Iran: Artists’ medical condition on hunger strike growing worse

16 November 2016

Musician Mehdi Rajabian and his brother, filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, began their second hunger strike on 28 October 2016, since being imprisoned on 5 June 2016, demanding they receive a medical furlough for their increasingly severe medical conditions, which are growing more severe as a result of the hunger strike, reported International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on 15 November 2016.

A source of the human rights organisation said:

The condition of both brothers has gotten worse since they began the hunger strike. Hossein has a severe lung infection. He was in the hospital for five days before starting the hunger strike and doctors had said then that he needs further treatment. Mehdi is suffering from an illness similar to multiple sclerosis—it’s not clear. He has become very weak and can walk only with a cane.

According to Amnesty International, Mehdi has twice coughed up blood since his hunger strike and was punched in the stomach by a prison doctor after being taken to the prison clinic.

In a letter obtained by Freemuse, penned from prison by Hossein on behalf of himself and Mehdi in October 2016, the brothers stated that due to their treatment as a result of their first hunger strike in September 2016, they would “react strongly, and from a specific date in October or November start a more severe hunger strike that cannot be tempered by any judicial authority until our release”.

The brothers stated in the letter they were “tricked” by a representative of the Attorney General to end their hunger strike and that Mehdi would receive his furlough for proper treatment, after which the brothers would be re-united in the same prison ward after they had been separated for requesting medical attention. The brothers said they have not heard from the representative since, the promises were not upheld, and further, they have been denied their right to see their attorney.

A source close to the brothers told the human rights organisation:

Mehdi’s medical problems have been caused by the interrogations he went through at the time of his detention. He became sick under neurological stresses and pressures and now his doctor suspects him of having multiple sclerosis. He has to get an MRI every month and take regular shots. His family is very worried about what’s going to happen to his health and treatments once he goes to prison.

After their first hunger strike, which lasted nine days, Hossein had developed a lung infection and was hospitalised for a week before returning to prison, reported International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on 31 October 2016.

In the letter from the brothers, they urged artists all over the world to not forget them: “Stand by our side and [don’t] forget us, because being forgotten is a human’s greatest pain.”

Mehdi and Hossein are solely imprisoned for their art. Help make sure they are not forgotten.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Share their story and letter on social media using #ArtIsNotACrime
  • Reach out to fellow artists, decision makers, political representatives, family and friends to call for their release
  • If you are an artist, take a moment on stage to remember that not all artists are free
  • Share this video Mehdi Rajabian helped create after his sentence before he was jailed:
  • Send a message of support and solidarity to the artists by emailing freemuse@freemuse.organd we will do our best to get your message to them


» International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran – 15 November 2016:
Iranian officials ignore demands of eight ailing political prisoners on hunger strike

» Amnesty International – 8 November 2016:
Iran: Musicians and activists launch campaign to free jailed artists

» International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran – 31 October 2016:
Tricked into ending hunger strike, imprisoned music distributors resume quest for justice

More from Freemuse

» 1 November 2016: Iran: Artists call for support in letter from prison

» 12 September 2016: Iran: Jailed artists go on hunger strike

» 24 June 2016: UN: “Artistic expression is not a crime” – Special Rapporteurs urge the Iranian government to free jailed artists

» 7 June 2016: Iran: Musician and filmmaker imprisoned

» 30 May 2016: Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker summoned to prison 

» 29 February 2016: Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker sentenced

» 27 January 2016: Iran: 165 Iranian artists and activists protest charges against two musicians and a filmmaker

» 15 January 2016: Call on Iranian authorities to drop charges on two musicians and a filmmaker

» 14 December 2015: Iran: Music distributors await appeal decision for six years in prison

» 17 December 2013: Iran: Musician and music distributors arrested

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