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Witness Statement: Amir Atiabi

Transfer from Evin to Qezel Hesar and Gohar Dasht

20. In 1985, I was transferred to Qezel Hesar prison in the city of Karaj, situated west of Tehran. Qezel Hesar was administered by Maisam. I was there for less than one year. Prison conditions in Qezel Hesar were not as stressful as they were in Evin. The ward’s cell doors were open; we could walk around and chat with other prisoners. We were also allowed to go out and get fresh air in the ward’s yard. Sometimes we stayed out for hours and exercised, played games and walked. We were relatively better off there than in Evin. But in 1986, all of the political prisoners were transferred from Qezel Hesar to Gohar Dasht prison. After that, only non-political prisoners remained in Qezel Hesar.

21. In Gohar Dasht, I was placed in Ward 1. It was a large ward that housed around 100 to 200 prisoners from all political spectrums, including leftists, Mojahedin and other Islamic organizations. This ward had two major differences from the wards I was detained in at Evin. First, all the prisoners in this ward had verdicts. There were no mellikesh6 prisoners or prisoners awaiting their trial (or those who had their trials but were waiting for their sentences). Back in Evin, mellikesh made up approximately thirty to forty percent of the inmate population in our ward. Evin was mainly a prison for those who had been sentenced to capital punishment or life imprisonment, did not have a sentence, or were awaiting their verdicts. Some prisoners in Evin had been waiting for their verdicts for years. After sentencing, they were usually transferred to Qezel Hesar and then to Gohar Dasht.

22. Also, tavvabs did not represent the inmates in our ward at Gohar Dasht. We elected our own ward representative. In 1986, I became the ward representative and was responsible for organizing daily schedules for the prisoners, as well as contacting the guards and prison authorities on behalf of the prisoners. The prisoners in our ward had varied prison terms. Some had lower prison terms, such as two or five years imprisonment, while others had higher prison terms (such as twenty or twenty-five years). We had regular access to fresh air and family visits in Gohar Dasht, although breaks were in generally much shorter than those at Qezel Hesar..

23. In 1987, we were occasionally summoned for interrogation. Interrogations were a usual occurrence. Prison authorities regularly questioned us about our beliefs and political stances. During these interrogations, they almost always asked whether we would denounce our party, give a video interview, cooperate with the regime, repent or pray. We could not understand why they persisted with such interrogations. Sometimes, these regular interrogations were accompanied by violence. Looking back, I think they were identifying the prisoners based on their positions to determine who was repentant, who would potentially repent, and who was steadfast and committed to their cause (and thus posed a potential danger to the establishment after release).

6 Mellikesh is a term used by the prisoners to identify prisoners whose sentences had ended, but continued to endure imprisonment because they were uncompromising in their ideological or political views, or refused to accept the prison authorities’ preconditions for release. Mellikesh were also referred to as Azadi-ha.

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