Suicide is a sensitive topic in Iran. An outline of the history behind this subject follows:
– During the presidency of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Saeed Imami, or Saeed Islami, was deputy Minister of Intelligence. He was also the main suspect of Iran’s “chain murders” — crimes that took the lives of many writers and political activists in the 1990s. On June 20th, 1999, Imami’s death in a Tehran hospital was announced, and a day later, an official of Iran’s Armed Forces Judiciary Organization reported that Imami committed suicide in the notorious Evin Prison. Imami took all knowledge of the gruesome chain murders to his grave.
– In June of 2003, after the apprehension of a number of college student activists, their families staged a rally outside Evin Prison. Zahra Kazemi, a 55-year-old Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, was arrested while working at the scene. Kazemi spent 18 days in detention and died on July 11th. According to judiciary officials, she fainted, fell, and suffered a brain haemorrhage. Her death was officially announced on July 16th. Kazemi’s death sent a message to anyone seeking to cover news in Iran, and completely eclipsed subject of the college students’ protest.
– Zahra Bani Yaghoub, a 27-year-old medical student at Tehran University, was arrested on October 12, 2007. 48 hours later, her family was told that Yaghoub committed suicide that same night, but they never accepted such claims.
– Mohsen Ruholamini, Mohammad Kamrani and Amir Javadifar were all arrested during the 2009 uprising and transferred to Kahrizak Prison, along with many others. Ruholamini was arrested on July 9th of that year and died six days later during his transfer to Evin Prison. Kamrani, 18, was arrested on the same day near Tehran’s Vali Asr Square and taken to Kahrizak. Following his transfer to Evin Prison he was taken to the capital’s Loghman Hospital and lost his life on July 16th at Mehr Hospital. Javadifar, also arrested on July 9th, died on July 14th. All were said to have committed suicide.
– The journalist Hoda Rezazadeh Saber, aka Hoda Saber, launched a hunger strike on June 2nd, 2011, while behind bars. She was protesting the suspicious death of activist Hale Sahabi at the funeral ceremony of her father, Ezzatollah Sahabi. Saber died on June 11th following her transfer to Tehran’s Modares Hospital. Authorities claimed she died of heart disorder.
– 35 year old laborer, Sattar Beheshti caught the Iranian authorities’ attention via his blogs. He was arrested by Iran’s cyber police, FATA, on October 30, 2012, and accused of staging “measures against national security” through Facebook. Beheshti died four days later. “Following an autopsy on November 5th the forensics said there was no reason for an unnatural death,” said a spokesman for Iran’s judiciary.
– During the recent unrest, Sina Ghanbari was arrested and subsequently died on January 6th, after being transferred to the quarantine section of Evin Prison’s ward 4. “Ghanbari hanged himself early morning after going to the bathroom,” according to Mostafa Mohebi, Director General of Tehran Province prisons. Later, Iranian MP Alireza Rahimi, viewed the “Sina Ghanbari suicide” video, said the footage shows the prison bathroom hours prior to Ghanbari’s death but there was no evidence of his suicide.
– Most recently, the Iranian-Canadian environmental activist and sociology professor Kavous Seyed Emami was arrested on January 24th and announced dead February 8th in prison. Tehran public prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlat Abadi claimed, “This individual was amongst those accused of spying under the cover of environmental work.” Emami’s death received a lot of media coverage, and the Canadian government has twice demanded Iran explain his death. Recent reports on Iranian websites cite an official in the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence who says that Emami was murdered with a high dosage of sodium thiopental in ward 2A of Tehran’s Evin Prison.
The cases outlined above appear suspicious, at the very least. Many are concerned that with so many more dissidents behind bars, we may hear of more“suicides“ in the future.
Efforts to pressure Tehran to release all political prisoners, dissidents and protesters currently behind bars are needed. The Iranian people’s struggle to obtain freedom from this regime and establish democracy needs the international community’s support.