By Pooya Stone
There are 45 Sunni prisoners infected with coronavirus in Rajaei Shahr Prison, Karaj, but they are being denied appropriate medical care, including medicine and oxygen capsules, or transfer to hospital.
Only one of the ill prisoners in Hall 11 of Ward 4 – Abdol Wakil Rahmani – was taken to a hospital outside prison, but even this was only because his condition deteriorated so much and other prisoners launched a protest.
Seven of those placed in solitary confinement on the “Safe Ward” in the past few days have now been returned to Hall 11.
Meanwhile, there are reports that other prisoners in the prison have also contracted the disease, including two in ward 7 and one in ward 12.
This is especially worrying because there are several political prisoners with serious illnesses held in this prison who would be in grave danger of contracting coronavirus, which combined with pre-existing conditions could mean they are more likely to die.
Those, especially at risk, include Arash Sadeghi, who has bone cancer, and Afshin Bayemani and Abolqassem Fouladvand, both of whom have heart conditions. All of whom have been denied adequate medical treatment for their existing health problems by Rajaei Shahr Prison warden Allah Karam Azizi and the supervisor for political prisoners Amin Vaziri, who are notorious for using this as a form of torture against detainees.
In 2019, Iran Human Rights Monitor wrote that human rights defender Sadeghi was at severe risk due to an untreated infection on his shoulder that developed after surgery in 2018, which developed because Sadeghi was removed from the hospital against doctors’ advice by prison authorities. He has also been prevented from monthly hospital visits to check on a tumor, which led him to lose motion in his right arm.
At the best of times, conditions in Iran’s prisons are nowhere near international standards because they are overcrowded with not enough beds, have poor ventilation, no hot water, inedible food, and insect infestations. The situation is much worse now, with Amnesty International reporting in July that the government ignored repeated requests from senior prison officials over the resources needed to control the coronavirus, including medicine, medical equipment, cleaning products, and personal protective equipment.
Amnesty wrote: “Overcrowding, poor ventilation, lack of basic sanitation and medical equipment, and deliberate neglect of prisoners’ health problems, are making Iranian prisons a perfect breeding ground for COVID-19. The Iranian authorities must stop denying the health crisis in Iran’s prisons and take urgent steps to protect prisoners’ health and lives.”