Sixty-one women in Iran prison begin hunger strike after Amini protester executed

Rights activists say decision to hang Mohammad Ghobadlou was 'glaring injustice'

Evin Prison holds thousands of political prisoners, including some arrested during nationwide protests in 2022. Photo: West Asia News Agency
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Sixty-one women held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison are to begin a hunger strike on Thursday to protest against the execution of political prisoners, after a man arrested during the Mahsa Amini demonstrations was hanged.

The news "has sparked a wave of anger and protest in society", jailed Iranian activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi said on X in a statement announcing the strike.

"The imprisoned women, to keep the names of the executed alive and to survive, hundreds of individuals in the prisons of the Islamic republic awaiting execution, will resist," she added.

The judiciary announced Mohammad Ghobadlou was executed on Monday, after being convicted of killing of a police officer during the nationwide demonstrations in 2022 that followed the death of Amini in police custody. His mother protested outside Karaj prison before his death.

Rights groups said he was denied legal representation and his rights were "grossly violated" during his detention.

Mr Ghobadlou had been under medical supervision for bipolar disorder since the age of 15 and was denied medication while detained to extract a "forced confession", Amnesty International said last May.

The group said his family were stunned by the execution announcement, which took place as they awaited a retrial.

Ms Mohammadi's father Karim, 90, is one of dozens who plan to join the 61 prisoners in the hunger strike.

“I am prohibited from making requests and meeting her. I am longing to hear her voice, but I take pride in their willpower and resistance and I pledge not to eat morning until night in support of them,” he wrote in a statement shared by his daughter on X.

“I urge each and every person in Iran to support the women standing in Evin and strongly oppose the executions.”

Evin holds thousands of political prisoners and dual citizens the West says are pawns in Tehran's attempts to gain influence in discussions on resurrecting the 2015 nuclear deal. The agreement, signed by Iran and global powers, put limits on Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for relief from sanctions.

Some of Iran's most revered lawyers, academics and activists are detained at the prison. Former inmates include British-Iranian dual citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Former prisoners and relatives of foreign citizens held in Evin previously told The National that inmates were subjected to physical and psychological torture, solitary confinement and mock executions.

UN experts on Tuesday urged Iran to halt its "horrific wave of executions" and expressed alarm over the country's unfair trial process.

“We are shocked that the authorities went ahead with the execution despite the fact Mr Ghobadlou and his lawyer had no information about the legal basis for the intended execution,” the experts said.

The UN continues "to stand against and condemn the use of the death penalty”, the UN Secretary General's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said during a daily briefing in New York.

Prominent activists in danger of being put to death have also joined the strike, including rapper Toomaj Salehi.

Iran is second only to China in its use of the death penalty and executed more than 600 people last year. Tehran has put to death at least eight people arrested over the 2022 demonstrations.

All were faced charges of "corruption on Earth" after authorities accused them of murdering paramilitary officers during the suppression of the protests.

Updated: January 25, 2024, 11:19 AM