Read My Lips

Kiarash Bahari 27, Keyvan Bahari 32, Morteza Bayat 32, Mahyar Meyari 17, Mehran Meyari 17, and Ahmad Sadeghi Pour 56 were huddled together in tents for 37 days for only one reason. “It’s better to starve to death on London streets than die on the torturer’s table in Tehran” said hunger striker Kiarash Bahari, pulling on his one remaining pleasure: a rolled-up cigarette. This was only the 16th day of his hunger strike but the shaking in his hands had got so bad that he needed to have the cigarette rolled up for him.

Denied political asylum in the UK the six men did the unthinkable. Sewing up their mouths, they went on hunger strike. Refusing food and drinking only water, they sat in donated tents outside the offices of Amnesty International and the UK Border agency, awaiting their fate. Their calls for asylum very nearly went unheard until the timely intervention of local parish priest Father Paul Bagott and MP Emily Thornberry. In the days prior to this, there had been repeated marches and protests. Appeals were made to US President Barack Obama and a petition calling for their amnesty which was delivered to the Prime Minister’s residence at No. 10 Downing Street. The petition was the turning point that the hunger strikers needed. It finally brought their case to the attention of both the UK government and its media (not an easy thing to do when every newspaper was blocked with coverage about the impending royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton). After refusing food for 37 days, their hunger strike was finally over.

All the men involved have now had their cases reviewed and subsequently been granted visas to remain in the UK.

Mark Esper
May 2011

Status: Syndicated through Polaris Images.
Awards: Special Award Winner, 2013 Art of Photography Competition
Prints: Selected Prints are available for online purchase.
Image Licensing: Polaris Images.

Share this: