Montrealers going hungry in support of political prisoners in Iran
Published Saturday, July 23, 2016 6:00PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 23, 2016 7:02PM EDT
A small but passionate group assembled near Concordia University on Saturday to protest in support of political prisoners being held in Iran.
Over the past few months, 63 people from all over the world who are sitting in Iranian prisons have gone on hunger strikes, including Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights activist, who recently went 16 days without food to protest being denied contact with her children.
Also imprisoned is 65-year-old Concordia University professor Homa Hoodfar, who was visiting family in that country when she was arrested at the beginning of June. Hoodfar has written extensively on subjects such as the wearing of veils by Muslim women and public stoning. Her family said she was arrested on charges of fomenting support for feminism and being a security threat and are worried she is not being given medication she requires.
In solidarity, the protesters in Montreal have vowed to go 48 hours without food. They said they feel there are large forces at play that have resulted in the detention of people like Hoodfar.
“We have a feeling Iran is targeting people with dual citizenship from countries that opposed Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” said Iranian Montrealer Elahe Machouf.
While protesters said they feel Canada has done much to get Hoodfar, Quebec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir said it’s a complicated process.
“The Canadian government has a duty to do all it can to free Mrs. Hoodfar and her family is trying also, and there are human rights activists in Iran who are trying,” he said. “The renewal of a relationship between Iran and Canada has a lot of meaning for some other countries who don’t like Iran and Canada to have some relationship.”
Canada closed its embassy in Iran in 2012 over that country’s support for the Assad regime in Syria, antagonism towards Israel and efforts to build nuclear weapons. In 2003, Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died after being held in Evin prison, the same facility where Hoodfar is being held.
While the politics are complicated between the two countries, the protesters hope a way can be found to negotiate the release of the prisoners and the return of Hoodfar to Montreal.
“If they don’t get the results they want, they have to change their tactics,” said Iranian Montrealer Parzhad Torfehnzhad. “After all, these are Canadian people suffering in Iran.”