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Update: Nourizad, Still on Hunger Strike, Hospitalized; Family Briefly Detained

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

16 Dec 2010 20:39Comments
LetterToNourizad.jpg

Mohammad Nourizad is a journalist who used to write for Kayhan, the mouthpiece of the hardliners. He also produced programs for the national television network. Politically, he was a conservative and admirer of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But after the Supreme Leader took the hardliners' side and ordered the violent crackdown on the Green Movement in 2009, Nourizad turned against him. He began writing open public letters to Khamenei, warning him about the consequences of what he was doing and criticizing severely what was going on. He had already caused a stir a year earlier with an article in which he called on the clerics to stop interfering in politics.

Nourizad was consequently arrested on December 20, 2009, and charged with "insulting the authorities and propaganda against the Islamic Republic." After a show trial, he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail and 50 lashes.

Nourizad, 58, has not been deterred by his imprisonment. He has continued writing his letters, using even stronger language and issuing sterner rebukes. For the past nine days, since the beginning of the month of Moharram -- a period of mourning for Shiites, as on the tenth day of Moharram, Imam Hossein, the third Shia Imam and a most revered figure in Iran, was murdered in A.D. 680 -- Nourizad has been on hunger strike without water. He is protesting the treatment that he and other political prisoners have received, and the fact that the judiciary has not investigated his lawsuit against agents of the Ministry of Intelligence. He has vowed to continue his strike until either he and his fellow political inmates are granted their rights, or he dies. He has said, "I want to hit their heads with my dead body." Reports indicate that he has had severe stomach bleeding and that other political prisoners have supported him by also going on hunger strike.

Former President Mohammad Khatami has called on Nourizad to end his hunger strike. A group of actors, directors, and film producers have also called on him to end the strike in a letter (pictured) -- the signatories include well-known filmmakers such as Rakhshan Bani E'temad and Jafar Panahi.

As Nourizad refused to stop his hunger strike and his heath continued to deteriorate, he was forcibly removed from Evin and taken to a hospital. His entire family met in Qom with six grand ayatollahs, Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, Hossein Vahid Khorasani, Yousef Sanei, Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, Abdollah Javadi Amoli, and Mohammad Ali Gerami. The senior clerics sympathized with Nourizad's family and emphasized that inhumane treatment of prisoners is against the teachings of Islam. When the family returned to Tehran and gathered by Evin, they were attacked by security forces. Nourizad's wife, children, parents, sisters, and brothers were arrested and taken to an unknown location. Also arrested was Fakhr ol-sadat Mohtashamipour, wife of former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, the outspoken reformist who is Nourizad's cellmate.They have now apparently been released.

Attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, and three other political prisoners, Reza Shahabi, Gholam-Hossein Arshi, and Arash Sadeghi, are also on hunger strike. Reports indicate that the health of Sotoudeh and Arshi has gravely deteriorated. Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, has called on all four, as well as Nourizad, to end their strike.

Letters by Mohammad Nourizad to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from Evin Prison: April 2010 | June 2010 | August 2010 (in Farsi)

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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