Iran: Political prisoner Golrokh Iraee ends hunger strike after 81 days

Golrokh Iraee

Political prisoner Golrokh Iraee, protesting her unjustified transfer from Tehran’s Evin Prison to the notorious Qarchak Prison, ended her hunger strike today after 81 days.

Golrokh Iraee was transferred to Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Baghyatollah Hospital from Qarchak Prison as she was no longer able to stand up or walk. She has lost 22 kilograms and suffers from low blood pressure. Ms. Iraee’s mother said when they met her at the hospital, “her eyes’ cornea did not stop in one place. She staggered at us with wonder and could not remember us in the first moments.”

A writer and a human rights activist, Ms. Iraee has been sentenced to six years in jail for writing an unpublished book on the cruel punishment of stoning.

Her husband Arash Sadeghi, also a human rights advocate serving a 19-year prison term, put his life on the line by staging a 72-day hunger strike protesting the illegal arrest and detention of his wife, and demanding her release.

The imprisoned couple attracted nationwide and global support, forcing the regime to release Ms. Iraee. Nevertheless, security forces re-arrested her in January 2017 reneging on the promise made by the Prosecutor.

on January 24, 2018, political prisoners Golrokh Iraee and her cellmate Atena Daemi were taken by force for interrogation to the IRGC Ward 2A in Evin and in reaction to their strong resistance, they were brutalized and transferred unlawfully to the notorious Qarchak Prison in Varamin.

Golrokh Iraee and Atena Daemi demanded to be returned to Evin, setting a deadline of 10 days before going on hunger strike to protest the regime’s breach of the principle of classification and separation of prisoners and their illegal exile to Qarchak.

On February 3, they started their hunger strike and switched to dry hunger strike on February 10. The two prisoners’ conditions rapidly deteriorated in light of the deplorable prison conditions.

Atena Daemi who had been on hunger strike for 54 days in April and May 2017, ended her hunger strike on February 15, “to stay alive and remain as a thorn in the eyes of (her) enemies.”

On February 20, Ms. Iraee and Ms. Daemi were deprived of contacting their families and can call them only once a week in the presence of prison agents. They were held in conditions similar to solitary confinement. They were not allowed to leave the ward and no one had permission to visit them.

Amnesty International issued a statement on March 9, 2018, expressing alarm at the condition of Golrokh Iraee and demanding her and Atena Daemi’s immediate release.

AI wrote, “Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, who has been on hunger strike for 35 days, is in very poor health. In the past week, she was placed on IV fluids without her consent, and at times has been unable to move. She is suffering from severe cramping in her muscles, which the prison doctor has confirmed is a result of the hunger strike.”

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, has been cited as saying, “We are extremely alarmed by reports from Shahr-e Rey prison about the targeting and escalating ill-treatment of Golrokh and Atena. They should never have been imprisoned in the first place, and now it seems the Iranian authorities are deliberately subjecting them to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment because of their outspoken activism and continued human rights work even behind bars.”

Ms. Iraee and Ms. Daemi originally detained in the Quarantine Ward, were again brutalized on Monday, March 12, 2018, and dragged to the ward of mothers where pregnant women and some 20 children are detained with their mothers. Considering the state of health of hunger striking Golrokh Iraee, the mothers’ ward is an additional pressure on her.

Haj Moradi, deputy Prosecutor of Evin overseeing political prisoners, has told the prisoners’ families that Golrokh will not be returned to Evin even if she dies. Other reports indicate that the order for transfer must be issued by Tehran’s Prosecutor, Jaafari Dowlatabadi.

On March 15, Chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) of the European Parliament, Mr. Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D, IT), expressed grave concern over the detention of two women human rights defenders in Iran and called for their immediate release.  He said they are serving lengthy and unjust prison sentences that were handed down solely for their peaceful human rights work.

He wrote in his statement, “Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and Atena Daemi should also be given urgent and adequate medical attention and care due to their fragile and deteriorating state of health as a result of their lengthy hunger strike and ill-treatment, including previous harassment and physical attacks by other inmates and guards. I call on the prison administration and the relevant authorities to guarantee regular contacts with family members, including prison visits and phone calls. I also call on the authorities to take immediate steps to improve the detention conditions and facilities at Shahr-e Rey prison.”

On March 19, four UN experts issued a statement in Geneva expressing alarm “at the continued targeting of human rights defenders in Iran, including about reports that two well-known women human rights defenders have been subjected to beatings in detention.”

Golrokh Iraee went into coma after some 60 days of hunger strike. She had been taken to the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Baghyatollah Hospital in Tehran after some 70 days of wet and dry hunger strike.