Jailed Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi, in a letter written from her cell, has reported a surge in incidents of physical harassment and beatings of female political prisoners in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison over the past three months.
Her letter, published on Thursday on the Middle East Matters Instagram page, details how women and girls recently sent to prison have shown signs of being “bruised and beaten, with their heads, faces and bodies showing signs of violence”.
Mohammadi mentioned in the letter that a 70-year-old woman who had been severely beaten on the night of her arrest still had visible signs of the assault 25 days later when she was released on bail. The letter also highlighted other cases, such as a 20-year-old girl who suffered broken ribs after being beaten by security forces in the street, and another girl who suffered damage to her cheekbone and visible bruising on her arms and hands.
According to Mohammadi, the fear of intimidation associated with their cases and the severe attacks on their families by security forces have made female prisoners reluctant to speak out. She denounced the physical violence against women protesters as “horrific and deadly”, and described it as a “systematic” strategy aimed at intimidation and terror. Mohammadi warned of dire consequences if these actions continued.
The imprisoned activist called on international bodies to prevent the escalation and continuation of lethal violence by government forces against women protesters. Addressing the government of the Islamic Republic directly, Mohammadi said that increased violence and repression would not weaken the public’s determination to move away from an authoritarian religious system. On the contrary, she stressed that such actions would only lead them to seek alternative ways.
Anniversary of protests triggers intensified crackdown on dissent
Mohammadi’s letter came as the Iranian government’s crackdown on dissent and women’s rights activists intensified in the wake of the anniversary of the nationwide Jin, Jiyan, Azadî (Woman Life Freedom) protests. The protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini in police custody in September.
In the latest example of the crackdown, Iranian security forces arrested 11 citizens, including prominent women’s rights activists, in Gilan province on Wednesday, Iran International reported. The reasons for the arrests remain unknown and no information has been released on the detainees’ welfare.
In recent weeks, many university students in Iran have reported receiving anonymous threats and summonses from security agencies. Families of people killed in the uprisings have also recently reported similar intimidation tactics.
Mohammadi herself received an additional one-year sentence on 4 August for ‘propaganda activities’ based on her public communications to BBC World exposing sexual violence against female prisoners. She was originally sentenced to 15 months in prison in October 2022 for encouraging people to take part in anti-war protests.