Human Rights Defender Atena Daemi on Indefinite Hunger Strike

Aug. 13, 2021, 5:53 p.m.

Iran Human Rights (IHR); August 12, 2021: Prominent imprisoned human rights defender, Atena Daemi has begun an indefinite hunger strike in protest to the frequent and unjustified restrictions on prisoners’ right to telephone use. The interruptions to phone calls in recent weeks had forced Atena’s parents to travel from Tehran to the northern city of Rasht, leading to their contraction of Covid-19.

Prominent human rights defender Atena Daemi, who was prison exiled to Rasht Prison in March, went on an indefinite hunger strike on August 12. One of her relatives has told Iran Human Rights that her hunger strike is in protest to the frequent and unwarranted restrictions on prisoners’ right to telephone use with their families.

The most recent cutting of phone calls in Rasht Central Prison had caused great worry for Atena’s parents who live in Tehran and their trip to check on their daughter led to them contracting Covid-19.

The Rasht Central Prison warden being away for around four weeks has also caused many administrative problems, including delays in the release of prisoners.

Speaking to IHR about the reasons for the cutting of phone calls, the source said: “This happens every month and every time we complain to the prison authorities, they say that their phone cables have been stolen.”

Atena Daemi was transferred from Evin Prison to Rasht Central Prison in handcuffs and shackles on March 16 in a wave of prison exiles. Authorities claimed that her transfer was so she could be closer to her family in Rasht while her parents live in Tehran.

As Atena was not sentenced to prison exile in any of the cases against her, such action can only be considered as the harassment of political prisoners and their families.

Atena Daemi was first arrested by Iranian authorities on 21 October 2014 and was subjected to interrogations for 86 days in ward 2A, an IRGC-operated solitary confinement ward in Evin Prison. Following the end of her interrogations, on 18 January 2015, she was transferred from 2A to the women's ward of the prison. Due to the peaceful nature of her activities, she was sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of "propaganda against the system", "assembly and collusion against national security", "blasphemy and insulting the Supreme Leader" and "concealing evidence". Facebook posts and her activism against the death penalty were used as part of the evidence against her. Her sentence was reduced to seven years on appeal.

On 18 July 2019, Atena and human rights defender Golrokh Ebrahimi-Iraei were sentenced to an additional 3 years and 7 months and a two year ban on group and organisational activities by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran for “insulting the founder and Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic and propaganda against the system,” which was upheld by the Tehran Appeal Court on 5 September 2019. On 21 December 2019, Atena along with a group of other prisoners, staged a sit in, in protest to the state response to the November 2019 nationwide demonstrations and in solidarity with the family of the victims.

On 2 July 2020, her lawyer was informed that she had been sentenced to a further two years in prison and 74 lashes by Branch 24 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Mohammadreza Amouzad on charges of “propaganda against the system and disrupting prison order.” On the charge of "propaganda against the system" the court cited statements, written letters and statements attributed to her and on charges of "disrupting prison order" celebrating, partying and dancing during Ashoora, the day marking the death  of Imam Hussein in the Shi’ite calendar, were cited. Atena called the new charges baseless, stating that, for example, in the case of disrupting prison order, there had been no celebrations by her or her fellow prisoners around the days marking Ashoora. As with her conviction in March 2018, Atena refused to attend the hearing in protest to the breach of her legal rights in the time between the date of notification and trial and the lack of access to her legal counsel.