‘Horrifying and unacceptable’: Plea to protect Iranian doctors

Jolyon Attwooll

7/12/2022 4:21:41 PM

Iranian–Australian GPs and their colleagues have written a powerful condemnation of the treatment of healthcare workers in Iran. 

Dr Farnoush Nia, a Melbourne GP
Dr Farnoush Nia, a Melbourne GP, is working to raise awareness of the plight of medical professionals in Iran.

A group of Iranian–Australian doctors have accused the Iranian Government of ‘horrific’ abuses against medical workers and want to raise awareness of the acute challenges facing healthcare professionals in the country.
They have written to the RACGP describing the Iranian regime’s alleged imprisoning of medical professionals on fabricated grounds, the coercion of doctors to supply false medical statements, and the death of a female surgeon during the violence.
Dr Farnoush Nia, who studied in Tehran and is now an RACGP Fellow practising in Melbourne, helped write the letter. It has been signed by more than 100 Iranian–Australian GPs and doctors in other medical specialities as well as their colleagues. 
They expressed ‘grave concerns’ about the ‘deliberate violation of medical neutrality and non-interference with medical services by the Islamic Republic [IR] regime forces’.
Dr Nia says contemporaries from her days as a medical student have been imprisoned, and that she still does not know where some of them are.
She explains why she felt compelled to speak up.
‘It is really disturbing,’ Dr Nia told newsGP. ‘It’s one of those things that really affects our mental health.
‘The worst thing is knowing how helpless they are back there. It really, really affects us.
‘We decided to write this letter because we really feel being their voice is the only thing we can do.
‘None of us are really feeling safe to go back.’
The correspondence says that dozens of doctors and medical students in the country have been detained since the protests began for advocating neutral medical services. The recent violence was prompted by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish–Iranian woman, following her arrest by the country’s morality police.
The letter also includes an account of a female surgeon who allegedly died from a gunshot wound during protests.
According to the signatories, healthcare workers ‘at all levels’ are being coerced into giving false death certificates and fabricating information for coroners’ reports to disguise the true causes of death.
Reuters reports that at least 300 people have been killed since protests started in September, although human rights organisations believe the true number is likely to be much higher.
Students are also being forced to undergo treatment at mental health facilities involuntarily, the health professionals say – a situation they compare to Gulag jails in the former Soviet Union.
Another concern is that of ambulances being co-opted by the regime forces to move injured protesters into detention, an issue reported in The New York Times last month.
The letter-writers say Iranian residents affected by the violence are reluctant to seek medical care for fear of repercussions.
‘Many are reaching out to doctors secretly to get care – a tremendous risk for both patients and doctors,’ they wrote.

In response to the letter, the RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins denounced any obstruction of doctors trying to their jobs.
‘Every healthcare professional has the right to treat the injured and the ill without being threatened, assaulted or jailed,’ she told newsGP.
‘We condemn unreservedly any use of violence and coercion against Iranian doctors and nurses simply wishing to treat their communities.
‘The situation their Australian-based colleagues describe is horrifying and unacceptable, and flies in the face of the “first do no harm” ethos of medicine. 
‘I stand in solidarity with our brave Iranian colleagues fighting for the basic human right of neutral medical care, and in admiration of the women leading with acts of courage.’

 A rally in Sydney on October 1, 2022, with protesters demonstrating against the Iranian authorities. (Image: AAP)

Since the letter was written, Dr Nia says more doctors have been put in jail. She expresses particular concerns surrounding Dr Ibrahim Rigi, a GP in the eastern city of Zahedan, as well as husband and wife Dr Hamid Qarahasanlo and Dr Farzaneh Qarahasanlo, who are medical professionals based in Karaj near Tehran.
They may face the death penalty, Dr Nia believes – and says that they are being denied the right to use their own trusted lawyers.

Meanwhile, an ongoing Parliamentary Inquiry into the human rights implications of the violence in Iran recently heard that surveillance of Iranian–Australians is happening in this country.
It is a risk that Dr Nia acknowledges, but she will not let that stop her from speaking out. Along with her co-signatories, she hopes greater awareness will increase pressure on Iranian authorities to stop killing people and uphold the principles of medical neutrality.
‘It is nothing [in comparison] to people who are going to the streets and … just trying to get very, very basic human rights,’ she said.
‘This is the least we can do.’
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Dr Hassan Reihani   8/12/2022 8:24:28 AM

I hope this violence be stopped soon. We, all physicians in Iran, gravely concerned about safety of our colleagues. Dr Hamid Qarahasanlo's life is in danger and he needs our support.

