Tag Archives: Hunger Strike

Student Ali Ajami on hunger strike

Ali Ajami, a 23 year old student activist has been on hunger strike for 6 days now along with 5 other political prisoners in Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj. He was arrested in February 2010 at his parents village near Sabzevar. During his arrest the regimes thugs violently attacked his family. After spending months in solitary confinement in Evin prison he was sentenced to four years in prison, later reduced to two years of prison in exile. He was moved to Raja’i Shar prison and hasn’t seen his family in 7 months.

The hunger strike started after Ali was attacked by the guards in the hospital of the prison and was very badly injured. The hunger strikes in Raja’i Shahr are also in solidarity with those on strike in Evin prison.

 

Iranian hunger strikers sew their lips together in protest at UK deportation

The Guardian – Four Iranians, including a 17-year-old boy, are on hunger strike and have sewn their lips together with fishing wire in protest at plans by the British government to send them back to Tehran.

The men, who are among six protesters to have not eaten for 16 days, say they were beaten, tortured and in one case raped after taking part in anti-regime protests that swept Iran in 2009. They claim that although their lives would be in danger in Iran they have been “ignored and dismissed” by UK authorities since they sought refuge in the country last year.

“We have sewn our mouths because there is no other way,” said Keyvan Bahari, 32, who has scars across his back and arms from what he said was 12 days of being slashed with razor blades by the Iranian authorities when he was a student. “Nobody in the UK hears us or cares what we say so we have no other option but to do this.”

Bahari, a former champion wrestler who ran his own training centre in Tehran, said the media and government in the UK and US had encouraged him and tens of thousands of other young people to stand up against the regime but had now “washed their hands” of the protesters.

“When I was back in Tehran, I was seeing Obama and British officials on our illegal satellite TVs, encouraging us day in day out to continue our protest,” said Bahari, who is one of three men camping on the pavement outside Lunar House immigration centre in Croydon. Speaking with difficulty through his sewn-up lips, which are already sore and infected, he said: “They said that they will support us but now that I’m stuck in here and need help, they are nowhere.”

The men say they are taking liquids, but doctors say that even so, they could deteriorate quickly, especially if they have pre-existing medical conditions.

Mahyar Meyari, 17, lying in the small tent next to Bahari, recalls how he was raped after being arrested following a demonstration on al-Quds day in 2009. “I was blindfolded and taken to an unknown place where I was kept for a week. I was kicked on the head by batons many times … and even raped,” he said before breaking down.

Mahyar paid a smuggler to get him out of the country but says he did not know where he was being taken before he arrived in the UK 16 days later. “I can’t explain how I feel here, I can’t believe what’s happening to me,” said Mahyar, who does not speak English. “When I claimed asylum with the Home Office, they first didn’t believe that I’m 17 years old, they said I was lying. There’s a culture of disbelief in the Home Office, everybody thinks you are lying by default.”

The men’s asylum claims were all turned down, although some are still involved in appeals. They say they feel let down by the legal system and the lawyers appointed by the Home Office to represent them.

“I’m very discontent about my legal representation,” said Bahari. “I saw my lawyer more as a Home Office officer than a lawyer there to protect my rights. He was more looking after the rights of the Home Office.”

A government spokesman said the UK Border Agency “takes every asylum application it receives seriously” adding the men were given “every opportunity to make their representations to us as well as a right to appeal the decision to the courts”.

He added: “They all had access to free legal advice as well as a designated UK Border Agency caseowner who considered their case on its individual merits.”

However, the men say they have had very little contact with the Home Office since they began their protest and campaigners – and fellow Iranian activists – say asylum seekers are fighting a culture of disbelief across the government.

“The people who are supposed to interview asylum seekers in the Home Office, they do not interview these people, they interrogate them,” said Akbar Karimian, an Iranian activist who has been helping the group. “They search for an error or a mistake in their testimonies so that they can find a contradictory evidence to reject their claim. You imagine that the officers in a refugee organisation of this government are there to help these vulnerable people, but they are there to find a way to send them back.”

Campaigners say the UK hunger strike is a sign of the increasing desperation among Iranian asylum seekers. One man died after setting himself alight in Amsterdam this month and 25 Iranians sewed their lips together in Greece in an attempt to secure refugee status. The Medical Foundation, which is preparing a report on Meyari’s condition for his next appeal, says 293 Iranians were referred to the organisation for help in 2010.

Lying in the tent, Mahyar said the UK hunger strikers, like many fellow Iranians, were prepared for drastic action. “I prefer to die here than going back to Iran. I’ll continue this protest until somebody comes here and asks me why I’m doing this, until somebodycares about what has happened to me.”

 

Iranian Trade Unionist on Dry Hunger Strike, Grave Concerns for his Health

Free Reza Shahabi
Free Reza Shahabi

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today that the Iranian Judiciary must immediately release labor activist Reza Shahabi, who is currently on a dry hunger strike.

