Authorities at an Iranian women’s prison have beaten and dragged a jailed dissident to a ward for common criminals, telling her that she did not deserve to remain in the company of other political prisoners in a separate ward, according to a knowledgeable source.

In a Wednesday interview from Iran with VOA Persian, the source close to the family of the jailed women’s rights activist, Saba Kord Afshari, said the activist was forcibly transferred between the wards of Qarchak prison on the outskirts of Tehran the day before.

The source said Tuesday’s incident began while Kord Afshari was in a prison yard and heard a commotion inside Qarchak’s Ward 6, where she had been held with other female dissidents. When Kord Afshari returned to the ward, she saw several male and female guards banging on doors and walls with batons to intimidate the other inmates as the guards prepared to remove her from the ward, the source said.

“Kord Afshari tried to defy the guards by telling them, ‘If you want me to transfer me, you’ll have to force me out,’” said the source. “The guards grabbed her, tied her hands behind her back and dragged her to the prison’s Ward 6, where common criminals are held,” the source added.

Kord Afshari, a campaigner against Islamist-ruled Iran’s compulsory public hijab for women, was transferred to Qarchak on Dec. 9 from Tehran’s Evin prison, which mainly houses inmates charged with security offenses, according to tweets by her sister, Sogand Kord Afshari.

Iranian authorities arrested Saba Kord Afshari in June 2019 and sentenced her to 15 years in prison on national security charges related to her removal of her hijab in public.

Sogand Kord Afshari posted several tweets on Wednesday, saying Saba had been forcibly transferred to Qarchak’s Ward 6 the previous day, despite suffering from chronic gastrointestinal problems. Her tweets did not elaborate on the circumstances of the apparent transfer, which VOA cannot independently verify because it is barred from reporting inside Iran.

VOA’s source said that after Saba Kord Afshari’s move to Qarchak last month, prison officials told the activist that she no longer is considered a security prisoner worthy of being incarcerated with other dissidents, and warned that she would be moved to a common criminals’ ward.

One of the charges for which Kord Afshari was convicted is “spreading prostitution.” It is not clear if Qarchak authorities used that charge as a pretext to apparently transfer her to Ward 6, or if she faces some other unspecified new charges not related to national security.

In moving Kord Afshari to Qarchak, Iranian authorities separated her from her mother, Raheleh Ahmadi, who had been detained with her at Evin.

Ahmadi was arrested in July 2019 and detained for several days for advocating on behalf of her daughter Saba, who had been jailed the previous month. The activist’s mother later was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison for national security offenses and began serving her sentence at Evin on Feb. 20.

The source who spoke to VOA said after Saba was sent from Evin to Qarchak, Ahmadi suffered shock and paralysis in her left leg, leaving her able to walk only with a cane.

“Ahmadi has been taken to an external hospital twice, and doctors have said she needs surgery as soon as possible, but she has not been granted leave for the procedure,” the source said.

Iranian authorities have been aware of the urgency of Ahmadi’s medical condition since at least Jan. 12, according to a report published that day by Iranian state-approved news site Ensaf News, which cited Ahmadi’s lawyer Mostafa Nili. Ensaf quoted Nili as saying it can take a long time for authorities to approve a prisoner’s urgently needed surgery because of contractual disputes between prisons and hospitals.

There has been no mention of Saba Kord Afshari’s situation in Iranian state media online in the past week.

Source » voanews