Hunger strikers to continue

15 08 2009

Determined: campaigners and hunger strikers protest outside the US embassy in central London PA  © not advert

Determined: campaigners and hunger strikers protest outside the US embassy in central London PA

by Bill Bowder

IRANIAN hunger-strikers outside the United States Embassy in London, now in their third week without food, are determined to see their fast through to the end, Canon Mark Oakley said on Tuesday. Canon Oakley, who is Priest-in-Charge of Grosvenor Chapel, May­fair, next to the Embassy, said the hunger-strikers were protesting at the kidnapping of 36 men from Camp Ashraf by Iraqi security forces. The camp, which gives protection in Iraq to 3400 Iranian opponents of the Iran government, was set up by the late Saddam Hussein; and the US had withdrawn its guards from the camp in July. The kidnapped men face possible torture and death if they are sent back to Iran, Canon Oakley said. The protesters, four women and five men, were in a critical condition, he said. “They have entered their third week on hunger strike today. Some of them are very ill, and I think that they are intent on seeing it through. “They are outside the US Embassy under a kind of awning, and are visited all the time; they have a lot of support. They are a mixture of Chris­tians and Muslims. For this kind of Muslim, our church is a house of God, so it is natural for them to be in contact with us.” Canon Oakley said he had been praying daily with the protesters, and last Saturday had welcomed them to a vigil in the chapel.
Some, weakened by their fast, had been in wheel­chairs. The Director of the Association of Anglo-Iranian Women in the UK, Laila Jazayeri, said on Tuesday that Iraqi forces had attacked the camp on 28 July, killing 13 people and injuring 480. “We have a large amount of shocking footage of the Iraqi police beating defenceless refugees with electric batons, metal bars, and planks of wood; and running some over with armoured vehicles.” Ms Jazayeri said it was a crime against humanity, and a war crime directed, at the request of the Iranian government, towards annihilating members of the Iranian opposition. On Tuesday, she said, Amnesty International had issued its sixth statement, urging Iraq to stop the massacre. Human-rights organisa­tions and churches had urged the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to ask the UN to send a mission. The hunger-strikers had also appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office for support. It was planned to hold a “Global Solidarity Night with 1000 Women in Ashraf” tomorrow, outside the US Embassy, between six and nine in the evening.


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