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Push to bring once-jailed Iranian activist to Canada for life-saving transplant

Click to play video: 'Campaign to bring Iranian woman to Canada for liver transplant'
Campaign to bring Iranian woman to Canada for liver transplant
A Port Coquitlam woman is banding together with others to bring an Iranian woman to Canada for life-saving surgery. Elham Modarresi is in exile in Turkey after being incarcerated in Iran for protesting. Negar Mojtahedi has the story – Jan 24, 2024

Thirty-three-year-old Elham Modarresi, an artist from Iran, went from protesting an authoritarian regime on the streets of Tehran to fighting for her life in a Turkish hospital as she suffers liver failure.

Modarresi was imprisoned for three months in November 2022 after participating in the Woman, Life, Freedom movement that rocked Iran in 2022, following the in-custody death of Mahsa Jina Amini.

She escaped to Turkiye after her release, where she is now seeking asylum. But while she was imprisoned, she was denied medication for a genetic liver disorder.

A healthy Elham Modarresi before her liver began to shut down. Nahid Modarresi
Elham Modarresi is currently in a Turkish hospital, where she is being treated for liver failure. Nahid Modarresi

Her sister Nahid Modarresi is now pleading for help.

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“Please help save my sister’s life,” she told Global News by video chat from an undisclosed location in Turkiye. Global News cannot reveal the exact location for her safety.

“We don’t know what we’re doing. Please help my sister. Please. Canada. Young people, please save my sister,” she said.

Iranian-Canadian human rights activists are banding together help save Elham’s life, and are sponsoring her to come to Canada to get a life saving transplant that would be almost impossible to attain in Turkiye.

Nahid suffers from an autoimmune disease and can’t donate her liver, but according to activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam, there are several volunteers who are willing to give in Canada.

“We’ve located different liver donors that are willing to supply a part of their liver to her,” Afshin-Jam said.

B.C. resident Tara, who Global News has agreed to identify by her first name for her security, said Elham is a hero to her and many others. Tara is also working in conjunction with Afshin-Jam and other activists to secure the transplant Elham needs to live.

Elham Modarresi was denied access to a critical medication for a genetic liver disorder while imprisoned in Iran for taking part in anti-regime protests.
Elham Modarresi was denied access to a critical medication for a genetic liver disorder while imprisoned in Iran for taking part in anti-regime protests. Nahid Modarresi

“Elham is a brave Iranian woman who stood up against oppression,” she said.

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Fellow activist, Reina Rezaie, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with Elham’s ongoing medical bills.

Tara and Afhsin-Jam say they both feel a sense of duty to help someone who fought for freedom in their homeland.

They’ve contacted Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada asking for an emergency temporary residence visa so Elham can receive the procedure here.

“When the office of the Ministry of Immigration heard about a special case and the fact that it’s very urgent, they said that they would flag it and look at her entire dossier in a in an expedited manner,” Afshin-Jam said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada declined to comment on the case, citing privacy matters.

Supporters are hoping to bring Elham Modarresi to Canada so she can undergo a life-saving liver transplant. Nahid Modarresi

Nahid said if the surgery isn’t done, her sister could fall into a coma.

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While the paperwork allowing her to come to Canada is in the system, Elham’s own system is shutting down, and her time is running out.

“I feel so close to Elham because I see her as a freedom fighter inside Iran,” Afshin-Jam said.

“She was so brave to come out and now she needs our help.

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