A group of political prisoners held at Iran’s Rajaei-Shahr prison have urged the Secretary General of the United Nations to send a special envoy to Iran to investigate the situation of human rights and freedom in the country, in particular the state of Iran’s prison and political prisoners.
In their letter, which was published by Iranian opposition website Jaras, the prisoners threatened to begin an “unlimited hunger strike,” should the Iranian authorities continue to disregard “the legal rights of the nation in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The UN Human Rights Council agreed in March 2011 to a proposal to establish a UN human rights investigator for Iran, the first in a decade. The 47-member Geneva forum approved the resolution by 22 votes in favour, seven against and fourteen abstentions. The adopted text voiced concern at Iran’s crackdown on opposition figures and increased use of the death penalty and called on authorities to cooperate with the UN envoy to be named to the independent post.
Following the fraudulent 2009 presidential election, the regime’s crackdown on political dissidents, journalists and activists has been on the rise.
Union leader Mansour Osanlou, student leader Majid Tavakoli, journalists and political activists Issa Saharkhiz, Keyvan Samimi, Heshmatollah Tabarzadi and Mahdi Mahmoudian were among the signatories to the letter to UN Secretary Genral Ban Ki-moon.
“While with the downfall of the Mubaraks and Ben Alis, nations [long] oppressed by dictators and autocrats, as well as fighters in the path to freedom and democracy are writing new pages in the history of the region’s struggle, the rulers of Iran speak of human rights on domestic and foreign podiums next to international officials at a time when the Iranian nation is faced with the most severe political, social, economic and cultural pressures and is deprived of its human rights; [at a time when] the state prevents the activities of parties and critical political groups and has dissolved them by creating an atmosphere of terror and fear and running a police state; [at a time when] it has shut down the press as well as liberal and independent newspapers; it has either arrested and imprisoned political and civil activists or has forced them into silence or fleeing the country, and finally, it has illegally placed the leaders of the Green Movement and their [wives] under house arrest.”
The prisoners also called for an urgent investigation into their mistreatment at the hands of prison officials, adding that if the “prevailing conditions in society and the pressures on us and our families do not undergo a significant change,” they shall “continue [their] peaceful protest with the slogan ‘No to dictatorship’.”
In their letter, the inmates on hunger strike state their intention to begin hunger strikes on days such as International Workers’ Day, Iran’s Teacher’s day and World Press Freedom Day. The first day of strike will last for two days and will commence on Sunday 17 April.
The prisoners stress that should the Iranian authorities continue to neglect their demands following the “limited” hunger strikes, they plan to start a collective and “unlimited” strike on Sunday 22 May until their demands are met.
It should be noted that last Sunday, a group of political prisoners at Rajaei-Shahr prison in Karaj city began a collective hunger strike to protest the continued denial of the right to visits, phone calls and furlough.
The dissidents on strike included veteran journalist and activist Keyvan Samimi, labour activist, Mansour Osanlou, Rasoul Bedaghi, of the Iranian Teacher’s Association, journalists Issa Saharkhiz and Reza Rafiei, political activists Heshmatollah Tabarzadi and Behrouz Javid Tehrani, and student activists, Ali Ajami and Majid Tavakoli, Mehdi Mahmoudian and Jafar Eghdami.
The Rajaei-Shahr prisoners had also expressed solidarity with Fakhrossadat Mohtashamipour, wife of jailed reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh. However five days into the strike, Mohtashamipour was released from prison on Thursday after enduring 45 days of solitary confinement. She had been arrested while attending pro-opposition protests in Tehran on 1 March. The vocal activist and member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front had been on hunger strike in Evin prison to demand a personal visit with her husband, a wish that came true shortly before her release from Evin prison