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Hunger Strike of 27 Kurdish Political Prisoners in Orumiyeh Central Prison

An entrance to Orumiyeh Central Prison

(December 12, 2014) – The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) has received reports regarding the conditions of the thirty Kurdish political prisoners in Orumiyeh Central Prison who commenced a hunger strike on Thursday, November 20, 2014, to protest the transfer of felons to their ward and transfer of several political prisoners to other wards that typically house violent criminals.

Orumiyeh a city in Iran’s western Kurdish region, has been the scene of significant political and civic activism in recent decades. Ward 12 of Orumiyeh Prison, which has a capacity of fifty people, is the ward that typically houses political prisoners, but over the last two years, prison authorities have attempted to bring an end to the policy of keeping a separate prison ward for the political prisoners by transferring some political prisoners to the ward of prisoners convicted of murder and drug offenses and simultaneously transferring some felons and criminals that have a history of involvement in prison fights to Ward 12.

During this period, most new political prisoners at Orumiyeh Central Prison were held in wards other than Ward 12. IHRDC has received reports that roughly 35 political prisoners are being held in wards that typically house dangerous prisoners. According to the latest estimates, at this point eighty prisoners including fifty felons and thirty Kurdish political prisoners are being held in Ward 12. The overcrowding of the ward has exacerbated difficult conditions for many Kurdish political prisoners, who suffer from a result of the lack of fresh air in the prison ward, and poor access to sanitation and health services.

In addition, IHRDC’s sources report that special prison guards occasionally go to Ward 12 and insult the political prisoners while searching the prisoners’ personal affects and confiscating their books, magazines and notes.

The political prisoners in Ward 12 have also been prohibited from using the prison’s library and gym facilities and they are not even afforded the right to receive books and magazines that have been approved by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).

The prison houses a local office of IRI’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOI), and as a result MOI agents frequently summon the political prisoners to their offices for interrogation and threaten them with new charges, transfers to solitary confinement in notorious MOI detention centers and the detention of their relatives.

In protest against the inhumane conditions at Orumiyeh Central Prison, thirty political prisoners in Ward 12 initiated a hunger strike on November 20. At the publication of this article, 27 prisoners were still continuing the hunger strike.

It is alleged that prison authorities have responded to the prisoners’ demands with threats, summonses and transfers to other prison wards. On November 23, the MOI office at Orumiyeh Central Prison summoned Osman Mostafapour, a Kurdish political prisoner who is currently in the twentieth year of 34-year sentence, for interrogation and warned him that he could either end his hunger strike or face new, additional charges.

IHRDC has also learned that prison guards equipped with batons and tasers assembled around the doors and windows of Ward 12 on the morning of Saturday, November 29. Once the guards had assembled, it is reported that the prison’s warden warned prisoners that if they did not end their hunger strike the guards would attack and beat them. On the same day, these prisoners were insulted by prison guards and strip-searched before meeting their relatives; prison authorities justified these actions on the grounds that they were searching for letters.

Later that day, Mansour Arwand, a Kurdish political prisoner on death row, was transferred to Mahabad Prison without prior notice in retaliation for participation in a meeting held by the prisoners. That evening, prison authorities also attempted to transfer Mohammad Abdullahi to the ward of the prison that typically houses murderers, but they were faced with the vocal resistance of many political prisoners.

On Tuesday, December 9, Ali Afshari, a Kurdish political prisoner on hunger strike was summoned to the prison guards’ office and spoke by phone with the local MOI office in Orumiyeh, where he was allegedly told that the prisoners would face “the worst consequences” if they did not put an end to their hunger strike as soon as possible. The MOI official also reportedly told Afshari that he could expect execution if he chose to continue his hunger strike.

Also on December 9, Jafar Afshari, another Kurdish political prisoner, was summoned to the office of the prison guards and was transferred to the workers’ ward and Arafat Asgeri and Jafar Mirzayi, two political prisoners in hunger strike were released after completing their six-month sentences.

On 10 December, Ali Afshari became unconscious in the public bathroom of his ward as a result of severe weakness, low blood pressure, problems breathing and the consequences of the bullet that had remained in his body from when he was arrested. The same day, Massoud Shemsnejad, a Kurdish lawyer, began a hunger strike to protest his detention in the workers’ ward of Orumiyeh Central Prison and the prison authorities’ decision not to grant him any days of furlough. Shamsnejad had previously been sentenced to four months in prison on charges of contact with foreign media and membership in opposition groups. He previously served as the lawyer of several Kurdish political prisoners that were sentenced to execution.

According to the latest reports Reza Rasouli, Yusef Kaka Mami, Sherko Hasanpour, Sirwan Najawi, Abdullah Omumi and Mohammad Abdollahi are in critical condition as a result of the hunger strike.

At the publication of this article, 27 Kurdish political prisoners remain on a hunger strike in Orumiyeh Central Prison. The names some of those who have participated in the hunger strike are:

1. Masoud Shams Nejad, sentenced to four months’ imprisonment;

2. Sherko Hasan Pour, sentenced to five years’ imprisonment;

3. Abdullah Bislnun, sentenced to one-and-a-half years’ imprisonment;

4. Yusef Kaka Mami, sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment;

5. Osman Mostafa Pour, sentenced to 34 years’ imprisonment;

6. Mostafa Ali Ahmad, sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment;

7. Abdullah Omumi, in an undecided situation,

8. Wali Afshari, sentenced to five years’ imprisonment;

9. Kayhan Darwishi, sentence to three years’ imprisonment;

10. Mostafa Dawoudi, sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment;

11. Shursh Afshari, sentenced to five years’ imprisonment;

12. Khezr Rasul Merwat sentenced to five years’ imprisonment;

13. Mohammad Abdullah Bakht, sentenced to one year of imprisonment;

14. Amir Molladust, sentenced to four years’ imprisonment;

15. Ahmad Tamuy, sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment;

16. Jafar Afshari, sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment;

17. Reza Rasouli, sentenced to 3 years and 9 months’ imprisonment.

In addition to these seventeen, ten of the prisoners on hunger strike are currently awaiting the death penalty. Their names are:

1. Sami Hosseini;

2. Jamal Mohamadi;

3. Behruz Alkhani;

4. Ali Ahmad Soleiman;

5. Saman Nasim;

6. Sirwan Najawi;

7. Ebrahim Eis Pour;

8. Ali Afshari;

9. Rezgar Afshari;

10. Mohammad Abdullahi.

The reports on the situation in Orumiyeh Central Prison point to violations of the IRI’s international treaty obligations and its own constitution. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory, prohibits torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment of prisoners. It is alleged that degrading treatment is routine, and the prison authorities’ threats against prisoners on hunger strike are also cause for concern. Article 10 of the ICCPR requires that prisoners be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity. In similar words, Article 39 of the IRI Consitution prohibits offenses to the dignity of detained persons.