Kurdish labour activist Osman Esmaeili, who has been serving a 16-month sentence in Saqqez Prison in Kurdistan Province since November 2023, is suffering from an inguinal hernia and has been denied urgent surgery, raising serious concerns about his health.

Despite being transferred to an outside medical facility in January due to his deteriorating condition, the authorities have yet to provide the urgently needed surgery, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) has learned.

Medical experts have confirmed Esmaeili’s diagnosis of inguinal hernia, stressing the need for immediate surgery. However, prison officials and the local court have taken no steps to grant him medical leave or transfer him to medical centres outside the prison.

On 2 January, Branch Two of the Saqqez Criminal Court ordered Esmaeili’s temporary transfer from Saqqez Prison to Evin Prison in Tehran for medical follow-up. However, Evin prison officials refused to admit him, citing shortcomings in his case file, and he was returned to Saqqez prison.

Medical professionals have stressed that the continued denial of access to specialised medical services poses a serious threat to the health of the political prisoner.

A prominent figure in the Kurdish labour rights scene and a former political prisoner, Esmaeili was arrested by security forces in Saqqez on 8 February 2023 and taken to the Ministry of Intelligence detention centre in Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province.

After 70 days in detention, Esmaeili was provisionally released from Saqqez prison after on bail of 10 billion Iranian rials – nearly 20,000 USD.

Esmaeili was tried on 18 June 2023 in the first branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Saqqez and he was notified of the decision on 11 September 2023.

The verdict stated that Esmaeili received 31 months and 15 days for “membership” of the Komala Kurdistan’s Organisation of the Communist Party of Iran on the charge of “actions against national security” and a sentence of seven months and 15 days of imprisonment for “propaganda against the state”, related to his presence in the burial ceremony for Jina Amini.

Esmaeili had previously shared part of his verdict on his Facebook page, highlighting that the court had revised the sentence to 16-months of imprisonment.

The activist said: “The court took into account the mitigating factors stipulated in Article 38 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code, including Mr Esmaeili’s age and marital status. Referring to the recent amendments and Article 6 of the 2019 Law on the Reduction of Imprisonment in conjunction with Article 37 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code, the court has revised the sentence to a 16-month prison term, factoring in the previous days of detention.”

In late October 2023, the Supreme Court later upheld a 16-month prison sentence for Esmaeili and he consequently received a notice from Branch Two of the Enforcement of Judgements Office of the Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office in Saqqez, ordering him to appear in court within ten days to begin serving his sentence.

On 13 November, the activist was imprisoned to serve a 16-month sentence in Saqqez Prison.

Over the years, Esmaeili has faced multiple detentions and imprisonments due to his advocacy for workers’ rights and his role in organising events in Saqqez to mark International Workers’ Day.