The daughter of a man from Lewisham man holed up in an Iranian jail says she is worried for his mental and physical health after he went on hunger strike.
Elika Ashoori has been campaigning for the release of her father Anoosheh Ashoori who has been detained since 2017 in the notorious Evin prison, where Nazanin Zhagari Ratcliffe was held.
Father of two Anoosheh, 67, has recently started a hunger strike in protest at his continued detention and to show solidarity with other prisoners.
Elika, 35, is concerned about her father’s health and mental state which she says has deteriorated during his detention. Anoosheh has fluctuating blood pressure and has also lost a lot of weight according to his daughter.
“Physically he is weakened, he’s 67 and it’s taken its toll on him. We’re concerned as he wouldn’t tell us if he’s really ill, he wouldn’t want to worry us,“ she said.
Anoosheh, a retired engineer, was due to have knee surgery in the UK before he was taken during a visit to Iran. The father from Lewisham was arrested in 2017 after being taken off the street and bundled into a van. He was placed in solitary confinement for four months during which time he was forced into making false confession charges, the family said.
Elika explained that her father has been on hunger strike before at the start of his jail term, to protest and end his life adding: “The Iranian authorities were threatening us and our family so he wanted to remove himself from the equation, so to keep us safe.”
However this time something else triggered his protest. Elika’s father has been encouraged by the recent release of British Council workers Aras Amiri and the hunger strike by former Iran hostage Barry Rosen to campaign for prisoners in Tehran and to mark 41 years since his own release.
“It’s boosted the morale of people still in Evin, and he saw this opportunity to act. He’s very motivated, events like this make him hopeful,” she explained. But Elika also shared the ongoing agony of her family as her father remains in jail and said: “We’ve gone through a period of feeling hopeless. We were hopeful with the recent events, we thought we would get something from the government but we’re still waiting, it feels like we have gone to the bottom of the pile “
Anoosheh has served four and a half years of a ten-year sentence and last year had his appeal for a conditional release rejected.
Elika added: “We worry about his health, in general, every day, the conditions are bad, it’s damp, he’s getting older, he needs medical attention also for his mental health, he has periods of deep depression, when he comes back it’s never going to be the same. The only thing we can do is to campaign, push forward and hope the campaigns amount to something. But we’re not told anything, we are in the dark”
Anoosheh turns 68 in April and the family are finding it harder as the years go by.They celebrate milestones, birthdays and Iranian new year- memorable events “so his name is not forgotten”.
“Sometimes we make a cake here, and tell him we have it in his name,” Elika said, before adding: “I normally buy a gift for him and leave it on the side so when he’s back I can give it to him.”
The family also recently met with Labour leader Keir Stammer, who Elika says was “sympathetic to the case.”
“He was keen to talk to us and see what the issues were. Every MP who supports us is a step forward for raising awareness of our case,” she added.
Elika and her family are also regularly In touch with the husband of Nazanin Zaghari- Ratcliffe, Richard. She says they support each other emotionally and mentally.
Richard was on hunger strike outside the Foreign Office in Westminster in October 2021, protesting against the Government’s failure to do more to persuade the Iranian government to allow his wife to return to the UK.
“A lot of things we do, we do together- If there is enough pressure with all families we can show a united front,” Elika said.
Source » mylondon