Iran: Authorities Responsible for Sexual Abuse of Women Political Prisoners Must Be Held Accountable.
Women political prisoners in quarantined section of Evin prison, protesting against violent and invasive body cavity searches and sexual abuse have gone on hunger strike since Tuesday 30th October 2012. According to the relatives of these prisoners, they were brutally searched by the hands of three female guards after the ward being raided by Evin security forces.
Presently, Bahareh Hadayat (Student Activist), Hakimeh Shokri (Member of Mourning Mothers),Mahsa Amrabadi (Journalist), Nasim Soltan Beigi (Student Activist), Nazanin Deyhimi (Translator of Children Books), Shiva Nazar Ahari (Human Rights Activist), Zhyla Bani Yaghoub (Journalist) andZhyla Karamzadeh Makvandi (Member of Mourning Mothers) are on hunger strike.
Prior to these eight women political prisoners’ hunger strike, Nasrin Sotoudeh , The Human Rights activist and recipient of the Sakharov’s International prize, had gone on hunger strike on 17 October. She had been protesting against the limitations placed on in-person visitation with her family and a travel ban by the Judiciary issued against her 12 year old daughter. Latest reports confirm that following the brutal body search of all women political prisoners last Wednesday, Sotoudeh has been moved to solitary confinement and banned from having any visitors. There has been no news of her whereabouts and her well being since then.
The women political prisoners, in a letter to Ali Ashraf Rostami Aghdam, the head of prison authorities in Tehran, have said “the brutal behaviour of some of the prison officers during the body cavity searches of the female prisoners cannot and will not be forgiven. As this violent and obvious act of aggression and desecration is so reprehensible that putting pen to paper to describe it makes one feel ashamed and disgraced. Given the existence of a myriad of security cameras watching prisoners’ every move and the restrictions imposed upon prisoners regarding what is allowed to be taken into the ward, not to mention the modern electronic tools available for conducting body searches in a respectable manner, we are at a loss for words regarding why prison authorities have resorted to such humiliating behaviour.”
They have stated that they will not allow such degrading inspections and have demanded an apology by the authorities and a reassurance that such behaviour will not be repeated in the future and that all their belongings be returned to them or their families.
The result of Justice For Iran’s research project ‘Crime without Punishment’ which aims documentation of sexual abuse of female political prisoners reveals that cavity inspection is commonplace in some prisons such as Unit 209 of the Evin Prison, run and controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence. This research demonstrates that some female political prisoners regard this type of inspection as a form of sexual abuse.
These atrocities take place despite the fact that according to Iranian law such body searches are only allowed when prisoners enter or leave prisons, and this is to stop any forbidden objects to be taken in or out of prisons. Therefore, the body cavity search that took place last week in the quarantine unit of Evin Prison was unlawful and was yet another example of the authorities’ brutality against the prisoners. This is not only in violation of International Human rights laws but also in contravention of Iranian law.
These harsh and abusive acts in prison as well as wider publication in the state controlled media which have threatened and defamed Nasrin Sotoudeh immediately following her receipt of the Sakharov’s prize are indicative of the regime’s efforts to further oppress women political prisoners and attempting to turn the public opinion against them.
Justice For Iran supports the demand of the women political prisoners in seeking the authorities’ response, in particular Ali Ashraf Rashidi Aghdam’s, regarding these assaults and humiliation and will continue all its efforts to report on the state and well being of the women political prisoners.
Justice for Iran expresses its concerns regarding the well being of Nasrin Sotoudeh and the eight women political prisoners on hunger strike, and seeks the solidarity of International community in monitoring and demanding that the political prisoners are treated humanely, and in compelling the Iranian authorities to observe human rights and the rights of political prisoners. These efforts should continue until all political prisoners facing heavy punishments for fighting for justice, democracy and human rights are freed.
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