Another Ahwazi prisoner died in an Iranian regime prison last week after prison officials refused to allow the seriously ill man medical treatment.
Mehdi (Zia) Soleimani, aged 31, had reportedly been vomiting and complaining of agonising pain for a number of days as a result of a recurrent gall bladder infection that led to a bowel disorder, which left him in excruciating pain.
Despite having been repeatedly notified by the prisoner and his family about his ill health, with doctors confirming that he suffered from gall bladder problems and needed treatment, prison authorities at the infamous Sepidar Prison refused to allow him access to the medicine and medical treatment that could have treated the illness and saved his life. Even while he was drifting in and out of consciousness in the days before his death on 31 August, the prison warders steadfastly refused to send for an ambulance or take him for treatment.
After his death, when Mehdi’s family went to the prison to make enquiries about what had taken place and to collect his personal possessions, they were informed only that he had died of an unspecified “infection”.
Several Ahwazi prisoners detained on various political and non-political charges are known to have died in Iranian regime prisons as a result of medical negligence in recent years, in addition to the larger number killed under torture.
In prison as outside, Ahwazis are subjected to extra humiliation and racist abuse by the Iranian staff for their Arab ethnicity, which is viewed as being ‘inferior’ to that of Persians, with the prison staff going out of their way to ensure that cells are overcrowded and no sanitation is provided, with Sepidar prison’s decrepit and malfunctioning sewage system routinely overflowing into the main halls and cells of the prison. Meanwhile, the food is rotten, insect-infested and largely inedible. Unsurprisingly, these horrendous, unsanitary and overcrowded conditions regularly result in outbreaks of disease and illness, with scabies and similar conditions being widespread. Prison staff take great delight in withholding medicine, with the only ‘medical treatment’ provided for any illness among inmates, up to and including terminal diseases, being generic Paracetamol-style painkillers.
Among other prisoners who’ve died in Iranian prisons due to medical negligence include Makia Nissi, a young woman also imprisoned in Sepidar who was suffering from Crohn’s Disease for which she required medication and regular blood transfusions. Rather than allow her the treatment she needed to keep her alive, prison staff issued her with the aforementioned painkillers. When she contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus in 2020, she was again denied any medical help despite the pleas of her fellow prisoners to provide treatment for her until being belatedly quarantined a couple of days before her death on 14 December 2020, with her already severely weakened constitution unable to withstand the virus and her illness.
In similar cases, a 37-year-old diabetic Ahwazi prisoner named Saed Heideri, the father of two young children, died on 15 July 2020 as a result of COVID-19, after staff at the Sheiban Prison refused medicine for his diabetes, undermining his ability to fight off the coronavirus.
Another diabetic prisoner imprisoned in Sheiban, 30-year-old Ali Batrani, who also suffered from asthma, died on 15 November 2020 after being refused treatment for either condition. Despite the prison’s own clinic recommending that he should be transferred urgently to hospital, prison staff refused and delayed his hospitalisation until it was too late to save his life, dying soon after his arrival.
It should also be noted the real death toll among Ahwazis in Iran’s prisons is likely to be higher than the documented number due to the number of people ‘disappeared’ by the regime into its network of ‘black prisons’ with the regime never admitting these arrests or issuing any information about the fate of the disappeared.