Questions remain unresolved concerning the death of blogger Sattar Beheshti, while authorities deny that any hunger strikes have taken place among women in prison. Iran’s Health Minister faces parliamentary scrutiny for the depletion of medical supplies, public executions continue, and international airfares double. A single exchange rate is announced and parliament considers a bill that would require single women under 40 to get permission in order to obtain a passport.
Iran’s Health Minister, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi is on the brink of impeachment by the parliament for the failure of his ministry to plan for the results of sanctions.
Deputy head of Parliament’s Health Committee Hassan Tamini Lichani said:
“Unfortunately at the moment medicine and medical equipment in the country are in great crisis, [and] it can be observed in the shortage of special drugs and the disarray of hospitals.”
The deputy head claimed the Central Bank had allocated “virtually no currency” for the import of medicine.
Referring to a possible call for the minister’s impeachment he continued,
“We are always witness to the increase in the construction budget for different parts of the country, but the government has paid no attention to the domain of health and medicine.”
Hossein Ali Shahriari, the chair of the Health Committe, also criticized the Ministry for failing to plan for this eventuality by stockpiling drugs. Shahriari added that provisions for cancer medicine and medical equipment are facing severe shortages resulting in a 245% rise in prices.
Lawmakers in Iran are considering proposals that will require single women under 40 obtain permission from a father or male guardian in order to obtain a passport or travel outside Iran, digital journal [en] reported.
To date only unmarried women under the age of 18 are required to have male permission in order to obtain a passport, while married women require written permission from their husbands. The irony here is, as Shirin Ebadi has put it, that the age of majority for girls in Iran is just 9. That’s the age when she will be treated as an adult by the criminal justice system. Yet if the bill becomes law, she will require permission for foreign travel from a male guardian until the age of 40.
The Tehran prosecutor recently said that there has not been any hunger strike and it is all a lie by the foreign media. Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh’s husband reacted to this statement in an interview with International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran [fa]:
“The prosecutor can say whatever he wants. The fact is that eight to nine women in the political ward at Evin Prison were on strike for a week to protest against unnecessary and aggressive body cavity searches by guards. My wife is also on hunger strike for over a month now. The prosecutor can ask the head of Expediency Council, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose daughter is in the same prison. She surely will confirm the huger strikes.”
Nasrin Sotoudeh was denied visitation yet again, on the 33rd day of her hunger strike.
Blogger Sattar Beheshti’s death in detention is still unresolved. Among the most recent reactions to Beheshti’s death, Iran-emrooz [fa] published a statement by Iran’s Writers Association. The summary follows:
“One of the main chapters of suppression is the killing of prisoners in detention during interrogation. Iranians, however, are quite familiar with this phenomenon and have not forgotten the conditions of prisons over the past decades. Akbar Mohammadi, Zahra Kazemi, Zahra Bani Yaghoub, Hod Saber, Omid Reza Mirsiafi… and the most recent [victim] is Sattar Beheshti, a labor activist and blogger whose only ‘crime’ was stating his ideas.”
On the 15th of November, a group of United Nations experts urged the government of Iran to undertake a thorough, independent, and impartial investigation of the death in custody of Beheshti, particularly the allegations of torture, and to make the result of such an investigation public. The group of UN independent experts also called for the release of journalists and bloggers who had been imprisoned in contravention of articles 9 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and provide them with effective judicial redress and compensation. They urged Iran “to ensure that freedom of expression and opinion of independent media is guaranteed and that journalists and bloggers can exercise their professions without harassment or persecution.” Interestingly, the preliminary report [fa] prepared by the Parliament’s National Security Commission provided false details on the date of arrest and death. A few MPs criticized the non-transparent report and one said: “We should not bring prisoners into detention vertically and take them out horizontally.”
The head of the Judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, harshly criticized the reaction of pro-government news outlets to this case and called their accusations of the Judiciary “hideous.”
Emadeddin Baghi, a human rights activist and the head of Committee for the Defence of Prisoners’ Rights, published an open letter on his website [fa] addressed to head of the Judiciary and highlighting the importance of the individual rights and dignity. He added that the major disaster after Beheshti’s death was the insensitivity of much of society and the government to such incidents was alarming and warns of a serious “social collapse.”
The Economic Minister announced a single exchange rate for foreign currency to begin as of this week. Mardomak [fa] reports that the new policy is designed to control and stabilize pertinent businesses. Students will also be provided with foreign currency at official exchange rates under this new policy. As a result of the devaluation of Iran’s currency, living costs and tuition fees for students abroad soared drastically over the past few months.
After a sharp increase in domestic airfares last week, international airfares also increased between 105 to 107%. Kalame [fa] predicted that such a significant increase in airfares would lead to a sharp decrease in traveling. Moreover, there are some 3,000 travel agencies currently working in Iran with more than 600,000 employees, all of whom now face major layoffs.
Radiozamaneh [fa] reported on three more public executions last week. This is in addition to the official number of 18 executions in just 10 days. The high execution rate in Iran has always been challenged and criticized by human rights activists and organizations. The Iranian authorities, however, consider their method of punishment for criminals a “domestic affair.” The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, reported that Iranian authorities executed at least 223 people in the first six months of this year, most for drug-related offenses. According to him, about 670 were executed in Iran in 2011. Shaheed highlights that under international standards, drug offenses are not considered capital crimes which are punishable by death.
Do your part to lift the pain of sanctions on Iranian families.
Dear Catherine Ashton:
We, the undersigned, are concerned about the effects the implementation of sanctions are having on average Iranians. We are particularly concerned that items that are not sanctioned, such as medication and humanitarian goods are not reaching the people in Iran.
This is a time of great suffering in the region. We want to ensure that we are not further contributing to the suffering because of the denial of access to a payment channel for humanitarian items. We know the intention of the sanctions is to put pressure on Iran’s ruling elite. We worry that this is not the reality.
The brunt of the suffering falls on women and children and the most vulnerable in society. They suffer the consequences in very real ways. They lose their incomes, their homes, and their access to life-saving medication. Some of this suffering can be alleviated by facilitating the seamless implementation of the existing humanitarian exemptions. These include financial transactions related to medications, basic needs, and other items that are currently not sanctioned.
We ask the European Union to create a payment channel to accept transactions from Iran. This channel should be closely scrutinized. This will allow much needed financial transactions for medications and basic needs to take place.
It is crucial at this time when the people of Iran are desperately trying to make their own voices heard that we show we are listening. They went to the polls in an attempt to show their own government that they wanted reform and better relations with the outside world. We need to show we are listening.
Please help to avert a humanitarian disaster. Allow Iranians access to the international banking system to purchase medications and humanitarian goods.