"Outside the US Embassy in London, a group of exiled Iranians have staged a hunger strike and 24-hour protest. A number of them have been on hunger strike for two weeks. They began their protest on Tuesday 28th July, when Iraqi police set out to establish a station inside the headquarters of the PMOI or MEK – Camp Ashraf in Iraq. A number of their members were killed and hundreds more were wounded. The protesters want US or UN protection for their members in Ashraf City. The raid from Iraqi police coincided with demonstrations inside and outside Iran against the clerical regime.
The politics of the issue are complex. Supporters say that the MEK forms the backbone of the Iranian resistance to the Islamic fundamentalist regime. Critics question this. There are many more differences of political view and feelings run high on both sides. The position of the Obama administration remains unclear. There are hunger strikers also demonstrating opposite the White House in Washington.
One thing, however, is clear. This is that followers of the Mujahadeen, now residing in Europe and the US, place a fundamentally different emphasis on the individual and on the value of individual human life from the value attached to the separateness and distinctness of persons by most people in the liberal west. For many years, now, the Mujahadeen have renounced violence. The politics of the suicide bomber are not for them. Indeed such politics are associated with their opponents: the fundamentalist Islamic regime of Iran and their supporters. The Mujahadeen are Muslim, but they claim to advocate a secular democracy for their country.
However, the Mujahadeen value the collective over the individual. The collective welfare of the group takes priority over individual human rights. If the collective welfare of the group demands the sacrifice of some, then those individuals are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause.
As one hunger striker put it:’ my blood is no more red than that of the next person and the whole movement is my family’. Another, a 19- year old girl said ‘ I am ready to join Neda’ (the Iranian girl who died in fighting for democracy in Iran recently and who has become a symbol of resistance).
The courage and the resilience of these people is immense. One very significant problem, however, is that few people in the UK know that this hunger strike is going on. Londoners walk along Oxford Street in their thousands doing their shopping, oblivious to the hunger strikers round the corner. Just as it is no longer possible to travel anywhere in the world that some human being has not already visited, so too the ultimate political weapon – hunger strike to the death – has been downgraded. When Bobby Sands went on hunger strike in the early 1980’s, few people in the UK would not have heard of him. Now the use of the hunger strike as a political weapon has become more commonplace. If the cause of the exiled Iranians is to be successful then some version of their story needs to be heard."