Barnet hunger strikers 'literally dying'

A GROUP of Barnet hunger strikers are "literally dying" as they enter their seventh week of fasting, according to their doctor.

The 12 Anglo-Iranians have refused food for 44 days outside the US embassy, in Grosvenor Square, in a bid to convince US and UN forces to protect their friends and family in Camp Ashraf, in Iraq.

The camp is home to around 3,500 supporters of the Iranian opposition group, the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), who have lived there since the 1980s in fear of repression if they return to Iran.

In July, Iraqi forces stormed the camp, bulldozing homes and leaving at least 12 people dead, according to the PMOI.

They claim they are being held in inhumane conditions and are desperate for international aid.

Nineteen-year-old Soudabeh Heidari, from Engel Park, Mill Hill, is on the verge of a coma and can no longer sit or walk.

Yaqub Doughforosh Banan, 54, from Hendon, is so weak he cannot open his eyes, and Mahmoud Fassihpor, 57, from Finchley, has lost nearly 18 kilos in weight.

All 12 are showing signs of muscle wasting and suffering severe adominal pains.

Farazaneh Dadkhah, 41, from Wales, had a heart attack last Wednesday and was admitted to hospital. After recovering, she demanded to rejoin the strikers and continue the protest.

She said: "I have decided to continue my hunger strike and be the voice of the people of Ashraf."

Their doctor, Houda Hosseini, said: "They are all reaching the point where it is extremely worrying for each and every one.

"They are so weak that they don't have any good muscle left and no body fat at all.

"They have lost their biceps, their triceps and many can't walk.

"I can tell their bodies can't take it much longer. I can't say whether they will die now or in 24 hours, but I can see they are literally dying."

The US awarded residents of the camp protected status under the Fourth Geneva Convention after the invasion of Iraq, but have since handed over control of security to the Iraqi government.

Now the residents fear that the raid is just one part of an effort to forcibly repatriate them.

But the Iraqi government says the aim of the raid was to establish a police station inside the camp and denied violence was used.

The protesters are demanding the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from the camp and the release of 36 people they claim have been taken hostage.

They want US forces to take over until an international UN force can be mobilised.

Laila Jaleyzehi, spokeswoman for the protesters, said: "The physical conditions of the hungers strikers are all critical.

"But the situation is even worse in Camp Ashraf, as hundreds are on hunger strike in 50 degrees Celsius. They are all under serious risk of losing their lives.

"But unfortunately our international cry for help has not been heard by the US Government."

Ms Heidari added: "Why have the US, UK and UN remained silent? Where are the human rights of the Camp Ashraf residents?"

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