Iran: Fears grow for health of jailed journalist on hunger strike

Fears are growing for a jailed journalist and political activist whose health has deteriorated sharply after 30 days on hunger strike, said Amnesty International.

Hengameh Shahidi, 41, who has a pre-existing heart condition, went on hunger strike on 9 March in protest at her arbitrary arrest that day. She is in a critical condition in Tehran’s Evin prison where she is being held in solitary confinement. She has also stopped taking her medication and is refusing intravenous fluids.

“Hengameh Shahidi’s arbitrary arrest and detention shows again the Iranian authorities’ utter contempt for human rights. They must release her immediately and unconditionally as she appears to be held solely for exercising her rights to freedom of expression and association,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“One month into Hengameh Shahidi’s detention, the authorities have still not provided her access to a specialist heart doctor. Instead of prolonging her suffering, the authorities must immediately give her the specialized medical treatment she needs.”

Hengameh Shahidi’s arbitrary arrest and detention shows again the Iranian authorities’ utter contempt for human rights
Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International

The Office of the Prosecutor informed Hengameh Shahidi’s family this week that doctors from the Legal Medicine Organization, a state forensic institute, will visit Evin prison to examine her within days. This follows repeated requests from her family for her to receive specialist medical care.

According to her mother, Hengameh Shahidi told her interrogator: “if something happens to me, you will have to answer for it… The President, Ministry of Intelligence, the Office of the Prosecutor, and the judiciary [will be] responsible for my death.”

The authorities have not informed Hengameh Shahidi of the charges against her and have refused to allow her to have any contact with her lawyer. She has been allowed only limited contact with her family.

Hengameh Shahidi was also previously arrested in 2009 and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on charges of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system”, in relation to her journalism and activism. She was released on medical grounds in May 2011.

Hengameh Shahidi is among several journalists who have been detained as part of a wave of arrests ahead of Iran’s presidential elections in May. They include newspaper editor Ehsan Mazandarani who was arrested by Revolutionary Guards officials on 11 March, and editor-in-chief of Goftegoo (Conversation) magazine Morad Saghafi, who was arrested on 15 March. A number of administrators of channels on the mobile messaging app Telegram, which is a platform used by millions of people in Iran, have also been arrested.