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Mother’s Protest to speak to her children over phone: Iranian Human Rights Defender Narges Mohammadi on hunger strike

Narges was first imprisoned in April 2012 and was released three months later on medical grounds

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Narges Mohamadi. Image source: themediaexpress.com
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  • Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist won 2009 Alexander Langer Award for her human rights activities and City of Paris medal for her peaceful activism
  • An unfair trial in April 2016 convicted Narges Mohammadi with the charges of “founding an illegal group”, “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”, and “spreading propaganda against the system”
  • She has been on hunger strike since June 27, in protest at the prison authorities’ refusal to let her speak with her nine-year-old children

Narges Mohammadi, the Iranian human rights defender has been on hunger strike since June 27 in protest at the prison authorities’ refusal to let her speak with her nine-year-old children. Despite suffering from several medical conditions, she continues on with her protest endangering her health and life.

An unfair trial in April 2016 convicted Narges Mohammadi with the charges of “founding an illegal group”, “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”, and “spreading propaganda against the system”. She received a 16-year prison sentence after she was convicted when she was already serving a six-year prison sentence from a previous case. Even the UN high commissioner for human rights joined the  chorus of international disapproval as Tehran revolutionary court sentenced her, reported the Guardian.

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Mohammadi and her two kids.Image Source: Twitter
Mohammadi and her two kids.Image Source: Twitter

Narges was first imprisoned in April 2012 and was released three months later on medical grounds to receive treatment for a health condition that caused partial paralysis. Again, she was arrested, in May 2015 to serve the remainder of the six-year term when and was taken to Tehran’s Evin Prison. In October 2015, she suffered several seizures and was hospitalized.

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“I have always said that, in a land where [each of] being a woman, being a mother and being a human rights defender is difficult on their own, being all three is an unforgivable crime… and here I am, in my own homeland, convicted and imprisoned for the crime of being a human rights defender, a feminist and an opponent of the death penalty,”she says in her letter dated 27 June 2016.

Image Source: Twitter
Image Source: Twitter

As there was nobody to look after her children after her arrest in May 2015, they moved abroad with their father. And now, she is not able to speak to them as the authorities have denied her the telephone. Since her arrest in May, she has been allowed only one phone call with them.

“I am left wondering how to tell Ali and Kiana, who have only heard Narges’s voice once over the past year, that their mother has got another 10 years in prison,” says Mohammadi’s husband, Taghi Rahmani to Amnesty.

In a letter she wrote from inside Evin Prison on 27 June announcing her hunger strike, she says,” Despite my reluctance and poor physical condition, there is no way left for me other than to stage a hunger strike to make my cry that ‘I am a mother’ and ‘I miss my children’ be heard… I have no request other than to be able to have contact with my children on the telephone. If my request is too great, unreasonable, immoral, unlawful and against national security, then tell me. If a mother who is considered a criminal in the eyes of the authorities must be denied the right to speak to her children, then announce it, otherwise let this mother hear the voices of her children.

According to theguardian.com reports, she suffers from a pulmonary embolism and a neurological disorder that has resulted in her experiencing seizures and temporary partial paralysis. When specialized care which she doesn’t receive in prison is required, she puts her life at risk through this hunger strike in a desperate attempt to listen to the voice of her kids.

Narges Mohammadi is a human rights activist who had won the Alexander Langer Award in 2009 for her human rights activities, especially her efforts to end the death penalty for juvenile offenders in Iran and recently, she received the City of Paris medal for her peaceful activism.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna of Newsgram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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Immunotherapy Drugs Show Significant Improvement Against Breast Cancer: Study

Side effects need a close look, both doctors said. Nearly all study participants had typical chemo side effects such as nausea or low blood cell counts.

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Breast Cancer
This undated fluorescence-colored microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of human breast cancer cells. For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. VOA

For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. But the benefit for most women was small, raising questions about whether the treatment is worth its high cost and side effects.

Results were discussed Saturday at a cancer conference in Munich and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Drugs called checkpoint inhibitors have transformed treatment of many types of cancer by removing a chemical brake that keeps the immune system from killing tumor cells. Their discovery recently earned scientists a Nobel Prize. Until now, though, they haven’t proved valuable against breast cancer.

Breast Cancer
Weight loss may lower breast cancer risk for post-menopausal women. Pixabay

In the study

The new study tested one from Roche called Tecentriq plus chemo versus chemo alone in 902 women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer. About 15 percent of cases are this type, their growth is not fueled by the hormones estrogen or progesterone, or the gene that Herceptin targets, making them hard to treat.

Women in the study who received Tecentriq plus chemo went two months longer on average without their cancer worsening compared with those on chemo alone, a modest benefit. The combo did not significantly improve survival in an early look before long-term follow-up is complete.

Failed protein test

Previous studies found that immunotherapies work best in patients with high levels of a protein that the drugs target, and the plan for the breast cancer study called for analyzing how women fared according to that factor if Tecentriq improved survival overall.

breast cancer
FILE – A patient receives chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer at the Antoine-Lacassagne Cancer Center in Nice, July 26, 2012. VOA

The drug failed that test, but researchers still looked at protein-level results and saw encouraging signs. Women with high levels who received the combo treatment lived roughly 25 months on average versus about 15 months for women given chemo alone.

That’s a big difference, but it will take more time to see if there’s a reliable way to predict benefit, said Dr. Jennifer Litton of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She had no role in running the study but enrolled some patients in it and oversees 14 others testing immunotherapies.

“We’re really hopeful that we can identify a group of women who can get a much bigger and longer response,” she said.

Another breast cancer specialist with no role in the study, Dr. Michael Hassett at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said he felt “cautious excitement” that immunotherapy may prove helpful for certain breast cancer patients.

Breast Cancer
Breast cancer cell, Wikimedia Commons

Side effects and cost

Side effects need a close look, both doctors said. Nearly all study participants had typical chemo side effects such as nausea or low blood cell counts, but serious ones were more common with the combo treatment and twice as many women on it stopped treatment for that reason.

Three of the six deaths from side effects in the combo group were blamed on the treatment itself; only one of three such deaths in the chemo group was.

Also Read: New DNA Tool To Predict People’s Height And Risk For Cancer

Cost is another concern. Tecentriq is $12,500 a month. The chemo in this study was Celgene’s Abraxane, which costs about $3,000 per dose plus doctor fees for the IV treatments. Older chemo drugs cost less but require patients to use a steroid to prevent allergic reactions that might interfere with the immunotherapy. Abraxane was chosen because it avoids the need for a steroid, said one study leader, Dr. Sylvia Adams of NYU Langone Health.

The study was sponsored by Roche and many study leaders consult or work for the company or own stock in it. (VOA)