Denial of furlough (temporary leave granted to most in- mates in the Islamic Republic’s prison system for medical reasons or for special familial events) is another tool used to punish political prisoners, and this includes the inmates of the Women’s Ward at Evin. While furlough is regularly afforded to most prisoners, including common criminals, it is routinely denied to the women in this ward.
Iran’s State Prison Procedures stipulate that furlough is a privilege, not a right. According to Article 213, “Granting furlough to prisoners is not considered a right and access to it is subject to the prisoner’s compliance with the prison rules and earning the required points.” This provides prison authorities with an open door to deny political prisoners such temporary leave, keeping in line with the harsh and punitive behavior typically meted out to political prisoners.
A former prisoner reported:
Female prisoners were shattered when for the most important occasions of their lives they were not allowed furlough. Fariba Kamalabadi was not allowed to attend her daughter’s wedding and Mahvash Shahriari was not allowed to visit her sick father.
Moreover, Article 221 of Iran’s State Prison Procedures states that individuals convicted of “acting against national security” are to be excepted from receiving furlough. Given that the majority of political prisoners are convicted under vague, catchall national security-related charges (since authorities in the Islamic Republic view any expression of peaceful dissent as a national security crime), political prisoners are doubly punished: they are imprisoned for views and actions that are ostensibly protected under Iranian and international law, and then they are denied standard inmates’ privileges such as furlough due to their “national security” crimes. For the inmates of the Women’s Ward, many of whom are mothers, this is an extraordinarily painful injustice.
For the prisoners of the Women’s Ward who were not convicted under national security charges, the denial of furlough is a violation of Iran’s State Prison Procedures. Article 214, Note 4 states: “All convicts, except those included in Article 221, are allowed one instance of fur- lough leave…in the case of marriage or death of one of their first degree relatives (father, mother, child, wife, brother, sister).”
Indeed, Iran’s Prison Procedures explicitly state that any denial of furlough is to be extremely limited even when used as punishment. Article 175 stipulates: “Permissible punishment includes suspension of a maximum of three visitation rights, denial of fur- lough for up to three months, denial of recommendation for conditional pardon or release for up to six months, and solitary confinement for no more than 20 days.”
The UN’s Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules) echoes this in its prohibition against the denial of family contact, especially with children, even as a “disciplinary sanction” (Rule 23).