Rooz Online, November 3, 2013
Rooz Online has published an English translation of an article by the husband of one of the prisoners of conscience in Evin prison, Tehran. There are 21 women in the prisoner of conscience section, half the number that was normal until recently. This is partly because of transfers, and partly due to the release of prisoners held in connection with the post-election protests of 2009 or because they were affiliated with the “Green’ (democratic) movement. Many of the women prisoners who remain were charged with supporting the People’s Mojahedin organization, the MKO, and there is a group of Bahai women. Mahvash Shahreyari-Sabet (مهوش ثابت-شهریاری ) and Fariba Kamalabadi (فریبا کمال آبادی ) were “Yaran” (National facilitators for the Bahai community) and are serving twenty year sentences. Three others were arrested in connection with the Bahai online university. Lava Khanjani (لوا مباشر خانجانی) was arrested in connection with the 2009 post-election protests. Two other women prisoners in the wing are charged with espionage, and one with spreading Christianity.
Prison conditions have improved over the last 4 years. Prison officials have allowed the families of prisoners to provide for some of their needs. Their living space has been expanded slightly. But their access to family members remains limited. Telephone calls have been banned for over two years. Inmates are allowed weekly cabin meetings with their family members. Meetings in person are allowed only once a month.
Most of the prisoners are allowed some furlough from prison, but Bahai prisoners suffer from a double oppression. All have been deprived of any leave, none have been released (a number of political prisoners were released before President Rouhani’s speech at the United Nations), and there are no signs of flexibility regarding their situation. Mahvash Shahriyari and Fariba Kamalabadi have been in Evin for over five years each, but have not had a single prison leave, although they have health issues. Because of their age and health, they suffer more than others. Faran Hesami (فاران حسامی) whose husband is in Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj has a four-year old child who lives with her grandmother. She has not been allowed to visit her child outside prison. The family of these Bahai prisoners also suffer more difficult conditions For example, Fariba Kamalabadi’s daughter received very good university entrance test results, but was denied admission to any university because of her religious beliefs.
Although the women come from different backgrounds and ages, they get along well. They read books together and critique them jointly, despite their political differences. Faezeh Hashemi-Rafsanjani (فائزه هاشمی رفسنجانی), daughter of a former president and current head of the Expediency Council, was held in this wing. She has written that these women live with minimum tensions and have positive interactions.
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