Wednesday , 12 June 2024

Brain Surgery for Iranian Activist: Blood Clots and Tumor Following Arrest Over Headscarf

Iranwire – Zahra Shafiei Dehaghani, a writer, director, and civil activist, suffered brain injuries due to assaults during her arrest and was hospitalized last Friday. 

Zahra Shafiei Dehaghani, a writer, director, and civil activist, suffered brain injuries due to assaults during her arrest and was hospitalized last Friday

Following brain surgery, she was discharged on Tuesday.

She was arrested on September 15, 2023, and charged with “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” and “assembly and collusion to disrupt national security.” 

These charges, combined with previous cases related to her civil and human rights activities, resulted in a sentence of 9 years and 6 months in prison, along with a fine.

During her arrest, she sustained severe physical injuries.

Dehaghani has created several documentaries and animations focusing on fundamental human rights. 

In 2018, she directed “Advanced Cancer,” a documentary about the conditions of women prisoners in Qarchak prison.

IranWire interviewed sources close to her family and one of her lawyers handling her case to discuss her current situation. 

On September 15, 2023, Dehaghani was arrested on Elkhebal Street for not wearing a headscarf. 

A source close to her family explained to IranWire that the city centre was under martial law to instil fear following protests on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death. 

Officers indiscriminately arrested people to spread panic. Dehaghani’s family, upon learning of her arrest, encountered many others at the detention centre whose loved ones had also been detained arbitrarily.

Due to her prior civil activities and related cases, she was first transferred to Qarchak Prison and then, a few days later, to the women’s ward of Evin Prison. 

In an October 2 phone call from Qarchak Prison, Dehaghani described her arrest and the assault by security agents. 

She recounted how, after getting off the Valiasr metro, she found the street unusually deserted. 

While heading towards Azadi Street, some elderly people warned her about the officers arresting everyone in sight. 

On Shirin France Street, she encountered numerous women in “black chador, military uniforms, and black masks,” along with men in “military uniforms with no names” and “plainclothes with black shirts and pants.” 

They arrested her with profanity and beatings. “They beat me hard and in a very bad and strange way. They tied my hands behind my back and hit me on the head and face. One of the women kicked me hard in the back, and then the men in plain clothes came and pushed me into the van. 

They took a bunch of girls and boys, the girls, all wearing hijabs and cloaks, were sitting and crying, asking what they had done to deserve this. When the boys tried to defend the girls, they were beaten as well.”

This testimony highlights the severe and indiscriminate nature of the arrests and the physical abuse suffered by detainees, reflecting the broader context of repression during that period. 

According to a person close to Dehaghani’s family, medical examinations revealed that the blows she received to her head during her arrest caused blood clots in three areas of her brain. 

These clots led to increased blood pressure, resulting in a stroke, and have affected her vision and balance. 

Despite these serious health issues, she was subjected to intensive interrogations for hours during the first month of her imprisonment.

Saeed Dehghan, one of Zahra’s lawyers handling the international aspects of her case, described these actions as criminal. 

He told IranWire: “In such cases, the arrested person should file a complaint against the arresting officers, interrogators, and judicial officers. 

However, where to file the complaint depends on which agency the detainers, interrogators, and officers work under. Some are military, and some are not.”

She was released on bail in November last year. 

A source close to her family noted: “When she was released on bail, we already knew her blood pressure was high, and she had been given blood pressure medication in prison. 

Each time her blood pressure was checked, it was over 18, and once it had risen to 21, which is extremely dangerous. They had given her pills, but we also noticed she had a slight stutter, lacked balance, and complained of decreased vision.”

Her family consulted several doctors, including neurologists, for further health evaluations. 

“The neurologist told us that due to the impact, clots had formed in three areas of her head, causing her blood pressure to rise and resulting in a stroke. 

The symptoms of this condition include decreased vision, imbalance in walking, and other related issues,” explained the source.

Doctors are conducting multiple tests, including scans and MRIs, to further investigate her brain condition. 

“In one of her brain images, aside from the three clots believed to be caused by the head injury, a tumour was found on the other side of her brain,” the source added.

The neurosurgeon diagnosed Dehaghani with a brain meningioma tumour, which often remains asymptomatic for years and is typically discovered incidentally during scans for other issues, such as head trauma—exactly how her tumour was found. 

She was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday a few days after undergoing brain surgery.

A person close to Dehaghani’s family emphasized that all her medical care was conducted in approved medical centres and by specialists endorsed by forensic medicine. 

This ensures that they can advocate for her inability to tolerate imprisonment.

Dehaghani has been sentenced to 9 years and 6 months in prison and fined for charges including collusion, propaganda, and various civil activities.

Saeed Dehghan, her lawyer, highlights their current objective, to halt the execution of her sentence or modify the punishment in light of her health condition. 

This is based on Article 502 of the Criminal Procedure Law.

Article 502 states that if a convicted person has a physical or mental illness that worsens with imprisonment or delays recovery, the judge can postpone the punishment upon receiving a forensic medical opinion. 

If recovery is unlikely, especially in suspended verdicts, the judge can alter the punishment to something suitable for the illness and the crime, providing a final decision to the issuing authority. 

If an illness arises during imprisonment requiring immediate suspension of the punishment, the judge must act accordingly.