On his fifth day of hunger strike, Iranian dissident Heshmat Tabarzadi writes, “We are on hunger strike to get everyone to hear the cry of innocence and justice. We disclose and expose the regime’s oppression. To call on the people to demand their rights and for the rights movements. To awaken the dormant conscience of those who claim to defend human rights, the dispersed groups, to reawake those in passivity and neutrality. To demonstrate to the Supreme Leader and the ruling system of oppression in Iran that the atrocities, torture, imprisonment and executions do not scare us. So that our friends are returned from solitary confinement. The injured (political prisoners) receive treatment in hospital. So that the international human rights institutions pressure the regime to allow the entry of Mr. Ahmed Shaheed to prepare an independent, report of the recent crimes in the ward 350 of Evin Prison and to Identify and punish the perpetrators for their cruelty.”
Heshmat Tabarzadi a secular democrat activist, the Secretary General of “Iran Democratic Front” and the Spokesperson for “Solidarity Council for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran”, along with 11 other political prisoners of Rajai Shahr prison in Iran started their hunger strike last Thursday in solidarity with 32 other political prisoners and prisoners of conscious in Evin prison on hunger strike.
Another member of the Solidarity Council for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran, human rights attorney – who had held her own hunger strike while she was in prison – last week called for “unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners in Iran”. On Monday, another member of the same opposition group, former head of Tehran University, also a former political prisoner , Dr. Mohammad Maleki, called for “resignation and trial” of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, referring to 35 years of false promises, oppression and atrocities since the inception of the Islamic Republic. Heshmat Tabarzadi had also previously demanded the trial of Khamenei through international courts.
The ordeal started when “on the morning of 17 April Ministry of Intelligence officials, along with about 100 guards dressed in riot gear reportedly entered Section 350 of Evin Prison” reported Amnesty International in an Urgent Call for Action following the incident. Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported “31 political prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement and their belongings were destroyed, some of them … in critical condition “.
“Ward 350 of Tehran’s Evin prison houses some of Iran’s most prominent dissidents, including human-rights lawyers, labor leaders and opposition bloggers. “ Reported Wall Street in an article originally titled “Rouhani’s Republic of Fear” but later revised to “A Letter from a Tehran Jail”!
“They covered our eyes and cuffed our wrists. . . . They lined us up in the Ward 350 corridor, our faces to the wall. I could hear some crying in pain. . . . They started beating our backs very severely with batons. The screaming and crying got louder”. The security forces next formed a “tunnel” running from the ward’s main entrance to a minibus outside, according to Mr. Bahavar. The guards, some uniformed and some in civilian clothes, beat the prisoners as they ran down this tunnel. The whole route “was covered in blood,” Wall Street quoted one of the prisoners.
In support of those prisoners whose heads were forcefully shaved by the authorities following the attack, many Iranian men and women shaved their own heads and posted their photos in the social media. Others changed their icons to a black square in a show of sorrow for what were done to the prisoners. Following the brutal attacks and confinements more than 50 political prisoners started mass hunger strikes in two prisons but after negotiations with their families, some of those in the solitary confinement were brought back to their wards and the head of prisons, although promoted, was removed from his position. Since this weekend, many of the prisoners have stopped their hunger strike due to worried demands by their families and activists, while some others such as Heshmat Tabarzadi continue their strike. The 12 on hunger strike in Rajaii Shahr prison demanded, return of all the prisoners from solitary confinement, proper treatment of those injured in the hospital, visitation rights of all those who have not been allowed to visit their families and legal inquiry and punishment of instigators of the attack.
In his letter sent from the prison today, Heshmat Tabarzadi made the similar demand that the “Reporters without Borders” made on April 26. They asked “the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, be allowed into Iran to conduct an independent investigation into this serious breach of the rights of political prisoners.”
Tabarzadi has been arrested several times on charges related to his political and human rights activities, last time on January 15 this year after he broke his conditional silence calling for a united campaign demanding “no to executions, freedom of all political prisoners, no to mandatory hijab and increase in minimum wages”.
He has spent 7 years of his life in prison, 3 years of it in solitary confinement.
In his letter to 5+1 leaders the day before his arrest he wrote: “Until the international community do not hold the government of Iran accountable for its actions against its own citizens, any agreements at the government levels while closing eyes to the fate of the Iranian nation and their legal, civil and human rights will neither be lasting nor complied with. Because a government which violates the legal rights of its own people under its own and international laws will not have any hesitation in violating any other accords and agreements. North Korea is a recent example of that“. Wall Street journal in its article last week reiterated the same position stating, “Perhaps a regime, and a president, that can brutalize political dissidents as a matter of routine can prove reasonable at the nuclear negotiating table. We wouldn’t count on it, and neither should the West.”
Referring to his declaration of the Iranian New Year in March as “The year of human rights“, Tabarzadi starts his latest letter from jail explaining, “Some may ask why during the year of human rights I have resorted to hunger strike; even though the international article of human rights prohibits self-injury. The truth is that the hunger strike is the most violent act committed by a person against owns health”.
However, “I resort to hunger strike, because they have left no other option for me“, he ends his letter.
Tabarzadi health, who has already been suffering from different problems associated with years of imprisonment and solitary confinement, have deteriorated due to the hunger strike.