A British-Iranian man jailed in Iran will begin a hunger strike on Sunday in support of a 77-year-old American protesting outside nuclear talks in Vienna against Iranian hostage-taking.
Anoosheh Ashoori, held in Tehran’s Evin prison, is organizing the strike in an act of solidarity with Barry Rosen, who started his strike four days ago. He told The Guardian that he was honored by the support, as well as other messages sent to him by the Iranians in jail.
Anoosheh, who was arrested in August 2017, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.
Rosen is protesting in Vienna outside talks on Iran’s nuclear program, where discussions resumed earlier this month.
The United States has said that the longer Iran does not abide by the 2015 Vienna accord aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, the closer it will be to being able to build an atomic weapon. But a European Union spokesman said Friday that a deal was possible.
Rosen and others have expressed the hope that the hostages will be released as part of the deal, or along with it.
Rosen was also joined on hunger strike by a Lebanese US resident, Nizar Zakka, who was detained by Iran between 2015 and 2019.
“I get heartbreaking messages from the Iranians, and I am absolutely honored that Anoosheh is doing this to support me. In return, I fully support you and urge you to be careful and take care of yourself,” he said.
Rosen, as the then US press attache at the US embassy in Tehran, was held hostage by Iran for 444 days between 1979 and 1981 after hardliner students stormed the embassy.
Rosen admitted: “I’m starting to feel tired and weak, but I’m determined to keep going.”
He said: “I am here to call on the Americans and the Europeans to make the release of the hostages a condition of any agreement to renew the nuclear deal with Iran. This has been going on for 40 years, and people are being jailed without proof. There has to be an agreement that this is going to end.”
He added that he was surprised at how poorly coordinated Western nations are on the issue of hostage-taking. “It’s like herding cats. Each country seems to deal with its dual national hostages on its own. There is no sense of community, so they let Iran eliminate each country. Something is missing here. The Iranians appear to be dividing and ruling.
“I decided to do this two weeks ago. I’m just an individual and I thought I might be a lone eagle, but it looks like I might be starting a movement.”
He said that it was possible for others to take over the hunger strike when he was unable to continue.
Anoosheh’s wife, Sherry, said: “We are extremely concerned for his health as he approaches his 68th birthday, but having seen no progress in the Foreign Office’s efforts to secure his release and no sign of the well-being of the hostages currently being held by Iran. being a priority of Western governments, he will start his hunger strike.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism