This is the story of Dalia Andam, a 15-year-old girl who, after being injured with 25 pellet gun shots, beaten by security forces, and receiving threatening phone calls afterward, fell into depression and ended her life.

On November 17, 2022, the people of Sanandaj gathered in protest after returning from the ceremony for some of the martyrs of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” revolutionary uprising.

On this day, the repressive forces opened fire on the protesting citizens who were returning from the city’s cemetery. As a result of the security forces’ shooting, two protesters lost their lives, and another citizen who had been arrested by police/basij forces died under torture in the detention center.

Dalia Andam also participated in the protests that day.

During the protest, Dalia climbed one of the street bridges, tore down the government’s propaganda banners, and set them on fire. Security forces rushed towards the protesters and opened fire, resulting in Dalia being injured with 25 pellet gun shots in both her legs and back. Dalia, who was severely injured, hid herself and contacted her family. Her mother helped her get home. Out of fear of the police, they didn’t even take a taxi and walked the entire way.

demonstration by Kurdish people in city of Sanandaj.

Out of fear of arrest, the Andam family avoided taking their daughter to the hospital or medical centers to remove the pellets. Dalia’s mother removed all 25 pellets from her daughter’s body at home. Fearing the arrest of their teenage daughter, the Andam family moved her to a close relative’s house. After about two weeks, when her physical condition improved, they returned to their own home.

After her partial recovery, Dalia rejoined the public protests in Sanandaj. She started writing slogans in various neighborhoods of the city and posted her activities on social media. During a protest, she was beaten on the head by security forces again but managed to escape arrest.

This time, Dalia was helped by the people to escape, and another family helped her return home. Dalia told her mother that four men had chased her, along with two other teenage girls and another woman, but they managed to escape from the repressive forces.

Later, Dalia was identified by the police and subjected to threats and intimidation. The severity of these threats was such that she suffered from insomnia and constant stress, losing her mental and emotional balance. This fifteen-year-old girl initially informed her mother about the continuous calls and threats from the secret police, but after a while, the immense pressure and stress drove her towards suicide. Dalia ultimately ended her life on December 8, 2023.

On April 18, 2024, Dalia’s family celebrated her birthday.

Harassment to the point of death

Over the past four decades, a significant number of political prisoners and those with general crimes in Iranian prisons have committed suicide shortly after their release. Some of them also died under suspicious circumstances.

News of the deaths of some of the more well-known individuals leaked to the media, while others who were less known were buried in silence. The authorities of the Islamic Republic’s judiciary always claim that the conditions of prisoners in Iran’s prisons are appropriate, but the lived experiences of many prisoners, along with the prevention of international inspections of Iran’s prisons, prove that the prisons and security detention centers have turned into “death traps” for prisoners, especially protesters.

Government authorities always claim “suicide” regarding persons who die suspiciously in prisons and detention centers or shortly after their release. This claim has now become threadbare and repetitive for the Iranian public, with many social media users sarcastically using the phrase “suicided” to highlight its falsity.

Political prisoners in Iran, even if they withstand security pressures and torture, are not safe from life-threatening conditions. Prison authorities systematically block access to proper medical care and treatment for sick political prisoners, leading to their gradual death.

The annual report by HRANA, the news agency of the Human Rights Activists in Iran, reveals that in 2023, at least six prisoners died due to illness in prisons. Twenty prisoners committed suicide, and eight were murdered in prisons.

Documents collected by this human rights organization show that, during this period, as in previous years, a large number of political prisoners were physically tortured, deprived of medical services, transferred to solitary confinement or exiled, pressured for forced confessions, denied access to chosen lawyers, deprived of the right to make phone calls, not subjected to crime segregation, and kept in unsuitable conditions.

Each of these instances alone imposes significant pressure on prisoners, bringing them to the point of mental and psychological despair. However, many political prisoners and detainees simultaneously endure a wide range of tortures and abuses.

Reviewing the news about the self-inflicted and suspicious deaths of prisoners in recent months reveals that, along with the intensified pressures and abuses by the Islamic Republic’s security forces and the judiciary’s lack of accountability to public opinion, such deaths are on the rise.

Continuous suicides

Late last March, human rights activists announced that Masih Yeganeh, a political prisoner, attempted suicide by swallowing a pill. He was transferred to the hospital but was returned to Evin Prison despite his treatment being incomplete. In early March 2024, Kurdish human rights sources reported that Shahin Golehdari, a Kurdish political prisoner, committed suicide due to the pressures of being held in the high-security ward of Urmia Central Prison.

On March 9th, Hassan Omrpoor, a Kurdish prisoner in Urmia Prison, self-immolated. Before him, another prisoner named Amir Shahbazi, despite having received forgiveness from his private plaintiffs, ended his life due to psychological pressures. According to other prisoners, Shahbazi revealed in a letter that the prison warden was responsible for his death.

