Arash Sadegi, an Iranian student activist, has been on a hunger striker for over 67 days, starting on October 24, 2016. His health has been deemed critical and he was transferred to the infirmary due to hypotension, heart palpitations, asthma and coughing up blood. After receiving an oxygen mask and its source, Sadeghi has been returned to his ward. His current hunger strike is in protest of the arrest of his wife, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, on the grounds of the content of an unpublished work of fiction about the stonings in Iran. The fiction was initially discovered during a raid of their home in 2014.
Stoning to death is a form of capital punishment in Iran, often used for women convicted of adultery. Iran’s practice of stoning is controversial both internationally and inside Iran. Iraee has been sentenced to six years in prison on charges including “insulting Islamic sanctities”. Both of them were convicted and sentenced after a trial that consisted only of two brief sessions, with neither one having legal representation.
The doctors have reported that his condition is extremely serious and dangerous and as the doctors did the forensic examination on him yesterday, they said it is likely that he will slip into a coma and may die. Sadeghi has stopped medical treatments since he is banned from visiting his wife and the authorities have not met his other demands. He has lost over 19 kilograms, along with severe physical fatigue, abnormal heart rate, chronic breathing, as well as kidney and intestinal problems.
Sadeghi is serving a 15-year prison sentence on the charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” “spreading lies in cyberspace,” and “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic.” Iranian authorities have canceled all his visits.
Last March, in an interview Sadeghi explained his arrest this way, “I was charged with ‘collusion against national security’ because I supported a group of poor students who had been denied education and for supporting leftist students and visiting families of those who had been killed, and for taking part in peaceful gatherings, such as protests against the execution of Gholamreza Khosravi (for supporting the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran) and gathering in support of Narges Mohammadi.”
Sadeghi has been in and out of prison since 2009. In November 2010, his mother died from a heart attack after their home was raided by Iranian officials. He was not home at the time, but was at his grandfather’s. “My father, my sister and my entire family and relatives blame me for her death,” Sadeghi told the news website Roozonline at the time. “Our house has become hell…My father tells me that you killed your mother and I don’t want you at home…I prefer to go back to jail.” Since that time, his father has spoken out against the treatment of his son, including the beatings and solitary confinement.
Eventually he did, spending over 11 months in solitary confinement in 2012. His father, however, had a change of heart and spoke out in 2012 against his son’s treatment. Sadeghi has been on several hunger strikes throughout his time in prison, including one in support of a fellow inmate, Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki.
In 2012, Drewery Dyke of Amnesty International, was interviewed by the Guardian, about several activists’ cases. “The authorities may have repressed much of the human rights community in Iran, but the brave acts of speaking out – exemplified by Arash Sadeghi’s father and a handful of others – tells us that the authorities have not repressed the essential thirst for justice and human dignity sought by Iranians. That, they cannot quash,” said Dyke.
Sadeghi has spoken out previously about his treatment while in custody, which included beatings, slapping and kicking, as well as hair removal that left scarring. The damage to his body has included broken teeth, dislocated shoulders and even temporary loss of vision in one eye.
His current health condition has made his situation critical and various reports have encouraged action by the public, including contacting the Iranian authorities to urge them to release Sadeghi and Iraee immediately. They have both been described as prisoners of conscience targeted solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.