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Speaking For The Dead: Survivor Accounts of Iran's 1988 Massacre

Witness Statement of Mahiar Maki


Name: Mahiar Maki

Place of Birth:  

Date of Birth:  


Interviewing Organization: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC)

Date of Interview:  June 12, 2009

Interviewer: IHRDC Staff

This statement was prepared pursuant to a telephone interview with Ms. Mahiar. The statement consists of 71 paragraphs and 13 pages. The interview was conducted on June 12, 2009. The statement was approved in Persian by Ms. Mahiar on August 20, 2009.

My Arrest  

1.   My name is Mahiar and I was accidently arrested in October 1984. I was walking on the street with my friend when three plainclothes officers jumped out of a vehicle and arrested me. Three men got out of a car, came toward us and separated us from each other. They asked my friend for my first and last name, and then asked me to identify him by first and last name. We knew each other’s first names, but not the last names. They became suspicious. The person who was arrested along with me used to work with us in the Tudeh Party, but he was not a party member any longer. It had been some time since he had actually been involved with the Party. We had previously agreed that if we were arrested on the street or raised suspicion, we would claim to be engaged. So when they asked us how we were related to each other, we said we were fiancés. But when they asked us the other’s last name and we had no response, they became suspicious and arrested us. Our meeting had not been previously disclosed and no one knew about it.

2.   This incident happened in Vanak Square in northern Tehran. My friend and I were not really meeting for political reasons. At the time, I was politically involved despite the fact that our party (Tudeh) had been declared illegal five or six months prior to that. As I previously mentioned, it had been a while since my friend had been active. He had, in fact, turned his back on the Party. I wanted to meet him and let him know that the movement was alive and well. I wanted to bring him back into the fold. I contacted him so I could speak about these issues with him. My friend did not know about my intentions, but I was fully aware of what I was doing. Therefore, when I met up with him I told him that if they stopped us we should tell them that we were engaged, and if they asked where we were coming from we should tell them that we were coming from “our” home. Of course, he did not know where “our” home was. I had not thought the details through very well.

3.   The officers were wearing ordinary street clothes. Around this time, they had begun arresting many politically active leftists. They especially went after leftist women who did not properly wear the hijab,[1] or those who wore pants or clothing that was different or out of the ordinary. Most of these individuals had already gone into hiding and were active in underground cells. My friend wore glasses and a moustache—the typical look of a politically active leftist male. I think it is for these reasons that they targeted us. I do not think they arrested us for “moral” reasons. I was neither holding my friend’s hand nor did I have on any makeup. I was also not dressed provocatively.

4.   They opened my purse and discovered some banned literature. Then they took my friend toward the vehicle and slapped him around so hard that his glasses flew onto the hood of the car. One of them came toward me and asked what my relationship with my friend was. I said we were engaged. He asked me how I could be his fiancé and not know his last name. I did not have an answer. He ordered me to get in the vehicle. They pushed us into the car from two different sides of the vehicle. They blindfolded us with two dirty and bloodied rags. The officers in the front of the car were armed. They took us away and ordered us not to move. We had no idea where they were taking us.

Transfer to a Temporary Detention Facility

5.   When they arrested me, they had no information about me. They did not even know what party I belonged to. They took me to a place that was located near a freeway. I knew this because I could hear the roar of the cars speeding past. After we arrived, they threw me inside a small room the size of a telephone booth.

6.   The interrogations began after they registered my name at the detention facility. I was wearing an engagement ring at the time. The first question they asked was about my ring and the name of my actual fiancé.  I told them I that I did not have a fiancé. They knew that the person I was arrested with was not my real fiancé. They wanted to know my real fiancé’s whereabouts. I cried constantly and insisted that I had done nothing illegal. I begged them to set me free, and told them that my family was extremely worried about me. By pleading and crying, I thought I would be able to convince them that I was not politically active. But it did not work, and part of the reason was that ring. As you know, when an Iranian woman wears a ring it means she is promised to another man. So they kept pursuing the matter.

7.   Then one day, they told me that the ring I was wearing was given to me by my fiancé, who was fighting against the regime in Kurdistan. They also alleged that both he and I were Kurds. About three or four days later, the man who was arrested with me confessed that I was a member of the Tudeh Party. After that, I had no choice but to acknowledge that I was a Tudeh member. They informed me that they knew my husband’s name and the location of my residence, and that the man who had been arrested with me had given them the relevant information. I continued to deny the fact that I had a fiancé, but they increased the pressure on me.

8.   After my persistent denials, they took me to another part of the detention facility and told me to stay quiet and listen. A little while later, they dragged in my friend. They were cursing him and beating him as he came into the room. He was blindfolded like I was. (I could tell this because I could sneak a peak or two from underneath my blindfold.) I was terrified. They ordered me not to make a noise so that he would not know I was also present in the room. We had still not been transferred to a prison, and were being detained in the temporary detention facility next to the freeway.

9.   They asked him how he knew me. He told them. They asked him which party I belonged to. He answered: “Tudeh.” They asked him what group he belonged to. He said he was part of the Fedaian (Majority). They asked him why he had met up with me yesterday. He answered: “Nothing, we just wanted to see each other.” They then asked him if I was politically active, and he said I was. After that they summoned him out of the room.

10. I noticed that my friend was extremely frightened. I was certain that he was being tortured. My friend was a Kurd, but fortunately he was not a member of a Kurdish political party. Otherwise, they may have accused him of collaborating with Kurdish parties in Kurdistan and likely executed him.

11. They took me to a cell, supplied me with a paper and a pen, and instructed me to write about my past. I asked them what they wanted specifically. The guard asked me to explain why I kept denying that I was a Tudeh Party member. I realized that if I continued to deny this fact, they would probably continue to torture my friend. So I began to write. The writing lasted about two days.

12. But the ring continued to cause great suspicion. They spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure out the identity of my fiancé. Then one day, unexpectedly, they came in and told me they had decided to take me home and deliver me to my parents. I was overjoyed. I thought this was their way of admitting they had made a mistake. But when we reached my residence, they ordered me to stay in the car. An armed officer kept watch from the front seat. I asked them whether they would allow me to go inside. They replied that they wanted to ask my parents several questions first, after which they would allow me to go inside. They came back after a short while and informed me that we were heading back. I asked them what had happened, and reminded them that they were supposed to set me free. They told me I was a prisoner and drove me to Evin Prison.

Interrogations at Evin

13. At Evin, they first took me in for questioning. They asked me why I had been arrested and why I had been transferred there. Then they took me to the newly built solitary confinement cells in the sanitarium.

14. The interrogations were fairly uneventful during the first two weeks. They usually woke me up around 4:30 to 5:00 in the morning, and began questioning after breakfast. On busy days, I stayed there from morning until evening. Sometimes they returned me to my cell after everyone had left, without having asked me any questions at all.

15. This lasted for about two weeks. I was never informed of my charges during this time. They simply wanted me to write down everything I knew. After they read my answers, they posed new questions and instructed me to write down the answers again. This process repeated itself over and over. Apparently, they also showed my writings to other individuals whom they interrogated.

16. They had not assigned one interrogator to me. Several people had the responsibility of interrogating me. I do not remember the names of my interrogators. During questioning, I was always blindfolded—I never had a chance to see their faces. Each interrogator had his own style and method of seeking information. Some of them relied on threats, while others were more gentle.

17. After two weeks, they sent me to solitary confinement. They left me there for nine or ten days straight. Before they did that, they told me to spend the time drafting a confession letter. They specifically instructed me to disown the Tudeh Party. I refused. I continued to stay in solitary confinement. I had no idea what would happen to me. After I refused to turn my back on the Tudeh, my interrogator accused me of refusing to cooperate and threatened to make things difficult for me.