In the last months of the past year, the situation in Urmia Central Prison deteriorated to the point that 800 inmates signed a protest letter demanding the removal of the prison warden. However, according to Kurdish human rights sources, after this letter, the pressure and abuse on prisoners increased, and some were beaten. Their rightful demand was to address the prison conditions following repeated prisoner suicides.

Suspicious and self-inflicted deaths in Iranian prisons are not limited to Urmia Central Prison but are a widespread phenomenon in all prisons of the Islamic Republic. Last March, it was reported that a prisoner named Soheil Haghbin committed suicide in Lakan Prison in Rasht. In February of last year, the suicide of a prisoner in Tabriz Central Prison made headlines. Before him, Vahid Chavarani, a political prisoner in Ilam Prison, also committed suicide.

deaths of political detainees in the nationwide uprising

Authorities of the Islamic Republic’s judiciary claim that the suspicious deaths of political prisoners are suicides and continually argue that prisoners who attempt suicide do so for personal reasons or due to mental illnesses. These claims peaked during the nationwide uprising of Iranians, following the suspicious deaths of some protesters and political prisoners. Javad Rouhi, Maryam Arvin, Arshia Emamgholizadeh, Yalda Aghafazli, Mina Yaghoubi, Abbas Mansouri, and Atefeh Naeimi were protesters who died under suspicious circumstances in detention centers, prisons, or shortly after their release.

Javad Rouhi, a young protester from Amol, was arrested during the nationwide uprising in September 2022 and subsequently sentenced to death by the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Sari. Although the Supreme Court overturned his death sentence, the threats, torture, and abuse against him did not cease. Approximately a year after his arrest, Javad Rouhi died in Noshahr Hospital. According to the forensic report, the cause of his death was “drug interaction,” but human rights sources insist that his death was “suspicious” and that an independent committee should investigate the cause of his death.

In January 2023, the Committee for the Follow-up of Detainees’ Status revealed in a report the “horrific torture” of Javad Rouhi in prison. It stated that he was pressured for forced confessions in the detention center of the IRGC and lost his ability to speak due to the torture.

Maryam Arvin, a lawyer who provided counsel to prisoners and their families, was arrested in December 2022 and died in February after being released from Sirjan Prison. Judicial authorities declared her death a suicide, but her family rejected this claim, stating that the cause of her death was the medications given to her in prison.

Arshia Emamgholizadeh, a 16-year-old from Jolfa, was arrested on charges of turban-throwing. He was imprisoned for about 10 days and committed suicide two days after his release. Yalda Aghafazli, a young woman from Tehran, was arrested during the nationwide uprising on October 26, 2022. She was detained for about 11 days and died five days after her release on November 11. Some authorities and individuals close to the authorities claimed that Yalda’s death was a suicide. The head of the Tehran Criminal Prosecutor’s Office also accused her of drug use, but in an audio file, Yalda revealed that she had been severely tortured during her detention.

Mina Yaghoubi, one of the detainees from the nationwide uprising in Arak, attempted suicide twice. The judiciary of Markazi province claimed she had “mental and psychological problems,” but her family revealed that she had been severely tortured during her detention.

Abbas Mansouri, a young protester from Shush, also committed suicide just one week after his release. The body of Atefeh Naeimi was found on her balcony in Karaj after eight days of no contact, with a gas hose placed near her mouth. Her family confirmed the presence of torture marks on her body.

Political Prisoners Who Were “Suicided”

The suspicious or self-inflicted deaths of political prisoners are not limited to protesters who stood against the government during the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement. As mentioned, such incidents occurred in the prisons of the Islamic Republic even before the nationwide uprising of 2022.

Kavous Seyed-Emami, Zahra Bani-Yaghoub, Ebrahim Lotfollahi, Saeed Emami, Sina Ghanbari, and Vahid Heidari are among the prisoners who died under suspicious circumstances in previous years, with authorities claiming they committed suicide.

In 2007, Zahra Bani-Yaghoub was spending her medical internship in a village in Hamedan when she was arrested by agents known as “Morality Enforcers.” Two days later, they claimed Zahra had committed suicide using a promotional banner. Her family strongly rejected this claim, stating that she had called her brother half an hour before the reported time of death and was in good spirits, not inclined towards suicide.

Saeed Emami, a key security authorities of the Ministry of Intelligence involved in the chain murders, died under suspicious circumstances on June 21, 1999, before his trial. The judiciary claimed he committed suicide using cleaning detergent. Some lawyers of the victims’ families rejected this, stating that prison cleaning detergent did not contain the deadly poison arsenic and was not lethal.

In 2018, the judiciary of the Islamic Republic claimed that the cause of death of Kavous Seyed-Emami, a university professor, in Evin Prison was suicide. However, civil activists and social media users considered his death suspicious.

