Iranian political prisoners fast for prisoners' rights and end to their solitary confinement, 2010

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Timing
Time Period:  
26 July
2010
to
11 August
2010
Location and Goals
Country: 
Iran
Location City/State/Province: 
Tehran
Location Description: 
Evin Prison is located in northwestern Tehran at the base of the Alborz Mountains,
Goals: 
The 17 political prisoners wanted:

1. All prisoners' lawful rights to be upheld and granted

2. An end to their personal solitary confinement

3. An increase in the time allowed for telephone calls and family visitation

4. Improved access to medical facilities

 

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected President of Iran on 12 June 2009 The next day, hundreds of thousands of people peacefully protested the results, chanting “Where is my vote?,” because they believed that the election was fraudulent. Most of the protesters joined the Green Movement, a nonviolent pro-democracy group opposed to Ahmadinejad’s leadership and was led by Mir Hossein Mousavi and his spouse, Zahra Rahnavard. The Ahmadinejad regime responded violently to the protesters with its Revolutionary Guards, Basij paramilitary units, and Lebas Shakhsi forces. Many were beaten and arrested. The regime sent some of those arrested to Evin prison, located in northwestern Tehran at the base of the Alborz Mountains and known by international human rights workers and Iranian citizens as notorious for housing political prisoners. Prisoners there commonly reported physical and mental abuse.

Seventeen political prisoners housed in Ward 350 at the Evin prison -- Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, Gholam Hossein Arshi, Ebrahim Babaei, Babak Bordbar, Majid Darri, Jafar Eghdami, Koohyar Goodarzi, Peyman Karimi-Azad, Ali Malihi, Abdollah Momeni, Hamid Reza Mohammadi, Zia Nabavi, Hossein Nouraninejad, Ali Parviz, Keyvan Samimi, Mohammad Hossein Sohrabirad, and Majid Tavakoli -- went on a 16-day hunger strike on 26 July 2010 to protest poor living conditions. They demanded that prison authorities (1) fully uphold all of the rights legally guaranteed to Iranian prisoners, (2) give prisoners increased time for phone calls and visitation rights, and (3) provide prisoners improved access to medical care. Specifically, they were striking against the “unsuitable treatment of prisoners and their families by prison authorities and Ward 350 officers on visitation days; lack of health and welfare facilities; as well as suspension of visitation privileges of several prisoners such as Bahman Ahadi Amouee.”

In response to their demands, prison authorities placed the prisoners in solitary confinement in Ward 240. In 2004, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention likened Iran’s use of solitary confinement to the Convention Against Torture’s definition of inhuman treatment. The prisoners promptly added their release from solitary confinement to the list of their demands and documented all of these demands in a written statement on 2 August 2010. The prison authorities prohibited the prisoners from making phone calls, visiting with their families, and seeing their lawyers. Each of these policies violated Iranian and international laws, which required authorities to provide basic necessities to prisoners and treat them with respect.

Recognizing the injustices the inmates faced, their families tried to visit them on 2 August 2010, but the prison guards forced them to leave. Some family members then initiated their own hunger strikes in solidarity with their relatives. On 4 August 2010, the families marched to the office of Tehran General Prosecutor, Jeafari Dolatabadi, and gathered outside the building. They demanded access to their relatives and their relatives’ release from solitary confinement. Government police beat them, threatened to arrest them for their peaceful protest, threatened to prosecute them if they gave press interviews, and forcibly removed pictures of their loved ones from their hands. Also on 4 August, three of the 17 prisoners on hunger strike, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, Keyvan Samimi, and Majid Tavakoli, began a dry hunger strike in which they refused to consume solids and liquids. The others continued on wet hunger strikes, in which they consumed only liquids.Several of the 17 hunger strikers had chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease, but prison authorities provided little medical care. Some reported that Majid Tavakoli was unconscious for part of the strike, and others reported that prison authorities temporarily admitted five strikers to the hospital. A family member of one of the prisoners reported that prison authorities humiliated and insulted the hunger strikers.

At this phase of the campaign, human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, had begun publishing articles detailing the plight of the prisoners. Meanwhile, other political prisoners, including Issa Saharkhiz and Mahdiyeh Golroo, urged the 17 political prisoners on hunger strike to stop fasting, arguing that the Green Movement needed their leadership.