18. They sent me back to solitary again. They kept me in solitary confinement for less than two weeks—perhaps for about eight or nine days. I remember this well—I was in solitary during the second week, which was when I was originally scheduled to have a meeting with one of the leaders of the Tudeh Party. I began to realize that even if I were freed, I would not be able to reestablish contact with the Party again. If we missed one of our meetings, we were supposed to attempt to meet again the week after (at the same time and place). Once we missed our second meeting, the Party leader would reach the conclusion that we had been arrested and we would be cut off in order to guarantee everyone’s safety.

19. After the two weeks had passed, I felt both sad and relieved. On the one hand, I was happy that I had resisted naming anyone, and that no one had been sent to prison on my account. On the other, I was saddened by the prospect of having been permanently cut off from the Party.

20. Not long after that, they summoned me for interrogation again. It was early morning. They came to my cell and told me to prepare myself for interrogation. It was still dark. Something did not feel right. I thought that perhaps they had discovered some new information. When I went in for questioning, my interrogator asked me again to identify my fiancé. Again, I told them that I did not have a fiancé.

21. In my life, there was only one man whom I really wanted to marry. His name was Nosrat Darvish. He was later executed. The ring was given to me by him. At the time of my arrest, he was in prison. I did not want him to be identified or connected to me. When they reviewed my file, they somehow realized that I intended to marry someone who was already in prison. When they realized this, they increased the pressure on me.

22. My partner, Nosrat, was very politically active, and had been successful in reviving the organization after its top leadership was arrested. The regime’s authorities were thrilled to have finally arrested him. He and I lived together for a while before we decided to get married. The day of our wedding ceremony, he was arrested and our wedding plans fell apart. I waited for him at the wedding reception in a white gown. All the guests were there, along with the individual responsible for marrying us. But our wedding hour came and went and Nosrat never showed up. We waited for a while, but finally all the guests began to leave. They came up to me, gave me a hug and left one by one. Everyone knew what had happened, but no one wanted to say anything.

23. I later found out that a tavvab[2] had identified Nosrat on the street and several agents nabbed him right there and took him to prison. I went back to our residence and collected all the Party documents and effects that we had hidden there. I asked my brother to get rid of the rest of our belongings, and told him to notify the landlord that we were no longer interested in staying there. Then I went into hiding. I stayed underground until I was sure that Nosrat would have no idea where I was anymore. I trusted him, but I also knew that anything could happen when one is being tortured. And torture was Nosrat’s fate, until he was executed in 1988.

24. Now, back to my interrogation. When the interrogator began questioning me about my fiancé, he did not allow me to sit. Again, he asked who my fiancé was. And again, I said I did not have a fiancé. Then he turned to me and said: “Isn’t your fiancé this God forsaken man, Nosrat?” When he said this to me, my legs began to shake and I collapsed. He told me that they knew everything about my life. After that, the interrogator treated me with great disrespect and spoke of many personal matters that were truly embarrassing. As you know, our culture does not look favorably upon a man and a woman who live together outside of marriage. This allowed him and the rest of the interrogators to treat me with immense disrespect and contempt.

25. After our session, the interrogator told me to think things over and agree to cooperate. He said resisting was futile because they already knew everything about me. For several weeks, he kept summoning me back and forth between my cell and the interrogation room. I kept refusing to talk. Sometimes they would hold me in the interrogation room until very late at night. Finally, they sent me back to solitary.

My Initial Trial and Sentencing

26. After a while, it became apparent that I was going to stay in prison for some time. For three months, they continued summoning me for interrogations and sending me back to my solitary cell. (By the time I was released, I had spent thirteen full months in a solitary cell.) I had nothing on me during this time—not even a watch or a pair of glasses. I soon realized that the interrogators had also extracted lots of information about me from other prisoners who knew me. But since I refused to give them the information they were seeking, they continued to keep me in solitary confinement. After about five or six months, they summoned me and told me to prepare for my trial. During this time, I had no access to fresh air, nor was I allowed family visits. Every week they would allow me to take one thirty-minute shower.