Dr Ali Kolahdooz   8/12/2022 9:32:08 AM

The death toll has risen to 500. The Islamic regime in Iran the detained over 180,000 protesters and sentence to death so far 11 of them of which few are as young as 17!!!!

Dr Ali Kolahdooz   8/12/2022 10:30:42 AM

The death toll has risen to 500. The Islamic regime in Iran the detained over 180,000 protesters and sentence to death so far 11 of them of which few are as young as 17!!!!

Dr Ali Kolahdooz   8/12/2022 10:31:14 AM

18,000 is correct in my previous comment.

Dr Ali Kolahdooz   8/12/2022 2:56:21 PM

Dr Azadeh Amini Najafaabdi comment is very false and disturbing .She is claiming a violent murder of a young para militia personnel by a very well known reputable doctor and his wife who were tortured for such a claim. The accused doctor belongs to a minority religion which is enough for a dictator authoritarian regime to sentence someone to death. The accused doctor has a long history of charity work and has support of many thousands doctors living in Iran to free him from torture and jail.
Dr Amini should be very ashamed of her claim as all the violence started by the regime armed personnel and supporters. There has been thousands of video footage of such a crime against protestors which no one can deny.

Dr Amirhadi Masoudi   8/12/2022 3:05:08 PM

Very distressing situation.

The crackdown of peaceful protest by security forces following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, gender-based and sexual violence, excessive use of force, torture has been documented by United Nations Human Rights - Office of The High Commissioner.

As doctors in Australia we should do whatever possible to support Iranian under such a horrific situation.

Dr Phillip Seeley   8/12/2022 4:33:01 PM

Dr Azadeh, you have asked for evidence regarding Dr Nia's comments. However where is your evidence for "the horrific murder of ..." said person. You cannot have it both ways. It appears you are trying to deflect the focus of Dr Nia's comments.
Furthermore we do know the Persian theocracy is blinding, maiming and killing protestors. They seek to inflict fear by issuing death and prison sentences to those they have arrested.
I think we need to understand also that the so called government has put a clamp on communication and it is very difficult to see the extent of the demonstrations and the violence against the demonstrators. However, what we do see is very damning for a government that uses its army against its people.

Dr Arezoo Mirzaei   8/12/2022 4:49:06 PM

Thanks for publishing this article.
We are really concerned about what is happening in Iran.
"None of us are really feeling safe to go back." So true!
I lived first three decades of my life in Iran, so I do not need any evidence to believe Iranian government violence. I have seen morality police and Basij, Any kind of violence is expectable and believable from their side.
Ukraine could not respond Russia's invasion peacefully!
No one likes violence and war but does Iranian have any other option?
Iran is going downhill during the last 300 years and for the last 40 years Islamic Republic has speed it up!
Though, it needs a great degree of optimism to say everything will get better after Islamic Republic!

Dr Sara Taher   8/12/2022 11:54:22 PM

This article serves justice to protect integrity of Iranian health practitioners.
Over the last 80 days there has been numerous occasions of breach in medical neutrality. Some examples include: 
Doctors been attacked or arrested purely for providing care to injured protestors,
Hospitals have been raided by Islamic regime forces and Basiji’s to arrest injured protestors,
Medical students have been brutally beaten during peaceful protests and ambulances have been used to transport troops and oppression forces.
There are hundreds of video footage for all above claims on social media spread by Iranian people. Falsify the truth has always been The habit of Islamic regime.The government-run media would only show the side which serves their ideology.

Dr Sara Taher   8/12/2022 11:57:13 PM

While using violence is not supported by us as medical professionals, systematic use of violence by Islamic Regime has resulted in protestors defending themselves which has led to death of a handful of Basiji militia forces as opposed to more than five hundred protestors. 
There is multiple footages of
Islamic regime forces shooting undefended protestors in the face with birdshot gunshots at arm length, resulted in more than 400 enucleations in the last 2 months according to confirmed ophtalmologist reports from Iran.

