Amnesty: Prisoners killed by Iran’s security forces during coronavirus protests

Dozens of Iranian prisoners are feared to have been killed by security forces after brutal force was used to put down protests over coronavirus fears. (File/Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 09 April 2020

Amnesty: Prisoners killed by Iran’s security forces during coronavirus protests

  • The protests were lethally repressed by prison officers and security officers, leading to the deaths
  • Authorities responded to demonstrations with live ammunition and tear gas, killing some 35 inmates and wounding hundreds of others

LONDON: Dozens of Iranian prisoners are feared to have been killed by security forces after brutal force was used to put down protests over fears related to coronavirus spreading in the country’s jails.
Thousands of inmates in at least eight Iranian prisons have recently taken part in protests as they fear being infected with COVID-19 in jails that are overcrowded, lack hygiene and have poor ventilation, Amnesty International reported on Thursday.
The protests were lethally repressed by prison officers and security officers, leading to the deaths.
Amnesty said in a press release that authorities responded with live ammunition and tear gas, killing some 35 inmates and wounding hundreds of others.
It added that security forces beat protesters in at least one prison, “possibly leading to the death of an inmate.”
Amnesty told Arab News: “Many of Iran’s prisons have unacceptable detention conditions, including overcrowding, poor ventilation, limited hot water, inadequate food, insufficient beds and insect infestations.
“They can therefore be highly susceptible to viral outbreaks. There is also often a lack access for prisoners to prompt medical assistance, medicines, adequate medical facilities, and hygiene and sanitary products.”
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, called the Iranian authorities’ response to the prison demonstrations “abhorrent,” and said “an independent investigation into the torture and deaths in custody is urgently needed.”
She added: “It is abhorrent that instead of responding to prisoners’ legitimate demands to be protected from COVID-19, Iranian authorities have yet again resorted to killing people to silence their concerns.
“Security forces must be instructed to immediately cease the use of unlawful lethal force, and to refrain from punishing prisoners calling for their right to health.”
Amnesty told Arab News: “We have seen reports that prisoners who have displayed COVID-19 symptoms are not being tested and are often being treated in the medical care facilities of prisons, which do not have specialist facilities to deal with the virus.”
It said although the authorities have announced inmates being released, prisoners of conscience remain jailed and are treated with contempt.
“Hundreds of prisoners of conscience, including human rights lawyers, workers’ rights activists, anti-death penalty campaigners and those jailed simply for their religious beliefs … are languishing in prison solely for peacefully exercising their rights,” Amnesty added.
“Some have health issues which they have either developed in prison or which have exacerbated in detention. Many of them have been denied adequate health care because the Iranian authorities routinely deny access to adequate medical care as a secondary punishment to these individuals.”
Amnesty urged the authorities to release prisoners of conscience, along with people in pre-trial detention and those most at risk from the virus.
Iran, one of the countries worst-hit by the pandemic, on Thursday reported 117 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 4,110. It also declared 1,634 new cases of the virus, taking the total number of cases to 66,220.
The country’s real figures are believed to be much higher. There have also been reports of several prison riots and jail breaks in Iran in recent weeks.


From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

Updated 01 June 2020

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

  • Doors open again after virus lockdown
  • Internal flights resume from Saudi airports

JEDDAH/AMMAN: It began at dawn. As the first light appeared on the horizon and the call to Fajr prayer rang out, Muslims from Riyadh to Madinah and Jeddah to Jerusalem returned to their mosques on Sunday after a two-month break that for many was unbearable.

More than 90,000 mosques throughout Saudi Arabia were deep cleaned and sanitized in preparation for the end of the coronavirus lockdown. Worshippers wore face masks, kept a minimum of two meters apart, brought their own prayer mats and performed the ablution ritual at home.

“My feelings are indescribable. We are so happy. Thank God we are back in His house,” said Abdulrahman, 45, at Al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh, where worshippers had their temperatures checked before entering.

Television screens inside the mosque displayed written instructions, including the need to maintain a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Jerusalem, at 3:30 a.m. thousands crowded outside three gates assigned to be opened to allow Muslims to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque. Young and old, men and women, many with their phone cameras on, chanted religious songs as they waited to return for the first time since the virus lockdown began.

“Those wishing to pray were checked for their temperature and those without a mask were given one by Waqf staff. All were asked to stay a safe distance from each other when they prayed,” Mazen Sinokrot, a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News.

Wasfi Kailani executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque told Arab News that enabling Muslims to pray in large numbers and according to health requirements had gone smoothly.

“People cooperated with the local Muslim authorities and followed the regulations.” The people of Jerusalem had shown a high degree of responsibility, he said.

Israeli police spokesman Miky Rosenfeld told Arab News that extra police units had been  mobilized in the old city of Jerusalem for the reopening of Al-Aqsa. 

“People arrived in the areas scheduled according to health and security guidelines,” he said.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Minister for Jerusalem in the Ismael Haniyeh government in 2006, said people were happy to be able to pray once more at Islam’s third-holiest site.

“It is time to open a new page in cooperation with local institutions and with Jordan to regain all that has been lost over the years,” he told Arab News.

“The Waqf council has done a good job in dealing with the contradictions and pressures that they are under, which is like walking on a knife’s edge as they deal with the occupiers on the one hand and the health situation on the other, while also trying to be responsive to the desires of worshippers.”

Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, commercial flights took to the air again, office staff returned to work and restaurants resumed serving diners as life began a gradual return to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.

Eleven of the Kingdom’s 28 airports opened on Sunday for the first time since March 21. “The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowds inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” civil aviation spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.

No one without an e-ticket will be allowed into an airport, face masks must be worn and safe distancing observed, and children under 15 may not travel unaccompanied.