27. My trial took place inside Evin. They blindfolded me on the way to court. When I reached the courtroom, they told me to take off my blindfold. I took it off. The room was nice. It had a window that allowed natural light to come in. I could see the green grass of the prison yard.

28. There were about four or five men in the room. There was a person seated across from me behind a desk. Several others were seated across from him. I did not recognize them. After I became familiar with the prison system, I became more familiar with them as prison administrators. I was confronted by Mr. Nayyeri. I did not know who he was at the time. Later, my cellmates informed me that it was Ja’far Nayyeri. I described his features to my cellmates and they confirmed that it was Nayyeri.

29. During my trial, they informed me of thirteen charges. I do not remember all of them at the moment. The first one was membership in the treacherous Tudeh Party. The second was providing funds (in the form of membership fees) to the Tudeh Party. The third was cooperating with the Fedaian (Majority). The fourth was spying for the Soviet Union, and the fifth was working to overthrow the Islamic Republic.

30. Before my arrest, I worked at a factory. I was actually working to mobilize the proletariat in favor of the regime. So I was shocked when they accused me of infiltrating the Islamic trade unions and attempting to turn the workers against the regime. After they announced the thirteen charges against me, I was simply dumbfounded. Even if I had wanted to defend myself, however, they did not allow me any time to do so, I was terrified. I thought they would take me straight to the gallows after the trial came to an end. Then I heard one of the men, who was seated in the room, laugh and contemptuously say something about the fact that I was no longer a “girl.” He was referring to the fact that I had lived with Nosrat. When I heard this, I shut down. All I could think about was my impending execution, and the words coming out of that man’s mouth. They told me to leave the room. I said practically nothing during the whole trial. Nothing.

31. They sent me back to the solitary cell. They sentenced me fifteen months after my arrest (after I had been transferred to the general ward). I felt terrible. Their behavior and my fear of an impending execution completely shattered me. I was broken. When they realized this, they transferred me from Evin to the Komiteh-yeh Moshtarak (Committee).[3]

32. I was in Committee from late March until early June. After that, they returned me to Section 225 at Evin. After thirteen months, they transferred me to the general ward. I had no contact with my family during this entire time. They transferred me to Ward 2 or 3 of Evin. My interrogator came in one day and informed me that I had been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. I could not believe it. I was overjoyed. I notified my cellmates of the good news.

33. In court, I was given a three-year sentence, but the six months I had already spent in prison prior to the sentencing did not count towards the total time of imprisonment. The sentence began from the day the verdict was issued and not from the day of arrest. In fact, it turned out that none of this mattered much, as I was kept in prison until 1990.  

More Interrogations During the Spring of 1988

34. After spending three-and-a-half-years in prison, they took me in for interrogation again. It was March 1988. During interrogation, they informed me that my sentence had ended, but told me that if I wished to be released I had to give a television interview and write a letter of repentance. I had to condemn both my party and its ideology. I was in the sanatorium, but this time they kept me in the women’s ward. I was blindfolded. I think there were one or two interrogators present.

35. One of the interrogators asked: “When were you arrested?” I replied, “1984.” They asked me, “When did your sentence end?” I replied that I had a three-year sentence and it had come to an end. He said, “Ok, but you know what the precondition for your release is?” I replied that I did not know. He said, “The precondition is that you must give a television interview and write a letter of repentance. Will you do that?” I said, “No.” He replied, “Well, write that down.” After three-and-a-half years, there was not any point in debating and arguing. I did not have any significant information. There was no need to debate. He did not really want any information from me. So I wrote that I would not accept the precondition. He then said: “Well then, stay in prison until you rot.”

