Lindsay Richardson, Montreal Gazette
First posted: Tuesday, August 30, 2016 09:48 AM EDT | Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2016 10:01 AM EDT
MONTREAL — Concordia professor Homa Hoodfar, held in an Iranian prison since June, has been hospitalized amid concerns for her rapidly declining health, according to a family member.
Sources in Iran notified Amanda Ghahremani, Hoodfar’s niece and legal representative, that Hoodfar had been admitted to the hospital disoriented, severely weakened, and that she “could hardly walk or talk.” However, the family have not received any further information about her condition.
It is also unclear whether Hoodfar, 65, has been receiving adequate care to address what her family describes in a statement as “a serious neurological condition” while being held in Iran’s infamous Evin prison.
Three months have passed since the anthropologist was taken into the custody of Iranian officials and indicted on ambiguous charges, including what a prosecutor called “dabbling in feminism” and propaganda against the state.
Her family alleges that she has been routinely denied checkups or access to a medical specialist while in prison. It is also unclear whether she has been taking her medication regularly, the family said — Hoodfar also suffers from chronic tension headaches, requiring constant hydration and rest, Ghahremani explained.
“There’s no impartiality — as my aunt, I’m very invested in making sure that she has all of the resources behind her in Canada, so people understand that she needs to be released immediately,” Ghahremani said. “I hope that (the Canadian government) will be engaging in a dialogue with Iranian authorities to ensure her swift release.”
Ghahremani said she believes Hoodfar has been returned to the prison since her hospital visit, where she remains in solitary confinement. This is a direct violation of Iranian law, as an inmate is entitled to be transferred to a general prison ward “immediately” after an indictment, Ghahremani outlined in the statement.
Iranian authorities announced Hoodfar’s indictment on June 24 without informing her lawyer, who was not given the opportunity to review the case files or be present during the interrogations, the family alleged.
Although born in Iran, Hoodfar has lived in Montreal for the better part of the last 30 years and only returned to her native country in February to see family and conduct academic research.
Hoodfar was first arrested in March by a counter-espionage service of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution — her computers and identification papers were seized, and she was subjected to lengthy interrogations, but ultimately released on bail.
She was arrested again in June, and has been held in questionable circumstances since.
Hoodfar’s family believes solitary incarceration is an attempt to “break” her and solicit a false confession. It’s a questionable method that renders “illegal psychological pressure,” Ghahremani said, and is one of many miscarriages of justice that the family has confronted while struggling to find clarity in the situation.
Hoodfar has not been allowed to contact her family or her lawyer, Ghahremani explained, and the officials overseeing the case have been nothing more than opaque. Court authorities have allegedly tried to dismiss Hoodfar’s lawyer in Iran, who has filed numerous requests to post bail and grant her access to a proper health assessment. All these requests were denied by the higher-ups of the Iranian court, Ghahremani said.
Hoodfar’s lawyer was not present during the interrogations, was not allowed to review the case file before it was brought to the media, and along with family, has been denied visitation rights at Evin.
“We were respecting the domestic judicial processes that were going on since the announcement of her indictment,” Ghahremani told the Montreal Gazette. “However, we’ve seen that Iran’s laws are being violated — so we have no choice, after the news of her hospitalization, to go public.”
“We are now counting on the media — on the publicity — to relay the message that this is a great concern, and that she needs to be released immediately,” she said.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.