Iran: Musician hospitalised during hunger strike

The Guardian has reported that Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian who is serving three years in prison is being treated in hospital for internal bleeding. He was imprisoned (with his brother) for distributing underground music. 

This news comes one month after he started a hunger strike.

Last week Mehdi was released on furlough but had to go to Buali hospital in the Mazandaran province. Judicial authorities at the notorious Evin prison have reportedly ordered him to return to prison by Sunday despite his serious medical issues. 

Mehdi and his brother, Hossein Rajabian, a 31-year-old film-maker, were jailed in June. After a trial lasting only three minutes, the brothers and their friend Yousef Emadi, 35, were found guilty of “insulting Islamic sanctities”, “spreading propaganda against the system” and “illegal audio-visual activities”. The three men shared an office in sari before their arrest. It is unknown if Emadi is currently in prison. 

Over a month ago the brothers decided to start a hunger strike. They have not eaten any food but have been forced to occasionally drink water. Hossein is still in Evin prison, but the state of his health is unknown.

Amnesty International has criticised the imprisonment of these men. Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the organisation’s Middle East and North Africa programme, said: “Expressing yourself through art is not a crime and it is outrageous that the Iranian authorities have resorted to locking up artists and musicians simply for their artistic work. Mehdi and Hossein Rajabian are prisoners of conscience who shouldn’t be forced to spend a single minute behind bars. The Iranian authorities must order their immediate and unconditional release.” 

He continued: “Their imprisonment is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of expression in Iran. The human right to liberty is sadly so undervalued by the Iranian authorities that they are prepared to condemn individuals to years in jail just to silence artistic voices that they deem as ‘anti-Islamic’ and ‘anti-revolutionary’.”

The arrest of the brothers is just another example of the hardline judiciary’s clampdown on those who go against norms in Iran. Atena Daemi, a 29-year-old human rights activist and campaigner, was locked up last week to serve a seven year sentence. 

New York-based international campaign for human rights in Iran (ICHRI) said: “Daemi is a prominent activist in the field of children’s rights as well as a vocal opponent of the death penalty. She was arrested on 21 October 2014 by the [elite Revolutionary Guards’] intelligence organisation and accused of meeting families of political prisoners, criticising the Islamic Republic on Facebook and condemning the 1988 mass execution of political prisoners.”

The Rajabian brothers sent a letter from prison last month asking for solidarity. The brothers were separated in prison which is why they started the hunger strike. They said: “This separation and keeping us apart caused us great mental, physical and financial distress. This went so far that we eventually went on a hunger strike, which led to both of our pre-existing illnesses to worsen.” (Mehdi has muscular dystrophy which he believes developed after undergoing numerous brutal interrogations.)

The brothers also pointed out that they do not even have access to a lawyer. “The most peculiar thing of all is that through all of this we have been denied our legal rights to see an attorney.”