The brother of a British-Iranian woman who has been held in an Iranian prison for nearly 80 days said recently that the U.K. Foreign Office is not doing enough to get his sister released.
“I spoke to the Foreign Office about a week ago. They said that they would send a diplomatic note to the Iranian government and wait for a response – but we haven’t heard anything yet,” Iman Ghavami told the The Telegraph. “If the Foreign Office could get involved in a more official way, it would be extremely helpful, as we simply have no idea how we are going to get my sister out of prison.”
Ghavami’s sister, Ghoncheh Ghavami, was arrested along with more than a dozen other women as they tried to enter a stadium to watch Iran’s national volleyball team play Italy on June 20.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, females have been forbidden to attend sporting events where men are competing and not considered to be fully dressed.
Iran's head of police, Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam, was quoted in the Daily Mail explaining why the 25-year-old dual citizen of Iran and Britain was originally arrested.
“In the current conditions, the mixing of men and women in stadiums is not in the public interest,” he said. “The stance taken by religious scholars and the supreme leader remains unchanged, and as the enforcer of law, we cannot allow women to enter stadiums.”
Ghavami and the women with whom she was arrested were staging a protest to call attention to women’s rights issues in Iran the day they tried to enter the stadium.
She was initially released after her arrest but when she went back to the police station to collect her belongings they began questioning her about her dual nationality.
Police detained her again without filing any charges. Her brother, who is currently in London, said Iranian police went to his parents’ home and confiscated their phones, laptops and iPads.
Her parents did not hear from their daughter for approximately three weeks.
“She was finally allowed to call them but couldn’t speak about anything that was happening to her or the conditions she was in. Then my parents asked her if she was in solitary confinement. She said ‘yes’ and the line went dead,” Iman Ghavami said.
He said his sister spent approximately 50 days in solitary confinement in Iran’s Evin prison, a facility known as a holding place for political prisoners and journalists. The brother said his parents have been allowed to visit their daughter four times in the nearly 80 days she has been behind bars but the experience is hard on his mother.
“The prison is notorious. Ghoncheh is in the worst part of it,” her brother said.
“I’ve only seen one photo of it but my parents visited her yesterday (Wednesday) and they are at breaking point,” he added. “My mother had to leave the visitor’s room and vomited so many times outside that she nearly passed out.”
The U.K. Foreign Office said British diplomats have discussed Ghavami’s situation with Iranian officials.
“We have raised our concerns with the Iranian government and asked for more information about her welfare and the charges against her,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.
Britain currently has no formal diplomatic relations with Iran. The British Embassy in Tehran was closed in 2011 after it was stormed and looted by a mob.
Iman Ghavami has started a Change.org petition and is asking people to sign it in order to urge the U.K. Foreign Office to do more to secure his sister’s release.
“We know that the U.K. government has the power to do more to help Ghoncheh,” he argues on the petition’s website. “Earlier this year when Meriam Ibrahim was held in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith, a petition gathered more than a million signatures and leaders around the world stepped in to urge the Sudanese government to set her free. They listened and she was soon freed.”
Photo Source: Facebook: Free Ghoncheh Ghavami