Prisoners

UN Urged to Intervene Amid Fears Sepideh Gholian Could be 'Silenced Forever'

March 10, 2022
Hannah Somerville
3 min read

Activists monitoring the human rights situation in Iran have sent an urgent letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urging her to call for the immediate release of Sepideh Gholian, a young civilian activist now gravely ill in prison.

Sepideh was rearrested by security forces in a violent raid on her family home last October, having spent the previous three years behind bars for covering the Haft-Tappeh Sugar Factory workers’ protests as a citizen journalist in Khuzestan. The 27-year-old is now being held in the quarantine unit of Evin Prison after contracting Covid-19 in February, and is also suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting, kidney pain and intestinal bleeding.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran has called on the UN High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, to intervene in the case before it is too late. Several prisoners of conscience have died in Iran in the last two years as a result of not receiving timely medical care, including the writer Baktash Abtin and the Gonabadi dervish Behnam Mahjoubi.

The Prisons Organization’s refusal to release Sepideh for hospital treatment, the CHRI wrote, “represents an egregious human rights violation and poses a potential threat to her life and wellbeing... We wish to note that Iranian law provides for such a release. Article 502 of Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that a prisoner’s sentence can be suspended if incarceration could make his or her physical or mental illness worse.”

Initially arrested in November 2018 in Shush, Sepideh documented the torture she and fellow detainees were subjected to at Ahvaz Intelligence Detention Center, Sepidar Women’s Prison and later, Bushehr Prison. She was one of nine labor rights activists each sentenced to five years in prison in December 2019 for so-called “collusion against national security.”

Like other advocacy groups, the CHRI believes the Iranian judiciary deliberately uses medical neglect as a form of punishment for outspoken political prisoners. In its missive on Thursday it named Soheila Hejab, Zeinab Jalalian, Arsham (Mahmoud) Rezaei and Abbas Vahedian Shahroudi as other inmates who were currently sick but being denied medical leave. CHRI director Hadi Ghaemi warned that without outside intervention, Sepideh’s voice could soon be “silenced forever”.

On March 6, Sepideh’s brother Mehdi also published a plea for help on his personal Instagram page. “My sister’s life is still in danger,” he wrote. “After the spread of Omicron on the women’s ward of Evin Prison, Sepideh contracted the virus... Sepideh’s body has become so weak and fragile, from underlying, untreated diseases caused by banishments [to different prisons at various times], hunger strikes and constant pressure, that even a cold can overwhelm her.

“Because of the impact of Omicron, Sepideh’s body cannot absorb much water or food. Due to indigestion, she throws everything up. Her temperature has not gone back to normal. Her weakness, lethargy, and jaundice are visible... The judge in the case, who previously claimed Sepideh was not entitled to furlough and had crossed ‘red lines,’ finally agreed to sign the [medical] leave form, and yet she remains imprisoned.”

Related coverage:

Sepideh Gholian Seriously Ill in Prison

Sepideh Gholian Transferred to Evin Prison

Sepideh Gholian 'Abducted' in Raid on Sister's Home

New Charges Filed Against Sepideh Gholian for Bushehr Prison Disclosures

Sepideh Gholian: The Forgotten Hell of the Women’s Ward at Bushehr Prison

Sepideh’s Diary: A Shocking Glimpse into Women’s Prisons in Iran

The Last Interview with Sepideh Gholian Before Her Arrest

Sepideh Gholian Moved to a Prison in South Iran

Sepideh Gholian to Stand Trial Again Over State TV Reporter's Complaint

Imprisoned Activist Speaks Out for All Women Prisoners

Ex-Women Prisoners Speak Out About Sexual Abuse in Jail

 

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UN Urged to Intervene Amid Fears Sepideh Gholian Could be 'Silenced Forever'