Iran: Women’s rights activist Atena Daemi, in critical health

Post of 29-5-2017

The health of Iranian women’s rights activist, Atena Daemi, has sharply deteriorated. After 46 days on hunger strike, she is critically ill and her body has started rejecting water. Despite doctors’ warnings, the authorities are still refusing to transfer her to a hospital outside prison for specialist medical care. She is a prisoner of conscience.

Authorities must allow access to proper medical care for jailed woman human rights defender Atena Daemi, who has been on hunger strike in Evin prison in Iran for over 50 days. She began the hunger strike on 08 April 2017 and is in such poor health that her body has not been able to accept water. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) further calls for Daemi to be freed immediately as her charges are a direct result of her work protesting human rights violations and as such are in violation of her right to free expression.

Amnesty International recently reported that authorities refused to allow Daemi to remain in hospital, so if she needs medical care, she is taken to the prison clinic and then is returned to her cell. “According to her family, she has been coughing up blood and has experienced nausea, vomiting, kidney pain, severe weight loss, and blood pressure fluctuations,” reports Amnesty. After losing consciousness on 08 May, she was briefly transferred to hospital, where doctors diagnosed a kidney infection, and then was returned to prison. Since 20 May, she was reportedly drinking water mixed with a local anaesthetic to help her body retain the fluid.

Daemi’s mother, Masoumeh Nemati, wrote an open letter after visiting her daughter in prison on 16 April, which was published by the Center for Human Rights in Iran. “I am turning to the world, international organisations, defenders of children and human rights and all the media to be the voice of my Atena,” she wrote, noting that the May elections in Iran were obscuring news of Daemi’s case. “My daughter’s life is in danger,” she said.

Daemi is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison based on charges of “insulting the supreme leader,” “insulting state officials,” “spreading lies,” “resisting arrest” and “assaulting the arresting agent.” The latter charge contradicts witness testimonies.

She had been released from prison on bail pending appeal, but was violently re-arrested on 26 November 2016. She filed a complaint against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) for using excessive force – including pepper spray – on her and her family during the arrest, which was carried out without a summons.

On 13 March, Atena Daemi and her sisters Hanieh and Ensieh were sentenced by the Quds Criminal Court to three months and one day in prison for “insulting public officers on duty,” but the sentence was suspended for the two sisters. The three sisters appealed the case at Branch 48 of the Court of Appeal in Tehran on 27 May.

Daemi reportedly began the hunger strike in prison to protest the sentences her sisters received. “I would rather die than be a slave to tyranny,” she wrote in a letter to judicial authorities.

Previously, in relation to the case for which she is now serving seven years in prison, Daemi was released on bail on 15 February 2016 pending appeal. She had been in jail for almost 16 months since her arrest on 21 October 2014 in connection with her human rights work, and was sentenced to 14 years in prison during a brief trial on 14 May 2015. After appeal proceedings on 29 September 2016, the court reduced her punishment on the charge of “insulting the Supreme Leader” from three to two years and the charge of “assembly and collusion against national security” from seven to five years.

Her previous arrest was based on allegedly meeting families of political prisoners, criticising the Islamic Republic on Facebook, and condemning the state’s massacre of political prisoners in 1988. Daemi is well known for her human rights work focused on advocating for the rights of children in Kobane and Gaza, as well as advocating for women’s rights. She was also very vocal in her criticism against capital punishment. See:

GCHR urges the Iranian Revolutionary Court to:

Immediately and unconditionally free Atena Daemi and allow her immediate access to the hospital;
Investigate the use of excessive force used against Atena Daemi and her sisters, during her arrest in November 2016, and overturn the sentences related to this arrest against the three sisters;
Overturn the sentences against Atena Daemi related to her human rights work, and in violation of her right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and
Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

The GCHR respectfully reminds the Iranian government that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, to freely publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

Source: Gulf Center of Human Rights – 29-5-2017