my concern about my husband's condition via this open letter.
“Behnam went to prison on June 20 to serve his sentence: a sentence that was unfairly imposed on him. He was arrested and tortured several times after the incident of Golestan-7 [Seventh Golestan Street, Tehran].
“This time he was taken to prison in a situation in which, on the advice of his doctor and in the doctor's own testimony, he could not bear the conditions of imprisonment.
“Behnam suffers from a neurological disease; his arms and legs go numb, as has happened in recent days. Behnam went to prison despite declaring this condition. Because of the non-separation of criminal convicts, he was transferred to a financial crimes ward along with another political and ideological prisoner.
“There, he was beaten up by inmates and went on hunger strike. His demand was the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who, according to Iranian law, should be given conditional leave.
“Behnam’s rightful requests were ignored. He was taken to the hospital in handcuffs and with his ankles cuffed, and was then returned to the prison ward despite the doctor's advice that he should stay in hospital for three days.
“Although, under prison law, the Prisons Organization is required to provide the drugs needed for specific illnesses, his prescription for his neuroleptics was sent to us every time, and we had to provide them. Now, they have threatened him, saying they will not provide him with drugs and will not allow us to provide for him from outside.
“Behnam is not in a good physical condition. The prison doctor is giving him 14 strong sedatives every day to help him sleep: pills that – according to his doctor outside the prison – are exacerbating his illness, and are putting his physical condition and, consequently, his mental condition at serious risk.
“The prison doctor warned that if he did not take the sedatives, Behnam would be transferred to Aminabad Mental Hospital.
“At the same time, because we live in Kerman, we are not allowed to meet with Behnam. Our loved ones have been kept in prison at a time when the coronavirus is spreading, and these Iranian citizens are in danger. Why?
“Behnam's protests in prison have not been responded to. It is unclear why he is being punished further on top of his imprisonment. Is it not enough that imprisonment is a deprivation of liberty? We have already accepted this unjust sentence. Why are you harassing my husband so badly? Why does no one listen to him, nor to other political prisoners and prisoners of conscience? What justice is this, that you bully and torture an innocent prisoner and his family? To whom should we raise our voices to get help for our spouses and children?
“I, Salehe Hosseini, the wife of Behnam Mahjoubi, am speaking out against this injustice and I ask for the help of all those who hear my voice. The lives of our loved ones are in danger and I am afraid of losing Behnam. I declare, from here, that the responsibility for my husband's life lies with the Islamic Republic."