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Witness Statement: Amir Atiabi

Prisoners are Reorganized

24. In late 1987, Gohar Dasht administrators divided up the prisoners based on the length of their sentences. Prisoners sentenced to more than fifteen years of imprisonment were transferred to Evin, and prisoners convicted to fifteen years or less remained in Gohar Dasht. A while later, close to the beginning of winter, leftist prisoners were separated from the Muslim prisoners (including the Mojahedin). We remained in Ward 1, and the Mojahedin prisoners were transferred to other wards in the same prison. Toward the end of winter, in early 1988, the determined non-repentant prisoners were separated from those who were more flexible in their stance. Generally, prisoners in the former group were those who did not give up under any pressure and remained unshaken in their purpose, despite the threats to their life. They continued their protest against the cruel, restrictive rule of the prison, raised their voices to high-ranking prison administrators, and in the face of danger, openly expressed their concerns to delegates who visited the prison every now and again. I was among the determined prisoners who were transferred from Ward 1 to a smaller ward called “Far’i” (or supplementary). The cells in the supplementary ward were located at the entrance of the main wards. They were initially designed to house the prison guards. The ward had three rooms, a corridor, a shower and a toilet. The rooms were different sizes. One was very small, the second was large, and the third was larger still.

25. There were around fifty-five headstrong leftist prisoners in our ward at the time of the transfer and reorganization of prisoners. We did not have enough space and our freedom of movement was severely limited. They had categorized prisoners based, in part, on the answers they provided to questions, and in part on their conduct throughout their years in prison. They essentially considered the prisoner’s behavior—whether he was an obedient prisoner or a person who constantly protested against prison rules. Members of the Tudeh Party made up close to ninety percent of the prisoners in this ward; the remaining ten percent were from the Fedaian (Majority). There was one person from the Organization of the Iranian People’s Fedaian Guerrillas (Minority) with us as well. When they initially began to separate us from our original wards, the guards allowed several of the brothers to stick with each other at their request. Three brothers requested to join us. I remember that Mr. Mahmoud Behkish’s brother, Mohammad Ali Behkish (from the Fedaian (Minority)) joined us. Sadly, both brothers were executed later in the massacre. All the prisoners in this ward had sentences of three to fifteen years of imprisonment.

26. As time went on, the guards increased the pressure on us, put up more restrictions, limited access to facilities and the yard, and gave us less space. They treated us very badly and gave us less time to go to the yard for fresh air. We continued to have family visits, but they tried to isolate us from the rest of the prisoners in the ward as much as possible. Nonetheless, we tried to establish a means of communication with other prisoners in this ward. When the guards discovered our efforts, they transferred us to a different place. After that, they moved us from place to place for a while, but they did not mix us with prisoners in other wards because everyone had already been divided up based on the previous determination of the prison authorities.

27. Gohar Dasht has two kinds of wings (each wing has two or three stories or wards that are stacked on top of each other)-large and small. The larger wings have large rooms like Ward 1 and Ward 2. There is also a large hall or amphitheater located at the far end of the larger wards (at the end of corridor). The wards situated close to the amphitheater are among the largest wards at Gohar Dasht. The smaller wards (often called “solitary wards”) have solitary cells, but the length of corridor is the same as that of the large wards. Authorities sometimes lift the doors of these solitary cells open, thus converting these solitary wards into one large ward. They usually kept one or two such wards vacant, however, and would place prisoners whom they wanted to punish there for long periods of time. Prisoners who were under interrogation were kept for months, or in some cases, over a year in these solitary cells. The interrogators usually sent them so they would break and cooperate with the regime.

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Tagged as:

Imprisonment, 1988 Prison Massacre, Freedom of Religion