Two Political Prisoners on 48th Day of Hunger Strike at Rajaee Shahr Prison as Others Shift to Fast
Peaceful Protestors With Roses Arrested Outside Prison
At least two political prisoners remain on the hunger strike they began on July 30, 2017, along with more than a dozen inmates in Rajaee Shahr Prison. The other inmates have since shifted to a fast in response to pleas by their family and supporters, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
As many as 20 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience at the prison, located in the city of Karaj west of Tehran, began refusing food after they were moved from Ward 12 to the security-enhanced Ward 10 without prior notice or their personal belongings on July 30.
“The prisoners have still not been checked by a doctor,” a source close to one of the protesters told CHRI on condition of anonymity. “Some of them are suffering from digestion problems and others have developed dental issues.”
“They have had no hot water during this time and they can’t even use the cold water because the pressure is too low to reach the ward on the third floor and so the prisoners have had to use a water hose to take showers in the courtyard during fresh-air breaks,” added the source.
In a statement from prison, a copy of which was obtained by CHRI, the hunger strikers thanked their supporters.
“We greatly thank all our friends and sympathizers inside and outside Iran, who are familiar with the plight of political prisoners, and especially parliamentarians from different countries who rushed to our support in these dark days to carry our voice to the world,” said the protestors.
“We will continue to be steadfast in seeking all our demands as we shift our hunger strike to a political fast,” they added.
Sources with information from inside the prison told CHRI on September 13 that the protesters are now starting to take food and liquids after sundown to avoid further deterioration of their health.
The prisoners are demanding the return of their personal belongings, including vital medications that they were not allowed to bring with them during the move, and are protesting the installation of new cameras and other surveillance devices, as well as poor ventilation in the new ward.
All the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in the ward have been banned from shopping for basic supplies at the prison store and are being denied newspapers.
Article 161 of the State Prisons Organization’s Regulations bans “mass protests and strikes by prisoners.” However, conditions in Rajaee Shahr’s Ward 10 are in violation of Article 37, which states that prison authorities “must exercise sufficient care and attention in the safe return of convicts’ personal effects at the time of their release or during transfers,” according to legal experts.
“The Iranian’s judiciary’s denial of these political prisoners’ legitimate demands may cost the lives of prisoners who have no other way to attract attention to the inhumane conditions at the prison,” said CHRI’s executive director Hadi Ghaemi in a statement on August 30.
“The judiciary’s response to date is a complete abrogation of their responsibility for the prisoners’ lives,” he added.
Protestors Detained Outside Prison
CHRI has also learned that police detained several people at a peaceful gathering held by about 20 activists in front of Rajaee Shahr Prison on September 13.
The detainees include As’ad (Behnam) Ebrahimzadeh, Valeh Zamani and Peyman Salem.
“We were only sitting in a corner holding roses to boost the morale of families of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who had come to visit their relatives in prison,” a source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told CHRI.
“When the police arrived, they went into action and resorted to violence,” added the source. “They first tried to take away the phones, but when the activists resisted they were accused of violating the law and arrested.”
Ebrahimzadeh was released from prison in May 2017 after serving seven years as a political prisoner for allegedly “collaborating” with the outlawed Mojahedin-e Khalgh (MEK) organization and “assembly and collusion against national security.”
“Behnam had just gotten out of prison and we were dealing with our son’s illness,” Ebrahimzadeh’s wife, Zobeideh Hajizadeh, told CHRI.
“I told him not go in case he might get arrested. But he said the authorities would not mind this gathering because it was going to be just a peaceful group holding roses,” she said. “But he called and said he had been detained and expected to be released on bail on Saturday [September 16].”
Prior to his detention on September 13 outside the prison, labor activist Valeh Zamani was briefly detained for taking part in a number of other protest gatherings.
The relative of a third detainee, 19-year-old university student Peyman Salem, confirmed to CHRI that he had been taken into custody, but would not comment for fear of state reprisals.