Friday , 28 January 2022

“I Will Turn My Body Into a Weapon,” Writes Detained Women’s Rights Activist on Hunger Strike

CHRI – Detained women’s rights activist Atefeh Rangriz has been on hunger strike in Gharchak Prison, south of Tehran, since October 16, 2019, to protest the Intelligence Ministry’s blocking of her release, a source with detailed knowledge of her case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

In her open letter published by Persian media outlets on October 16, Rangriz said she would use her body to protest her continued incarceration despite having posted bail.

“I will turn my body into a weapon against all these injustices and declare a hunger strike to protest the unlawful refusal to enforce five bail orders… and unjust sentences,” she said in her letter translated by CHRI.

“I am well aware that my life is not worth protecting by those who are treating it as a joke,” she added. “I will endure this suffering to break the wall of silence that represents the quiet death of civil society and our cries for justice.”

“I will conclude with the words that have echoed throughout our downtrodden history: Death or freedom,” Rangriz wrote.

A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons told CHRI that the Intelligence Ministry was blocking Rangriz’s release to send a message to other activists:

“Atefeh and [workers’ rights activist Neda Naji] were detained by the Baharestan Metro Station after the Labor Day rally [in Tehran on May 1, 2019]. Later, Atefeh was granted bail and everything was ready but they didn’t release her. Instead, she was transferred to Evin Prison’s Ward 209, as requested by the Intelligence Ministry, and told that she was going to be released in three or four days but then she was taken back to Gharchak Prison.”

The source added: “Atefeh and Neda are women’s rights activists, whose presence at the Labor Day rally in solidarity with the workers irked the Intelligence Ministry. The other detainees were all released the same day but they held on to Neda, Atefeh and Marzieh Amiri, who is a women’s rights activist and journalist. It’s as if they want to punish them in order to intimidate other activists.”

Rangriz, 31, is a graduate student in sociology. She is awaiting a decision on her appeal against an 11.5-year prison sentence issued against her in August 2019 by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh for the charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “disturbing public order.”

She was also sentenced to be flogged 74 times but it’s unclear whether the flogging, described as torture by the UN, will be carried out.

“Neda Naji and other [female] political prisoners have been transferred from Gharchak to Evin, all except Rangriz and Sepideh Qoliyan,” the source told CHRI. “It seems they are playing games with her. The prosecutor and presiding judicial official in Gharchak keep saying that they have approved her transfer, but we don’t know why they won’t do it.”

In her open letter, Rangriz noted that originally, she was ordered to post 30 million tomans (approximately $7,116 USD) as bail to be released until the outcome of her appeal.

Subsequently, the court increased her bail to 50 million tomans (approximately $11,860 USD) and then to 70 million tomans ($16,604 USD). Even after her family posted the amount, she was still not released on bail.

“My family dug up the money any way they could and finally put together the heavy bail but once again, in a completely unlawful action, posting bail was refused,” she wrote.

According to CHRI’s source, Rangriz’s mother made several trips to Gharchak Prison to offer real estate deeds to cover the bail but was repeatedly turned away.

Read this article in Persian.