Iran News Update conducted an exclusive interview with Secretary of the Sydney Peace Coalition, Peter Murphy in response to the hunger strike in Melbourne, Australia. The world-wide hunger strike, through which participants are demanding the immediate release of the seven Iranian dissidents being held hostage by Iraqi forces, has been going on since the September 1 attack on Camp Ashraf.
Below, Murphy details what the hunger strikers are going through, what they hope to accomplish and what actions need to be taken to free the hostages and protect the Camp Liberty residents still in Iraq.
INU: What do you do and what is your connection with NCRI and this cause?
Peter Murphy: Until recently, I’ve been part of a foundation called the Search Foundation, which is an activist organization involved in the anti-war movement in Sydney. The connection to the Iranian struggle is from the direct war campaign work we did back in 2003 and 2004.
INU: What is your involvement with the hunger strike currently going on in Melbourne?
Peter Murphy: I live in Sydney but I have come down to Melbourne to discuss with people on the hunger strike – to find out how it is going and what the tactical situation is. I discuss with the participants how and what has happened because of the hunger strike and what we can do next.
INU: What do the hunger strikers hope to accomplish with the hunger strike? What are their goals?
Peter Murphy: Their goals are to see the seven hostages that are under control of the Prime Minister of Iraq (Nouri Maliki) to be released. They want United Nations Blue Helmets to be deployed to Camp Liberty, which is a place with over 3,000 Iranian speakers in Iraq. So, these are the two core issues.
INU: How are the strikers doing physically? How are they feeling?
Peter Murphy: They are just assembling now. The ones that I have seen seem rather gaunt. But then when you’re in the right state of mind, you’re ok. They have had so many small struggles occupying the place that they are now in the building here in Melbourne. But they have some supporters now and these have helped them stay positive. It is 7:30 in the morning, so I have not been able to have a good discussion [with the strikers]. I’m waiting to know more before I make my own assessment but the people do seem to be positive and determined.
INU: How long will they continue to fast?
Peter Murphy: I can’t answer the question. Here in Australia, this action is very unusual. And there can be something sufficient happening that will cause the stop of the hunger strike here. If we are able to get our government here to do something significant, we could see an end to the hunger strike. [Action] towards the release of the hostages would be major. But no, I don’t know the answer to that. I think the overall objective is that the seven hostages should be released. I think the hunger strike will continue until they are released. Another option they have spoken about is that the members that are on the hunger strike should be replaced by new members if their bodies are too physically damaged. There are several other people who have volunteered to go on the hunger strike as well, but have been denied to prevent other people hurting their bodies.
But back to the overall strategic situation, seven people have been abducted [who are a part of] the cause for a democratic government of Iran, and this is important. The country is a very proud country. They [the individuals held captive] are very important to the movement. The campaign will continue until the seven are released.
INU: What actions need to be taken by the government or the people to help change the situation of the MEK members in Iraq and the hostages?
Peter Murphy: I think there is plenty to do. Up until now, the Australian government has made no public statements about the hostages…We are trying to get our prime minister here to understand what is really going on here for what it is. And we also want our government to publicly call on the Iraqi government to release these seven hostages. What has happened is completely illegal and is against our laws, Iraqi laws, and international laws. It is against the laws that the Prime Minister of Iraq has signed himself. There must be a stand against this kind of behavior…Nothing radical about this, it’s actually a very fundamental thing about law here. It’s about human rights. I think it is achievable. We have a brand new government here and I think it could be possible. It seems very hard for them to focus on this issue.