Kurdish Political Prisoner Not Heard from for Weeks Since Announcing COVID Symptoms
Long Denied Medical Care, Family Fears for Well-being of Zeinab Jalalian
Kurdish political prisoner Zeinab Jalalian, who has had a history of serious and untreated medical problems during her long imprisonment in Iran, has not been heard from for weeks since she told her family that she may have contracted COVID-19 virus.
“We have not heard from her for 20 days,” Zeinab’s father Ali Jalalian told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on July 12, 2020. “We are very worried. We don’t know who to turn to. No one responds to our questions.”
“They took Zeinab to [Gharchak] Prison in Shahre Rey [from the central prison of the city of Khoy, West Azerbaijan Province] but we can’t locate her,” Ali Jalalian added. “If she was in the public ward she could have phoned us but she has not contacted us at all.”
Zeinab Jalalian, 39, who has been behind bars since 2007 serving a life sentence for her alleged membership in a banned Kurdish separatist group, told her mother in early June that she had symptoms of the coronavirus disease.
Transferred to Prison Notorious for Inhumane Conditions
In May 2020, she had been transferred to Gharchak Prison, 37 miles south of, in violation of Article 234 of the State Prisons Organization’s Regulations, which gives convicts the right to be held in a prison near their place of residence—in her case, in West Azerbaijan Province.
In August 2019, 200 inmates in Ward 5 of Gharchak Prison sent an open letter to the head of the State Prisons Organization in Tehran Province protesting the prison’s inhumane living conditions.
In June 2020, CHRI received reports that other political prisoners in Gharchak had been infected with COVID-19 and were transferred to another location in the prison that’s ill-equipped for medical treatment.
Imprisoned without Due Process, Suffering Long-Standing Denial of Medical Care
In a 2009 letter addressed to human rights organizations, Jalalian wrote: “I am a 27-year-old Kurdish girl who has been sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of the Islamic Revolutionary Courts. At this time I am ill due to severe torture. I have not been allowed a lawyer, and I was sentenced to death in less than a few minutes. They did not even allow me to defend myself. They told me ‘Because you are an enemy of God, you are not entitled to defend yourself.”
The Kurdish political prisoner suffers from heart and intestinal problems, heightening her vulnerability to any COVID-19 complications. Her health issues have been exacerbated by the lack of adequate medical treatment during her 13 years of her incarceration, her father told the CHRI.
Iran has a documented history of withholding medical care to political prisoners, in blatant violation of Iranian and international law.
UN Experts Have Called for Expanded Prisoner Releases in Iran Since COVID
UN human rights experts have called on the Iranian judiciary to expand its release of thousands of detainees to include prisoners of conscience and dual and foreign nationals who are still behind bars due to the serious risk of being infected with COVID-19 in Iran’s crowded and unsanitary prisons.
Read this article in Persian