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Iran: Jailed Activist Starts Hunger Strike

By INU Staff

INU - Sepideh Qolian (Gholian), an Iranian civic and labour activist that has been jailed since the beginning of the year has now started a hunger strike. She is taking this action in protest against her treatment by security agents and also the poor treatment her family has been subjected to.

Qolian was arrested twice in the past few years – once in November last year and for a second time in January this year. She was arrested because she supported the labour strikes that were taking place in the province of Khuzestan province.

Both times, she was arrested on vague charged related to security matters. She has remained in jail since the January arrest.

She was arrested alongside Esmail Bakhsi both times. He is a labour leader in the Haft Tapeh sugarcane factory in Khuzestan.

During their first period of detention, Qolian testified that Bakhsi had been badly mistreated in prison, detailing that he was tortured and beaten. Because of the allegations, the government opened an enquiry, but not surprisingly, the Intelligence Ministry denied that any torture took place.

Qolian is reportedly in a very “alarming” condition – both mentally and physically. She has lost weight and is having difficulty walking. Her condition gradually got worse over time and there were calls for her to be transferred to hospital for treatment.

However, the city of Shush’s head prosecutor rejected the calls to have Qolian transferred to hospital. Instead, she was kept in solitary confinement which only served to put her under even more mental and physical pressure at a time when she was already under huge pressure.

Her family called on the town’s prosecutor to move her to hospital, but they were told that she would be seen by a prison doctor if she needed treatment.

Qolian had previously been put under pressure in an attempt to force her into a confession. She has been beaten and has been subjected to sexualised insults from prison officials.

Mehdi Qolian, her brother, announced earlier this week that Qolian started her hunger strike on 23rd July.

There are a huge number of activists, journalists and bloggers in prison in Iran. They are routinely arrested and imprisoned, always for vague charges. They are denied fair trials and are often denied the representation of their choice.

Their families are also dragged into the situation, with many facing insults and unfair treatment from authorities.

In a recent trend, activists and political prisoners are being attacked and assaulted by other non-political prisoners. Reports indicate that this has happened in a number of prisons across the country and it is very clear that the attackers have been instructed to do so.

Just earlier this month, Iranian media reported that a prison director had been dismissed following the death of 21-year-old activist Alireza Shirmohammadali who was attacked and killed by fellow inmates. He was sentenced to 8 years on charges of insulting the country’s rulers and founder.

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