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Infant Sons of Two Bahá'í Mothers Imprisoned in Semnan Facing Medical Complications

(3 January 2013) – The infants of two Bahá'í mothers imprisoned in Semnan in Iran have been transferred to hospital due to serious health issues. According to reports received by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), Barman Ehsani, the five-month-old son of Taraneh Torabi, is suffering from an intestinal infection. Rasam Tebianian, the 11-month-old son of Zohreh Nikayin, has been hospitalized due to an ear infection. The prison authorities had repeatedly denied Ms. Nikayin’s request to take her son to a medical facility.  

Denying medical care to children, as well as subjecting children to the unsanitary conditions of Semnan prison are clear violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is a party to this convention, albeit with reservations.  Article 3, paragraph 3 of this Convention declares, “States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.”

In addition, Article 24, paragraph1 states, “States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.”

Zohreh Nikayin and Taraneh Torabi and their children have been in Semnan prison since September.

Ms. Nikayin and Ms. Torabi were first arrested on March 12, 2011. Ms. Nikayin was sentenced to seven years in prison on the charges of “organizing an illegal group with the goal of aiding the Islamic Republic’s enemies”, “membership in an illegal organization”, and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”

 Ms. Torabi was charged with “organizing an illegal group with the goal of aiding the Islamic Republic’s enemies”, “membership in an illegal organization with the goal of attracting Muslims and preaching against the Islamic Republic in the interest of foreigners”, and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”. Ms. Torabi was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months imprisonment.

The appeals court reduced Ms. Nikayin’s and Ms. Torabi’s sentences to 23 months and 20 months, respectively. These two women were among a group of individuals arrested for organizing Bahá’í children’s classes.

In addition, Erfan Ehsani, Taraneh Torabi’s husband, is also serving a one-year sentence in Semnan. His arrest, which involved security officials entering their home in an abrupt manner, caused Ms. Torabi—who was pregnant with her son at the time—to have a premature delivery.

A third Bahá’í mother, Mona Majidi, is also held at Semnan prison along with her 9-month-old child. She is serving a six-month sentence. 

Small children frequently accompany their incarcerated mothers and guardians in the IRI’s prisons.  Many suffer from inadequate facilities for children while in detention—some of which has lasting mental and physical consequences.  IHRDC has documented many such cases, including those dating back to the 1980s