The six Iranian pro-Democracy activists protesting against the Home Office ended their hunger strike yesterday, after 37 days. They demonstrated outside the head office of Amnesty International and cut the stitches sealing their mouths.
The six refugees have now been able to submit a “fresh claim” asylum application to the Home Office. With the publicity and support they have gained over the last five weeks it should be hard for the government to again reject recognising their refugee status. But the hunger-strikers say that they will resume their hunger strike if the Home Office again threatens to deport them back to torture and possible death in Iran.
“We are stopping the hunger strike now,” said Mehran Meyari, “but the fight goes on, for us and for all other refugees. We are so happy to have seen all the support people have given us.”Ahmad Sadeghi Pour, Morteza Bayat, Keyvan Bahari, Kiarash Bahari, Mahyrar Meyari and Mehran Meyari have been on hunger strike on 5 April as a last bid attempt to be granted asylum in Britain. The six men were imprisoned and tortured in Iran after participating in demonstrations against the islamic regime. But despite overwhelming medical and other evidence, including Iranian newspaper articles identifying them as wanted dissidents, their asylum claims were rejected by the UK Border Agency (UKBA, a department of the Home Office).
Four of the men have sewn their lips together with fishing line, saying “our closed mouths are a response to your closed eyes”. All six have refused food, drinking only water with salt and sugar. Three of the strikers camped outside the UKBA headquarters in Croydon, the other three outside Amnesty International. According to their doctor, Frank Arnold, the hunger strike is now reaching the point where the men would be threatened with irreversible organ damage if they continue further.
“The struggle of these six brave people highlights the systematic cruelty of this country’s asylum policy,” said Jane Richmond, a migrant solidarity activist who has been supporting the hunger strikers. “The government talks about supporting pro-democracy activists in Iran, but when they come here for shelter it turns them away. Of 1870 asylum applications from Iranians last year, the Home Office only granted leave to remain to 225.”