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Iran: Media Outlets Should Break Their Silence Regarding MEK Female Prisoners

From left to right: Parastoo Moini, Zahra Safie, Forough Taghipour, Marzieh Farsi

The Iranian regime’s mistreatment of women is common knowledge. The misogynous regime in Tehran has sent thousands of Iranian women to gallows, and its agents have physically and psychologically tortured many more and continue harassing women on the streets.

Peculiarly, many media outlets outside Iran have been quite selective about their reporting about the plight of female political prisoners.

This fact was highlighted by Leyla Mirghafari, a women’s rights activist, in her interview with Radio Farda on March 11, 2022. In her interview, Mirghafari complains about the lack of media coverage about female political prisoners, mainly those affiliated with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK).

“I think we should consider the MEK prisoners more than supporters of the monarchy. I shared the cell with Zahra Safaie, Marzieh Farsi, Prastoo Moeini, and Forough Taghipour. They received death threats and were harassed in prison. But since they are MEK supporters, I have not seen much media coverage about their situation,” she said.

“One’s political orientation is a key factor for mainstream media to give [the prisoner] appropriate coverage, and this is very damaging,” she added.

For years, the Iranian regime has been deploying all the tools at its disposal to demonize its main opposition, the MEK, and skew public opinion. The regime state media have been trying to undermine the MEK’s credibility in a bid to prevent people from joining its ranks. The lack of media coverage of MEK prisoners allows Tehran to continue its crimes against the group’s prisoners in dungeons.

Zahra Safaie, Marzieh Farsi, Prastoo Moeini, and Forough Taghipour were arrested in February 2020.

Born in 2000, Moini was a computer science student. She is Zahra Safai’s daughter. Ms. Safai spent more than eight years in prison in the 1980s on charges of supporting the MEK. Her father, Hasanali Safaie, was executed in 1981 in the notorious Evin prison on charges of supporting the MEK.

The regime has charged Moini and her mother, Zahra Safaie, with “Collusion to act against the security of the country by communicating with the Mojahedin and pursuing their goals,” “participating in the MEK meetings with her mother,” “spreading propaganda against the system by writing slogans and reading statements and letters,” “installing banners in public places” and “disturbing the public at the MEK behest.”

Forough Taghipour, 28, is also charged with “collusion with the MEK” and “acting against the state’s security.” Taghipour was arrested along with her mother, Nasim Jabari, in 2020. They are accused of “membership” in the MEK. Both have been sentenced to five years in prison.

Zahra Safaei, Parastoo Mo’ini, and Forough Taghipour are serving their prison sentences of eight, six, and five years in Qarchak prison, respectively. Reports from Iran indicate that prison authorities had hired thugs to beat and kill these prisoners by pouring hot boiling water on them.

In another vicious attack on December 13, 2020, some 20 prison guards attacked the ward of these prisoners and brutalized all of them.

Marzieh Farsi, another political prisoner arrested in 2020, has been in prison without trial. She has been subjected to different kinds of psychological and physical tortures.

“The situation may be the same as in 1988,” these were the words of Moini’s interrogator in July 2021, referring to the summary execution of over 30,000 MEK supporters in the summer of 1988. He also told Moini that “Even if we let you live, we would do something that you wish you were executed.”

In November 2021, Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced the four female prisoners to additional 60 months in jail. The authorities at Qarchak Prison fabricated a new case for the four political prisoners because they sent out a letter in June, calling for the boycott of the regime’s sham presidential election. However, the mounting pressure on these prisoners did not receive proper media coverage. Refusing to cover the deplorable condition of the MEK’s female prisoners allows Tehran’s ruling theocracy to harass or kill them as it had threatened and attempted.

March 8 marked international women’s day. This day highlights the responsibility of the world community to denounce the systematic violence against women, particularly in Iran, where a misogynous regime rules. In doing so, the international media should report on the MEK’s female prisoners and echo their voices properly.

Martin Niemöller once said: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Let’s not forget that silence vis-à-vis the current situation of the Iranian women, and mainly the MEK prisoners would embolden religious fascism to continue its human rights violations.

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