A group of Iranian doctors has staged a protest outside Iran’s parliament to demand hospital treatment for a detained human rights activist who has been on a hunger strike for months.
Photos received and verified by VOA Persian on Monday showed the doctors standing and holding signs in support of activist Farhad Meysami outside the parliament building in Tehran. Lawyer Mohammad Moghimi, who represents Meysami, told VOA Persian in a phone call that the protest happened on Monday morning.
Iranian security forces arrested Meysami, a physician in his late 40s, at his office on July 31. Authorities said they found books they believed were illegal and badges with slogans protesting Iran’s Islamist policy of forcing women to veil themselves or wear the hijab in public.
Rights groups have said Meysami faces charges of committing national security offenses, including encouraging women to remove their headscarves in public. They also have said he began refusing food on August 1 to protest his detention in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
In one photo of Monday’s protest outside parliament, a group of more than 30 doctors and their supporters held identical small signs calling for Meysami to be taken to a hospital emergency room for treatment. Some of the protesters also held a large sign saying the hospital to which Meysami should be transferred must be well-equipped.
In an open letter to Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani, the protesters and other Iranian doctors who apparently signed the letter reiterated their demand for Meysami to be hospitalized, saying they were “very concerned” about their colleague’s health. Iranian reformist newspaper Etemaad Online published a report about the letter on Monday.
Etemaad said about 400 doctors had written to Larijani, telling him that Meysami’s weight had dropped from 78 to 44 kilograms as a result of the hunger strike, which they said “continues to this day.”
The doctors wrote that Meysami’s weight loss has been accompanied by “numerous physical and psychological problems” that constitute a medical “emergency.”
“Our religious and professional ethics compel us to ask you to instruct the relevant authorities to transfer Meysami to a specialized hospital,” the doctors told Larijani, adding that, “any unfortunate development for Meysami could become a pretext for criticism of Iran by its foreign enemies.”
Rights activists have said Meysami’s hunger strike also is a protest against government harassment of other activists, including his friend and prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and her husband Reza Khandan.
Iranian authorities arrested Khandan in September after he campaigned publicly for the release of his wife, whom they imprisoned in June. Both have been charged with national security offenses after expressing support for Iranian women who have staged public protests against the nation’s compulsory hijab law this year.
This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service.