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Imprisoned Nobel Winner and Iranian Rights Activist Begins a Hunger Strike

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Narges Mohammadi, the imprisoned Iranian human rights activist who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, began a hunger strike on Monday, after she was denied hospital treatment for two blocked coronary arteries, her family said.

Ms. Mohammadi is serving a 10-year sentence in the notorious Evin prison, on charges of “spreading propaganda against the state,” but she has continued to be a vocal critic of the government even from behind bars. Last week, she refused to cover her hair with the mandatory hijab when prison authorities wanted to transport her to a hospital. In response, they told her she would not be released for medical care, according to her husband, Taghi Rahmani.

“We are extremely worried, there is a history of prisoners dying in prison after hunger strikes,” Mr. Rahmani said in an interview. “Her life is in danger.”

He said Ms. Mohammadi told him she will only drink water with salt or sugar and will refuse dry food. Mr. Rahmani is a prominent political activist who lives in exile in Paris with their two teenage children. The couple’s 17-year-old twins, Ali and Kiana, are “very anxious,” and hope that international pressure on Iran’s government will ease the restrictions on their mother and her and punishment, Mr. Rahmani said.

Ms. Mohammadi has suffered a number of health problems, including a heart attack, while in prison. Prison guards assaulted her in September, she said at the time, leaving her body bruised. and in May, the prison revoked Ms. Mohammadi’s telephone and visitation rights because of statements posted on her Instagram page condemning Iran’s human rights violations, according to her family.

The news of her hunger strike comes as her husband and children are preparing to attend the Dec. 10 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. They will accept the prize and speak on her behalf, her husband said.

Ms. Mohammadi has organized protests and sit-ins inside the prison as part of the uprising, led by women that rocked Iran last year, written guest essays and organized weekly prison workshops for women. “The more they lock us up, the stronger we become,” she wrote in an opinion essay for The New York Times in September.

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said in an interview recently in New York, before Ms. Mohammadi began her hunger strike that the decision to award her the Nobel Peace Prize was “political.”

“Ms. Narges Mohammadi or anyone else, as long as they behave within the framework of the country’s rules, they will not have such a fate,” Mr. Amir Abdollahian said in response to a question about why Iran would not release Ms. Mohammadi.

Ms. Mohammadi issued a statement from prison last week calling for an immediate cease-fire and an end to the Israel-Gaza war. She also posted statements in English and Persian on her official Instagram page, with photos of injured, bleeding, Palestinian children.

“The war must end. My call from behind the cold and dark walls of Tehran’s Evin Prison, is for an immediate cease-fire,” Ms. Mohammadi’s statement said. “Lives of innocent civilians must not be sacrificed at the behest of those seeking war.”

Israel’s ground and air attack on Gaza began after Hamas mounted a cross-border attack on Israel that left more than 1,400 dead, most of them civilians. Since then more than 10,000 people in the territory have been killed, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

When news spread in the women’s ward of Evin that Ms. Mohammadi had been denied medical treatment, many women inmates staged a three-day sit-in in the prison yard, according to a statement by her family and shared on her Instagram page.

The statement said that when Ms. Mohammadi refused to wear the hijab, prison authorities twice refused to take her to a hospital or to see a doctor at the prison clinic. Ultimately they sent a prison doctor with a cardiac echo machine to her cell to examine her heart, the statement said.

“The regime is forcing women to face two terrifying and inhumane choices, either ‘mandatory hijab’ or ‘death,’” Ms. Mohammadi said, in a statement from prison.



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