Mother of Ailing Hunger Striker Atena Daemi Assaulted in Front of Evin Prison
Masoumeh Nemati, the mother of imprisoned civil rights activist Atena Daemi, was attacked in front of Evin Prison in Tehran on February 13, 2018, after she tried to inquire about her daughter’s hunger strike.
“Atena and Golrokh Iraee [Ebrahimi], who are on a dry hunger strike, are in serious condition. Instead of answering our questions, they beat us up and interrogated us today,” Nemati said in an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Daemi and Iraee started a hunger strike on January 25 after they were suddenly and violently transferred from Evin Prison in Tehran to Gharchak Prison in Varamin, south of the capital.
“I went to Evin Prison to ask how Atena was doing. [Prisoner of conscience] Soheil Arabi’s mother was also there,” said Nemati.
She continued: “In front of the prison was full of agents. I went to the bathroom and when I got back I saw the agents had surrounded my daughter [Hanieh Daemi] and Mrs. Arabi and they were arguing. They ordered us to get into a van. We kept asking, ‘why?’ They didn’t answer us. We resisted. Then more than 10 plainclothes agents, including two women attacked us and threw my daughter into the van. Her hand is severely swollen. One of the agents struck my leg with a taser and kicked and beat me into the van.”
Nemati added: “We didn’t identify ourselves. They took my daughter’s phone and said we had come to protest. I said Atena is on a dry hunger strike and I came to ask about her. They made us wait for four hours and they kept telling us to stand for mug shots. What for? Did we commit a crime? Then they sent us to the investigator.” Nemati said she was told to submit a complaint.
“The investigator talked with me and my daughter and Soheil Arabi’s mother for nearly two hours. He said, ‘Why didn’t you tell us you are Atena’s relatives?’ We explained what had happened and said we want to know about the hunger strike. He said the agents were dispatched in response to a protest. He told us to write a complaint that we were beaten and we did.”
Nemati continued: “At first, the authorities told us that Atena was not on a hunger strike. They said how could she stay alive without eating anything? I said, ‘Go ask the authorities in Gharchak Prison. My daughter is on a dry hunger strike. She isn’t well.’ Then they asked us to talk to Atena and tell her to end her protest. The investigator said he might bring Atena back to Evin in three or four days. I said she will not be alive in three or four days.”
Nemati told CHRI her daughter suffers from high blood pressure and the Gharchak Prison doctors had told her that she could have a seizure. “Her body is also dealing with an outbreak of hives, which means her liver is reacting,” added Nemati. “She’s frothing and throwing up blood.”
“When Atena called us, she said Golrokh had spasms at four in the morning on Tuesday, February 13 and started to talk deliriously,” she said. “She lost consciousness and they poured water on her face and slapped her until she woke up again. But neither of them are willing to go to the clinic to receive serum.”
Since November 2016, Daemi has been serving a seven-year prison sentence for the charges of meeting the families of political prisoners, criticizing the Islamic Republic of Iran on Facebook and condemning the 1988 mass executions of political prisoners in Iran.
Iraee, an accountant, began serving a six-year prison sentence in October 2016 for “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state,” primarily for writing an unpublished story about stoning that was confiscated during a raid of her home by the Revolutionary Guards. The raid was initially organized against Iraee’s husband, civil rights activist Arash Sadeghi, who is serving a 19-year sentence.
Iraee and Daemi are demanding to be returned to Evin Prison. They argue that their transfer to Gharchak violates Article 513 of Iran’s Criminal Procedure Regulations, which dictates that convicts should serve their terms in prison facilities in the judicial district where their sentences were issued, or near their city of residence.
The women also said that they are being kept in a ward with non-political prisoners, including potentially violent offenders, in violation of Article 69 of Iran’s State Prisons Organization’s regulations.
Article 69 states: “All convicts, upon being admitted to walled prisons or rehabilitation centers, will be separated based on the type and duration of their sentence, prior record, character, morals and behavior, in accordance with decisions made by the Prisoners Classification Council.”
Gharchak Prison is believed to hold more than 1,000 female prisoners convicted of various crimes, including violent offenses. The prison has a reputation for poor sanitation, overcrowding and under-resourced medical staff.