Farewell life, bury me right here in my cell in Evin [prison], says Soheil Arabi in “taped will” that is widely circulated on social media.
Soheil Arabi, 32, has been on hunger strike for the past 38 days. Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) security agents arrested Arabi at his home in Tehran in November 2013. He then spent two months in the IRGC's Ward 2-A in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. He is currently kept in section 350 of Evin, run by the judiciary.
“Today (September 23, first day of school year in Iran) 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”, Arabi wrote in a letter.
Furthermore, in what he has called as his “taped will”, Arabi has also referred to his poor health, suffering from gastric bleeding and five over six blood pressure.
Bury me right here in my cell in section 350 of Evin”, Arabi laboriously pleads, adding, “I am sure that soon Evin will be transformed into a museum [of injustice]Soheil Arabi in taped message from Evin Prison
“Farewell, life”, says Arabi in his taped message, addressing his wife and daughter and asking them forgiveness.
“Bury me right here in my cell in section 350 of Evin”, Arabi laboriously pleads, adding, “I am sure that soon Evin will be transformed into a museum [of injustice]”.
Panting with much difficulty, Arabi insists, “Please do not shed tears for me. On my death anniversary, play Edith Piaff’s ‘la Vie en Rose’ for me”.
On Friday, September 29, Amnesty international (AI) raised concern over Arabi’s deteriorating health condition, called for his “immediate” and “unconditional” release and providing him with full access to medical care.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Radio Farda, Arabi’s mother said “The last time I saw Soheil was two weeks ago. I am so worried for my son who needs urgent medical attention. However, they have allowed me to talk to him every day through telephone”.
On September 27, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in a statement said that it is “extremely concerned about the prison conditions of detained journalists and citizen-journalists in Iran, especially those who are ill or on hunger strike. The plight of Soheil Arabi and Ehssan Mazndarani is particularly alarming”.
According to RSF, “More and more Iranian prisoners, including journalists, are risking their lives by going on hunger strike in protest against prison conditions or mistreatment, or simply to demand proper medical care”.
Focusing on Soheil Arabi’s case, RSF introduces him as a citizen- journalist held since December 2013, , and reiterates, “Arabi has been on hunger strike for the past 25 days in protest against the way the IRGC intelligence services have been harassing and threatening his wife, Nastaran Naimi.
“Naimi was arrested at her home by plainclothes intelligence officers in July and was held for eight days. Since then, she has been constantly harassed and threatened, and was fired from her job at their request”.
RSF points out to the Iranian authorities that they are required to respect both Iran's own laws and regulations and the international standards established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has signed.
During interrogation, he was reportedly forced to confessing his alleged crimes, including “insulting the Prophet [Muhammad]” which, under the Islamic Republic’s penal code is punished by death.
Arabi’s lawyers argued that he had done this while "in poor psychological condition", and that he was merely "sharing views held by others", according to Human Rights Watch.
However, Article 263 of the revised Islamic Penal Code stipulates that a person who "insults the Prophet" while intoxicated or by quoting others, among other acts, will be subjected to 74 lashes and not sentenced to death.
According to CHRI, Arabi was sentenced to death in October 2015 for allegedly “insulting the prophet” in comments he posted on Facebook, but upon appeal his sentence was reduced to seven and a half years in prison and two years of religious studies to prove his repentance, as well as a two-year ban from traveling abroad.
He was then transferred to Section 350 of Evin, which is under control of the Iranian judiciary. On 30 August 2014, a five-judge panel of Branch 76 of the Criminal Court of Tehran sentenced Arabi to death for "insulting the Prophet of Islam" on eight Facebook accounts allegedly belonging to Arabi, Amnesty International (AI) said in a statement on November 26, 2014.
According to International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, on 4 September 2014, Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court also sentenced Arabi to three years in prison on charges of "insulting the Supreme Leader" and "propaganda against the state" in his postings on Facebook.
In late September 2015, his sentence was commuted to "reading 13 religious books and studying theology for two years", the daily Guardian reported on 30 September 2015.
Referring to the prisoners, including Arabi, who are currently on hunger strike behind bars in Evin and other prisons, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the head of International Center for Human Rights in Iran, Shirin Ebadi says, the Islamic Republic’s Justice Department by “disregarding prisoners’ legal and absolutely justified requests” have set the scene for their “silent death”.
Iran is ranked 165th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.