Three Cases Provide Glimpse Into Ongoing Denial of Medical Care to Political Prisoners in Iran
Dozens of prisoners in Iran held on politically motivated charges are being denied medical treatment and leave despite visible symptoms of their deteriorating health, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
Political prisoners in Iran, including elderly inmates, are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of medical care. The threat of withheld medical care has also been used as an intimidation tool against prisoners who have challenged the authorities or filed complaints.
Following are three cases of prisoners in Iran being subjected to unnecessary suffering as a result of the authorities’ refusal to allow them to receive medical treatment outside prison.
CHRI’s reviews of dozens of cases show that these are not isolated instances, but rather a few among many in a pattern of systematic state denial of full and timely medical care to prisoners.
Education rights’ activist Vahed Kholousi has been in Rajaee Shahr Prison in the city of Karaj since September 13, 2015, after the Appeals Court upheld his five-year prison sentence for “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state.”
Kholoosi was a member of the Iranian Society Against Education Discrimination, created in 2009 by Baha’i students who were denied entry into Iranian universities because of their faith.
“Vahed has become very weak and thin,” his mother, Vahideh Eghdamian, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on March 22, 2018. “He has lost 26 kilos (57.3 lbs.) and we were hoping the authorities would at least let him go on medical leave so we could get him some treatment but unfortunately, they have not given permission.”
“They said the Revolutionary Guards are in charge of the case and they won’t approve it,” she added.
Furlough, temporary leave typically granted to prisoners in Iran for a variety of familial, holiday, and medical reasons, is routinely denied to political prisoners as a form of additional punishment.
In December 2017, a source told CHRI that Kholousi had fallen unconscious in his cell.
“In Vahed’s own words, he was dizzy when he woke up in the morning [on December 23, 2017],” said the source who requested anonymity for security reasons. “He drank some fruit juice and lied down and could not remember anything after that. This had never happened to him. He was completely healthy before going to prison.”
Added the source: “After Vahed became very ill and lost consciousness, he was first taken to the prison clinic where he was attached to a serum and then transferred to Imam Khomeini Hospital [in Tehran]. He was given a CAT Scan and blood test but the doctors could not tell what had happened to him. We don’t know how long he was unconscious or for what reason.”
Held in Tehran’s Evin Prison since September 2012, Alireza Golipour, 31, is serving a 12-year prison sentence for the charges of “spying for foreigners,” “sympathizing” with the banned Mojahedin-e Khalgh (MEK) organization, “insulting the supreme leader,” “disturbing public order” and “acting against national security.”
On February 27, 2018, he suffered a seizure amid ongoing heart problems, according to his lawyer, attorney Azita Gharehbeyglou.
“Mr. Golipour’s condition is getting worse day by day,” Gharehbeyglou told CHRI on March 23, 2018. “About a week ago, the family and I pressed the supervising judicial official, Mr. Rostami, and he agreed to send their own trusted doctor to examine him inside prison.”
In his report, the doctor said Mr. Golipour must come under special care since he’s unable to handle prison with his illnesses,” she said. “Mr. Rostami sent the doctor’s report to the Tehran prosecutor but he has not agreed to grant him medical leave.”
Arrested by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry in September 2012, Golipour, 31, is serving a 12-year prison sentence for the charges of “spying for foreigners,” “sympathizing” with the banned Mojahedin-e Khalgh (MEK) organization, “insulting the supreme leader,” “disturbing public order” and “acting against national security.”
“After his seizure, and what the prison doctor described as a brush with a heart attack, we asked for his hospitalization and medical leave but they were going to send him to Taleghani Hospital, which specializes in digestive diseases rather than heart problems,” Gharehbeyglou told CHRI. “So Mr. Golipour refused to go there. We said, give him medical leave and we will take him to the hospital ourselves, but the authorities have not responded yet.”
“When Mr. Golipour called me on Thursday, March 22, he sounded very weak and really didn’t have the strength to talk. That’s how bad his condition is,” she added. “His cellmates have said that if something happens to Golipour, that would be testimony that the state killed him.”
Mohammad Saber Malek-Raeisi
A Baluchi Sunni Muslim imprisoned in 2009 for alleged crimes committed by his brother, Mohammad Saber Malek-Raeisi is suffering from serious injuries as a result of repeated beatings by guards during the four years he has been held in Ardabil Prison.
“My child’s health is in critical condition,” his mother, Golbibi Malek-Raeisi, told CHRI on March 23, 2018. “But the authorities say he can go on medical leave only if his brother turns himself in.”
Mohammad Saber’s older brother, Obeidolrahman Malek-Raeisi, is wanted by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry for allegedly cooperating with the militant group, Jundallah (Army of God).
Claiming to fight for the rights of Baluchi Sunni Muslims in southeastern Iran, Jundallah has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks on Iranian soil including a suicide bombing in October 2009 that killed several members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the city of Sarbaz, Sistan and Baluchistan Province.
“Saber’s father is paralyzed and I’m old and sick,” Golbibi said. “I haven’t been able to visit him (in Ardabil Central Prison) for years. He was 15 when they took him to prison and he’s 24 now… He’s sick and doesn’t feel well but they are still keeping him in prison.”
“We don’t know what to do,” she added. “He was beaten in December  when he went on a hunger strike and since then he can’t see from one eye. He was tortured a lot. He’s sick.”
Past Cases and Fatalities
The case of former political prisoner Alireza Rajaee, who lost part of his face in August 2017 due to sinus cancer that was left untreated in Evin Prison, put the spotlight on the ongoing denial of medical care to political prisoners in Iran.
Three months later, in October 2017, labor activist Mohammad Jarrahi died from thyroid cancer that was left untreated while he was held as a political prisoner in Tabriz Prison. Fellow labor activist Shahrokh Zamani had also died of a heart attack in September 2015 after being denied medical care in Rajaee Shahr Prison.
Political prisoner Omid Kokabee was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer in 2016 after years of repeatedly being denied treatment for his symptoms in Evin Prison.