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Iran Snapshot: Political Prisoners, Hunger Strikes, and The Spectre That Defies Calm

The weekend was marked by concern over the health of several political prisoners in Iran, as news and rumours circulated about hunger strikes.

Confirmation of the serious situation of Isa Saharkhiz has apparently emerged, with the journalist undergoing surgery internal bleeding. Activists passed the news that Saharkhiz, held since summer 2009, was in "critical" condition, and the prominent site Radio Zamaneh featured the story on Sunday. At the same time, it emerged that Saharkhiz had written to the Tehran Prosecutor General, defiantly asserting that he will not acquiesce to a “cruel and impious leader” like Ayatollah Khamenei.

We learned that journalist/filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad had begun his hunger strike, declaring that he would pursue it to death, as his wife asked for help in an interview on Nourizad's website. Labour activist Reza Shahabi, also on hunger strike, was reported to be in serious condition.

And then, on Sunday evening, the claim raced across Facebook and Twitter: attorney Nasrine Sotoudeh, who has been on three hunger strikes since her detention at the start of September, was in a coma.

We have not been able to verify the report on Sotoudeh's status; however, its circulation brings out a continuing point. Even though news is hard to obtain to verify rumour, the movement of the stories defies the easy declaration --- made by some readers to EA this weekend --- that the "political situation is calm".

Calm is denied by the increasing, rather than easing, repression of the Iranian authorities. Resolution is belied by detention, hunger strikes, and the possibility of death.

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