Zoom Conference – Saturday 31st October, 17.00-18.15 hrs


It is a great privilege for me to join my good friends in the ILA for this online meeting today. I only wish the Covid crisis would end, so that I could once again meet with you in person. The work that you do supporting human rights in Iran and exposing the brutal repression of the Iranian regime is of great significance. But you also play an effective role in bringing the voice of the Iranian people to the international community and saving the lives of prisoners in danger, especially in this period of the Corona Pandemic. Can I thank you sincerely for your great work? 

I know in particular that you have been very active in campaigning to stop the execution of young political prisoners in Iran, arrested during the nationwide uprisings in 2018 and 2019 and I urge you to continue that campaign. Your work has saved lives, but we still need to do more. This week I watched a horrific video of the police torturing a young man in public, on a street in the city of Mashhad, the second most populous city in Iran. Police had been called to the home of Mehrdad Sepheri following a domestic dispute. They handcuffed the young man to a lamp-post and continued to beat and taser the helpless man and spray him with pepper spray, in full view of the public. Men, women and children looked on in horror. Many people filmed this atrocity as it happened. Mr Sepehri died on his way to hospital in a police car. A doctor confirmed that he had been suffocated by pepper spray. 

Sadly, as we all know, the death of Mehrdad Sepheri is symptomatic of a regime for whom human rights is a joke. Deploying the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – the regime’s Gestapo,  the mullahs have unleashed a homicidal blitz on their own population, crushing dissent during the nationwide uprisings in 2018 and 2019, wantonly murdering and maiming thousands of peaceful protesters. The mullahs closed down the internet to try to hide their crimes and suppress the uprising. But the people have lost their fear. Now Iran’s jails are bursting at the seams with political prisoners, many of them young students, male and female. During the uprising in 2019, the IRGC shot dead 1,500 young protesters and wounded a further 12,000. Many of the wounded were dragged from their hospital beds and taken to torture chambers and prisons across Iran where they now face execution. Conditions inside the medieval prisons are horrendous, with Covid-19 spreading like wildfire, while no attempts are made at providing any kind of protection or medical assistance. The mullahs’ scandalous mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic has seen the death toll across Iran soar to over 135,000.

Political prisoners in Tehran are being systematically starved by the authorities to break their will and force them to repent. Thousands are now suffering from severe food shortages. Eggs have been removed from prison diets and prisoners are now given only 10 to 12 spoonfuls of low-quality rice daily. The rice is said to be stinking and rotten. Even the water supply in Tehran’s prisons is contaminated, forcing prisoners to buy bottles of water at the punitive cost of 30,000 rials, or 54p per bottle. Many prisoners have no source of income whatsoever, so even this is unaffordable.

In the Greater Tehran Prison, solitary confinement as a punishment has been replaced with incarceration in large holding cells, designed for 20 prisoners, but now crammed with 60 to 70 people. There is a single toilet in the corner of each holding cell, obscured by a filthy curtain. The stench from the toilet constantly permeates the entire cell. There is no access to ventilation or direct sunlight and prisoners can be starved and held under these awful conditions for weeks, until their will is finally broken. Only then, after they have signed a commitment to repent their political views and have been forced to bow and grovel to the guards, are they returned to the public wards of the prison.

The inhumane treatment of prisoners in Iran is an international scandal. The misogynistic regime now holds poll-position as the world’s leading executioner. Under the so-called ‘moderate’ presidency of Hassan Rouhani over 4,300 people have been hanged, including 109 women and many who were children at the time of their arrest. It’s because of the vicious oppression and catastrophic economic conditions inside Iran that literally millions of people have fled from the country. Sadly, some of these refugees never make it to a place of safety, as we saw with the tragic death of the young Iranian Kurdish family in the English Channel this week. 

Without the revealing activities of the ILA and other human rights organizations, the mullahs would have been able to prolong their abuse in a climate of silence and indifference from the international community. But the times are changing. Organizations like the ILA have put pressure on governments around the world and have shone a spotlight on the theocratic regime in Iran. We must redouble our efforts and redouble the pressure. It is time the international community took a stand against this evil regime and held its leaders to account. Only the final overthrow of the tyrannical mullahs will see peace, justice and freedom restored to the Iranian people. I thank you all for your support. It is much appreciated what you have done and what you continue to do.