The hunger strike, the protest tactic of Gandhi, is vexing Iran’s penal overseers

The New York Times reports: The hunger strike, a pressure tactic of self-starvation used by political protesters around the world, is forcing Iran’s powerful judiciary to reconsider the conditions of at least one of its inmates after several started fasts that are leading to widespread support on social media.

The exact number of hunger strikers in Iranian prisons is unclear, but according to human rights organizations and reports in local media outlets, seven inmates, sentenced for crimes against the state, have refused to eat for intervals ranging from several weeks to more than two months.

Their backgrounds vary, but they include an antigovernment protester, a children’s rights activist, an ayatollah, a spiritual leader and a Lebanese computer technology specialist convicted of espionage.

It is not possible to verify their conditions because of restrictions preventing foreign reporters from visiting Iranian prisons without permission. While some members of Iran’s Parliament have said on their social media accounts that they are investigating the reports, other officials have dismissed the hunger strikes as plots organized by foreign opposition groups.

Conservative critics further argue that the extensive support for the hunger strikers seen on social media networks is an exaggeration created by automated messages.

One of the inmates, Arash Sadeghi, stopped his strike last Tuesday, after the judiciary met his demand to temporarily release his imprisoned wife. She was transferred back to prison on Saturday, said the couple’s lawyer, Amir Raeesian.

Refusing to eat to protest conditions in prison is illegal in Iran, but is not uncommon. However, the number of inmates now simultaneously fasting, in combination with a large social media campaign, is unusual in the country. It also providing a publicity platform for those in prison, Iranian analysts say. [Continue reading…]

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