Moezzi spent years in prison in the 1980’s for his affiliation with the Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK). Beginning in 2008, he served two more years, for having visited his two daughters residing in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. Arrested again in 2011, seven months after his latest release, for attending the funeral of a fellow political prisoner, he’s been imprisoned ever since. He has faced much pressure, including the extension of his current prison term beyond its specified four years.He’s also be subjected to numerous explicit death threats.
Reportedly, he’s undergone routine beatings and torture and the absence of medical care for his pre-existing health problems. Moezzi’s arrest came shortly after he had been released from a hospital after undergoing surgery following a cancer diagnosis.
The regime has repeatedly been charged with disregard for the health and well-being of prisoners, especially those detained for political or religious offenses. A recent example is Arash Sadeghi, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for his peaceful human rights activism. Sadeghi began a hunger strike shortly after his wife was arrested. Sadeghi finally ended his hunger strike after judicial authorities granted his wife temporary release from her pre-trial detention. His hunger strike lasted more than 70 days befor the regime agreed to even that, and it was not the likelihood of Sadeghi’s imminent death that prompted them to act, but the massive support that his protest had garnered within Iran and abroad. Hundreds of Iranians gathered outside of Evin Prison, to protest his treatment. His cause was promoted on the internet and via banned social media networks by several thousands of supporters.
Salve writes, “It may not be a coincidence that Moezzi disappeared from Gohardasht Prison just one day after it was announced that Sadeghi had been hospitalized and brought back from the brink of death.” He adds, “Both incidents demonstrated that the Iranian regime has no qualms about endangering the lives of its political adversaries, but the ruling mullahs can only take such a situation to its drastic conclusion if relatively free from public scrutiny.”
He says that it may be easier for the regime simply allow political prisoners to die, if those deaths occur in secret locations, so that they can claim “plausible” deniability.
Iran’s domestic activists or the international community may still be able to save Moezzi in much the same way they saved Sadeghi, but it is impossible to know Moezzi’s current condition, much less to follow its deterioration in real time. This is a challenge as it is difficult to rally around a cause that they cannot see. However, these atrocities must not be allowed to continue in the shadows.
This is the challenge that requires serious commitment, and a campaign that includes the international community and media. “World powers must take an interest in this case, and in the overall plight of Iranian prisoners of conscience,” writes Salvi.
Which is actually underscored by the recent success of the Sadeghi case. Silence of the global community sends a message to the Iranian regime that it can get away with these crimes, and that is a message not to be condoned with silence.