Iran: Sick Old Woman Forced to Sleep Outside in Cold by Tabriz Prison Authorities

Prison authorities in Tabriz forced a 60-year old woman in need of medical care for herpes zoster to sleep out in the yard as temperatures plummeted.

Shahin Solhjoo had initially been moved to the dispensary, then solitary confinement, after contracting herpes zoster, but prison guards scared of getting sick themselves, moved her back to the general ward after two days; a decision that makes no sense because if more inmates are infected then the guards would be more likely to get sick.

Then, the guards ordered Solhjoo, who is in grave pain from herpes zoster, to sleep in the yard; something that her fellow prisoners on the women’s ward objected to, saying that she should be taken to hospital, especially as she might also have contracted the coronavirus (COVID-19), so she’ll need an examination from a doctor and close supervision.

Prison authorities claim that they don’t have the money to take her to hospital, which is why they haven’t, but this doesn’t ring true.

First, it cannot possibly cost that much to take her to the hospital because she’s an elderly woman jailed for stealing a phone due to poverty. She would only need one guard and a driver at most.

Second, even if it did cost too much to transfer her to the hospital, why make her sleep outside in the cold rather than treat her in the dispensary?

Third, delay and denial of adequate medical treatment to ill or injured prisoners is a common tactic of the Iranian authorities, although illegal under international law and the covenants that Iran has signed up to. The idea is to increase pressure on the prisoner in order to break their spirit or get them to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.

It isn’t surprising that Solhjoo got sick on the women’s ward of Tabriz prison. At least nine inmates there contracted the coronavirus in the last week of September and the guards failed to quarantine the sick people at all, using just a flimsy curtain to separate the sick from the well.

How the Coronavirus Has Affected the Women’s Ward at Evin Prison

Of course, anyone would get sick in the prison conditions. The food given to prisoners is low quality, smelly, and cannot be cooked because prisoners do not have a stove. Even the food sold at high prices in the prison store is low quality, so how are prisoners supposed to boost their immune system? The simple answer is that they’re not.

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