London, 10 Sep – Iran’s seven-month jailing of seven Dervish women under harsh conditions near Tehran is in violation of national prison regulations, according to an exiled Iranian Dervish rights activist, Alireza Roshan.
The Turkey-based member of Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish religious minority said in an interview on Tuesday, “The situation of the women in Qarchak prison is appalling.”
Roshan is a writer and poet, as well as an editor of Majzooban Noor, a news outlet that covers Iran’s Dervish community. He added, “The Dervish women are weak physically after having been beaten before and after their transfer to the prison. But prison officials are not allowing them to receive needed medical treatment.”
When several hundred Dervishes were arrested by Iranian security forces in February for involvement in anti-government protests in Tehran, the women were among the detainees.
Roshan wrote an article that was published on Thursday by the Iran Human Rights (IHR) based in Norway. He said the treatment of the jailed women violates Iran’s Prisons Organization Regulations, published online in May 2015, in several ways.
• He calls out Qarchak prison’s denial of the Dervish women’s access to medical treatment and medically necessary special food one such violation. Denials like this have also been reported by Britain-based rights group Amnesty International. They published a report in May saying, “doctors at the prison … are routinely dismissing the women’s complaints of pain and discomfort as ‘fake’ while refusing to prescribe them medication on a timely basis or carry out thorough diagnostic tests.”
Iran’s own prison regulations state that in “urgent cases, a prisoner shall be dispatched to a hospital upon the order of a physician or prison doctor and with the permission of the head of the prison or his successor.” They also allow prisoners who need a special diet for medical reasons to be given the food as prescribed by a doctor.
• Other alleged violations of Iran’s prison regulations include inappropriately jailing the highly educated Dervish women in wards with inmates accused of murder, theft and drug offenses. The Dervish women are also housed in an unsanitary prison converted from an industrial chicken farm. They are handcuffed while in transit outside of prison, although handcuffs only are required for inmates who pose a risk of physically harming themselves or others.
• Iran also is violating a 2006 temporary detention ordinance that says defendants who have yet to be convicted of crimes can use personal belongings such as mobile phones and computers, according to Roshan, who adds that some of the jailed Dervish women have been barred from making phone calls, yet have not been charged with any crimes.
Iranian state media has not officially commented on the treatment of the Dervish women in prison. Meanwhile, Dervishes involved in the February protests have been demanding the release of members of their community and the removal of security checkpoints around the house of their 90-year-old leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh.
There is a long history of complaints by members of the Sufi Muslim religious sect, who are viewed as heretics, and suffer harassment under Iran’s Shiite Islamist rulers.