For over 40 days, Arabi has been on a hunger strike, including more than 10 days of a dry hunger strike, as he protests the IRGC’s (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) harassment of his family. As the condition of his health rapidly deteriorates, human rights activists and agencies are demanding Arabi’s unconditional release.
In November 2013, the 32-year-old Iranian blogger and Facebook activist was arrested by the IRGC’s Sarallah Headquarters agents for the contents of his Facebook posts and sentenced to hang for “insulting the prophet.” He was then tortured in the prison’s solitary confinement ward.
Arabi posted content, including photos of the 2009 uprising and a cartoon of Khameini, under different names on eight different Facebook pages, one titled “the generation that no longer wants to be the burnt generation.”
In September 2014, combined with seven and a half years of prison, Arabi received additional charges for “insulting the Supreme Leader and “propaganda against the state,” which carried three years of prison and a fine of 30 lashes. A year later, after he conceded to writing the posts in “a poor psychological condition,” his death sentence was commuted to “reading 13 religious books and studying theology for two years.”
According to the Guardian, the state-owned Jamejam newspaper said Arabi is required to prepare a 5-10-page summary of each of the 13 religious books he is mandated to read and then write an article about religion and reference at least five to ten of those books. He is required to report to the authorities every three months on the progress of his “theological studies.”
As Arabi commenced his hunger strike, he wrote in a letter: “Today is the third year that my daughter goes to school and I am not with her. I have gone on dry and liquid hunger strike since I do not want her to see me behind bars, anymore.”
He also wrote: “I have forgiven all the injustices against myself, but I can never stay silent in the face of your [the Iranian government’s] constant and unjust harassment against my family.”
“The expression of truth is forbidden here,” Arabi penned. “We were convicted to prison-term by the judges who are the most corrupt human beings in the world,” he added.
Arabi has a young 7-year-old daughter. His wife, Nastaran Naimi, was arrested by plainclothes officers in July 2017, held for eight days, and questioned about her social media posts and international interviews in support of her husband. She was also fired from her job and now faces constant harassment and death threats.
According to the NCRI Women’s Committee, in an audio file circulating the Internet, Mrs. Farangis Mazloum, Soheil Arabi’s mother, calls out:
I am reaching out for your support. Soheil’s only crime was expressing his beliefs on his personal page (in the social networks). It has been four years that he is being tried, tortured and issued death sentences. His family were not made exception. I have had three heart attacks and a heart surgery. My only dream is to be able to hug my son once more… I am going to the Parliament on Monday to seek justice. I urge you not to leave your brother alone.
Referring to other political prisoners, she urges: “All of those who are detained there innocently must be freed.”
Soheil Arabi is one of the countless innocent Iranian citizens who has had to pay the ultimate price simply for exercising their basic human right to freedom of speech and expression. In January 2016, Iranian human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi posited that more than 800 Iranians are behind bars, “imprisoned for their political beliefs, their journalism or their human rights work.”
In the RSF’s (Reporters Without Borders) 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Iran is ranked 165th out of 180 countries.
Human rights activist and international journalist Kaveh Taheri, once a political prisoner who was subjected to solitary confinement, psychological torture, and worse in the Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz, knows the reality Arabi faces all too well.
When we spoke with him, Taheri told us:”I have not seen many who can survive a long-term hunger strike, especially those who start a dry hunger strike (refusing to consume both food and water) after a while, and under the critical conditions which the imprisoned blogger Soheil Arabi has undergone since his arrest.”
Arabi’s state is critical. In his “taped will,” he speaks of his deteriorating physical condition as he suffers from gastric bleeding and extremely low blood pressure.
“A hunger strike is the final stand prisoners take to try and come out against all harassment they have endured, and bring the international community’s attention to their situations,” Taheri added.
Taheri, along with independent netizens and activists, has initiated an urgent global call to action with the #Call4Soheil campaign to raise awareness for Arabi’s case and demand his unconditional release.
“The cost of freedom is always high. It’s exactly what Iranian blogger Soheil Arabi has paid for, and that’s why we came out in support of him through #Call4Soheil,” Taheri says.
How can we get involved in the fight for Arabi’s release and justice for all Iranian political prisoners?
“Just spend five minutes a day promoting human rights and join the Iranian Stormers Movement (@IranianStormers) to help Iranians to Make Iran Great Again. But particularly for Soheil, please tweet out #Call4Soheil and help us make the call as viral and widespread as they can. We really appreciate all global villagers’ support.”
Would you like to join us in the fight for freedom of online expression? Get involved with the cause at Unblock The Web.