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Witness Statement: Amir Atiabi

Going Before the Death Committee

56. They directed the line down the corridor and toward the room where the Death Committee was convening. I believe this room was in the middle of the corridor on the ground floor. When we reached the middle of the corridor, they began summoning us into the room one by one. There were about fifty-two of us. I was somewhere in the middle of the line. Several people were sent into the room before I was. Then it was my turn. I was summoned into the room a little before noon. As soon as I walked in, I recognized Nayyeri. I knew him from before. He was present during my first trial, when the court sentenced me to ten years. I also recognized Eshraghi, who was also present during my first trial. The third person was another cleric. I did not recognize him. I had never seen him before. Later, I realized (from the information I had gathered) that it was Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi. These individuals were also joined by Naserian. Naserian went in and out of the room and provided his vengeful comments regarding the prisoners before the Committee. He did not, however, play any direct role in the issuing of the final verdicts.

57. Pour-Mohammadi turned to me and said that the regime no longer wished to keep any political prisoners. The war had ended and they had decided to question prisoners to see whom they could release. After this short introduction, they began questioning me. They asked me which party I was affiliated with, and I answered: “Tudeh Party.” Then they asked if I still believed in the Party. I answered: “Yes I believe in the Party’s political, economic and social plans for equal opportunity and social justice.” They asked me questions regarding my religious beliefs, such as “Are you Muslim?” I said, “Yes, I am Muslim.” I had said so before in the questionnaires they had passed out to us and throughout my imprisonment and interrogation. Then they asked, “Do you pray?” I said, “No.” They asked, “Why don’t you pray?” I said, “I did not pray before I was imprisoned, and I think if I pray in prison then that means I am pretending and not really praying. I don’t want to pretend that I am what I was not outside of prison. I don’t want to pray because I am in prison. This type of praying by force has no value before God.” Then they asked: “Do you believe in God?” I said, “Yes.” They asked: “Do you believe in the Prophet?” I said, “Yes.” They asked: “Do you believe in Judgment Day.” I said: “Yes.” I did not want to be punished or executed for any reason other than my political beliefs and activities.

58. Nayyeri finally interrupted and said: “Take him out of the room and beat him until he prays.” Naserian forced me out of the courtroom. He then gave me a piece of paper. The paper included a list of questions—the same questions we had answered in front of the Committee (and many times before). This time, however, the questions also asked whether I accepted the main principles of Islam (i.e. that there is one God, that Muhammad is his Prophet, and that there is a Judgment Day). One of the questions asked if I believed in Marxism. I answered, “I believe in the political and economical ideals of Marxism. I know nothing about philosophy.” I answered all the questions in the same manner I had answered them before.

59. We waited for a while in the corridor until one of the guards came and took us to perform our ablutions prior to prayer. When they asked if I would pray, I refused. Several others did as well. We waited around a bit more and were taken to the top (second floor above the ground) floor of the prison. It was late evening. There, they again asked us whether we would pray. I still refused. Some of the others agreed to pray. I and those who refused to pray were then taken to a few beds and ordered to lie down. They tied us to the bed posts. Next, they began whipping us. Ten lashes for every prayer session missed. Only two of us, me and Jalil Shahbazi, were actually whipped for both the early evening and late night prayer sessions—we received twenty lashes each. (The rest of the prisoners agreed to pray after the first ten lashes.) It felt as if the guards whipping us were in competition with each other. When they grew tired, they switched hands to ensure that we received the maximum blows.

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Tagged as:

Imprisonment, 1988 Prison Massacre, Freedom of Religion