Dangerous Deterioration in Health of Opposition Leader Held under House Arrest Since 2011
Conditions Harshened for 82-year-old Mehdi Karroubi After He Criticized Supreme Leader
After more than nine years under extrajudicial house arrest, the health of Iran’s 82-year-old opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, is deteriorating dramatically, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned from Karroubi’s family members.
The former presidential candidate’s decline has accelerated since the conditions of his house arrest were tightened for criticizing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in January 2020.
“On April 25 , father lost consciousness and fell after bathing,” Karroubi’s son, Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, told CHRI on June 14, 2020. “A doctor from the Intelligence Ministry and emergency medics arrived and connected him to oxygen. After a long delay, he was transferred to the hospital for some tests and then returned home.
“Before the incident, father used to walk around a small space in the house for an hour every day. But now it has become very difficult for him to walk; he needs help from others. He has also fallen from the steps on two occasions and on one of them he suffered a hairline fracture in his arm. Physically he’s become very weak.
“Despite his advanced age…he used to be healthy and sprightly until he was put under house arrest for all these years. He has had a few operations, too, and has been put under more pressure. Naturally these things wear you down.”
Since February 2011, Mehdi Karroubi, fellow opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and Green Movement activist Zahra Rahnavard (who is also Mousavi’s wife) have been under house arrest—without being formally charged or tried—for their role in leading mass demonstrations to protest the widely disputed outcome of the 2009 presidential election. Karroubi and Mousavi were presidential candidates in that election.
“Father’s spirit is very high, as he demonstrated in the last frank words he expressed to Mr. Khamenei,” Karroubi’s son added. “But his body cannot withstand these worsening conditions any longer and we cannot do anything about it. This is the way the regime has decided to behave.”
Mohammad Taghi Karroubi was referring to his father’s letter on January 11, 2020, in which he held Iran’s Supreme Leader responsible for the crash of the Ukrainian passenger plane that was shot down by missiles fired by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), killing all 176 people aboard the plane—an act that the Guards admitted only after three days of public denials.
“If you were aware of what had happened and consciously permitted military, security and public relations officials to deceive the people, that would be very bad because it would mean you have none of the qualifications and character traits to lead the country according to the Constitution,” Karroubi wrote.
“Pray tell, what kind of commander-in-chief are you to allow those under your command to play with the country’s [security] in such a way? It is obvious you lack the necessary wisdom, courage, management skills and power to be a leader.”
After the letter was published, new restrictions were imposed on the opposition leader.
“When father wrote that letter to Mr. Khamenei about the Ukrainian plane crash, things became much worse… Close relatives can no longer visit him. His children are not allowed to see him for more than an hour a week. Access to news and newspapers and satellite news channels have been cut,” Mohammad Taghi said.
“There are even hardline and radical conservatives who believe that the house arrests must end. I know some of them. But it seems like the country’s ruler is treating this as a personal matter. Nobody knows how long this situation will continue but him.
“The security establishment is very harsh but they don’t make the decisions. The judiciary has no authority either. They could have held a trial and sentenced them to 10 years in prison and let them go free at the end of their term, for instance. But nobody knows when the house arrests will end… It’s up to Mr. Khamenei. He isn’t letting go.”