This Monday twelve political prisoners have ended their hunger strike. These prisoners of the notorious Evin jail were protesting the deaths of Hoda Saber and Haleh Sahabi, prominent figures of the Religious-Nationalist party.
What is noteworthy in this episode is the response of influential dissidents. Important dissident clerics, former president Khatami and the children of Karroubi and Mousavi and many others called for the prisoners to end their strike. Ayatollah Zanjani even called it a religious duty to stop the strike and said "...this country needs loved ones like you in order to achieve freedom and rebuilding". I find this to be a very troubling reaction. Of course I don't want anyone to die in an action, but when all forms of protest has been taken away from us, and in the case of these prisoners even their freedom, why undermine their protests by telling them to stop?
Even wild animals with a basic instinct for survival stop eating and often die when put in cages. Why should humans be asked to suffer graciously when they are put in solitary cells and subjected to physical and mental torture? Khatami and his clan could have been stronger in condemning the regime, saying that while it is horrendous to think of the suffering of the strikers, it is the result of the treatment of the regime. A strike that will positively stop when they are treated as humans.
The response to the prisoners' strikes sums up the crisis of the Green Movement and many other activist movements of Iran. Where we are quick to point out the changes we want, it's hard to say what we are actually willing to do to get it:
- We don't want hunger strikes, as we don't want our dear activists to suffer
- We don't want sanctions as it will be the poor that suffer, not the ruling elite
- We don't want protests in the street without permission as that means more people will get arrested and killed
- We don't want to strike at work, as most factory workers have a temporary contract and no one wants to lose their livelyhood
- We don't want to sabotage any state material as we don't want to be seen terrorists
- We don't want to give up buying products that are produced by companies owned by the Revolutionary Guard as that would mean giving up part of our luxury.
- We don't want to speak out in a way that identify us as that means losing the chance to travel to Iran.