Insider news & Analysis in Iran
Iran: Increase in Number of Suspicious Prison Deaths

By Mahmoud Hakamian

For quite some time, Iranians in prisons across the country are dying under suspicious circumstances. Since the uprising that started at the end of 2017, the number of activists, dissidents and political prisoners that are dying while incarcerated is something that should be of major concern to the international community.

Human rights activists and organisations have drawn attention to the issue that seems to be getting worse as time goes on. Last week, it appears that a prisoner in the Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary was stabbed to death. The prisoner has been named as Alireza Shirmohammadali and it was reported that he had been stabbed dozens of times and was dead before he even got to hospital.

Shirmohammadali was only 21 years-old at the time of his death. He was arrested in July last year because of messages that he had posted online. Some of the charges he was imprisoned for include “propaganda against the state”, “insulting sacred religious beliefs”, and “insulting the Supreme Leader” (a charge that can lead to execution in Iran).

The Iranian regime is cracking down on the people because it finds itself at an impasse. It is facing increasing pressure from the international community, especially following the recent attacks against vessels in the region. By cracking down on the people, it is trying to instil fear into society and deter further dissent.

However, the regime is shooting itself in the foot because with every wrongful death that it is responsible for, the people become more and more determined. The people are desperate for freedom, democracy and the respect of human rights. Do regime officials really believe that increasing its suppression is going to make the people silent?

Shirmohammadali had been drawing attention to the deplorable prison conditions that he had been subjected to and was on a hunger strike before his death. He explained in a letter that the lack of adequate and appropriate facilities inside the prison was a great concern and said that it is very detrimental to personal safety. He also said that issues had been raised with prison officials, but that he was systematically ignored.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sees himself as a defender of human rights, but nothing could be further from the truth. Executions are still being carried out across the whole country, many for minor crimes, despite the urgent calls for cessation from human rights activists and organisations.

Young people who were minors at the time of their alleged crime are even executed and the regime has no scruples when it comes to arbitrary punishments. It still carries out lashings and stoning.

Furthermore, the Iranian regime is able to get away with killing prisoners because it is not challenged by the international community. It is not being held accountable for the suspicious deaths that are happening in prisons across the country.

Furthermore, it is unclear just how serious the problem is because it is impossible to get accurate figures and statistics. Families of people who have died in Iranian prisons have said that prison officials say that suicide is the cause of death when it is clearly not the case.

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