Just days after International Women’s Day, Amnesty International has revealed that two jailed female human rights defenders in Iran are being subjected to brutal treatment in the Shahr-e Rey prison, in Varamin, just outside of Tehran.As such, Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Atena Daemi and Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee,

who were imprisoned for defending women’s rights and opposing the death penalty.

The pair are being held in unsanitary conditions on the quarantine ward on the prison, with only restricted access to the outside world. The people held in this section are given inadequate food and intentionally salted water.

Ebrahimi Iraee is now in poor health, after being on hunger strike for 35 days, suffering from severe muscle cramps and being at times unable to move. She was recently placed on IV fluids without her consent.Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “We are extremely alarmed by reports from Shahr-e Rey prison about the targeting and escalating ill-treatment of Golrokh and Atena. They should never have been imprisoned in the first place, and now it seems the Iranian authorities are deliberately subjecting them to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment because of their outspoken activism and continued human rights work even behind bars.”

The women’s lawyer has even lodged an official complaint with Tehran’s prosecutor, arguing that moving the women to this prison was illegal and has placed them in danger, as it houses women convicted of serious violent crimes.

While they have yet to respond to the complaint directly, the prison’s prosecutor and associate prosecutor claimed to have carried out their orders and that they “do not care” about the legality of those orders.

What have these women been convicted of?

Both women are political prisoners. Daemi is a human rights activist who distributed material opposing the death penalty both in person and online, while Ebrahimi Iraee wrote a fictional story about the practice of stoning that was unpublished and only found during a search of her home.

Luther said: “The sentences handed down to Atena and Golrokh beggar belief. The Iranian authorities must release them immediately and unconditionally. Instead of punishing those who dedicate their lives to the cause of human rights in Iran, the authorities should start working to ensure human rights defenders are able to operate in a safe environment, free from fear or reprisals.”

Other instances of human rights abuses

Of course, the lack of appropriate food, water, and prison, is not the only thing that is troubling in the cases of Daemi and Ebrahimi Iraee. The other abuses that they have suffered in the past few weeks include:

• Not being allowed to use the phone to stay in contact with their families, except in the presence of a male prison guard

• Fellow prisoners being told not to speak to them

• Death-row inmates being instructed to intimidate them by following them everywhere, even to the bathroom

• Prevented from changing clothes

This does not even take into account the other conditions that affect all women at Shahr-e Rey prison, which fall far short of the minimum standard for prisoners, like urine-stained floors, filthy showers and bathroom facilities, a severe shortage of beds and the prevalence of contagious diseases.

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