Oct 26, 2023
Jailed Iran Activist Rushed to Hospital After Officials Denied Medical Care Following Heart Surgery
On the night of October 24, Fatemeh Sepehri, 59, a prominent political activist, was rushed to Qaim Hospital in Mashhad due to severe headaches and chest pains.
Sepehri, who had recently undergone heart surgery, is now being treated in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. A day after being discharged after her surgery, on October 20, she had been re-arrested and taken to Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad.
Khosro Alikordi, Sepehri's lawyer, told IranWire in an interview that her client's recent video from the hospital, in which she expressed hope that the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East will lead to the downfall of the Islamic Republic, prompted the latest arrest despite her medical condition.
"I emphatically declare that the Iranian nation stands in solidarity with the people of Israel," she said in the video. "I hope [Hamas’s] ‘Al-Aqsa Storm’ operation [brings an end to] the Islamic Republic."
The outspoken activist emphasized that the people of Iran do not want war or the killing of innocent people. She added that peace has been elusive in the Middle East since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979.
Sepehri is a political activist and one of the signatories of the "14 People" statement, a 2019 letter in which political and civil activists called for the resignation of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. She has spent much of her time in prison since signing the statement.
Many Iranians are familiar with Sepehri and her activism. She has appeared wearing a hijab in her videos and in her interviews on Persian-language television channels outside the country – in which she has criticized the government and Ali Khamenei.
Sepehri's husband was a casualty of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, from 1980 to 1988, and she has the title of being a “family of a martyr" in the Islamic Republic.
It was reported that she might receive a pardon from Khamenei due to her status as the wife of a "martyr." However, upon her temporary release in 2019, she made a resolute statement, saying, "I won't back down, I won't stay silent. I have much to say, and I will continue on this path."
In a voice message during that time, she expressed her disinterest in seeking pardon from Khamenei as she did not recognize his authority.
Sepehri pointed out the injustices she had endured due to the war, the loss of her husband, and over 38 years of activism and dissent. Her more recent arrests were also linked to the nationwide protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini. Sepehari was taken into custody on September 21, 2022.
In the year and one month since her most recent arrest, she has faced multiple hospitalizations and treatments for various ailments, including heart problems.
Her hand has also undergone surgery at least three times to remove growths. But the Iranian judiciary has not allowed her to recuperate outside of prison.
This raises serious concerns about her health and the treatment of political activists within the judicial system.
Asghar Sepehri, brother of Fatemeh Sepehri, said his sister's condition is dire.
Sepehri's mother, during a visit, also witnessed fellow inmates assisting her daughter in returning to her cell, as she was unable to walk unaided, in a recent visit.
In a video, Sepehari's mother expressed her distress, saying, "She has back pain, chest pain, and aching arms and legs. She was terribly cold, distressed, and unwell." She concluded her message by saying, "Have you achieved your goal, Mr. Khamenei?”
But Sepehri's critical condition is not only attributed to her physical health. According to information obtained by IranWire and confirmed by her lawyer, Khosro Alikordi, the prison room at Vakil Abad, where she is held, had an open window through which fresh air and natural light entering the room. Prison authorities have now blocked the window – causing profound distress to Sepehri.
Sepehri’s lawyer added, "Her issues stem from the heart surgery, and the repercussions are potentially life-threatening. Two of her heart vessels were obstructed, leading to an initial angiogram, followed by the heart surgery."
He elaborated further, stating, "The veins utilized in her heart surgery were extracted from her leg, severely limiting her mobility, to the point where even sitting can be challenging.”
The high-sodium and fatty meals in the prison, as well as the overall hygiene and nutrition, have had a detrimental impact on Sepehri's health.
Alikordi emphasized that the optimal recovery period for a patient after heart surgery ranges from three to six months.
Sepehri has undergone heart surgery twice since September 27. The first time, following cardiac angiography, due to a swift transfer to prison and the failure of the angiography, doctors were compelled to conduct heart surgery within a short time to save her life.
"We are utilizing all the available legal channels to pursue this matter," said Alikordi, adding, "I hold strong hope that the provincial medical examiner will confirm that Mrs. Sepehri cannot be incarcerated."
Earlier, it was reported that the Mashhad medical examiner, under pressure from security institutions, hastily voted on Sepehri's capacity to endure imprisonment, under the condition that specific protocols would be established to accommodate her in prison.
An informed source emphasized that her history of seizures, severe migraines, and the aftermath of heart surgery would undeniably place her in a life-threatening situation if she remained in prison.
Regarding her current condition, the source noted that Sepehri's children are actively striving to have her examined by a neurologist in the hospital.
She has been unable to eat anything in prison for the past few days and is experiencing severe blood pressure issues which makes it exceedingly unclear what has transpired with her health.