Iranian political prisoners are being “systematically starved” by the guards in order to break their will, force fake confessions, and get public statements of repentance, according to the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change Struan Stevenson.

Stevenson, who is a former member of the European Parliament, explained that the regime fears another uprising that will sweep them from power, so the Intelligence and Security Ministry (MOIS) and Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi ordered a crackdown on political inmates with the hope of scaring future protesters into compliance.

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The inmates have been subjected to severe food shortages, with eggs cut from their rations, leaving them with only 10-12 spoonfuls of low-quality (read: “stinking and rotten”) rice daily. The prisons will defend this, saying that prisoners can buy more food at the prison shop, but this ignores the fact that:

  • The food there is also rotting
  • Many prisoners have no income and cannot get money from their families because they were the breadwinner
  • Contaminated water supplies in prisons mean that inmates already have to buy water at inflated prices

The food deprivation is causing mental stress, which is an added form of torture against the prisoners. Other methods being used, include boxing 70 people into a cell meant to hold just 20 people, with no ventilation and just one toilet between them, separated by just a “filthy curtain”, so that the smell spreads around the entire cell. They can be kept there for weeks without proper food or anything else.

“Only [after] they have signed a commitment to repent their political views and have been forced to bow and grovel to the guards, are they returned to the public wards of the prison. There, at least they are allowed to go outside every morning into the sunlight from 7 to 8 a.m. while a headcount is undertaken,” Stevenson wrote.

Much of this information was provided by political prisoner Soheil Arabi in letters and audio files that were smuggled out of prison to his family. He has been repeatedly tortured and beaten by authorities for prison conditions. Even his own mother was arrested, charged with “collusion” and “disseminating propaganda against the state”, and severely tortured.

“Arabi’s bravery in exposing the inhumane prison conditions in Iran included a detailed description of the looting and rape that continues daily, with the full connivance of the prison guards. Arabi says that extortionist gangs and thieves prey on newcomers in Tehran’s jails, robbing them of any possession and often raping them. He says that this behavior is not only tolerated but openly encouraged by the prison guards and wardens,” Stevenson added.

He reported that monthly inspections of prisoners’ cells are especially “sadistic”, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) helping prison officials to loot the cells of personal belongings, breaking whatever they wish, and beating prisoners who complain or even look the soldiers in the face.

While prisoners are prevented from getting medical attention, even if they pay for it themselves, which has meant they are wholly unprotected from the coronavirus.

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