WASHINGTON - An Iranian women’s rights activist says a male ally imprisoned in Iran since July plans to expand a hunger strike in the coming days to protest government harassment of rights campaigners.
In a series of tweets published Wednesday, Jila Baniyaghoob reported what she said was a message sent from Tehran’s Evin prison by her jailed ally, 48-year-old physician Farhad Meysami. She did not specify how she obtained the message.
Baniyaghoob said Meysami has vowed to turn his ongoing hunger strike from a “wet” to a “dry” one beginning this Saturday, meaning that he will give up water as well as food. She said Meysami pledged to drink only the amount of water needed to take his medications.
Rights groups have said Meysami has told his family and friends that he has been refusing food in prison since August 1. That was a day after security forces arrested Meysami at his office, where 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.
Baniyaghoob, who won the International Women’s Media Foundation’s “Courage in Journalism Award” for 2009, said Meysami intends to launch a full hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of other civil rights activists in Iran. She said Meysami is demanding an end to the government’s summoning, interrogation and harassment of four activists in particular: Reza Khandan, Khandan’s sister, Jila Karamzadeh Makvandi and Mohammadreza Davoud Farhadpour.
Khandan, the husband of prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, was arrested Tuesday after campaigning for the release of his wife, whom authorities 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.
Meysami, a friend of Sotoudeh, also has been charged with national security offenses including encouraging women to remove their headscarves in public, according to rights activists.
There was no comment on Meysami’s case in Iranian state media.
This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service.