Hunger striker: ‘I’ll fight on to my death bed’

21 08 2009

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Iranians protest outside US embassy

By Mary McConnell

A MAN from New Southgate has been on hunger strike for 16 days in a bid to force the US government to protect a group of Iranian refugees in Iraq.

Jayanshah Jayanshahi, 51, is one of nine Iranians who have been camped outside the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, since July 28 after Iraqi forces stormed Ashraf, a town 40 miles north of Baghdad, home to 3,500 Iranian political refugees.

The strikers, who are surrounded by protesters and helped by a team of supporters, have vowed to continue without food, risking organ failure and death, until the international community steps in to help the people of Ashraf.

The refugees, all members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, a group that opposes the Iranian regime, say the Iraqi forces abducted 36 people from Ashraf during an attack on the camp on July 28.

Following the allied invasion of Iraq in 2003 the PMOI say they handed all of their weapons over to American Forces in return for their protection. According to a group spokeswoman, they have been completely unarmed since then. During the violence, she says 12 people died and 500 were wounded by Iraqi troops.

The human rights charity Amnesty International says urgent action must be taken to secure the release of the 36 detainees, who are reported to have been tortured and beaten.

Mr Jayanshahi, a married father of three grown-up sons, said: “I am getting forgetful and my vision is blurred.

“The only way that this will end is if the US meets our demands, but I am prepared to continue until I am on my deathbed. This is the minimum I could do. There is so much injustice towards the people of Ashraf. We are not going to bow down, we want to let the world know what is happening to them.”

Mr Jayanshahi wants the 36 detainees to be released, for the US to guarantee the safety of the people of Ashraf and for Iraqi forces to leave the camp. He also wants the United Nations to identify who is behind the attacks.

Mr Jayanshahi, who has been a refugee in the UK for the past 12 years, spent five years as a political prisoner during the 1980s after being caught with a banned book on politics.

“Of course my family are upset that I am on hunger strike,” he added. “But they won’t stand in my way, even though I could harm myself. They feel the pain of the people of Ashraf so they support me in what I am doing.”


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