By Staff Writer
Iran has sentenced a female prisoner of conscience to 148 lashes for speaking out about poor living conditions in Gharchak Prison, including the denial of medical treatment.
Elham Ahmadi, a member of the Sufi Gonabadi religious minority, was accused of “publishing falsehoods” and “insulting agents carrying out their duties” based on a lawsuit brought by the head of the prison, Mehdi Mohammadi, for telling a website that a fellow inmate at the prison in Varamin, south of Tehran, was not being given proper medical care.
Shahnaz Kianasl, an imprisoned Sufi Gonabadi, was suffering from internal bleeding but receiving no medical attention whilst in the medical clinic in Gharchak Prison at the time that Ahmadi gave a phone interview about the unsuitable conditions. Kianasl was eventually transferred to an external hospital for treatment.
According to a source close to Ahmadi, who wished not be identified because of fear of reprisals, Mohammadi then threatened to sue her for disclosing prison secrets because this revelation had angered him so.
The United Nations has declared flogging to be a cruel and inhuman punishment tantamount to torture.
Ahmadi was already serving a two-year prison sentence. She was arrested in Tehran on February 20, 2018, following a violent confrontation between police and the Sufis. The Sufis had been peacefully protesting to demand the release of one of their flock from prison and the end to the house arrest of their faith’s leader, Nour Ali Tabandeh. Then, the police tried to violently break the protest up, leading the Sufis to defend themselves.
Ahmadi’s husband, Jafar, was arrested the day before his wife on the first day of the confrontations. He is serving seven years in the Great Tehran Penitentiary (GTP).
Their 16-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son were originally be cared for by a grandmother, but after she became too sick, they were sent to live with a fellow female dervish, Masoumeh Barakouhi. The children have only seen their mother twice in the past year, despite Iranian prison rules allowing one visit per month.
The source said: “Each prisoner has the right to receive one visit in person per month but since their detention, the Sufi women have only had two family visits, once in April and another in August.”
Five women belonging to the Sufi order are currently being serving sentences of between one and two years at Gharchak Prison on charges related to the February 2018 protests. These women are Ahmadi, Shekoufeh Yadollahi, Sima Entesari, Shima Entesari and Sepideh Moradi.
There are several more Sufi prisoners who have since been released on bail and are awaiting trial.