Campaign

Update

February 26, 2022

DAY 45: Heroic #HungerStrike4Life in Iran’s Prisons: Free Them All Now!

“We expect all freedom fighters inside and outside the country to be [our] voice”

February 26, 2022

The phone call is periodically interrupted by a cold official announcement: “This connection is from Tehran Prison”. But the words of the heroic prisoners, then on Day 28 of their #HungerStrike4Life demanding justice for Baktash Abtin [read more here], ring clear across the oceans (these excerpted, translated subtitles are from the video; watch for full statement).

Five of six political prisoners on hunger strike as of January 14, according to IranHR.net: Sadegh Omidi, Hamid Haj Jafar Kashani, Mahmoud Ali Naghi, Peyman Pourdad, Ali Asghar Hassanirad and Mehdi Darini. Some of the strikers may have changed, and now may include Mojtaba Nayeri and Khosrow Sadeghi. Bottom left is Hamid Haj Jafar Kashani wearing his official soccer referee uniform on the field; Hamid was taken to the hospital unconscious on Feb 19

“The plaintiffs in Iran’s prisons have gone on a hunger strike to awaken the communities to save other prisoners from death and torture. It is obvious that the hunger strike will result in irreparable damage on us. Since a hunger strike is not a suicide, it is the last resort for the survivors of a society in this case, seeking justice. Obviously, death will come to us in the end regardless, but it’s important how our life or death affects the lives of others…”

“We will continue our hunger strike until the perpetrators of the murders of our dear fellow inmates are brought to justice, and we expect all freedom fighters, political and civil activists inside and outside the country, as well as the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Mr. Javaid Rehman, to shed light on crimes against humanity. Be the voice of the prisoners in the event of anything happening to us strikers in prison.” [emphasis added]

The phone call is periodically interrupted by a cold official announcement: “This connection is from Tehran Prison”. But the words of the heroic prisoners, then on Day 28 of their #HungerStrike4Life demanding justice for Baktash Abtin [read more here], ring clear across the oceans (these excerpted, translated subtitles are from the video; watch for full statement).

Five of six political prisoners on hunger strike as of January 14, according to IranHR.net: Sadegh Omidi, Hamid Haj Jafar Kashani, Mahmoud Ali Naghi, Peyman Pourdad, Ali Asghar Hassanirad and Mehdi Darini. Some of the strikers may have changed, and now may include Mojtaba Nayeri and Khosrow Sadeghi. Bottom left is Hamid Haj Jafar Kashani wearing his official soccer referee uniform on the field; Hamid was taken to the hospital unconscious on Feb 19

“The plaintiffs in Iran’s prisons have gone on a hunger strike to awaken the communities to save other prisoners from death and torture. It is obvious that the hunger strike will result in irreparable damage on us. Since a hunger strike is not a suicide, it is the last resort for the survivors of a society in this case, seeking justice. Obviously, death will come to us in the end regardless, but it’s important how our life or death affects the lives of others…”

“We will continue our hunger strike until the perpetrators of the murders of our dear fellow inmates are brought to justice, and we expect all freedom fighters, political and civil activists inside and outside the country, as well as the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Mr. Javaid Rehman, to shed light on crimes against humanity. Be the voice of the prisoners in the event of anything happening to us strikers in prison.” [emphasis added]

Strikers Refuse Prison Health Facilities After Assaults

Immediately after the execution-by-COVID of political prisoner Baktash Abtin on January 8, 2022 in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, a group of fellow prisoners in Evin’s political prisoner Ward 8 began sitting in to demand justice for him.  On January 12, after receiving no response from prison authorities, they began a hunger strike.

The prison authorities then charged them with “propaganda against the regime” and “disrupting order in prison” for their protest, adding three more years to their already unjust sentences. Under the pretext of medical treatment, they moved some of the hunger strikers out of Evin to Greater Tehran Penitentiary, beating them en route.

