Azeri-Iranian prisoner Abbas Lisani continues his hunger strike at Iran’s Ardebil prison. The strike began January 1st to protest the harassment of his family by Iranian authorities and the refusal of prison officials to grant him short-term leave, which is commonly given to Iranian prisoners.
Since January 18th, Mr. Lisani has reportedly been held in solitary confinement in an unheated cell in a region where temperatures can drop to minus ten degrees centigrade. Mr. Lisani’s defense lawyer, Mohammad Reza Fagihi, director of the Committee for Protection of Prisoners, says he fears for his client’s health. And according to the human rights group Amnesty International, “Abbas Lisani is said to suffer from stomach and kidney problems, and pain in his ribs, which is allegedly a consequence of torture inflicted during previous periods of detention.”
Arrested in June for taking part in a demonstration by Azeri-Iranians in Ardebil, Mr. Lisani was detained until his release on bail in September. During his pre-trial detention, he conducted a hunger strike that reportedly lasted fifty-eight days. He was sentenced to a-year-and-a-half in prison and fifty lashes for what Iranian authorities called “spreading anti-government propaganda.” Fakhteh Zamani [fahkh-Teh zah-mah-nee] head of the Association for Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners, says activists who speak out for the rights of Iran’s Azerbaijani minority face repression:
"The Iranian regime has imprisoned cultural and linguistic activists who are trying to raise awareness about one of the most basic and fundamental rights of them as a people. Human rights activists, journalists, [and] writers have become victims of secret police. These activists are imprisoned and constantly harassed."
In its latest human rights report, the U.S. State Department says Azeri-Iranians report “ethnic and linguistic discrimination, including banning Azeri language in schools, harassing Azeri activists or organizations,” and the jailing of a number of people “for advocating cultural and language rights for Iranian Azerbaijanis.” The U.S. has called on the government of Iran to respect the rights of all Iranians and release those imprisoned for attempting to exercise those rights.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.