36. From there, they took me to a solitary cell. It was customary to send prisoners to solitary confinement before their sentences ended in order to put pressure on them and force them to repent. I was in solitary confinement for two or three months. I went through this process of interrogation three or four more times. Each time, they asked me to give an interview and write a letter of repentance. Once they were certain that I would not give an interview or write a letter, they took me to the ward of the mellikesh. “Mellikesh” is a term used by the prisoners. It meant that that your sentence had ended, but you continued to endure imprisonment on behalf of the nation. At the time, there were maybe forty mellikesh in our ward. But our population was steadily increasing. In 1990, when I was released, our numbers had reached fifty-four. All of them were leftists. There were also some Mojahed among the mellikesh in Evin prison, but I do not know how many. The door of the mellikesh ward was always closed. There were fifteen or twenty prisoners in each room. The guards opened the door when we wanted to go to the washroom. They then locked the doors again. The situation was like this until we were released. This ward was in located front of the asylum.

37. In 1988, the ward was emptied and we were transferred again. All the mellikesh prisoners were put inside one ward that contained individual rooms. I was detained with Tudeh and leftist mellikesh in this ward.  

Prison Lock-Down

38. It was the summer of 1988 when the prison authorities came in and informed us that we would no longer receive newspapers. Before then, we collected articles that seemed interesting. Whenever they raided our cells, they used to take away our articles. But this time they came and said that we should throw out any newspapers we have. This happened around the same time that the regime had launched Operation Mersad against the Mojahedin. The Mojahedin prisoners were very excited, and thought this was a sign that the movement was gaining strength. They said that Khomeini had accepted the ceasefire and the regime was on the verge of collapse. We heard the news of the ceasefire through the prison speakers. Khomeini had famously commented that signing the ceasefire was like drinking “bitter poison.”

39. We thought we were entering a period of calm. Our mood had improved. We thought things would change for the better. That was not to be the case, however.

40. The same day they cancelled our visitation rights and took away the newspapers, they also transferred the Mojahedin prisoners out of our rooms. The ward had several rooms and each room had its own separate door. The first room was ours. In the upper floor ward, Mojahed and leftist prisoners were detained together. This ward had a hallway into which the doors opened. Those who were housed in the second-story room were serving out their sentences, and those of us who stayed in the lower-level room had already served our sentences. The doors to our rooms were closed and we were mellikesh. That day, they called the Mojahed prisoners from all the rooms. Only the leftists remained. We heard this news via Morse code. Each room shared a wall with another room and we used to send Morse messages to each other.

41. They also summoned Mojahedin mellikesh members. Their names were announced and their belongings were taken away. I do not exactly remember how many Mojaheds were taken from the mellikesh ward, but I am sure that there were at least six or seven of them.

42. All our visitation rights had been cut off. I believe that our visitations rights had already been cancelled before the Operation Mersad and Khomeini’s announcement of the ceasefire. We thought they would soon resume, however, and so we began preparing for them. Visitations usually began at 8 a.m. on a predetermined day. When that day arrived and we told them that we were looking forward to our family’s visits, they instead informed us that we were not to have any visitors.

43. The guards told us that the interrogators had instructed them not to allow any more visits. We thought that this was because of Operation Mersad. The prison atmosphere was suddenly changing again. An atmosphere of fear had taken over everyone.

44. One day, one of the female guards responsible for opening and closing the door to our ward made a comment regarding how she could no longer endure looking at the dead bodies. We were generally on high alert during that time, and paid very close attention to everything that was happening in our ward so we could determine what was going on on the outside. When the female guard made this comment, we became extremely worried. We had heard nothing from the Mojahedin prisoners in a while. We began to realize that they had probably been killed. They had left the ward and gone to their solitary cells with spirits high. They thought that Rajavi would arrive in Tehran and they would all be freed. I do not doubt the fact that at least some of the Mojahedin even went to the gallows elated.

