Seventy-two Iranian political prisoners – all arrested during the November 2019 uprising – have gone on hunger strike at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary.
In a letter yesterday, they announced that they’d begun their strike to protest dire prison conditions and being refused leave during the Coronavirus pandemic. They said they would continue their strike until their demands were met.
The political prisoners wrote: “We started to strike today to protest the violations of the political prisoners’ rights and the authorities’ insistency on imprisoning justice-seeking people in these deplorable health conditions and in this remote prison, which lacks the necessary standards for human care. The main point is that none of us are criminals and our right to protest. Criminals are those who cause inflation and a catastrophic economic situation.”
They explained that they had merely demanded their rights and now they are being sentenced to a slow death in a place that is not suitable for human life, which has become less habitable as the Coronavirus crisis worsened with overcrowding making social distancing impossible.
The prisoners wrote: “Despite the fact that even the head of the judiciary has agreed to our leave, Amin Vaziri, the representative of the prosecutor and the prosecutor in charge of political prisoners, has opposed this emergency leave, which could save our lives. In response to our parents who ask why our breadwinners are detained, he explicitly says you should die of hunger.”
In response, the protesters declared that they would rather die on a hunger strike than by catching Coronavirus because the prison failed to protect them.
Many political prisoners, whom the regime refused to furlough despite legal precedent, have contracted the virus so far and many more are housed amongst the sick. In the Greater Tehran Penitentiary alone, at least eight inmates have died.
The conditions of the prison – where the water is contaminated, food often makes them sick, and washing facilities are scarce at best – make these prisoners more vulnerable to the Coronavirus.
On April 10, many inmates were poisoned after authorities served them rotten and expired food, which they had no choice but to eat. They were also deprived of medical attention, making the situation much worse.
The water is contaminated because the wells are just 100 meters away from an industrial livestock complex and various industrial sites in the town of Hassan Abad, so it is often mixed with the sewage water. The regime could do something to fix this, but they don’t.