Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian journalist who has been jailed in her country since 2015 for human rights advocacy and who told supporters last month she was showing coronavirus symptoms, appears to have recovered from them, according to her husband.
In a written message sent to VOA Persian on Tuesday, Mohammadi’s husband, Taghi Rahmani, living in exile in Paris, said the dangerous phase of his wife’s illness had passed. Rahmani said his wife had been at risk of serious health complications if the illness had spread to her lungs, which already had been hobbled by a preexisting disease.
Rahmani first alerted the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran to Mohammadi’s illness July 7, saying he had learned that his wife and several of her female cellmates at Zanjan prison in northwestern Iran had been exhibiting coronavirus symptoms since the start of the month.
Mohammadi later confirmed her symptoms in a letter that she sent from the prison to her supporters, who published it online July 13. In her letter, she also complained that prison authorities were refusing to inform her of the results of a coronavirus test that they gave her July 8.
In his Tuesday message to VOA, Rahmani did not specify the date of his last contact with his wife or what communication method they had been using. There also was no word from Rahmani about the outcome of her coronavirus test.
Mohammadi’s husband said she still needs specialized medical care outside of prison for her preexisting lung disease and weakened immune system following surgeries in 2018 and 2019, as well as for beatings that she received while being transferred to Zanjan in December.
In a July 13 statement, Amnesty International said Mohammadi’s Iranian jailers had refused to let her receive outside medical treatment since they violently transferred her to Zanjan from Tehran’s Evin prison on December 24. The group said Iran’s deliberate denial of health care to the dissident may amount to torture.
The organization also has said Mohammadi and other women held in Zanjan prison have been suffering from overcrowding, poor ventilation, filthy and insufficient bathroom facilities, and lack of adequate sanitary facilities and products to wash their dishes and clothes and maintain hygiene.
“Zanjan prison is not a suitable place to keep her, because the pressures of its restrictive environment are too much for her to bear,” Rahmani said, in reference to his wife.
He said the Iranian government appears to have two motives in keeping Mohammadi at the prison -- taking revenge for her human rights work and frightening other activists into silence.
Mohammadi was serving as a spokesperson for the Center for Human Rights Defenders in Iran when she was arrested in May 2015.
Iranian authorities said she was detained to resume serving a six-year prison sentence from 2011 related to her peaceful work for the organization. However, they sentenced her again in May 2016 to a 16-year jail term for involvement with another peaceful advocacy group, the Campaign for Step by Step Abolition of the Death Penalty. Under Iranian law, the effective length of her sentence was reduced to 10 years.
This year, Iranian authorities have filed several new national security-related charges against Mohammadi for her peaceful human rights activism inside prison. Those cases threaten to keep the 48-year-old dissident in prison even longer.