For unknown reasons, on 7 August 2010, authorities released one of the political prisoners on strike, Babak Bordbar. Kalemeh, the website of the Green Party leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, reported that on 8 August, authorities arrested the father of Ali Parviz, one of the hunger strikers, for going to the Iranian judiciary to submit a letter on behalf of all the inmates’ families asking for improved treatment. Then, on 11 August, 15 of the prisoners ended their hunger strikes. They published a letter on Kalemeh explaining that they ended the hunger strike out of respect for leading members of the Green Movement, including Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi, Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani, Zahra Rahavard, Abdollah Nouri, Ezatallah Sahabi, Ahmad Sadr Haj Seyed Javadi, Habiballah Peyman, Ebrahmin Yazdi, and others, who urged them to cease the hunger strike. It is likely that Green Movement leaders wanted the prisoners to end the strike so that the prisoners would be able to provide movement leadership. The prisoners declared that they would continue to fight for the human rights of all prisoners, and hoped that the regime would punish prison officials who violated their human rights. They accepted the release of Babak Bordbar as evidence that the government would likely meet the rest of their demands. One prisoner, Keyvan Samimi, remained on a wet hunger strike and declared he would do so until prison authorities returned himself and his fellow prisoners to the general prison population from solitary confinement.It is unknown the exact length of time Mr. Samimi, age 61, remained on hunger strike because it is unclear how long the prisoners remained in solitary confinement.

BBC News reported that after the hunger strike officially ended, authorities forced the prisoners to remain in solitary confinement, but they indicated no specific timeline. On 15 August 2010, the head of Evin prison, Sedagat, threatened five of the 17 prisoners (Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, Gholam Hossein Arshi, Koohyar Goodarzi, Ali Malihi, and Keyvan Samimi) with six months longer in solitary confinement and an end to contact with their families, and the other 11 prisoners with 20 days longer in solitary confinement. He issued these threats even though the law allowed a maximum of 20 days total in solitary confinement. It is unknown whether authorities followed through on these threats. Also on 15 August, authorities transferred Majid Tavakoli to Rajaeeshahr prison, where prisoners are often sent as punishment for noncompliance with authorities. Many of the others previously on hunger strike remained imprisoned at Evin. For many, this was neither their first nor their last hunger strike in prison.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Though not directly influenced by any particular past campaign, hunger striking is a fairly common method of nonviolent action employed by political prisoners in Iran. Some of the prisoners participating in this campaign, including Majid Tavakoli, had participated in hunger strikes against mistreatment of prisoners in the past (1).

Sources: 
Abbas Milani. n.d. “The Iran Primer.” The Green Movement. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151026014324/http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/green-movement).

Anon. 2011. “Authorities Responsible For the Lives of Prisoners on Hunger Strike.” International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151025232625/http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2011/06/prisoners-hunger-strike/).

Anon. 2010. “Fifteen Evin Prisoners Transferred To Solitary Cells After Hunger Strike.” International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151026012113/http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2010/07/fifteen-prisoners-transferred/).

Anon. 2010. "Fifteen Iranian detainees end hunger strike," BBC Monitoring International Reports, August 10. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/1318A191C00B8920?p=AWNB).

Anon. 2010. “Iran: 17 Prisoners End Hunger Strike.” BBC Monitoring International Reports, August 12. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/1318f5f7eb06e480?p=awnb).

Anon, 2010. "Iran arrests father of prisoner on hunger strike – reformist website," BBC Monitoring International Reports, August 8. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/1317F8D0AAC96A38?p=AWNB).

Anon. 2010. "Iran prison authorities eye tougher measures for inmates on hunger strike - site," BBC Monitoring International Reports, August 16. Retrieved October 25, 2015. (http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/131A4772383991E8?p=AWNB).

Anon. 2010. "Iran releases reformist journalist," BBC Monitoring International Reports, August 7. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/1317A472A9D39888?p=AWNB).

Anon. 2010. “Iran: Stop Abuse Of Political Prisoners.” Human Rights Watch. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151025231754/https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/08/06/iran-stop-abuse-political-prisoners).

Anon. 2010. "Iranian court upholds sentence on political activist," BBC Monitoring International Reports, September 28. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/1328739628CEABA8?p=AWNB).

Anon, 2010. "Jailed Iran protesters on hunger strike," Daily News Egypt (Cairo, Egypt), August 2. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/1315C5B29A4C6048?p=AWNB).

Anon. 2010. "Jailed Iranian Student Leader Moved To New Prison," Government Press Releases (USA), August 18. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/131B2F948CC2EFF0?p=AWNB).

Anon. 2010. "Prisoners' families stage protest outside Tehran prosecutor's office," BBC Monitoring International Reports, July 31. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/131555D2A507A128?p=AWNB).

Anon. 2010. “Release Prisoners Of Conscience on Hunger Strike.”International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151026011221/http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2010/08/release-prisoners-strike/).

Chiaramonte, Perry. 2013. “Hell On Earth: Inside Iran's Brutal Evin Prison.”Fox News. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151026014444/http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/01/28/inside-evin-look-at-world-most-notorious-political-prison/).

Dehghan, Saeed Kamali. 2010. “Don't Forget Iran's Political Prisoners .”The Guardian. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151026005948/http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/dec/17/iran-problem-human-rights-not-nuclear-programme).

Mackey, Robert. 2010. “Iranian Prisoners Explain End Of Hunger Strikes.”The Lede Iranian Prisoners Explain End of Hunger Strikes Comments. Retrieved October 25, 2015 (http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/10/iranian-prisoners-explain-end-of-hunger-strikes/?_r=1).

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Meghan Kelly, 25/10/2015