The Assyrian Policy Institute is deeply concerned by reports that a 38-year-old Assyrian woman named Bianka Zaia has been detained in Tehran, Iran in connection to recent protests supporting women's rights and free expression following the death of Jîna (Mahsa) Amini in September.
Bianka is reportedly being held in Section 209 of Evin Prison where she has had limited contact with family. Concerns have been raised of her wellbeing, as Section 209 is the most notorious holding area for political prisoners in Iran, known for its harsh conditions and use of torture. According to Human Rights Watch, Iranian authorities have subjected detainees to various forms of physical and psychological torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual assault.
According to reports, plainclothes officers raided Bianka's home and seized her laptop, cell phone, and other items, including a Bible and religious figurines, on the evening of November 26, 2022. The officers reportedly held a warrant for her arrest and took her into custody. We will continue to monitor the situation as best we can in the current circumstances.
"We are incredibly concerned for the lives of all those in prisons across Iran, but especially those in Evin Prison," said Reine Hanna, API Executive Director. "The challenging part about this for us as advocates is that we have no real option but to spread awareness and hope for Bianka's release, as we have not determined a meaningful way we can help her and others affected in the current context."
In recent weeks, Iranian authorities have escalated their crackdown against widespread dissent and protests through dubious national security charges against detained activists and grossly unfair trials. Charges against protestors have included vaguely defined national security charges and trial proceedings appear to fall grossly short of international standards. Recent events are consistent with Iran's long history of prosecuting activists and dissidents.
The API condemns the Iranian Government's forceful repression of free expression in response to the Iranian people's movement for democracy and human rights and expresses concern for all political prisoners being held across Iran.