Iranian political prisoners go on hunger strike to protest executions

Mohammed Ghobadlou was the ninth person the Iranian government has executed in connection with the "Woman Life Freedom" protests of 2022. At least 11 other political prisoners face "immediate risk" of execution, according to Human Rights Watch. Photo courtesy of Narges Mohammadi/Instagram
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Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Iranian women activists went on a hunger strike Thursday in protest of the execution of 23-year-old Mohammad Ghobadlou.

Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi made the announcement on Instagram that she and 60 other women imprisoned at Evin Prison in Tehran would go on a hunger strike to protest the execution of Ghobadlou.

"The news of the execution of Iranian youth has sparked a wave of anger and protest in society," the post read. "Women political-prisoners in Evin, in protest against the recent executions and for the 'halt of executions,' will engage in a united hunger strike on the 25th of Jan 2024."

Ghobadlou was accused of killing a police officer during the nationwide "Women, Life, Freedom" protest against the Islamic Republic in 2022. He was executed by hanging on Tuesday, making him the ninth person to be executed in connection with the protests.

Activists and rights groups condemned the hanging, arguing Ghobadlou suffered from bipolar disorder and that Iran's Supreme Court struck down the initial death sentence ruling.

Mohammadi's post said Ghobadlou was hanged "under circumstances where even a final verdict for execution did not exist."

His lawyer, Amir Raisian, said in a post on X that the execution had "no legal permission" and that he received notice of Ghobadlou's execution just hours before he was hanged.

The "Women Life Freedom" protests erupted across Iran in response to the alleged killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by the Iranian "morality police" in September 2022. The protests eventually became deadly as millions in the nation turned out.

Authorities arrested Amini in Tehran for allegedly not complying with Iran's mandatory hijab laws. The Islamic Republic News Agency announced her death three days after she was taken into custody.

Multiple prominent figures have announced their intent to strike in solidarity with the 61 prisoners in Evin. Iranian musician Mehdi Yarahi posted on X that he would go on hunger strike Thursday. Yarahi also was arrested in August after he released a song celebrating the anniversary of the 2022 protests.

Iranian-American activist and journalist Masih Alinejad also took to X to announce her intent to strike.

"Solidarity is beautiful, but if we don't take action, believe me more people who are on the death row will be executed soon," Alinejad said in the post.

At least 11 other Iranian political prisoners are at "imminent risk" for execution, according to Human Rights Watch. The organization said prisoners facing the death penalty were often convicted on vague charges such as "enmity against God" and "corruption on earth."

Mohammadi, 51, has spent most of the last decade in and out of detention for her civil rights advocacy. She began protesting Iran's excessive use of the death penalty in 2015, which resulted in her being re-imprisoned while out on bail.

She most recently went on hunger strike in November to protest Evin authorities' neglect of sick inmates and criminalization of women who refuse to wear the hijab.