Ebrahim Lotfollahi, a law student at Payame Noor University in Sanandaj, was arrested by security forces in January 2018 under the order of the third branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court’s investigation office in Sanandaj. Eight days later, his family was informed of his suicide. He was buried without his family being present. The family’s lawyer, said at the time, “We protested in court, pointing to the signs of trauma and bleeding, and requested a re-investigation and an exhumation, but they refused, stating that exhumation was not religiously legitimate.”

Vahid Heidari and Sina Ghanbari were detained during the protests in January 2018 and died under unclear circumstances in prison. Prison authorities claimed they committed suicide.

Regarding the suspicious death of Sina Ghanbari in Evin Prison, the then-prosecutor general claimed he was an addict. Concerning the suspicious death of Vahid Heidari in Arak Prison, the public prosecutor of Markazi province claimed he had “several criminal records, a history of drug possession, and self-harm,” and that he had committed suicide in the police station’s detention center.

In response to this claim, the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, quoting Vahid Heidari’s family, denied the allegations of addiction or drug dealing and revealed that there was a 10 cm wound on his head, invalidating the suicide claim.

Forcing Prisoners to Take Suspicious Drugs

The individuals mentioned in this report are only some of the political and general prisoners in Iran who committed suicide or died under suspicious circumstances in the years following the Islamic Revolution.

Human rights activists consider physical and psychological torture in prisons and detention centers to be significant factors contributing to the suspicious deaths of prisoners and their repeated suicides.

Some former political prisoners, in response to the suspicious deaths of detainees and prisoners, have recalled their own experiences, revealing that they were forced to take suspicious, harmful, and psychotropic drugs in detention centers and prisons. They were also injected with substances that severely affected their physical and mental health.

According to human rights activists, the suicides of detainees shortly after their release, even if true, are directly related to the harmful effects of the drugs forcibly given to prisoners.

What happened to Toomaj Salehi and Saman Yasin, two dissent rapper, during thier imprisonment highlights, as former political prisoners have disclosed, that the Islamic Republic’s judiciary, in clear collusion with security agencies, drives detainees and political prisoners to a point where, even if they survive the harmful effects of drugs and psychological and physical abuse, they reach a breaking point and choose death.

Months ago, Saman Yasin wrote a letter to the head of the judiciary requesting that his death sentence be issued. He, who also spent some time in Aminabad Psychiatric Hospital, wrote in his letter that he had endured such torture and abuse in prison that he preferred execution over continuing in that situation.

The psychological and social pressures that political prisoners face after their release are used by the Islamic Republic to permanently remove them from the political scene. Suicide due to depression caused by poisoning is the justification given for their elimination.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, it’s crucial to seek help immediately. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about what you’re going through. Reach out to a mental health professional or counselor who can provide support and guidance. In many countries, there are crisis hotlines and emergency services available 24/7—don’t hesitate to call them. Remember, you are not alone, and there are people who care about you and want to help. Taking that first step to talk to someone can make a significant difference.

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2 responses to “How Iran’s Political Prisoners Are Driven to Suicide”

  1. Thomas B.

    The article written above has a mix of truth and deception.
    This article is a very good example of turning the truth upside down and engaging in professional propaganda against the Iranian people.

    As an independent reporter who has been covering the news of the Middle East and especially the West Asian region, Iran, for many years, I am fully aware of the purpose of these articles against Iran, but what is still surprising is that some people still read and believe this professionally produced news. It’s easy to uncover many hidden and obvious lies behind these types of articles through a simple search.

    The second point is that Zionist writers and investors are the primary advocates of this type of propaganda against Iran. They still believe that they can deceive and lie to lead the people of the world down the wrong path. The truth will become more apparent as it is revealed.
    I traveled to Iran to witness the events closely during the Western media war against Iran caused by the false pretext of Mrs. Mehsa Amini’s murder. The media created an unimaginable and unique volume of lies and deception against Iran. I was astonished by the way our media in Europe and America try to deceive the people of the world, and how they persist in their lies and refuse to acknowledge the truth. The war against Gaza has proved this well…

    1. Writing is everyone’s right, as is critiquing. However, here I have tried to put the facts together. Since the regime doesn’t allow transparency and freedom for independent investigation by journalists, such articles can be controversial. But it would be better for you to avoid conspiracy theories, like saying Zionists are spreading propaganda against the Iranian people (does that mean I am not part of those people? Who are you to have the right to express such an opinion?). Instead, use facts and journalistic arguments to advance your discussion.

      I have written many articles in this blog. Please refer to them and try to present your arguments methodically on the topics discussed. I was born in Iran and lived in a religious family for 26 years and I have a lot to say, but eventually you become an expert with just one trip to Iran? Were millions of protesters in hundreds of cities in Iran waiting for Western media propaganda to bring them to the streets? What opinion could be more racist than this?

      Like many others, you fall into the propaganda trap of one side (Islamic fascism in Iran or Western conservatives) without having knowledge and understanding of the conditions in this country. Your claim of professionalism in journalism is discredited by such a comment.

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