45. Next, it was our turn.

The Leftists are Summoned

46. As I mentioned previously, we did not have Mojahed prisoners in our rooms anymore. When they came for us, they called the names of several people. In total, they summoned seventeen or eighteen people. I think this happened three or four weeks after Mojahedin prisoners were taken away. Those who were taken away did not have high-profile positions in their respective parties (since most high-profile members were already serving much longer sentences). The prisoners they summoned were often young, and their sentences were usually two years or less. I think most were between 22 and 30 years of age. In the mellikesh ward, they also summoned a 60 year-old woman. I do not think they had any criteria for summoning people from the first room. They did not even announce their names alphabetically. Only two Tudeh members were called, and the rest were from various other leftist groups. A female guard entered our room, called out the names of several prisoners, and told them to get ready for court. There was no list.

47. We did not hear anything about those leftists who were summoned away, until one night at 12 midnight we heard footsteps and noticed several prisoners entering our ward. Several days prior to this, they had emptied one full room and sent the prisoners to other rooms. They then transferred another group of new prisoners to that empty room. They were there for several days. We did not have any information about them. There was no way for us to see them. My room was beside their room. I sat beside the wall and sent the Morse code for the Tudeh party. A friend of mine, who was a Tudeh member, answered back. I asked what was happening. She said: “We all accepted that we are Muslim and we agreed to write against our former beliefs.” I thought I had misunderstood her. I asked her to repeat her answer. Again she tapped: “We all accepted that we are Muslim and we agreed to write against our beliefs. We accepted to pray and become Muslim.” I started laughing so hard that my roommates thought I had some good news for them. I told everyone in my room that the rest of the prisoners had agreed to become Muslim and pray. When I think about it now, I know that I reacted that way because I was truly shocked. The thought of all those strong-willed prisoners capitulating after they had resisted for all these years was unbelievable. I wondered about the torture they must have endured. Later on, other prisoners recounted similar stories and experiences regarding what had happened to them. They had been taken to court and asked if they were Muslim, and if they prayed. Those who resisted prayer were whipped until they agreed to pray.

48. The fact that these prisoners had not been able to endure the regime’s pressure generated great fear and anxiety among us. We wondered why these prisoners, who had endured torture for all these years, gave in to the pressure this time around. Then one early morning, several guards came in to our room. They summoned me and four others from the other room. They transferred us to solitary cells. Unlike the first group of leftist prisoners that was summoned, it was clear why they called our names. The second and third groups who were taken away belonged to the Tudeh Party and the Fedaian (Majority). I think the reason was that our groups were more organized and united the prison. I believe they summoned us a couple of weeks after they took the first group away. Some of the individuals who were summoned had gone on hunger strikes for fourteen to fifteen straight days. They were taken to solitary cells after they broke fast.  

My “Retrial” Before the Death Commission

49. My eyes were closed on the way to court. The court was a five-minute car ride and a five-minute walk away from the prison. The retrial took place inside the prison. There were three people there from the upper ward. I was the only one there from the lower ward. All were Fedaian (Majority) except for me. I think I was the first person who was taken into court. I was told to take off my blindfold inside the courtroom. There were four people there, including the head of Evin prison. I sat in front of the head judge of the court, Nayyeri. Seated beside him were Mojtaba Halvai and several others. I remember the others’ faces very well, but I do not remember their names.

50. They were all sitting behind a table. Nayyeri asked: Ms. Mahiar, what are you accused of? I said, “I am a member of Tudeh Party.” He asked: “Are you still a member?” I remember this part of the questioning very well. I said: “I have been in prison during the past five years and have had no connection with them. I don’t know what their position on current issues is. For this reason, I cannot say whether I am or am not a member.” He said: “She is still a Tudeh supporter. Are you a Muslim?” I responded: “This information is personal.” He again asked: “Do you pray?” I responded: “This is information is also personal.” He then asked: “What about your father and mother?” I said: “My mother and father are Shi’a and I was born in a Shi’a family.” He said: “She does not pray. She is a murtad.”[4] He added: “[Particular verses] of the Quran state that an apostate man must be executed. An apostate woman must be whipped until she accepts to say that she is a Muslim or dies. Take her out, brother.” The guard came and took the corner of my chador as though he was touching something dirty. They blindfolded me and led me out. The court session felt like a year to me, even though I do not think it lasted more than four or five minutes.

