12/30/2022, 13.49
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Christmas in Tehran: Christian woman arrested in connection with pro-Mahsa Amini protests

Bianka Zaia, a 38-year-old Assyrian, was arrested on 26 November but confirmation only came during the Christmas holiday. She is believed to be held in Evin prison and has not been able to contact family members. According to the latest figures, more than 500 protesters have been killed and 18,000 arrested, with a hundred death sentences.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – An Iranian Christian woman was detained for taking part in street protests over the death of Mahsa Amini by the morality police.

Her arrest took place in late November but confirmation came only over the Christmas holiday, further evidence of the iron fist used by Iran’s theocratic regime against anyone who demonstrates, including Christians who along with other minorities have been warned to "stay away" from the protests.

According to the Assyrian Policy Institute (API), Bianka Zaia (pictured), a 38-year-old Assyrian Christian, was detained in Tehran because she was involved in the street demonstrations in favour of women's rights and freedom of expression.

Since mid-September, a wave of protests has swept across the country, especially by women, over the death of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman.

Bianka Zaia is reportedly held in Section 209 of the infamous Evin prison, just outside the capital. What is more, she has been denied legal counsel and contacts with her family.

Activists and NGOs are sounding the alarm about her condition, in particular since the wing of the prison where she is held is reserved for political prisoners, is notorious for its harsh custodial regime, and the widespread use of psychological and physical torture, including sexual assault.

On the evening of 26 November, plainclothes agents raided Bianka's home and seized computers, mobile phones, and other items, including a Bible and religious figurines, local sources say.

API Executive Director Reine Hanna said that she was " incredibly concerned” about the lives of the people in Iranian jails, “especially those in Evin Prison."

The activist bemoans the powerlessness of NGOs and the inertia of foreign governments vis-à-vis the regime’s harsh crackdown, which has intensified recently, although hope for Bianka’s release remains alive.

Meanwhile, the toll from the repression is getting worse. At least 100 people have been sentenced to death, five of them women (and are at risk of imminent execution), this according to the latest estimates by Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR).

The Hrana news agency has reported 508 people killed (including 69 children) during more than 1,200 demonstrations in 161 cities with more than 18,000 people arrested between 26 September and 7 December.

During a meeting of the Supreme Council, Iran’s Chief Justice, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i called for punishments to deter those “elements that cause unrest”.

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