Now the barbaric regime is holding show trials in order to scare protestors. Dr‘s Hamid Qarahasanloo and his wife, Farzaneh Qarahasanloo are not “so called doctors” but very credible members of Iranian medical society. Without any solid evidence of their involvement in the killing of Ajamian (a militia member), they have been trialled amongst 13 others. They were both beaten and tortured to confess to crimes they have never committed.

Dr Sara Taher   8/12/2022 11:57:55 PM

There are photos of Hamid in hospital with 2 intercostal drains after he has received treatment for fractured ribs and haemoneumothorax.

Dr Zahra Maghami   9/12/2022 1:41:33 AM

Thanks for raising awairness , unfortunately thousands of protesters are now arrested and many are facing death penalty , today a 23 year old protester was executed . I should emphasize that many of the confessions were under horrifying tortures

Dr Shafagh Nik Pour   9/12/2022 2:00:48 AM

Islamic republic has 43 years resume full of corruption, murder, human violation,… .
This movement is not just simple protest for the right of choosing the dress. This is a revolution.
IR regime spends millions of dollars to spread propaganda, and as well mentioned in the article, the only thing we can do, for those who sacrifice their life in the street for freedom, is to be their voice.

Dr Mehdi Saeidpour   9/12/2022 5:14:17 PM

In the past two months, more than 18,000 people in Iran have been tortured and tormented in the custody of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) due to peaceful protests, and more than 60 children have been systematically killed.
Supporting Iran's social movement and condemnation of the crime of the IRI is a human obligation.
The criminal regime of the IRI is attempting to distract and divert the attention of Western countries by means of its propaganda machine, in which it has more than 40 years of investment. This propaganda machine, in the shape of ordinary people and organisations, indirectly and deviously, or directly and shamelessly, rationalises the repression and brutality of the regime.
Behold the serpents!
Be the voice of the Iranian!
All of us are historically and morally responsible for the crime that has been taking place in Iran and we must be responsive to the future.

Dr Shirin Hooshmand   10/12/2022 12:25:38 AM

The Islamic regime is a terrorist organisation known to be the most brutal state of power in history. Any criminal act we have in a dictionary they commit and even the ones we can not imagine. The Islamic regime incriminates citizens without any effort of a fair amount of investigation. It fabricates evidence and doesn't allow the alleged citizens to access a lawyer to defend themself. In this situation any person who stands on the side of a criminal is a part of chaos and brutality.

Dr Hamid Qarahasanlo and Dr Farzaneh Qarahasanlo are well known doctors with a very high level of good reputation both where human rights activists building four schools with aim of their colleagues at the most remote regions of Iran and they have contributed even more to children without any family or shelter. They are not criminals and we all stand with them against this allegations.
We condemn the vicious action of Islamic regime against human rights

Dr Mohsen Sadrneshin   10/12/2022 2:02:19 AM

So upsetting to see our beautiful country is governed by a Mafia who will never let anyone protest or even talk.
People in Iran are under substantial pressure; they don’t even have a right to live as a human being and our doctors are no exception.
Unfortunately recently I’ve heard one our former classmate is arrested for helping injured people.
I totally agree with this article. If you lived in Iran before and you were not one of them you would know it’s true.
For us it’s obvious but we should also let the world know.

Dr Nastaran Rafieian   14/12/2022 6:46:27 PM

Dr Azade Amini Najfabadi

Neither one of us is in a position to answer the question of "who killed Ruhollah Ajamian",
the only way to know that is a fair judicial process and trial; let's face it, broken ribs and a punctured lung do not scream that.
Also, I refer to documents published by the IR (refer to the submission by The High Council for Human Rights of The IR, in response to Australia's Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into recent violence in Iran), the number of casualties on their side has been: 30 martyrs, 6,000 injured law enforcement agents, over 180 banks and 21 religious places, as of October 29,
While over 18000 protesters have been arrested, over 1100 people blinded, (only in Tehran, reported by Farabi hospital health care workers' letter), 500 killed on the street or under torture including 40 children, tens of people on verge of death sentence,
2 already executed,
comparing numbers, who is the violent side?!