ABC blog

Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

London Students’ Hunger Strike in Support of Ghoncheh Ghavami

Students at SOAS, University of London are holding a 12-hour hunger strike today in solidarity of Ghoncheh Ghavami, a 25 year-old British-Iranian law graduate, who was incarcerated at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran over 100 days ago for attending a volleyball match.

The strike, organized by a group of students at the university, is a daylong affair with, a rally, a candlelight vigil in the evening and talks from speakers including Iman Ghavami, Ghoncheh’s brother.

Ghoncheh, a former SOAS student, was arrested in Iran after having tried to watch the Iran-Italy volleyball game on June 20 this year – a breach of the Islamic Republic’s ban on women attending big sporting events.

Ghoncheh was one of several Iranian women arrested outside the Azadi Stadium in Tehran when they attempted to watch the match. Although the police originally released her, she was re-arrested 10 days later and taken to Evin Prison when she went back to collect belongings the authorities had confiscated.

Sharia Edwards, an MA student in International Politics at SOAS, is one of the event’s organizers. She says the hunger strike will continue until next Tuesday in order to raise as much awareness as possible.

“There’s still a lot of people coming up to us and asking who Ghoncheh is so it’s imperative we continue informing people about her situation and most importantly in showing her solidarity,” says Edwards. “Where she sat, we sit. Where she studied, we study and so we must stand with her in her time of need. This is a horrendous human rights abuse.”

Ghoncheh spent nearly three months at Evin before the Islamic authorities gave an explanation for her arrest, denying that her attempt to watch the volleyball match had anything to do with it. Then in late September, she was told she was charged with “propaganda against the regime”, an allegation used for countless prisoners of conscience and which carries a possible prison term of several years.

On October 1, Ghoncheh went on hunger strike in protest and now, her mother, Susan Moshtaghian, has joined her as a sign of her support.

“I won’t touch food until the day my Ghoncheh breaks her own hunger strike. God, you’ve been my witness,” Moshtaghian said.

Ghoncheh has now spent more than 100 days in jail, 41 of which were spent in solitary confinement. During this time, there was a period of over 20 days that she was prohibited from having visitors, according to the Facebook page demanding her release.

Her brother Iman Ghavami also set up an online appeal on to campaign for her release, which has now received almost 600,000 signatories. He also flew to New York when President Hassan Rouhani was due to talk at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to raise further alarm of Ghoncheh’s case.

The campaign for her release Haspe also spreadto Twitter with the hashtag #FreeGhonchehGhavami being appended to any posts referring to her plight.

The Iranian government banned women from going to watch live volleyball matches, so as to “protect them from male fans” in 2012 but women have been forbidden from watching football matches since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Prior to her arrest, Ghoncheh was working in Iran for a charity that teaches literacy to street children and was visiting relatives.

Ghoncheh has joint British-Iranian nationality and the British Foreign Office has raised concerns over her detention with the Iranian government, with Philip Hammond, the UK foreign secretary raising the issue with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the UNGA.

Despite this, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ezhei, a spokesperson for the Iranian judiciary, said on September 31 that Britain has no extraterritorial Örights over its citizens when they are in Iran.

According to Mahmoud Alizareh Tabatabaee, Ghoncheh Ghavami’s lawyer, she will stand trial on October  14.





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