Reza Shahabi is a prisoner of conscience and member of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed) who has been on a dry hunger strike since Saturday, 4 December inside Evin prison’s ward 209. Shahabi’s wife, Zohreh Rezaei, told the Campaign that Shahabi is in critical condition. Shahabi has said he will continue his hunger strike until his judicial status is clarified.

Shahabi was arrested on 12 June at his workplace. He spent 40 days in solitary confinement and so far no charges have been announced. Four years ago, Shahabi was dismissed from his job for his union activities.

In an interview with the Campaign, Rezaei expressed concern about her husband’s physical condition. “When I went to visit him today, I noticed that he can no longer walk. He didn’t have the strength to talk, either. He was in terrible shape. Many of his friends and co-workers asked me to ask him today to break his hunger strike, but he said ‘I will continue my hunger strike until my judicial status is clarified.’ He has been in detention for seven months, but his charges are still unknown,” she said.

“He has been in prison for close to seven months. They agreed to release him on bail two months ago. First they said [his bail amount was] $60,000, but then they said we had to post bail at $100,000. Though we raised the money, they have not yet released him,” said Rezaei, adding that her husband has done nothing but defend the rights of his co-workers.

Rezaei told the Campaign that despite the efforts of Shahabi’s lawyer, he has not been able to access his case file to review it.  “I just want the situation with my husband’s case to be clarified as soon as possible, so that he may return to his family. I expect that just as Reza Shahabi defended the rights of his co-workers even when he was fired, that his co-workers would now defend him and his situation and not to leave him alone,” Rezaei said.

Shahabi is the sole breadwinner of his family with his friends helping his family to sustain themselves in his seven month absence.

Currently, in addition to Reza Shahabi, two other Tehran Bus Company union activists, Mansour Ossanlou and Saeed Aboutorabian are in prison.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is seriously concerned about Reza Shahabi’s deteriorating condition and holds Iranian authorities responsible for his health.

Seventeen prisoners on hunger strike

Hands Off the People of Iran demands immediate release of seventeen prisoners who have been on hunger strike over the last two weeks. The prisoners are student leaders such as Majid Tavakoli, journalists, trade unionists and human rights activists,

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran wrote:

“These prisoners have committed no crimes and are in prison solely because of their opinions and beliefs. Iran should release them immediately,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.

According to information received by the Campaign, the seventeen prisoners are being held in solitary confinement in ward 350 of Evin prison and communications with their families have been suspended.

The Campaign is seriously concerned about the health and safety of the prisoners of conscience. Three of the prisoners, Bahman Ahmadi Amouie, Keyvan Samimi, and Majid Tavakoli, started a “dry” hunger strike as of today, refusing even drinking water.

The other fourteen are continuing their “wet” hunger strike, meaning they are taking in only liquids. They include: Abdollah Moemeni, Ali Malihi, Hossein Nouraninejad, Kouhyar Goudarzi, Zia Nabavi, Majid Darri, Babak Bordbar, Gholamhossein Arshi, Mohammad Hossein Sohrabi rad, Ali Parviz, Hamid Reza Mohammadi, Jaafar Eghdami, Peyman Karimi Azad, and Ebrahim Babaei.

A family member of one of the detainees told the Campaign that the health condition of the prisoners in ward 350 has worsened over the past two months and the guards systematically use techniques to humiliate and put pressure on prisoners and their families. Tehran’s Prosecutor has kept silent about the ill-treatment of prisoners and has not provided any accountability to family members who have repeatedly sought to bring the prisoners’ dire condition to his attention.

The Campaign urged the Iranian Judiciary to release all prisoners of conscience who are held solely for their beliefs and opinions. The Campaign holds Iranian authorities responsible for the health and safety of prisoners of conscience on hunger strike.

The prisoners on hunger strike along with all other political prisoners should be released immediately and without conditions.

Jafar Panahi released on bail – but the struggle continues!

Hands Off the People celebrates the fact that Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi has been released from prison after more than two months. For the last week, he has been on hunger strike to protest against the conditions in the notorious Evin prison that he and his fellow prison mates had to endure.

A picture of Panahi taken yesterday
A picture of Panahi taken yesterday, May 25

He was arrested in March, apparently over plans to make a new critical film about the protests that sprung up in Iran after the rigged presidential elections in June 2009.

International pressure, including the protests staged at the Cannes Festival, as well as the campaigning work of organisations like Hopi (which, amongst other things, organised solidarity screenings of Panahi’s film ‘Offside’), have clearly played a role in him being freed. Panahi’s family and friends have told us how heartened he was to see that there were people fighting for his freedom.

He was released on a bail of $200,000 (£140,000).

A picture of Panahi taken yesterday
A picture of Panahi taken yesterday, May 25

But the struggle continues: his case has been referred to a revolutionary court, and he will still face trial, the official Irna news agency said. And hundreds of activists still remain behind bars. At least nine have been sentenced to death, and two have been executed already.

Hopi will continue to fight for the release of all political prisoners in Iran. Sanctions and war are not the answer to deal with the theocracy in Iran. Real democracy must come from below, from the workers’, the students, the women and unemployed in Iran.

