Prison Covid-19 Catastrophe in Iran

Typical breaches of human rights described by the human rights organization include physical and mental torture, executions, and the denial of medical treatment including treatment for Covid-19 which has ravaged any Iranian prisons.

Prisoners in Iran are getting infected by the coronavirus with little or no help from the regime. Urmia central prison has now become a Covid-19 hotspot, with many of its inmates experiencing typical symptoms of the disease, including a dry cough, fever, shortness of breath, and an inability to smell or taste anything.

The prison authorities have done little to prevent the virus from spreading inside the prison, but are now having to transfer the worst affected prisoners to the hospital.

The developing catastrophe in Iran’s prisons is just the tip of the iceberg, as the country is experiencing a second wave of the disease. According to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran), over 49,500 people within the country have lost their lives, a figure far higher than the widely criticized official figure given by the regime of under 8,000.

Inmates inside Urmia Central Prison have been denied basic sanitary facilities and an attempt at physical isolation, which could have prevented the spread of infection once the virus had gained entry to the prison. Simple, but effective things, like soap and sanitizer, had not been made available unless inmates paid for them at exorbitant prices, which most could not afford.

As prisoners started experiencing typical COVID symptoms, the prison authorities were forced to carry out tests for the virus. Those found to be infected were removed to the hospital.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) issued a detailed statement based on information received by its network of informants within the country. The statement said that “prisoners are deprived of sanitary masks and even disinfectants. Some prisoners in Karaj’s central prison do not have prison cells and are held in the prison yard. Lack of hygiene is aggravated because political and ordinary prisoners, including addicts, are kept together. This situation has accelerated the spread of the Coronavirus. According to reports by relatives of prisoners, the Iranian regime has exploited the Coronavirus crisis to heighten pressure on and even secretly eliminate political prisoners. The official statement regarding temporary leave for prisoners does not pertain to political prisoners.”

The NCRI report provided details about Covid-19 infections and deaths inside Iranian prisons:

  • Infections in wards 4, 7 and 8 in Tehran’s Evin prison; with death in ward4;
  • Infections amongst prisoners of conscience in Ahvaz, Zahedan, Quechan, and Sanandaj prisons;
  • Tehran’s Greater Tehran prison is occupied by many prisoners arrested during last year’s November riots. These prisoners are mostly in the 5th Section of the prison and are in great danger of contracting Covid-19. These prisoners have not been granted temporary leave, making them even more exposed to infection.

The reason for the spike in cases within the country, as well as the developing disaster within the prisons, is that the regime has chosen to do nothing to deal properly with the epidemic and has attempted to cover up the daily new case rate and the alarming number of fatalities.

Even when it seemed that a level of suppression due to lockdown measures seemed to be occurring, the regime changed tack and ordered people back to work, all the time pretending that everything was fine. The regime even claimed to release 85,000 prisoners, but quickly reversed the flow of prisoners, creating a new wave of infection inside prisons like Urmia.

The failure to deal with the epidemic inside the prison network has led to numerous prison protests and riots across the country. The upshot has been that many rioting prisoners have had to make a deadly choice between facing the bullets fired by the mullahs’ forces or a killer disease inside prison walls.

The (PMOI/MEK Iran), has made a comparison between the failure to deal effectively with the epidemic inside the country’s prisons and its failure to control the socio-economic revolt outside in wider society. “Iran has become a de facto prison,” according to the (PMOI/MEK Iran). “Maximum economic pressure and oppression along with the deadly coronavirus, spread by the mullahs’ regime, have made the Iranian society explosive.” 

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI’s president-elect, has said that the devastating news coming out of Iran’s prisons and the ongoing inhumane mistreatment of inmates is a direct result of the criminal regime. “Khamenei and Rouhani are the first among officials responsible for our compatriots losing their lives on such a vast scale,” said Mrs. Rajavi.

Mrs. Rajavi has repeated a call to international authorities including the U.N. Security Council to act immediately to stop the humanitarian disaster occurring in Iran’s prison.