The Whippings Begin…

51. The guard escorted me to a solitary cell. As soon as I entered the cell, it was time for afternoon prayer. The solitary cell was in the sanatorium. He asked me if I was going to pray. I said no. He directed me to a wooden chair and ordered me to lie down. I did. He began reciting the call to prayer. Then he began whipping me as he recited verses of the Quran related to treatment of apostate women. Around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., the guard came back and asked if I would pray again. Again, I said no. And again, he beat me. I had seen him beating others. There was blood streaming from the bodies of some of these women. Others made horrifying sounds. Eighteen days had passed from the day the first group of leftist women had been summoned. They even beat some of the older women who refused to pray.

52. When they whipped us, they spread us out on a wooden bed, but they did not tie us to it. During the earlier rounds, men were charged with whipping us. Later, women guards did the whipping. They beat us five times a day. They summoned us during prayer hours: at 12 a.m., 4 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. The last round was some time in the evening. These intervals did not allow me any time to sleep. Each round included five lashes. In total, we received twenty-five lashes a day.

53. There were two prisoners who managed to resist for twenty-four days. The rest gave up. But these two people endured until the very end. They also went on a hunger strike. I, too, decided to go on a hunger strike. I did not, however, go on an indefinite strike, and I still consumed water. They beat me for five days straight. On the sixth day, I told them that I had begun menstruating.[5] After that, they no longer whipped me. Instead, they gave me three days of rest.

54. By the time my menstruating ended, the whippings also came to an end. I remember one day, the prison warden came to my cell and asked why my food was still sitting behind the door. I said: “Well, you know the story yourself.” He replied, “No we don’t. Why haven’t you eaten your food?” I said, “Because your colleagues are whipping us and for this reason I am on a hunger strike.” He replied, “Eat.” I said, “What do you mean eat?” He replied, “I mean you will not be whipped anymore.” I asked, “What do you mean? They were beating us until now. What has happened that it has stopped?” He replied, “They no longer whip. It is over.”

After the Massacre

55. The whippings stopped approximately three months after the massacre came to an end. They took me back to my room on the first floor where mellikesh prisoners were being detained. We were welcomed back into the ward as heroes because of the resistance we put up.

56. After one week, the family visitations resumed. Until then, we did not fully know what had happened inside the prisons. We knew something horrible had gone on, but we did not know the true nature and extent of it.

57. Many of us were informed by our family members about what had really happened. Some of the parents fainted during visitation when they were informed of their children’s execution. During one of these visits, my father informed me that Nosrat had also been executed. 

58. They never allowed me to visit Nosrat. After I acknowledged our relationship, I repeatedly asked the authorities to allow me to visit him. I told them that Nosrat and I lived together for many months and were planning to get married, but they did not allow us to see each other.

59. As far as I know, Nosrat was never informed of his sentence. From 1983 to 1988, he never received a sentence. Regardless, he knew that he was going to be executed,

60. After three months, they took those of us who were mellikesh in for interrogation again. (Of course, we never again saw any of the mellikesh Mojahed members of our ward. I believe they were all executed without exception.) They ordered us to write repentance letters. I remember one of them saying: “Don’t be a fool. You witnessed the fate of those who acted foolishly.” They repeatedly threatened us so we would write the letters. Some of them even admitted to killing the prisoners, and expressed their pride at having participated in their deaths.

61. These interrogations were very different from the previous ones. They told us to pack our belongings. Prisoners housed in the ward above us thought that they were going to execute us. Many of us thought this as well. We were moved from one place to another. In total, there were fifty-four of us and all were mellikesh. In their view, those of us who had served out our sentences and continued to resist provided inspiration and support to those who were still serving their sentences.

62. Finally, they transferred our group to Gohar Dasht prison. Most of the prisoners had already been executed there. I remember seeing a pile of prisoners’ exercise clothes from the windows in the hallway. I believe that they actually wanted us to see that horrific scene so we would ultimately break and agree to write our repentance letters.

