In a letter to the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, the families of a number of political prisoners currently on hunger strike have expressed concerns over the health of their loved ones in prison. They have urged the investigator “to travel to Iran and monitor the situation of the twelve prisoners and the condition of other political prisoners in Iran.”
A former foreign minister of the Maldives, Ahmed Shaheed, was recently named United Nations human rights investigator on Iran, the first in nearly a decade. The UN Human Rights Council established the independent post of special rapporteur on human rights in Iran on March 24.
Since June 18, twelve political prisoners in Evin prison had begun an “indefinite” hunger strike to protest the recent killings of two political prisoners, women’s rights activist Haleh Sahabi and journalist Hoda Saber, and the ongoing human rights abuses in the country. Accordnig to reports, six prominent political prisoners in Rajaei Shahr prison have also gone on hunger strike in solidarity with twelve imprisoned reformist figures in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. The six have vowed to continue with their protest until the twelve prisoners in Evin cease their hunger strike.
Hoda Saber died last week from a heart attack after going on hunger strike to protest the death of fellow activist Haleh Sahabi at the funeral of her father. Haleh Sahabi also died from a heart attack, following a scuffle with security forces. She had been temporarily released from jail to attend the funeral of her father, leading dissident, Ezatollah Sahabi, who had died of a stroke. Prison authorities reportedly delayed Saber’s transfer to a hospital for several hours despite his complaining of chest pains. Sixty-four prisoners who were held with Saber said in an open letter that he had been beaten up at Evin prison’s infirmary where he had been initially taken. The death of Saber and Sahabi has led to outrage among Iranian activists and opposition supporters who are blaming the government for the two deaths.
According to reports five of the political prisoners on hunger strike were transferred to the infirmary in dire condition after much delay. Given the events that took place in the infirmary leading to Hoda Saber's death, it goes without saying that the families of these political prisoners have little faith and trust in the individuals responsible for the infirmary.
The full content of the letter by the families of a number of political prisoners currently on hunger strike to the special rapporteur on human rights in Iran is as follows:
Dear Mr. Ahmad Shaheed, the UN’s special human rights rapporteur to Iran:
With respects and greetings, we the undersigned, congratulate you on your selection as the UN’s special human rights rapporteurs to Iran.
You have been selected to this position, in a situation that we, the Iranians, are now facing various new oppressions, after tolerating two years of organized suppression. Suppressions that only with immediate public awareness and swift actions of competent international organizations may not lead to new disasters.
We, the families of the political prisoners named below, hereby inform you that some of these political prisoners have gone on hunger strike since last week and some other have joined their hunger strike today. These hunger strikes are happening while two weeks ago Hoda Saber, one the most recognized post-election political prisoners, who had been on hunger strike lost his life only after eight days. His demise, according to the affirmation of 64 of his ward mates, happened after his condition became critical because of lack of ordinary medical care and significant delays in his transfer to the prison’s health center by the guards; and even then, while he clearly had signs of having a heart attack, he was beaten and bashed by the security forces; and he was finally transferred to the hospital the next day only when from medical point of view it was already too late. His death was not announced to his family before the next day. Written affirmation of other [political] prisoners in his ward regarding the intentional denial of treatment for him as well as him being beaten up by the prison guard is now available and every single one of them could be interviewed regarding what happened to this [political] prisoner during his eight days of hunger strike until his demise.
What happened to Hoda Saber shows that the Islamic Republic’s prisons policy toward those who go on hunger strike has shifted. Similar situations in previous years, used to show that the prison guards would protect those on [even] much longer hunger strikes from the danger of death by providing special medical care. But in this recent occurrence, all signs indicate that Iran’s security officials lead those on hunger strike towards death. In this case, they didn’t even let the [political] prisoner on hunger strike receive his friends’ pleas from outside the prison for ending his hunger strike.
What has compelled us to write this letter to you, only one week after your appointment to this position, is that the lives of our loved ones, who are all of well-known post-election political prisoners, are now more than ever in danger. The case of Hoda Saber shows that we have to act immediately to save their lives and to stop the danger that they are facing from the prison guards. At the same time, hundreds of other political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are currently suffering from various sentences as well as psychological and physical pressures in the prisons of the Islamic Republic, in contradiction with the Islamic Republic’s duties according to the human rights protocols.
We ask you that immediately and without delay travel to Iran to meet with these political prisoners on hunger strike.
We ask you that, in your communications with the responsible Iranian officials, strongly demand them to provide necessary medical care for the political prisoners on hunger strike; not to persuade their deaths.
We also ask you to hear these prisoners’ reasons for initiating hunger strike and their demands to end it and relay them to competent international organizations and to the public.
We thank you in advance for your efforts.
The families of Ahmad Amooye, Asadi Zeyd-Abadi, Bahavar, Behzadian-Nejad, Dalirsani, Arab-Sorkhi, Ghadiani, Mogheyse, Bastani, and Saharkhiz
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