The authorities also announced that Vahid Heydari, a street peddler, killed himself in prison. Sina Ghanbari, a 23-year-old student was the next prisoner to die. According to authorities, Ghanbari hanged himself in a bathroom in the notorious Evin Prison. 24-year-old Iranian-Kurd Saru Ghahremani, was also found dead in custody in the city of Sanandaj.
Many Iranians are skeptical of the “suicides” and the “natural deaths” of people in police custody or prison. Iranian celebrity actress Bahareh Rahnama wrote on Twitter, “This kid (Ghahremani) was neither political nor a protester, nor a rebel, nor an outlaw, he had simple but big wishes for himself: Like making his mother happy! Why should he be killed?”
Iran’s judiciary recently announced the suicide of Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed-Emami, committed in prison, allegedly because of evidence against him.
In an article for Arab News by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist and leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, he writes, “It is worth noting that these are only the cases of deaths and suicides reported by the Iranian regime. The unofficial number is believed to be much higher.”
Dr. Rafizadeh writes that Iran’s regime brushes off the deaths of detainees as suicides and provides no evidence for these so-called “suicides”, which should be met with suspicion. According to the regime’s constitution, detainees are not allowed access to a lawyer during the initial phase of questioning. Amnesty International has documented cases of forced confessions.
“The United Nations Human Rights Council must fulfill its duty by preventing atrocities in Iran’s prisons and holding the regime accountable for its human rights abuses,” writes Dr. Rafizadeh.
The son of Seyed-Emami wrote on Instagram, “The news of my father’s passing is impossible to fathom. Kavous Seyed-Emami was arrested on Wednesday 24 January 2018, and the news of his death was released to my mom, Maryam, on Friday the 9th of February. They say he committed suicide. I still can’t believe this.”
The torture inflicted on victims may also lead to death, o may cause life-long health issues. In fact, British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a mother who is approaching 700 days in prison, endures what amounts to torture. Her family has appealed to the United Nations for intervention in her case.
“The Iranian regime can achieve several objectives with the deaths of some prisoners. First of all, it sends a strong message to society that any opposition may be answered with the ultimate penalty. Secondly, widely reporting the shocking news of so-called suicides on state TV and newspapers is aimed at imposing fear,” writes Dr. Rafizadeh, who adds, “Dual nationals are mostly being arrested to be used as bargaining chips with other governments. If the Iranian regime does not achieve its political or economic goals, the prisoners will most likely languish and die in prison.”
Dr. Rafizadeh cites the case of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian freelance photographer, who was arrested in Iran and, according to a medical examiner’s report, was raped, tortured and beaten to death by Iranian officials.
Dr. Dr. Rafizadeh calls it the responsibility of the international community and specifically the United Nations Human Rights Council to prevent human rights abuses and hold accountable those responsible.