Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Hunger Strikes, Hungry Families, and Ending Violence Against Women (Arseh Sevom)
Arseh Sevom, the NGO promoting civil society and human rights in Iran, reviews the latest developments inside the country:
More than seven million students of all ages have dropped out of school due to economic hardships. Anasthesia is no longer readily available. Family, friends, and supporters call on the human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to end her hunger strike. “Let the silent observers take over,” they urge. Families go without needed nutrients, even more workers lose their jobs, and factories shut down. Civil society organizations call for an end to violence against women in Iran, pointing out that much of the violence is part of society. Labour organizations call on the government to fully investigate the suspicious death of the blogger Sattar Beheshti.
Forty Days and Forty Nights
On the 40th day of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s hunger strike, a number of families of political prisoners called upon her to end her strike. In a letter published on the site of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Nowrooz, the families wrote, "The whole world knows that they [the Iranian authorities] have denied you and your family members your basic rights and you have used your power to punish this unjust legal system.”
The letter voiced the concerns of Sotoudeh’s close friends, family, and relatives. It emphasized that Sotoudeh has done more than enough and that it is time for the "silent observers" to do the rest.
After weeks of being denied visits with his wife, Reza Khandan was finally allowed to meet her a day after she was transferred from solitary confinement to the general ward of Section 209 in Evin Prison last week. He said that his wife’s weight had dropped to 43 kilos and that she will continue her hunger strike. Radio Liberty [en] quotes Khandan from his Facebook page the following:
I asked her, “How long will you continue your hunger strike?”
She said: “The hunger strike is unlimited. You know what ‘unlimited’ means?”
Solidarity with Nasrin Sotoudeh is spreading more around the world. Amnesty Netherlands printed full-page ads in the national papers calling on people to call the Iranian embassy to voice their concerns. A group of lawyers in the Netherlands gathered in front of the Iranian Embassy in The Hague in support of Nasrin Sotoudeh and urged the Iranian authorities to release Sotoudeh immediately.
Elimination of Violence Against Women
Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November, 42 Iranian democratic and human rights organizations issued a joint statement calling for events to raise awareness on this issue in Iran and worldwide. Radio Zamaneh writes:
In societies like Iran where a authoritarian regime coupled with traditional cultural and anti-women values rules, several types of violence against women are not recognized as crimes. Moreover, the perpetrator is treated with impunity backed by a religious ideology to protect the dignity of the family…
Government’s Negligence and Health Threat to Citizens
In an interview with Fars News, the head of the Iranian Society of Anesthesiologists and Critical Care has warned pf the shortage of anesthetics, "We have to use outdated supplies due to the shortages. We are worried about the health of those who need surgery. Unfortunately the authorities do not give this issue enough attention.”
He refused to name the outdated supplies but reiterated he is seriously concerned about the side effects of these drugs on patients.
The negligence of the authorities is not limited to medicine. High costs of food have affected families as well, threatening their health. Kalameh reports that the discussion of the day is over milk and diary products that are now lacking in the diet of an average Iranian family, because they cannot afford them. According to the Iranian Health Minister, milk and dairy product consumption is 35% below the desired standard rate.
Increased Dropout Rates Due to Economic Hardship
Radio Zamaneh reports that students are dropping out of boarding schools in Gilan in northern Iran because of economic problems, with families and the schools unable to provide students with proper food.
According to the site, the Iran Statistics Center said more than seven million Iranian students quit school last year.
Three Iranian labour organizations have issued a joint statement urging the government to pursue the case of blogger Sattar Beheshti, so that the perpetrators of his death can be brought to justice.
The Vahed Transit Drivers Union, the Labour Union Project, and the Defenders of Labour Rights Centre wrote, "[Beheshti] had committed no crime other than to speak out against the injustice and poverty dominating the lives of workers.”
Iranian authorities are still publishing vague and evasive statements about the case.
The Iranian Labour News Agency reports that Gilan Jihad Agriculture had to release 34 workers due to its budget cuts. Fooman Shimi Company fired 150 workers due to the steep rise of the cost of raw materials, resulting from the fall in the Iranian Rial's value.
ILNA also reports on the closure of 65 Iranian tea processing units due to improper government policies. The shutdown of each of these units led to unemployment of more than 3000 workers.