By Jubin Katiraie
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Iran’s Ardabil prison is endangering the lives of prisoners because the government is failing to take basic precautions to slow the spread.
On Wednesday, April 22, one prisoner was taken to Khomeini Hospital with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. He had been taken to the prison’s clinic two days prior with the same symptoms, but was only checked for fever, given basic medication, and returned to his support alongside inmates who were not sick.
On Monday, April 20, a prisoner from ward 14 was taken to hospital with suspected COVID-19 because his condition was deteriorating. He has been quarantined and admitted to the hospital for testing and medical care much sooner.
Eight inmates from wards 1 and 6 were taken to prison’s clinic last week with COVID-19 symptoms; two of them were only given painkillers before being returned towards healthy patients.
The authorities are trying to hide the outbreak of COVID-19 in this prison and refusing to report on the conditions of political and ordinary prisoners, which means that many are in danger of infection.
This is a common theme in Iranian prisons, with authorities not concerned at all with the lives of prisoners. In prisons across the country, inmates with symptoms of COVID-19, or even those who test positive are still sharing cells with healthy prisoners.
This negligence led to riots in many prisons for over a week and, as always, the authorities responded with violence, killing dozens of people.
In Urmia Central Prison, over 100 inmates are infected with COVID-19 and several have died, but authorities are refusing to take further action to prevent more infections and deaths.
In related news, it was reported that conservationist Sam Rajabi, held in Evin Prison on bogus national security charges, has contracted COVID-19. He was diagnosed on April 22, when he was taken to hospital for an unrelated surgery, but was returned to prison immediately afterward, according to his lawyer, Mohammad Aghassi.
Rajabi’s sister, Katyoun, said: “What should happen for prison authorities to believe that my brother’s life is in danger? Sam is suffering from lung disease. He has informed (the authorities) about it, but since he is a conservationist convict, nobody pays attention to his calls. I announced this publicly so that you (government officials) could not claim that you were unaware.”
While teachers’ rights activist Esmail Abdi was arrested on April 20 and sent back to prison after trying to extend his temporary leave, a complete contradiction to the mullahs’ announcements.