WASHINGTON - Iranian authorities have told a female dissident recently sentenced to more than three years in prison that she will get only two months to recover from a needed back surgery before having to start her jail term.
An Iran-based source familiar with dissident Shahla Jahanbin’s situation told VOA Persian in a Monday interview that Jahanbin went to Tehran’s Evin prison last week to present authorities with a letter from the Iranian judiciary’s Legal Medicine Office stating her need for back surgery.
Jahanbin, who has been looking after her ailing mother in Tehran, has been suffering herself from several health problems including osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease affecting both her neck and shoulders.
The source said Evin prison’s enforcement office told Jahanbin that if she went ahead with a back surgery to treat her osteoarthritis, it would give her only two months to recover before requiring her to report to the jail to start serving her three-and-a-half year sentence.
Jahanbin was one of 14 Iranian women to sign an August 9, 2019 open letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanding that he resign. The signatories wrote: “We rise against this anti-woman regime that has wiped out our human values and demand a complete departure from the Islamic Republic and drafting of a new Constitution for the establishment of a state in which women’s dignity, identity and equal rights are recognized in all areas.”
Authorities detained Jahanbin on August 21, 2019 and later charged her and the other signatories of the letter with “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion against national security.” After releasing her on bail in November, Iranian judicial authorities convicted her of both offenses and in February imposed on her a final three-and-a-half year prison term. Jahanbin has maintained her innocence.
The source who spoke to VOA said Jahanbin would need more than the allotted two months to recover from a back surgery. The source did not indicate whether Jahanbin would go ahead with the procedure and it was not clear when she would have to start serving her prison sentence if she did not proceed.
Jahanbin is married to Abbas Vahedian Shahroudi, a prominent civil rights activist and author whom authorities arrested in his hometown of Mashhad on August 18, 2019, after he joined 13 other activists in signing a June 2019 open letter that also called for Khamenei’s resignation.
Another informed source in Iran told VOA Persian last week that Shahroudi’s family had learned that the detained activist also has been suffering from multiple health problems after spending nine months in Mashhad’s Vakilabad prison. Those problems include a lung infection and an allergic condition.
That source said one of the couple’s children fears ending up in jail after a Mashhad official filed a judicial complaint against the child for publicly criticizing Shahroudi’s continued detention in the coronavirus-infested prison. Iranian authorities have announced temporary releases for tens of thousands of prisoners since late February in part to protect them from the virus but have excluded dissidents with more than five-year prison terms from the furloughs.
According to the source familiar with Jahanbin’s situation, Jahanbin and Shahroudi have expressed concern about how their three children will cope with both of them being imprisoned.