The introduction of that bill has already been blamed for a series of acid attacks that have occurred in Iran, apparently targeting women who were seen as being inadequately veiled according to the laws of the Islamic Republic. The International Campaign’s briefing focuses on these incidents and warns that more of the same can be expected if the international community does not help pressure the Iranian government to safeguard the rights of women and to cancel this proposed law.
Or course, the cancellation of that law would only address one part of the larger gender problem that the International Campaign and other activists groups are working to call attention to. Lesser empowerment of the Basij would still leave in place the mechanisms by which Iranian security forces prosecute and suppress women’s rights activists and related individuals.
Also on Thursday, the campaign issued an update on the case of one such female activist, Atena Faraghdani, who won a small concession from the regime when they agreed to transfer her back to the ward of Evin Prison reserved for female political prisoners, in response to the lengthy hunger strike that had caused her to collapse on February 26 in Gharchak Prison, where she was housed alongside hardened criminals.
Faraghdani was originally arrested in August 2014 and then re-arrested when she exposed the harsh and debasing treatment she had received during her arrest in an online video.
Punitive re-arrests are rather common in the Islamic Republic, and hunger strikes are not always as successful as Faraghdani’s. Illustrating both of these facts, IranWire reported on Thursday upon the story of Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki, a political prisoner who is reportedly on a hunger strike in Evin Prison after being arrested in apparent defiance of a medical pardon issued by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Ronaghi-Maleki was arrested in 2009 and charged with “insulting the supreme leader” as a result of his activities as an activist and blogger. He was sentenced to 15 years, but in September 2014 it was determined that his health was too poor for him to survive his sentence, and he was released. But he was arrested again without explanation on February 28, with authorities accusing him of escaping a deserved punishment.
Ronaghi-Maleki’s father Ahmad told IranWire that he believes those authorities want him to die in prison like the blogger and activist Sattar Beheshti who infamously died as a result of mistreatment in custody in 2012. Ahmad has threatened to set himself on fire in protest if those authorities continue to keep him in the dark about his son’s condition.
And regardless of the intentions of prison officials, there are good reasons to be concerned for the health of an infirm prisoner. Even some regime officials acknowledge this, according to another IranWire report. Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi toured an Iranian prison for the first time in February and acknowledged that conditions are abysmal and in desperate need of improvement.
But it is doubtful that there will be political will for the reforms that Hashemi has recommended. As it stands, authorities reportedly use harsh conditions as a sort of punishment, denying medical attention to many political prisoners when they become sick as a result of overcrowding, excessive cold, and unchecked disease.