The International Center for Human Rights in Iran (ICHR): June 24, 2011 – On Friday early evening more than one hundred concerned citizens, students, and activists gathered in Toronto’s Dundas Square to support 18 political prisoners on hunger strike in Iran’s Evin and Rajai Shahr prisons. The event also focused on the overall human rights violations committed by the Iranian government in the past two years. The energized event was hosted by the United Student Front in Canada, the International Center for Human Rights in Iran, the Iranian Human Rights Society at York University, the Iranian Student Association at Ryerson University, Human Rights for Iran at Ryerson University, and various students and human rights activists.
The hunger strike action of the Iranian political prisoners was initially launched to protest against the deaths of Haleh Sahabi and Hoda Saber, two activists reportedly killed by Iranian authorities. Haleh Sahabi was murdered on June 1st at her father’s funeral after a raid by security forces. Hoda Saber died in Evin prison on June 12th from an alleged heart attack, ten days into his hunger strike to protest Haleh Sahabi’s death. According to reports, prison authorities had delayed his transfer to hospital and badly beat him while he was on hunger strike.
People walking at the busy square were seen talking to the activists about the hunger striking prisoners and inquiring on how they can help. Organizers also spread the word on the human rights abuses in Iran by distributing information sheets to people. Others held posters of the prisoners on hunger strike and of young Iranians killed in post-election Iran. The participants, who were mainly Iranians, engaged the crowd by singing two national and revolutionary songs together. Tourists passing by also got the opportunity to observe an organized flash mob. Participants in the flash mob covered a large area of Dundas Square and froze in position with their hands in the air giving the V sign for victory. Members of the media were also present to capture the artistic show and the protesters in action.
Near the end of the event, Hassan Zarezadeh-Ardeshir, the executive director of the International Center for Human Rights (ICHR) thanked the crowd for participating in the event and announced a solidarity hunger strike to take place on Sunday evening in Toronto at Queen’s Park. Participants plan to abstain from eating for an indefinite time to draw attention to the grave human rights situation in Iran, particularly for the prisoners on hunger strike. Zarezadeh explained, “The solidarity hunger strike is a drastic action we are taking so we may get the message across to Canadian officials that they should urgently support the 18 political prisoners on hunger strike in Iran before it is too late. With every day that passes by, we get closer to their potential deaths.”