Authorities Ignored Serious Mental Health Condition of Defendant Who Set Herself on Fire Outside Courthouse
A 29-year-old woman who set herself on fire outside a Tehran courthouse was being prosecuted as a “healthy person” despite suffering from a serious mental health condition, her sister told an Iranian state media outlet.
“My sister is bipolar and she has been under doctor’s supervision for the past two years,” an unidentified woman told the Rokna news website on September 4. “We had provided all the documents to the court but she was being prosecuted as a healthy person only because she cursed at the guards.”
The victim—who was being prosecuted for previously trying to enter a stadium in Tehran to watch a men’s soccer match—is currently hospitalized and fighting for her life with severe burns.
Judicial authorities had chosen to prosecute the woman despite being able under Articles 80 and 81 of Iran’s Criminal Procedures Regulations to drop the charges due to her mental health condition.
As a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD), Iran is also obliged to “ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.” But there has been no indication that the victim was given that access.
“The woman came out of the courthouse and while yelling and complaining about something, poured gasoline on herself and set herself on fire,” Rokna reported.
Rokna, which operates in Iran under a license from the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry, did not identify the victim by name.
The woman suffers from the bipolar mental health disorder and the court had previously been informed of her condition, her sister told Rokna.
“Last March , my sister went to Azadi Stadium [in Tehran] and the guards noticed she had gone inside,” said the woman’s sister. “My sister resisted and they arrested her.”
The defendant was also detained at a prison notorious for its inhumane living conditions, according to her sister:
“After being taken to [Gharchak] Prison in Varamin [city], my sister suffered a lot of mental issues and felt terrified,” she said. “She was eventually released on bail and when she went to the courthouse to pick up her phone, something happened and she heard she had to stay in prison for six months.”
“In that poor mental and psychological state, my sister set herself on fire,” she said. “Now she’s in a very bad condition in the hospital.”
The woman was transferred to the Motahhari Hospital where she is currently in the intensive care unit (ICU).
“The patient is a 29-year-old woman who was hospitalized with severe third-degree burns on 90 percent of her body caused by gasoline,” Dr. Mostafa Dehmordehie told Rokna. “She is currently breathing with the assistance of a respirator machine in the ICU section. We are not permitted to give further information.”
Rokna also quoted an unidentified judicial official stating that the woman had been charged with “harming public decency” and “insulting law enforcement agents” for not wearing a hijab, but the report made no mention of the fact that she had been arrested for trying to enter a stadium.
The judicial official said: “On Monday, September 1, the woman appeared in court for the first session of the trial but the judge was on vacation because of a death in his family and another date was scheduled for the trial. But the young woman began to raise objections and after leaving the courthouse, she took the gasoline that she had purchased earlier and poured it on herself and set herself on fire.”
Iran is the only country in the world that bans women from stadiums and has recently been told by FIFA that it must take steps to lift the ban to come into compliance with FIFA statues.
In an interview with the daily “Iran” newspaper on September 5, 2019, the former head of Iran’s Football Federation (1994-97) Dariush Mostafavi condemned the authorities for prosecuting the woman and damaging Iran’s international reputation.
“If I was the head of the federation or the sports minister, I would have appeared in court and tried to convince the judge to let her go. It’s not difficult to do. If you talk to the presiding judge about the importance of football and the current conditions in society, he would be convinced,” he said.
Mostafavi continued: “The National Olympic Committee’s motto is freedom for humanity. What are they going to think about our society If FIFA’s [President Gianni] Infantino and his high-level friends at the Asian Football Confederation find out about this incident? How are they going to react toward our federation? I am willing to go to prison instead of this girl so that she and others like her will not experience such circumstances and prevent our country’s reputation in the world to be damaged.”
*Editor’s Note: This article was edited on September 6, 2019, to include Dariush Mostafavi’s comments.
Read this article in Persian.