Since June 18, 12 well known political prisoners have gone on a hunger strike to protest the death of two fellow prisoners: women’s rights activist Haleh Sahabi and journalist Hoda Saber.
Saber died last week from a heart attack after going on hunger strike to protest the death of fellow activist Haleh Sahabi at the funeral of her father.
Sahabi also died from a heart attack, reportedly following a scuffle with security forces.
She had been temporarily released from jail to attend the funeral of her father, leading dissident, Ezatollah Sahabi, who had died of a stroke.
Prison authorities reportedly delayed Saber’s transfer to a hospital for several hours despite his complaining of chest pains.
Sixty-four prisoners who were held with Saber said in an open letter that he had been beaten up at Evin prison’s infirmary where he had been initially taken.
The death of Saber and Sahabi has led to outrage among Iranian activists and opposition supporters who are blaming the government for the two deaths while referring to them as martyrs.
The prisoners who have gone on hunger strike were apparently held in the same ward as Saber and they also knew who Sahabi was.
They include former student leader Abdollah Momeni and journalist Mohammad Davari.
In a statement posted on the opposition "Kalame" website, they say that they are paying their respects to the memory of “the martyrs of the Green Movement.”
“Our nation has offered many victims and martyrs in the fight for freedom and for our country, but the Green Movement was a turning point," the statement says. "It offered dozens of martyrs from Neda to Haleh and from Sohrab to Hoda.”
They add that the death of Saber poses “a great challenge to the legitimacy” of the Islamic establishment, which jailed him for ten months without leveling any charges against him and neglected his health after he went on hunger strike for ten days.
The move has led to an online campaign by exiled Iranian activists, intellectuals and opposition supporters. In video messages, they are urging the protesters to end their hunger strike and blaming Iranian leaders for their plight and the death of Saber and Sahabi, among others.
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi says in this video message that it appears as though the Iranian authorities are exterminating prisoners who resist the demands of security forces in prison.
“The demand of the hunger strikers is legitimate; they want justice to be done and they want the real killer of Haleh Sahabi and Hoda Saber to be identified and held responsible. The government has to do this,” says Ebadi.
Prominent reformist cleric Mohsen Kadivar has also recorded a message in which he claims that the life and reputation of critics and opposition members has become the "cheapest commodity" in the Islamic republic.
“The Iranian authorities have demonstrated that the life of opposition members has no value for them,” he says.
The Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari, who was jailed in the post-election crackdown in 2009, posted this message in English.
Other tributes include an illustration by the well-known Iranian cartoonist, Mana Neyestani, which he dedicated to the hunger strikers.