Jahangir Hosseini has been on hunger strike outside the immigration offices in Melbourne since September 19. He has been joined by his wife and five other Iranians. He is drinking water but is refusing all food.
Hosseini feels dizzy and has lost a significant amount of weight but he is determined to remain on hunger strike until seven Iranian hostages being held in an Iraqi jail have been freed.
Hosseini told Green Left Weekly this is his fifth hunger strike.
“My first hunger strike was in response to executions in Iran in 1986. Another was when I was 36 in Greece. It was to get countries to resettle Iranian refugees. My third hunger strike was in 1990 after I arrived in Australia, when there were executions in Iran.
“My fourth hunger strike was on 17 June 2003 for 15 days. It was after the Australian police raided my house and 11 other Iranian houses in Brisbane and Sydney. The police took everything from my house, even birthday cards and school photos of my daughters. None of us were arrested or charged. Eight months after the raid, my father died of a heart attack and my daughters suffered anxiety.”
The seven hostages were taken from Camp Ashraf in Iraq on September 1. The Iraqi military shot dead 52 others and wounded dozens. It was the fifth massacre to take place in the camp, where about 300 Iranian refugees have lived for many years.
There were deadly attacks on the camp in July 2009 and April 2011 launched by the Iraqi army.
Since 2009, Camp Ashraf has been under siege. Deliveries of food, fuel and medicine are restricted. Visits by family members, human rights organisations, residents’ lawyers and independent journalists are not allowed.
Camp Ashraf is heavily fortified. No-one can enter or leave without the support of the Iraqi police and army. There are observation towers in every corner of the camp. Tanks are directed at the residential areas. Battalions of police and mechanised infantry are stationed at the camp.
Last year, 3200 residents were forcibly relocated to Camp Liberty, a disused US military base. One hundred residents remained behind at Camp Ashraf to protect property and belongings. On September 1, the Iraqi forces fired rockets into the camp, and then carried out the massacre.
The hostages are members of the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (POMI) and are now at grave risk of being extradited to Iran.
Since the attack, 2500 people in Camp Liberty have been on hunger strike. Hunger strikes also began in Ottawa, London and Geneva.
Hosseini said: “[I thought] why not in Australia too? My family tried to stop me but I started. After five days, one person joined me. Now there are five other Iranians on hunger strike. One woman was on hunger strike but had to give up for family reasons. In Canberra, Reverend Brian Medway and his daughter have joined also our hunger strike.”
Hosseini became politically active against the former Shah of Iran when he was 16. He later became a union leader in the oil industry. Hosseini was also involved in POMI.
The hunger strikers welcome visitors. They are located outside Casselden Place, corner Lonsdale and Spring Streets, Melbourne CBD.