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In this COVID-19 pandemic, Iran is suffering one of the most damaging and deadliest outbreaks of any country in the world. Last week, the Iranian parliament’s research center released a...

In this COVID-19 pandemic, Iran is suffering one of the most damaging and deadliest outbreaks of any country in the world. Last week, the Iranian parliament’s research center released a report, written by independent experts, asserting that the true death toll could be nearly double the official figures and the number of infections may be up to 10 times higher. If confirmed, these numbers would make Iran the country with the highest number of cases in the world. A study by Iran’s prestigious Sharif University warns that the death toll may rise to 3.5 million in a worst-case scenario.

Despite the catastrophic situation on the ground, the government reopened businesses and resumed regularly scheduled public transportation last week— a move that is feared could spark a further wave. The situation is even worse in Iran’s prisons. In February, the UN released a report documenting how the unsanitary and overcrowded prison conditions in Iran were already causing the spread of other infectious diseases. By the beginning of March, COVID-19 was added to the list. 

At that point, the women’s ward in Evin Prison, where a large number of the female prisoners of conscience are detained in cramped and unsanitary spaces, had already run out of medical and cleaning supplies. These prisoners of conscience are confined to a room with 18 women and sleep on triple bunk beds with little space in between.

They are at an even greater risk than the general prison population, as their wellbeing is already often compromised by torture, denial of medical treatment, other ill-treatment, and their own hunger strikes. At least ten prisoners have reportedly died of the virus in Iran, though the numbers cannot be verified as authorities have denied outside observers access to prisons.

The authorities have reported the release of some tens of thousands of “low- level” prisoners temporarily to control the spread. However, it is not possible to verify the high number of alleged releases and authorities have thus far refused to release hundreds of peaceful political prisoners. This is no judicial oversight. It is part of a policy that looks to further punish political prisoners by keeping them in dangerous prison conditions. 

We therefore urge governments, non-governmental organizations, journalists, the United Nations and other international organizations to put pressure on the Iranian authorities to immediately release the following known prisoners of conscience, along with any other political prisoners, to save their lives. 

The following women are leading human rights defenders, lawyers, educators, writers, artists, and environmentalists, who have been sentenced to some of the harshest prison sentences in Iran’s history. The list includes Iranian and dual citizens.


Evin Prison:

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Fariba Adelkhah

Kylie Moore-Gilbert

Mojgan Keshavarz

Saba Kord Afshari

Raheleh Ahmadi

Yasaman Aryani

Monireh Arabshahi

Atena Daemi

Niloufar Bayani

Sepideh Kashani

Maryam Akbari Monfared

Samaneh Norouz Moradi

Negin Ghadamian

Zahra Zehtabchi

Rezvaneh Khanbeigi

Elham Barmaki

Maryam Haj Hosseini



Other Prisons:

19. Golrokh Iraee Ebrahimi (Qarchak Prison)

20. Leila Mirghafari (Qarchak Prison)

21. Raha Ahmadi (Qarchak Prison)

22. Zohreh Sarv (Qarchak Prison)

23. Maryam Ebrahimvand (Qarchak Prison)

24. Fatemeh Khishvand (Qarchak Prison)

25. Narges Mohammadi (Zanjan Prison)

26. Zeinab Jalalian (Khoy Prison)

27. Fatemeh Sepehri (Vakilabad Prison, Mashhad)

28. Fatemeh Dadvand (Bukan Prison)

29. Mojgan Sayami (Ardebil  Central Prison)

30. Fatemeh Asma Esmaeilzadeh

31. Enis Saadet

32. Jaka Esmaeilpour

33. Sheida Najafian

34. Samira Hadian

35. Hajar Ardasr

36. Hakimeh Ahmadi

37. Fatemeh Kohanzadeh

38. Zari Tavakkoli

39. Gita Hor

40. Maryam Mokhtari

41. Saghar Mohammadi

42. Mokhgan Eskandari

43. Nahid Beshid

44. Simmin Mohammadi

45. Ehteram Sheikhi

46. Sheida Abedi

47. Masoumeh Ghasemzadeh Malekshah

48. Yalda Firouzian

49. Farideh Jaberi

50. Masoumeh Askari




Human Rights Foundation

Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

European Parliament, Vice-President Heidi Hautala on behalf of the Community of Sakharov Prize laureates

Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

Alliance Against State Hostage Taking

Arseh Sevom

Article 18

Center for Human Rights in Iran

Defenders of Human Rights Centre

Equality Now

Freedom House

Human Rights Activists in Iran

Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre

Iran Human Rights

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Observatory of Human Rights

Lantos Foundation


Nobel Women

Siamak Pourzand Foundation

Stop Child Executions

United for Iran