Support Hands Off the People now. Join the campaign or make a donation: http://hopoi.org/

Panahi stages hunger strike

panahi picBen Lewis reports on the campaign to free the outspoken film maker imprisoned by the Iranian regime

Activists in Hands Off the People of Iran have been informed that Jafar Panahi, the internationally acclaimed film maker who has been incarcerated for over two months, has begun a hunger strike in Evin prison.

This is the latest brave step by Panahi, who is increasingly becoming a symbol of resistance. The solidarity he can generate is of grave cause concern for the Islamic Republic, despite its jails, armed thugs and reactionary militias. Panahi fully realises this, and he is using his standing to exert as much pressure on the regime as possible. He has refused offers of bail, saying that he will only accept it when all other political prisoners are released. Like him, the overwhelming majority of these prisoners were arrested as part of the shocking wave of repression unleashed by the regime in response to the enormous protests on the streets of Iran following last June’s rigged presidential elections.

As we have reported previously, Panahi has been subjected to rigorous interrogation in jail. The Evin interrogators appear to be pursuing the tried and tested approach of bombarding him with the same questions over and over again in order to force inconsistencies in his answers, backing this up with the soul-destroying conditions and humiliating treatment for which Evin prison has become infamous.

Last Saturday the authorities kept all inmates in his wing of the prison outside their cells in the open air for the whole night. Next morning he was interrogated once more, this time being accused of secretly working on a film from his cell. He is particularly concerned about some of the new threats that have been made against his family.

There is clearly a lot of work for us in the solidarity movement. We must do what we can to publicise Jafar Panahi’s brave stance, not least using his wonderfully human films. He – and indeed all the other political prisoners in Iran – cannot be allowed to suffer without an outcry. Holywood directors Martin Scorscese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Redford have issued forthright statements demanding his release. At this week’s 63rd Cannes Film Festival there were countless expressions of solidarity. One of the nine chairs for jury members remained empty in his honour. Given Panahi’s reputation internationally, it is quite striking that his case has hitherto been subjected to what John McDonnell MP has described as a “media blackout” in Britain, and we must break through this.

Simultaneously, it is vital ensure that the brutal actions of the Iranian state and its callous treatment of dissenters and critical figures of all kinds should not in any way be misappropriated by the US or UK governments to cover their designs on Iran and the region more generally. At a time when the permanent members of the UN security council – US, UK, China, Russia and France – have agreed on new proposals for a fresh round of sanctions, and when the rightwing Israeli politicians hypocritically hark on about the danger of a “second holocaust”, this is of the utmost importance.

Indeed, given that public opinion is not exactly welcoming the prospect of the further escalation of tension in the Middle East, one of the ways in which the imperialists may attempt to respond is to disingenuously latch on to the cause of Iran’s political prisoners. So there is a danger that the political and cultural establishment in the US and UK could hijack Panahi’s courageous stance for their own nefarious purposes. So we must redouble our campaign for the immediate and unconditional release not only of Panahi, but of all political prisoners, and link this with implacable opposition to imperialist sanctions and threats of war. A fight on two fronts which Hopi has conducted since its inception.

Solidarity success

May 12 saw well over 100 people attend a solidarity screening at London’s Soho Theatre of Panahi’s best known film, Offside, jointly organised by Hopi and the Labour Representation Committee. The event was the first in a series of film showings and solidarity events across the country. The Manchester screening took place on May 18, and there will be a further one in Glasgow on May 21.

The event opened with Soho Theatre’s artistic director, Lisa Goldman, providing a moving account of her work with Panahi on artistic projects in Iran. She was followed by John McDonnell, who outlined the significance of the campaign to free Panahi. “Every movement creates a symbol,” he said. “In refusing bail until all other political prisoners are freed, Jafar is taking a courageous stance that we in Hopi wish to applaud and highlight.” He emphasised the importance of Hopi’s core principles – against war or sanctions on Iran; but no support for the theocracy and unequivocal solidarity with genuinely democratic struggles from below against its rule, especially those of the workers’ movement.

This was a theme British-Iranian comic Shappi Khorsandi took up in her opening remarks to the audience, explaining that is why she “loved” Hopi. Offside was certainly a big hit with the audience: stormy applause followed its closing credits. At the end a message of thanks was read out from Panahi’s family.

PCS welcome

Hopi activists have been present this week at the Public and Commercial Services union conference in Brighton and our stall has had a very good response from delegates. PCS has been affiliated to Hopi since 2008 and the annual conference is always a good time to meet PCS militants new and old. Gratifyingly, the response we had from the delegates this year was particularly warm. We distributed some 400 information bulletins on the Jafar Panahi campaign and have already received over 50 signed postcards, which will be sent off in a special batch to Panahi’s family in Iran. We also raised funds for our campaigning work by selling numerous ‘No to war; no to theocracy’ badges and copies of Panahi’s films.

From Weekly Worker 818