Following is translation of an interview conducted by Roozonline with mothers of on hunger strike political prisoners Hossein Ronaghi Maleki and Abolfazl Abedini.
It has been more than two weeks since political prisoner Abolfazl Abedini launched a hunger strike protesting his illegal transfer to Karoon prison in Ahvaz, a hunger strike that has not fostered pursuit by any of the Judiciary officials.
On Sunday, political prisoner Hossein Ronaghi Maleki incarcerated in Evin prison, announced the launch of a hunger strike in a letter to Abedini. He wrote, “I, in protest of the responsible authorities’ lack of respect for human life, failure to address the cases of ill political prisoners, added pressure on my family, arbitrary and illegal transfer of innocent political prisoners and forcing them into such inhumane conditions, the unknown status and whereabouts of some of the political prisoners, and also protesting continued non-adherence to the rule of law by officials, am launching a hunger strike.
Even though, I find this method of protest undesirable and wrong, and know that it will have heavy consequences for me.”
Considering his dire health condition, the hunger strike of this political prisoner has caused much concern among the human rights activists and his family.
Ronaghi’s mother, Zolaykha Mousavi tells Rooz, “Last Monday I went to visit him in prison, he told me he is having severe pain in his right kidney and has not been able to sleep for the past four nights due to the pain.
That same day, he told me about his decision to go on a hunger strike. I pleaded with him and said, “No Hossein. For the love of God, don’t go on a hunger strike. I told him I will go to the District Attorney’s office and see if I can obtain medical furlough and, God willing, they may grant furlough for Eid-e-Fetr (end of Ramedan).”
Mrs. Mousavi continues, “I went to the District Attorney’s office, and cried, and pleaded with the Deputy District Attorney. A number of other political prisoners’ family members were also there, and witnessed my pleas.
I said, for God’s sake, grant my son medical furlough, I have come here from Azarbijan. I explained Hossein’s health problems and the pain he is suffering from his right kidney, and asked them to please approve his furlough so he can go to specialists for treatment. They denied the furlough.
I asked Mr. Khodabakhsh, then what are you going to do? Do you want to kill him? As you have stated before? He replied, perhaps it is so”
I asked her, “was Hossein told that they are going to kill him?” She replied, “Hossein had told one of the prison officials that he will go on a hunger strike and his answer was, :What do you think is going to happen? You will die and soon after everything will become quiet.” I asked Mr. Khodabakhsh, “Is this what you want?” He replied, “Perhaps that is so.””
Zolaikha Mousavi adds, “They said they will not approve medical furlough, and he must continue treatment in prison. I told him, “He has gone under operation in a hospital several times, but was returned to prison again, which then caused an exasperation of his condition. This time he is suffering from pain in his right kidney.”
Mr. Khodabakhsh said that the District Attorney has ordered that Hossein not be given medical furlough. I told him, “I have come all the way from Azarbaijan and you are ignoring my pleas. I have been coming to you for the last four years, there is not a place that I have not gone to pursuing Hossein’s case. Every time, I cry and plea, but no one gives me any answer.””
Hossein Ronaghi’s mother continues, “They asked me why I speak to the media, I told them it’s their own fault, “If you heard my pleas then I wouldn’t have to talk to the media. I am a mother, for four years I have been tormented, I said, “Why are you so cruel Mr. Khodabakhsh. It’s Ramedan, I have come here from a long distance in this heat, but no matter how much I beg you won’t give me an answer.””
Mrs. Mousavi stressing the dire health of her son says, “Doctors have said that Hossein must be on a proper nutritional diet, which is not available in prison. Hossein told me he can not tolerate this any longer, they torment him there in prison.
You don’t know the agony that we have suffered. You don’t know what we went through last year when he was on hunger strike and ended up in a hospital as a result. It aged us, the agony and anguish we suffered made the hospital workers cry for us.”
