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Fifteen Iranian women launch hunger strike in prison over conditions

Thousands of Iranian Americans and others march during a Freedom Rally for Iran protesting in solidarity with women-led protests in Iran and for regime change in Iran in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 22, 2022. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Fifteen Iranian women incarcerated in the Kachoui prison near Tehran have gone on a hunger strike to protest the conditions of their imprisonment and the lack of medical attention at the facility.

Among those on the hunger strike is 22-year-old Armita Abbasi, who was arrested on October 10 in Karaj by security forces amid nationwide protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody in September.

Abbasi’s mother wrote on her Instagram account that because of her daughter’s hunger strike, prison authorities no longer allow her to call her family. She also said the court did not accept the lawyer representing her daughter.

Earlier this week, the lawyer for Mohammad Mehdi Karami, a prisoner sentenced to death, noted a similar stance by the court toward him, saying it contradicted the recent claim by the head of the Supreme Court that all prisoners have the right to choose a lawyer.

In November, CNN published an investigative report about the sexual assault and rape of some of the detainees from recent protests, including Abbasi, while they were being held in prisons across Iran.

Reports also indicate the 32-year-old Iranian painter Elham Modaresi, who is also being held at Kachoui, in the city of Karaj, has also started a hunger strike. Modaresi had previously said she was tortured into making a confession by security forces who were looking to pin several charges on her including vandalizing public facilities.

Kerstin Vieregge, a member of the German Bundestag and Modaresi’s political sponsor, also expressed concern about her health condition and said she wrote to the Iranian Embassy in Berlin requesting medical treatment for Modaresi.

According to reports published on social media, Fatemeh Nazarinejad, Fatemeh Mosleh Heidarzadeh, Niloufar Shakeri, Marzieh Mirghasemi, Shahrazad Derakhshan, Fatemeh Jamalpour, Hamideh Zeraei, Nilofar Kerdoni, Somayeh Masoumi, Fatemeh Harbi, Eniseh Mousavi, Jasmin Haj Mirzamohammadi and Maedeh Sohrabi are the other imprisoned protesters who have gone on a hunger strike.

Human rights organizations say thousands of people have been arrested during the recent nationwide protests in Iran that began in mid-September after the death of Mehsa Amini in police custody.

The families of many detainees have avoided going public to avoid being targeted by authorities.

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of January 2, at least 516 people had been killed during the unrest, including 70 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.