63. We were at Gohar Dasht for about a week. The first night, someone came in and wrote down the names of twenty people who were situated close to the door. I was one of them. They summoned us. It was around 10 p.m. We thought they were going to execute us. We hugged each other and said goodbye. We were all quiet. They took us one by one into a room.

64. There was a man sitting there. I did not see anyone else there because I was blindfolded. I could hear only the voice of one person. He asked, “When did you get here?” I replied, “Today.” He asked, “What is your name?” I said, “Mahiar.” He asked, “What is your sentence?” I said, “I was a member of the Tudeh Party.” He asked, “How many years have you been in prison?” I said, “Five.” He asked,
“Do you know why they have brought you here?” I said, “No, I don’t know.” He said, “Will you write a letter of repentance against the traitorous Tudeh Party?” I said, “No.” He said, “I will put you in a solitary cell until you rot.” This was, of course, good news given that I expected to be executed.

65. Fortunately, everyone else had also resisted and said they would not write letters of repentance. Their threats did not work. After about a week of solitary confinement, they eventually transferred us back to Evin. When the prisoners on the second floor found out that we returned safely, they realized that the executions had finally come to an end.

66. After a while, they transferred us to an ordinary ward full of non-political prisoners. They continued to pressure us into writing letters of repentance. They called my family, and tried to get them to persuade me to write a letter. I urged my family not to put me under any pressure and to respect my decision. The prison authorities put pressure on all of the prisoners’ families. They even asked my family to come and talk to me several times.

67. Finally, my brother, sister, nephew, mother and father came for a visit. When they came, the guard came and said, “Your family has come for you. Get up and leave.” They did not allow me to take my belongings with me. They asked me to report back to prison in one week. When I went home, I found out that my other friends had refused to go back to prison. I, too, decided not to report back. But my family had posted bail, and I still had not received my release order.

68. Up until around February 11, 1990, I suspected that my phone was being tapped and they were monitoring my activities. Finally, I went back to prison and requested that they return my personal belongings. They told me that they would not return them until I signed my repentance letter. I refused. My sister began to cry. They were going to send me back to solitary, so I decided to write that I no longer believed in the Tudeh Party and I would not engage in political activities. After I agreed to do this, I found out that many of my friends had continued to resist without any repercussions. I regretted my action. They wanted to release us, but they also wanted to get something in return so they could feel that their efforts were not in vain. For them, anything we wrote was a kind of victory.

69. I was finally released in August 1990. Many of those who refused to write or sign anything continued to be monitored even after their release from prison. They left me alone because I did not get involved in any political activities.

70. After about two years, I attempted to exit the country legally. I was able to get a passport, but at the border the guards told me that I had been banned from exiting the country. My name was apparently on a list of individuals barred from leaving the country. They suggested that I talk to the Prosecutor’s Office regarding my traveling restrictions, and confiscated my passport. I went to the Prosecutor’s Office and asked why I had been barred from leaving the country. They told me that I had been short-listed because of my history of political activity.

71. Finally, they issued me a passport after two years and I was able to leave the country legally.  

[1] Hijab refers to the mandatory veiling of women, either in the form of a chador (which covers the whole body) or a head scarf.

[2] A tavvab is anyone who has engaged in the act of tawbih, or penitence. It usually refers to “reformed” political prisoners who agreed to cooperate with the regime while serving out their prison sentences.

[3] Komiteh-yeh Moshtarak, or “Committee,” refers to an infamous detention facility used by the Shah’s security and intelligence forces to detain, interrogate and torture political prisoners. After the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic renamed it the “Towhid detention facility,” but continued to use the facility as a place to detain and interrogate many of its political opponents.

[4] A murtad is an apostate.

[5] Women who are menstruating are considered ritually unclean and may not, therefore, participate in prayer.

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Tagged as:

Death Penalty, Political Killings, Executions, Political Freedom, 1988 Prison Massacre