In the UK, four Iranians seeking asylum have sewn their mouths shut with fishing wire and have launched a hunger strike, which has now continued for more than 20 days.
As the Daily Mail reports:
The British government is planning on sending them back to Tehran, but the men claim that their lives would be in danger if that happened, as they all took part in protests against the Iranian regime in 2009 and were beaten, tortured and even raped as a result.
Mahyar Meyari, who is 17, explained how he was arrested and given brutal treatment after taking part in a demonstration.
‘I was blindfolded and taken to an unknown place where I was kept for a week,’ he told The Guardian.’ I was hit on the head by batons many times … and even raped. I prefer to die here than going back to Iran.’
Another protester, Keyvan Bahari, 32, says he feels their actions are a last resort to make the UK authorities take notice of their plight.
He told the paper: ‘We have sewn our mouths because there is no other way. Nobody in the UK hears us or cares what we say so we have no other option but to do this.’
While sewing your mouth shut is clearly an act of desperation and shocking, I question its effectiveness. It seems so gruesome that people’s first reaction may be just to turn away or to think they are crazy. On the other hand, it definitely shows how serious they are.
What do you make of this tactic? Do you think it’s nonviolent? Is it likely to be effective?
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I believe this is not only firmly within the definition of nonviolence, but it is clearly effective. Through the evident desperation of their action, these men have obtained a platform in the Guardian to make their stories heard. If they are deported now, it will now be a PR problem for the British government–without this tactic, they would have been quietly shipped away.
I agree with Will. I do not find it disgusting but actually think the seriousness of their action reveals the violence – and potential violence – at the heart of the conflict. Quite Gandhian, in my opinion.