COVID-19 weaponised against Iranian political prisoners: daughter of detainee

By Khazan Jangiz

The daughter of a dual German-Iranian national held in Iran says COVID-19 is potentially being weaponised against political prisoners, with her mother’s condition worsening and authorities refusing to grant her medical furlough.

“Unfortunately, we have not yet had any success for getting medical furlough for my mother Nahid Taghavi. This is a game for time on the part of authorities,” Mariam Claren tweeted on Sunday.

“The behavior of authorities [sic] irresponsible. You might think the virus is being used as a weapon against the political prisoners.”

Taghavi’s condition “has worsened” and the prison doctor has confirmed that she is in need of immediate medical treatment outside of prison due to her diabetes, Claren added.

Taghavi, in her 60s, was arrested at her Tehran apartment on October 16 last year.

The Iran-born architect, who has held German citizenship since 2003, had her passport and German identity card confiscated and is being used as a “political bargaining chip,” according to the Germany-based International Society for Human Rights (IGFM).

“Ms. Taghavi was previously transferred to quarantine along with several prisoners with symptoms after receiving a positive COVID test. Despite the widespread prevalence of COVID-19 among inmates in the women’s ward of Evin Prison, Ms. Taghavi has not been approved for medical leave,” the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), which focuses on human rights violations in Iran, reported last week.

Another prisoner, Narges Adib, who suffers from a number of health issues, is also facing a similar situation.

Taghavi tested positive for COVID-19 last month, along with another prisoner Maryam Samghani, according to HRANA.

Iran has previously denied medical care for prisoners who have contracted the coronavirus, including Kurdish political prisoner Zeinab Jalalian and dual British-Iranian national Anoosheh Ashoori.

In January, Amnesty International called on supporters to send a letter to Ebrahim Raisi, the head of Iran’s judiciary and the current president-elect of Iran, calling to “immediately and unconditionally release Nahid Taghavi as she is a prisoner of conscience detained solely in connection with her peacefully exercising her rights to freedom of expression and association.”

The letter called for “regular access to a lawyer of her choosing and family, as well as to any health care she needs, including medication and transfer to outside facilities for treatment unavailable in prison, and ensure that she is granted access to consular assistance from the German authorities.”

Amnesty at the time warned that “the spread of COVID-19 in Iran’s prisons puts her at heightened risk of severe illness or death due her age and medical conditions.”

Raisi is hardline judge with a record of human rights abuses including a role in 1988 prison massacres. International monitors are concerned that human rights could further erode as he takes office on August 5.

Iran’s detention of dual nationals from various countries in Iran have multiplied since former US president Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the United States from a nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposed harsh sanctions against Tehran.

Campaigners say the act is a policy of hostage-taking aimed at pressuring the West. Iran has conducted several exchanges of foreign prisoners, including researchers, with countries holding Iranian nationals.