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Activist: Prison Conditions of Dervish Women Violate Iran Prison Laws 

In a Sept. 6, 2018, article, exiled Iranian Dervish rights activist Alireza Roshan said Iran's detention of seven Dervish women in tough conditions near Tehran violates national prison regulations. Four of them are pictured here, clockwise from top left: Shima Entesari, Nazila Nouri, Avisha Jalaleddin and Sima Entesari.

An exiled Iranian Dervish rights activist says Iran’s ongoing seven-month jailing of seven Dervish women in tough conditions near Tehran is in violation of national prison regulations.

“The situation of the women in Qarchak prison is appalling,” said Alireza Roshan, a Turkey-based member of Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, in an interview for Thursday’s VOA Persian NewsHour program. Roshan, a writer and poet, is an editor of Majzooban Noor, a news outlet covering Iran’s Dervish community.

“The Dervish women are weak physically after having been beaten before and after their transfer to the prison,” Roshan said. “But prison officials are not allowing them to receive needed medical treatment.”

Violation of regulations

The women were among several hundred Dervishes arrested by Iranian security forces in February for involvement in anti-government protests in Tehran.

In an article written by Roshan and published by the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group Thursday, he said the treatment of the jailed women violates Iran’s Prisons Organization Regulations, published online in May 2015, in four main aspects.

Roshan said one aspect is what he called the Qarchak prison’s persistent denial of the Dervish women’s access to medical treatment and medically necessary special food. Such denials also have been reported by Britain-based rights group Amnesty International, which published a May report, saying: “doctors at the prison … are routinely dismissing the women’s complaints of pain and discomfort as ‘fake’ while refusing to prescribe them medication on a timely basis or carry out thorough diagnostic tests.”

Iran’s prison regulations say that in “urgent cases,” a prisoner shall be dispatched to a hospital upon the order of a physician or prison doctor and with the permission of the head of the prison or his successor. They also call for prisoners who need a special diet for medical reasons to be granted such food for the period prescribed by a doctor.

Inappropriate detention

Roshan said Iran’s other alleged violations of prison regulations include inappropriately jailing the highly educated Dervish women in wards with inmates accused of murder, theft and drug offenses; housing the Dervish women in an unsanitary prison converted from an industrial chicken farm; and handcuffing them while they are in transit outside of prison even though handcuffs only are required for inmates who pose a risk of physically harming themselves or others.

Roshan said Iran also is violating a 2006 temporary detention ordinance that says defendants who have yet to be convicted of crimes can use personal belongings such as mobile phones and computers. He said some of the jailed Dervish women have been barred from making phone calls despite having yet to be charged with any crimes.

There has been no official comment on the prison treatment of the Dervish women in Iranian state media.

Dervishes involved in the February protests had been demanding the release of arrested members of their community and the removal of security checkpoints around the house of their 90-year-old leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh. Members of the Sufi Muslim religious sect long have complained of harassment by Iran’s Shiite Islamist rulers, who view them as heretics.

This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service.