March 2, 2021

By Benjamin Weinthal
The Jerusalem Post

An Iranian political prisoner and champion bodybuilder stitched his lips together in protest for being held at an inhumane penitentiary in Tehran where he is denied adequate medical care for severe health problems.

“His name is Khaled Pirzadeh and he is the Third World Bodybuilding Champion. He has now been in prison for two years for insulting the supreme leader of Iran. His back has been broken and he is confined to a wheelchair because of the torture he has endured,” tweeted Sardar Pashaei, the renowned Greco-Roman Iranian wrestler world champion, on Saturday.

In his Persian-language Tweet, Sardar posted a video of Pirzadeh at a competition in Singapore.

The bodybuilder has been on a hunger strike since February 22.

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) published a public letter authored by Pirzadeh where he writes that he is continuing with his hunger strike at the greater Tehran prison and has stitched his lips together.

Pirzadeh is seeking proper medical care and parole. According to HRANA, he underwent foot surgery in August. During his incarceration, in which prison officials have faced accusations of torturing the bodybuilder, he suffered severe damage to his legs and spine.

Pirzadeh required additional surgery and physiotherapy for his spine and legs. In December, he was denied hospitalization for a heart problem.

According to Pirzadeh’s letter, he wrote that he has “not been visited for nearly two years, and I spend the best days of my youth in the worst physical, mental and psychological conditions. I want to convey something to the real officials and sympathizers of this burnt land.

“As you know, the statesmen, politicians and officials of the Islamic Republic always claim undisputed protection of human rights, freedom of expression and citizens’ rights in all international arenas. But the question is, do we really have freedom of expression?”

He continued: “I will give the answer myself! We do not have freedom after speech! If human rights issues in Iran are a priority for all institutions and organizations, then why are they not implemented?”

He writes that he is “one of the victims of human rights and citizenship violations” and has “spent all the days of my imprisonment in a wheelchair or cane or in the operating room. I have not seen my minor daughter for almost two years.”

The Center for Human Rights in Iran reported Pirzadeh is “serving a five-year prison sentence for ‘assembly and collusion against national security,'” and “he suffers from untreated heart complications and problems with his back and knees.”