Stricken With Chicken Pox, Political Prisoner Alireza Tavakoli Hunger Strikes for Medical Treatment
Prisoner of conscience Alireza Tavakoli, currently imprisoned in Tehran’s Evin Prison for his social media postings, is hunger striking to be “transferred and treated at a medical center for chickenpox,” a source with knowledge of the case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“They say he has caught chickenpox but he has been put in isolation without proper treatment in an area of the clinic that has no heating,” said the source who requested anonymity to protect their personal security.
“They are refusing to take him to a hospital for treatment,” added the source. “They have only separated him from the rest of the prisoners. He must have contracted the disease from an infected area inside the prison. There should be an investigation.”
Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral infection that causes blisters on the skin. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, headache and malaise. While usually mild, the disease can be serious and lead to complications or death especially in high-risk people.
Tavakoli has been imprisoned since the summer of 2016 for allegedly publishing photos and articles via the Telegram messaging app that were critical of Iran’s political and economic affairs.
Agents of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, which operates under President Hassan Rouhani, arrested Tavakoli and co-defendants Mohammad Mehdi Zamanzadeh and Mohammad Mohajer in Tehran.
In April 2017, they were tried at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Abolqasem Salavati who sentenced all three to 12 years in prison under the charges of “insulting the sacred” (five years), “assembly and collusion against national security” (five years) and “insulting the supreme leader” (two years) in posts on Telegram.
The sentences were later reduced to two and a half years in prison upon appeal, the source told CHRI.
“Reports about the deaths of prisoners in custody have made Alireza more worried that he could also simply die in prison without any official taking responsibility,” said the source.
“He said he does not want to die of chicken pox while he only has a few months left until the completion of his sentence,” added the source. “That’s why he’s hunger striking until they take him to the hospital.”
The death of Vahid Sayyadi-Nasiri in December 2018 after he was transferred from Langroud Prison in Qom where he was being held to Shahid Beheshti Hospital where he died following a prolonged hunger strike has put the spotlight on the importance of Iran’s State Prisons Organization (which is responsible for prisoners) and the judiciary to which it reports immediately addressing the needs of political prisoners in Iran in accordance with Iran’s domestic and international legal obligations.
In addition to political prisoners dying following hunger strikes, some prisoners have reported suffering irreparable harm due to the denial o medical treatment while in state custody.
In August 2017, former political prisoner Alireza Rajaee lost part of his face due to an operation for sinus cancer that was left untreated in Evin Prison.
Three months later, in October 2017, labor activist Mohammad Jarrahi died from thyroid cancer that was left untreated while he was held as a political prisoner in Tabriz Prison. Fellow labor activist Shahrokh Zamani had also died of a heart attack in September 2015 after being denied medical care in Rajaee Shahr Prison.
Political prisoner Omid Kokabee was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer in 2016 after years of repeatedly being denied treatment for his symptoms in Evin Prison.
Multiple prisoners held on politically motivated charges reported being denied medical treatment in 2018 including Narges Mohammadi, Atena Daemi, Golrokh Iraee Ebrahimi, and Arash Sadeghi, Saeed Shirzad, Nizar Zakka, Ahmadreza Djalali and Kamran Ghaderi.