Former Iranian presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi ended his hunger strike after authorities agreed to remove security guards from his home. The 79-year-old Karroubi, who authorities have placed under house arrest for more than six years, began a hunger strike yesterday morning to protest these guards’ constant presence in his house, as well as to reiterate his demand for a public trial.
Over the past 24 hours, Iranian activists mobilized support for Karroubi’s demand on social media. Several prominent human rights defenders, including Narges Mohammadi, who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Evin prison for her peaceful activism, said that they were going on hunger strikes in solidarity with him.
In addition to Karroubi, authorities have also kept Mirhossein Mousavi, the other pro-reform presidential candidate in 2009, and Zahra Rahnavard, a scholar and Mousavi’s wife, under house arrest since February 2011.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers their detentions to be arbitrary. Iranian officials, including in the judiciary, have failed to provide any legal justification for these detentions. According to media reports quoting senior Iranian officials, the Iran Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supports the house arrest orders.
In 2013, during his first presidential campaign, President Hassan Rouhani promised to lift the house arrest of the two former candidates and Rahnavard. But despite winning a second term with a significant popular mandate, he hasn’t followed through on his pledge.
A few Iranian parliament members sympathetic to reformists have stated their support for lifting the house arrest, and visited Karroubi’s family when he was recently hospitalized for an operation.
After Karroubi was transferred to the hospital last night, Rouhani reportedly directed senior officials, including the minister of health, Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, to visit Karroubi at the hospital, during which they promised that the security guards would be removed from his residence. Mohammad Taghi Karoubi, Karoubi’s son, also tweeted that the government has promised to do its best to fulfill Karroubi’s demand for a public trial.
Rouhani and parliamentarians who have ignored Karroubi and the Mousavis’ plight should act to end their house arrest once and for all. The events surrounding the government crackdown after the disputed presidential election of 2009 continue to remain at the center of political debate and public scrutiny in Iran, and many Iranians are counting on these elected officials to cease this outrageous violation of fundamental rights.