Hossein’s mother, crying, continues, “When I heard he had gone on a hunger strike, I didn’t know what to do. I asked Mr. Khodabakhsh, “What has my son done? They have imprisoned the innocent children of people/ I am a mother. What should I do?” And his reply to me was that they follow the Prophets path. For God’s sake, that is not how the Prophet was. The Prophet respected even his enemies. If they were sick he would pay them visits. Mr. Khodabakhsh why are you this way?”
What Zolaykha Mousavi is asking is for them to grant her son medical furlough. At the end of the interview, as she was crying, she said, “Why are they doing this? All they want is to kill Hossein and that is it.”
Hossein Ronaghi Maleki was arrested December 2009 in the city of Malekan in Azarbaijan province and was transferred to Tehran after his arrest. He used the pen name Babak Khoramdin on his blog. He was among the people who protested the results of 2009 presidential election. He was also a member of the committee against censorship. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on charges of anti-National Security acts. (Translator’s note: Hossein was also tried and sentenced to additional 2 years imprisonment in the Sarand Camp earthquake relief workers case).
“Pray for my son to halt his hunger strike”
Political prisoner Abolfazl Abedini, a witness in Sattar Beheshti’s case was transferred from Evin prison to Karoon prison in Ahvas on July 28. This was not the first time that Abedini was exiled. Last fall he was also illegally transferred to Ahvaz.
He was transferred after he gave testimony in the case of Sattar Beheshti, the critic blogger who died as a result of torture while in custody. Abedini had testified before the Magistrate that he had seen signs of torture on Sattar Beheshti’s body.
At the time of his last transfer out of Evin, protesting his illegal transfer, he proclaimed he will go on a hunger strike and will not halt it until he is returned back to Evin.
Now that more than two weeks have passed since the start of his hunger strike, concerns are raising about his health and the conditions under which he is being held in Ahvaz Karoon prison.
Abolfazl Abedini’s mother, Sareh Aivazi, in an interview with Rooz, stressed that on her last visit with her son, he appeared very weak and thin and declined his family’s urging him to halt his hunger strike.
Mrs. Aivazi said, “One time they take him to solitary confinement, another time they add to his sentence. It has been four years now that we are going through this. We are tired of writing so many letters (to officials). What we are asking is for him to be returned back to Tehran, lower his sentence and ultimately release him.”
After Abedini was illegally transferred to Ahvaz, 44 political prisoners in Evin wrote a statement of protest and asked for his return back to Evin.
In that statement, pointing out that Abedini has been in prison for four years without being allowed a furlough, they said, “He as a patriotic Iranian young man, solely due to his diligent pursuit of the national interests and his human rights activities, just as many other activists of the Green Movement, encountered unjust imprisonment and was sentenced to 12 1/2 years incarceration.”
Abedini’s mother told Rooz: “My son suffers from a heart and kidney condition. Ahvaz prison does not have a political prisoner ward. At least in Tehran, he was in the political prisoners ward. In Ahvaz the prisoners are criminals convicted on drug charges and murder and the prison lacks many facilities.”
Mrs. Aivazi, sobbing, continues, “Pray for him, pray for him to come back to Tehran soon and to break his hunger strike. The 13 years imprisonment sentence they gave him did not effect us as much as has these last 15 days that he has been on hunger strike. We are extremely worried and are under a lot of pressure.”
Previously in a letter to Chief Judiciary, Ayatollah Larijani, Abedini had detailed the violence that he suffered in prison, he wrote, “Aside from the method used in arresting this defendant, when I was rolling in pain from being hit and kicked, and from the blows with a cable to my frail feet, again the terms of “civil rights” and “the rights of the accused” were dancing before my eyes and in my mind. That how could the people who thought of themselves as the enforcers of the Justice Department have made such a mockery of it all.”
He was tried in April 2010 in the Revolutionary Court of Ahvaz and sentenced to 11 years imprisonment on charges of association with hostile governments, human rights activism and propaganda against the establishment through giving interviews to foreign press.