Hunger strikes in solidarity with the Evin prisoners, of varying durations, soon spread to more than a dozen prisoners in at least 4 penitentiaries and at least 42 supporters outside prison.

As concerns about the strikers’ failing health mounted, calls were issued to end the strike or convert it to a Chain Hunger Strike. A core group continued, issuing the phoned statement quoted above, “Obviously, death will come to us in the end regardless, but it’s important how our life or death affects the lives of others.”

On January 28, these prisoners were taken to the prison infirmary to have their blood pressure taken. There, the infirmary “doctor” told them: “We don’t take pressure here, we do the pressuring and tear a***holes”. After this, 22 prison guards attacked them and beat them severely. Given these events, Hamid Haj Jafar Kashani stated that the hunger strikers would refuse to be taken to prison medical facilities. On February 19, according to cellmates, Hamid’s “cold, unconscious body” was taken to the hospital; as of this writing, we do not know his condition.

Concession Shows Impact of Struggle

On February 26, Day 45 of the strike, news has emerged that the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has acquiesced to one demand, announcing they have suspended the additional three-year sentences stemming from the hunger strikers’ protest.

For the hardline theocrats, making any concession at all is a bitter pill, so this demonstrates how seriously they are taking the public outcry around their abusive treatment of political prisoners, and the potential for further mass upheaval should others die in their custody.  

(The Center for Human Rights in Iran reported this month that a top-secret Iranian state document —leaked to Radio Farda by the hacker group responsible for releasing security camera footage from Evin Prison last summer—reveals worries by senior intelligence and military officials. “There has been a development in society that indicates it is in a state of explosion under its skin,” said an officer of the Islamic RevolutionaryGuard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Organization, at a November 2021 private meeting of the “Task Force to Prevent Security Crises Among Lower Classes.” “During the past year social discontent has increased about 300 percent, with protests focused on inflation, salary delays, social disorders, and water [shortages].” [emphasis added])

Of course, this concession does not come close to meeting the hunger strikers’ demands for accountability, particularly for the death of Baktash Abtin by denying him timely medical care.

Whatever the next steps may be in this particular hunger strike —and others among the multitude of political prisoners in all Iran’s regions— we must take to heart their call: “we expect all freedom fighters, political and civil activists inside and outside the country, to shed light on crimes against humanity. Be the voice of the prisoners…”

Join the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners. Donate to publish the Emergency Appeal widely and volunteer.

****

Baktash Abtin

“Accused of thinking, and guilty of not fearing”

This tribute to Baktash Abtin was composed by hunger strikers and read on their behalf by Hamid Haj Jafar Kashani. The following excerpt was translated by the IEC, see full tribute here (Farsi).

"Matchsticks instead of pens.
Blood spilt on the floor instead of ink.
Discarded bandage packages instead of paper.
I write to you about a dungeon.
I woke up yesterday, that was already tomorrow;
a white ceiling one meter from my bed,
reminded me of being repeatedly in the same place.
In a dream, I saw a crow.
…Accused of thinking, and guilty of not fearing,
not shutting your mouth, condemned
to watch the sky, or the barbed wire,
from the window of your cell:
a place from which all our questions have been exhumed.
What secret lies beneath all these deaths?!...
And maybe the next will be one of us.
The stories of these lives, these deaths, these bones
are very similar to thousands of other bones, in mass graves
of the summer of 1988. …
But now it is time to go;
Each of us on our paths, you toward death, and we toward life…
which one is more meaningful?
For dear Baktash Abtin, The sad winter of 1400 [2022]"

Campaign Updates & Press Releases

October 10, 2022
Update
Iran Uprising Enters 4th Week:
June 1, 2022
Update
Save the Date: June 10
December 2, 2021
Press Release
Eyes of World on Iran as JPCOA Talks Resume
October 3, 2021
Update
Now Available Online – Watch
September 22, 2021
Update
UN Press Conference Photos and Video
September 17, 2021
Update
Heroism for Our Times
May 20, 2021
Update
Letter to Signatories

Prisoner News