Iranian Rights Activist Says She, Her Cellmates Suffering From COVID-19 Symptoms

Imprisoned Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi says she has been suffering from symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 -- the illness caused by the coronavirus -- including coughs, fatigue, diarrhea, and loss of smell, and has complained that authorities have not released the results of her test.

In a letter from prison published online on July 13, Mohammadi said she and 11 of her cellmates in the Zanjan prison, some 330 kilometers west of the capital, Tehran, are suspected of having been infected with the coronavirus.

Mohammadi, who served as the spokesperson for the Center for Human Rights Defenders in Iran founded by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi, said “signs” of an outbreak of coronavirus emerged in the prison about two weeks ago.

The rights activist, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence after being found guilty of anti-government propaganda and membership in a banned group opposed to the death penalty, called on Iran’s health ministry to send a representative to the Zanjan prison to investigate the situation.

Mohammadi said that she and other prisoners in her ward are feeling sick while being denied access to “medication, treatment, and proper nutrition.”

Mohammadi’s relatives have said in past months that she has been denied health care and prevented from talking over the phone to her children, who live in France.

“Unfortunately, the judiciary wants to teach her a lesson and force her not to take any stands. Not to be herself. Narges Mohammadi is being denied every basic right because she takes a stand,” her husband, Taghi Rahmani, told the New York-based Center for Human Rights In Iran last week.

Mohammadi has been awarded several prestigious prizes, including the American Physical Society's Andrei Sakharov Prize in 2018 for outstanding leadership in upholding human rights.

Iran has been struggling to contain the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 13,000 Iranians and infected nearly 260,000, according to official figures.

Real numbers are believed to be significantly higher.

Following the easing of restrictions, Iran has experienced a rise in infections and fatality numbers.f prisoners to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in crowded jails.

In March, the judiciary announced that it has ordered the temporary release of tens of thousands of prisoners to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in crowded jails.