In an urgent letter to a United Nations human rights official, jailed Iranian journalist Issa Saharkhiz has accused Iranian authorities of using harsh prison conditions to slowly kill political prisoners.
“What is happening now in the Islamic Republic prisons is a crime against humanity and has nothing less than Stalin’s inhumane treatment of prisoners in the forced labour camps of Siberia,” Saharkhiz wrote to Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Human Rights Rapporteur on Iran. The letter was posted on the personal website of Mehdi Saharkhiz, the jailed journalist’s son.
Saharkhiz writes that political prisoners are not the sole target of this policy, and the situation for general prisoners is “no less disastrous.”
Saharkhiz warns that the objective of the Iranian authorities is “to kill the protesting prisoners silently and gradually.”
Referring to the death of two political prisoners, Hoda Saber and Mohsen Dokmehchi, he writes: “They are deliberately trying to destroy us and have prepared a silent death for us because they fear our survival even behind bars.”
Reza Hoda Saber, a Nationalist-religious political activist and journalist died 10 days into his hunger strike; it was in protest of the death of Haleh Sahabi, a fellow political prisoner. She died when security forces descended upon her father’s funeral. Hoda Saber’s fellow inmates have declared that he was beaten by prison authorities eight days into his hunger strike.
Mohsen Dokmehchi, an Iranian businessman, was also arrested in the post-election protests of 2009 and sentenced to 10 years in prison and exile to Rejaishahr Prison in Karaj. He died last March from pancreatic cancer. He had been charged with supporting the exiled dissident group People’s Mojahedin of Iran organization and lending financial support to the families of political prisoners.
Saharkhiz adds that the prison situation is so dire that “other disastrous events” could come at any moment. He urges Shaheed to act immediately to inform the public of the prisoners’ plight, stressing that any delay will only result in more deaths.
Issa Saharkhiz is a prominent Iranian journalist and one of the founders of Society for the Defense of Press Freedom in Iran. He was arrested in July of 2009 and sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting the leader and the regime.” He is also banned from political and media activities for five years and prohibited from leaving the country for a year.
He is currently at Rejaishahr Prison and while he suffers from severe health problems, he has not been allowed any temporary leaves.