Iran Authorities Won’t Explain Why Teachers’ Rights Activist is Being Held Incommunicado in Mental Hospital
Iranian authorities have refused to allow the family of a teacher’s rights activist any access to him or provide them with any information about his condition or case after he was arrested and admitted to a psychiatric hospital, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
A close friend of Hashem Khastar told CHRI that the activist has no history of mental illness. It’s also unclear whether Khastar was admitted to the mental hospital against his will after being arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Intelligence Organization.
According to Article 3 of Iran’s Guidelines for Mental Rehabilitation Centers for Acute Mental Patients, “If the patient has not been diagnosed as mentally disabled by the Medical Board or a judicial body, his/her consent is necessary to be admitted for treatment.”
However, Iranian law gives security forces and the judiciary the upper hand in all legal cases involving activists and other individuals targeted by Iran’s security establishment. It is also not known whether Khastar has been given access to a lawyer.
Khastar, a retired teacher and member of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA), went missing in Mashhad, the capital of Khorasan Razavi Province, on October 23, 2018. He has a history of being arrested for engaging in peaceful activism.
Independent unions are not allowed to operate in Iran and labor rights activists who attempt to organize workers and bargain collectively are prosecuted under national security charges and sentenced to long prison sentences.
Fears of Coerced Confession of Worse
After frantically searching for him, Khastar’s family finally located the hospital where he is being held but the authorities have refused to inform them about the reason for his arrest, hospitalization or condition.
“When we went to judicial offices to look for him, they told us they don’t know anything and we would be contacted within 24 hours if there was any information,” Khastar’s friend, Javad La’l-Mohammadi, told CHRI.
“Then, on the morning of [October 24] we got a call from the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization and they told us he had been transferred to a psychiatric hospital for a mental disorder,” he added. “They didn’t say the name of the hospital and hung up.”
La’l-Mohammadi continued: “We went looking for Mr. Khastar along with his wife and after a thousand twists and turns, we found the hospital [Ibn-e Sina and Dr. Hejazi Psychiatry Hospital] and discovered he had been admitted to the wing for acute patients. They told us the prosecutor had banned any visitation. We asked about his physical health and why he had been hospitalized in a mental facility but they didn’t give us any answers. We talked to the head of the hospital and he didn’t tell us anything either and against his Hippocratic Oath, he ordered the security guards to take me and Mr. Khastar’s wife and son out of the building. We are still wondering why he’s in a mental hospital.”
La’l-Mohammadi added: “His family and I, as people who know him, can attest that he has no history of mental illness or treatment at a psychiatric facility and has never taken any prescription medication. We don’t know what happened that led to his hospitalization in a ward for acute mental patients and the authorities are not talking.”
La’l-Mohammadi also told CHRI that the family fears that Khastar could be coerced to make false statements and that they fear for his life after learning that an activist in Tehran was found dead in his car this month.
“Were they trying to extract confessions? Did they beat him up? Anything he says under such circumstances has no validity but what worries us is that this may be part of a plan to intimidate opponents… like the gruesome murder of Mr. Farshid Hakki,” he said.
Hakki was a prominent activist whose charred corpse was found in the trunk of his car near his home in Tehran on October 17.
Khastar was arrested 10 days after teachers in several cities across Iran participated in a peaceful sit-in protest to demand a reformation of Iran’s education system and the release of teachers’ rights advocates.