Zeynab Jalalian, a 41-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, is one of the longest serving women prisoners held for politically motivated reasons in Iran. Amnesty International is calling for her immediate release.
Zeynab Jalalian was arbitrarily arrested in March 2008, convicted on charges of “enmity against God” (moharebeh) and sentenced to death for social and political activities with the political wing of the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). Her work focused on the empowerment of women and girls from the oppressed Kurdish minority and Kurdish self-determination.
The trial was grossly unfair, lasting only a few minutes and without her lawyer present. She was sentenced based on “confessions” made after enduring months of torture. In December 2011, Zeynab Jalalian’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after she was granted clemency by the Supreme Leader. In Iran, a life prison sentence means serving the full length of an individual’s life. She is currently held in Yadz prison, some 1400km away from her family home in West Azerbaijan province, making family visits extremely difficult.
In April 2016, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on Iran to release Zeynab Jalalian. The Working Group determined that she was detained for the peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association and denied her right to a fair trial. The Working Group also expressed grave concern for her physical and mental wellbeing and said that her treatment violated the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Despite this finding, Iranian authorities continued to subject Zeynab Jalalian to torture by deliberately denying her healthcare to coerce her into providing a videotaped “confession” and “repenting” for her past activities. Following at least two Covid-19 infections, Zeynab Jalalian has developed a lung condition and has trouble breathing – a condition that needs proper treatment.