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Open Letter from Imprisoned Human Rights Defender Narges Mohammadi to the Head of the Iranian Judiciary

Open Letter from Imprisoned Human Rights Defender Narges Mohammadi to the Head of the Iranian Judiciary

(February 10, 2016) – On Monday, February 8, 2016, Narges Mohammadi, a member of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights and a civil rights activist, sent an open letter to Sadegh Larijani, the head of the Iranian judiciary. Ms. Mohammadi was arrested in May 2015 and has been charged with national security crimes. She and other inmates held at Evin Prison’s women’s ward have been barred from making phone calls to their families for seven months.

The text of Ms. Mohammadi's letter follows:

Mr. Larijani, the esteemed head of the judiciary:

With greetings and respect,

I am writing again; although I have written several times and never received a response.

When I was arrested at 8:30 AM on May 5, 2015, at my home and taken to prison, I was worried and anxious about the possibility that my children, both of whom are eight-and-a-half years old, would face the closed doors of our home when they returned from school. There was no one except myself in our home to open the door for them. The security agents and those who arrested me knew this. This fact, which is an ordinary matter for people in general but an anxiety-ridden and frightening prospect for a mother, made me realize that my innocent children were going to become a tool to exert additional pressure on me, a mother. After a while my children went abroad and joined their father because there was no one here to take care of them. This is the seventh month in which I have not been permitted to have any kind of contact with them--not even a phone call--despite repeated requests.

As I write this letter, there are 27 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in the women’s ward in Evin Prison. Seven of them have children under the age of 10. Unfortunately the women’s ward is the only ward whose inmates cannot have phone calls with family members, phone calls through which young children at least would hear the voices of their mothers. I must stress that my repeated protests regarding this issue are not just of a political nature, nor are they aimed at criticizing the judicial regulations and processes. Instead, my protest is a moral protest; a protest against the deterioration and death of moral values, honor and justice in our society. This has been inflicted by the rulers against their own nation. I believe a society in which moral norms and principles are used as tools by the rulers to impose their power over the people, or a society in which these norms and principles are easily disregarded, ill effects will soon be paramount, even if such actions create an atmosphere of terror for a while. Personal and collective consciences do not die with pressure and oppression, although hands and voices may be muffled and silenced by house arrests and imprisonments. In your recent speech you stated that in addition to religious democracy, we should also pay attention to morality. Now this is my question for you: Which one of your moral principles comports with depriving a mother of hearing the voice of her children? 

What I write, and what I protest against, is not only about attaining my personal rights as an Iranian citizen. Rather this protest is the silent scream of mothers who have not been heard for years. It is the voice of women who have been crushed under the weight of their innocence and powerlessness. As a woman who is protesting, I do not consider myself the representative of these women, nor do I intend to utter slogans. This is a very simple matter: I am a mother, and I have the right to hear the voice of my children, even though this mother may have been found guilty by the apparatus that you run. The matter is even simpler: I am a mother and I miss my children.

Does civic activism in this country have such a high price? Or are mothers like me tools by which the government, which claims to spread justice, can display its strength? Is a woman’s motherly instinct a tool to suppress that woman? For which crime are they wounding the hearts of these women? Which cruel architect has erected these tall and invisible walls between us and our children? Is it possible to deprive a mother from hearing the voice of her children and forget that this action is the height of mercilessness? And is it possible to then claim to have faith in Islam and morality, when that religion considers having familial relations a religious obligation? Who are those who do not let my dear Ali and Kiana to hear the voice of their imprisoned mother? Does anyone hear the innocent voices of my children, who are away from their homeland? Don’t these actions, which take place in the prisons of the Islamic Republic, constitute violations of human rights, children’s rights, and women’s rights? Doesn’t this treatment demonstrate the violence of a government against the women and mothers of its nation? 

My purpose in writing this letter is repeating my protest against the mistreatment of women and mothers in this country, the deliberate attempt to disrespect motherhood, and the assault against the values that humanity has honored over centuries and ages – the values that all divine religions as well as human schools of thought have revered and held in high regard. And now that sacred core, crystallized in a woman’s being, a mother’s love, is used as a tool to exert pressure on mothers who have deliberately chosen the path of reforming their society and establishing peace.

Mr Larijani,

As a woman and as a mother, I am protesting the fact that Evin Prison’s women’s ward inmates cannot have phone conversations with their family members. I am protesting the fact that I have been deprived of hearing the voices of my children for seven months. I am requesting that you address this matter.