Wednesday, October 20, 2021

An Iranian environmental activist on hunger strike will remain for 14 days outside of prison

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At a Montreal plaza, activists are once again calling for the release of jailed Iranian environmental activist Jifar Zarei. Zarei was detained in 2015 as he was returning from a trip to the U.S. in order to continue his efforts to expose the role of the country’s nuclear and energy industries in helping finance terrorism. Zarei says he was tortured in prison during his term and was denied medical treatment, and that a few months ago, he was again imprisoned without explanation, only to be allowed his family brief visits two weeks ago.

Now he is protesting at the same spot, and plans to remain there until Wednesday, by which time he plans to be on a hunger strike. His companion on the protest, Jewish activist Rachel Shapiro-Reeves, started her hunger strike on Friday. In all, the two protesters plan to abstain from water for 14 days. As of Monday morning, the daily mortality rate for Iranian hunger strikers is 7.5 percent.

According to UNICEF, over 1,400 people worldwide have been arrested this year under Iran’s anti-global warming laws. Zarei’s hunger strike comes a week after eight activists, most of them affiliated with Greenpeace, were arrested on an industrial site in Tehran. One of the detainees, Shirin Bagheri, has also been on hunger strike since she was arrested, demanding the release of all Iranians persecuted for their views on climate change and other environmental issues. Another, Arya Savasti, has dedicated two years of her life to negotiations with the U.S. government about how to release her Iranian husband, a political prisoner held in Evin prison. She is participating in Zarei’s protest alongside other family members.

Most have been detained, along with 21 of their fellow activists, since September. A total of 105 individuals have been jailed in connection with the protests since November 2016. Like Zarei, they have been denied access to counsel, passports, visas, and parole. According to Amnesty International, those released only recently began being allowed meetings with their families.

Zarei and his fellow activists have been vocal about their attempts to release those still jailed in Iran. In June, Greenpeace issued a statement praising Zarei, which read, “This isn’t about Greenpeace. Jifar was a participant in the protests. What Jifar was leading the protests was critical information. And it has to stop.”

Aside from the arrests of its international staff, authorities have arrested 786 people this year for participating in protests related to the environment. They have targeted other issues associated with the environment, from water pollution to coastal deforestation, which have all been tied to corporations doing business in Iran. The World Economic Forum has downgraded Iran as a place to do business for fear of compromising its environmental integrity. And human rights groups — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Committee to Protect U.S. Persons, and Global Witness — have called on the Iranian government to release all those detained, even those not suspected of violence.

Read the full story at the The Guardian.


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