A good family friend, Jahangir Hosseini, has been on hunger strike for 42 days now. His story is below.
At the age of 16, I got involved in politics. I was heavily involved in the Iranian revolution and started an anti-Shah group comprised of young people. In my capacity as the leader of this group, I organised secret meetings and lead political discussions.
I started working for the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) in Kharg Island when I was aged 18. I was elected as the leader of the NIOC, Kharg Island when I was 18. I resolved workplace disputes, introduced initiatives such as family counselling, advocated for women’s and worker’s rights and drew attention to the demands of workers I represented.
I fought for the wives of workers to be flown to major cities to access health care and to give birth. I campaigned tirelessly for workers on 12 month contracts to be granted permanent contracts, for their years of service to be recognised and for them to receive superannuation. I also fought for contract workers to have the same leave entitlements as permanent staff and for workers to work 40 hour weeks rather than 48 hour weeks, in line with international standards.
I organised regular strikes which heavily impacted upon garbage collection, power and other things. After seeing how active and strong our union was and after hearing about the victories we achieved, workers from other corporations and businesses at Kharg Island signed their names on petitions electing me as the leader of their respective union and forwarded such petitions to the board that managed Kharg Island. I effectively became the leader of a large coalition of unions.
At the time, Kharg Island was the largest offshore crude oil terminal. The Iranian regime was worried that the export of oil would cease if the workers continued to go on strike and could not afford any disruptions.
When I was 21, I was arrested by the Revolutionary Guards. The Iranian regime arranged for my dismissal from the workplace and made attempts to silence me. They perceived the strikes as anti-revolutionary and regarded my actions as provoking workers. I was told it is not an appropriate time to focus on workplace issues and worker’s rights and that our main focus as a nation should be on winning the war against Iraq.
I was barred from working in the private and public sector, could not pursue higher education, could not access my long service leave or superannuation, was prevented from utilising health services and could no longer play for the state soccer team. I have all relevant documentation including a summons to appear at the revolutionary court.
I was imprisoned for 2 years and was convicted on 11 counts which included my involvement with internal and external political organisations (PMOI), provoking workers, organising demonstrations and strikes and anarchy. I developed high blood pressure and was hospitalised. I fled to Turkey, from hospital, and maintained a secret involvement with the PMOI.
I was soon accompanied in Turkey by my wife and 8 month old daughter. Due to security concerns, we fled to Greece and lived in a refugee camp. The UN recognised us as political refugees.
While in Greece, I was heavily involved in refugee issues and politics. I continued my political activism and organised hunger strikes and demonstrations. I went on hunger strike for 55 days for the purposes of condemning human rights violations in Iran and to draw attention to refugee rights. In 1988, I was on hunger strike for 12 days and called for an end to executions in Iran.
I fought for refugee rights and advocated on behalf of many Iranian refugees, all of whom were relocated to Canada and America. After 18 months, we were the only family relocated to Australia. We arrived in Melbourne on 14 January 1989. We had no contacts in Australia and were taken to a hostel where we had to fight for our rights.
We came into contact with PMOI supporters in Australia and have maintained our political activism until today.
I have organised protests condemning the Iranian government for its human rights violations, advocated for refugee rights and regularly spoke to members of parliament and community organisations about refugee rights, the status of women and human rights violations in Iran. The Age and Channel 10 interviewed me following protests against the deportation of Iranian refugees.
Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the Australian Coalition government and the Iranian regime, on 3 June 2003, our home was raided by Australian Federal Police. Six houses were raided in Sydney and five in Brisbane. Ours was the only house raided in Victoria. No one was charged. We were all victims of a dirty deal.
Following the raids in Australia, on 17 June 2003, the French police raided the offices of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and arrested its members including its president elect, Mrs Maryam Rajavi. In June 2003, I staged a hunger strike outside the French Embassy for 15 days. I supported international calls for Mrs Rajavi and NCRI members to be released. This hunger strike took place precisely 14 days after the raid on our family home. The raid did not serve as deterrence and instead motivated me to increase my political activism.
On 19 September 2013, due to my opposition to the 1 September 2013 massacre at Camp Ashraf which lead to the murder of 52 unarmed Iranians and the abduction of 7, I decided to commence a hunger strike. I was the first to start a hunger strike despite being a father to a 3 year old boy, 22 year old daughter and a 27 year old daughter. I have been on hunger strike for 40 days as of 28 October 2013 and have had to deal with cold weather. I have slept in a van after being told on day 12 that we can no longer camp outside Casselden place.
I am mentally strong but physically weak. I made the decision to remain on hunger strike until the hostages are released and am willing to risk my own life. This is the bare minimum I can do for human rights.