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Witness Testimony: Behrouz Javid Tehrani

(January 8, 2013) - The Cost of Not Staying Silent: Behrouz Javid Tehrani, an Iranian journalist and former student activist, describes the conditions and experiences of his imprisonment in Iranian jails between 1999 and 2011. In particular, he discusses the treatment he and others endured at Rajaee Shahr prison -- where he spent the majority of his more than 11 years long imprisonment.


Name: Behrouz Javid Tehrani

Place of Birth: Tehran, Iran

Date of Birth: 26 December 1978

Occupation:  Journalist      


Interviewing Organization: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC)

Date of Interview:  11 October 2012

Interviewer: IHRDC Staff

This statement was prepared pursuant to an interview with Behrouz Javid Tehrani. It was approved by Behrouz Javid Tehrani on January 3, 2013. There are 65 paragraphs in the statement.

The views and opinions of the witness expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

Statement

1.   My name is Behrouz Javid Tehrani. In 1999 I was studying agriculture. When I heard about the raid on [University of Tehran’s] dormitory, I participated in the demonstrations and I was arrested. I spent four years in prison for my involvement in those demonstrations. Of those four years I spent more than three and a half years in Rajaee Shahr prison in Karaj. I continued my activities after I was released. I was arrested again in 2006, and this time I was sentenced to seven years in prison. I should also note that I was also detained for five months between these two incidents. I was released in 2011 because they deducted those five months from my sentence. Overall I have been in prison for 11 years, and for more than 10 years of it I was in the Rajaee Shahr prison in Karaj.

The Circumstances of his Arrest

2.   On [Thursday], July 9, 2009 I decided to participate in the planned protests after I heard about the raid on the dormitories from foreign radio stations. I went there on Saturday morning. I also went on Sunday and Monday. On Monday the clashes intensified, and the police attacked the students. They used tear gas. They also used pepper spray, and they beat the protesters with batons and electric shockers. Student protestors set a bus on fire near Vali Asr Square. In an instant, a stone was hurled towards me and hit me hard in the head. Blood started streaming down my face and I had to go to one of the side streets to wash my face.

3.   When I returned I was caught between two groups of anti-riot police, one on the north side of the square and the other on the south side. I had to pick which way to go. I decided to go to the south side. There were police on both sides. Keshavarz Boulevard was filled with police as well. I started to calmly walk towards the south side as if nothing happened, but it was clear from my face that these were not ordinary circumstances. When I reached the square they pushed me from behind. There was a chain in front of me and I had to jump over it. When I turned I noticed they were plainclothes officers. I was arrested right there—I think the wound on my face made me stand out [in the crowd]. It was clear that my face was swollen and wounded, even though I had washed it and the bleeding had stopped.  

Detention, Interrogation and Torture

4.   The circumstances of my arrest and interrogations in 2006 are interesting as well. I was at home resting one afternoon. when suddenly [agents] broke the door and stormed into the house. They made a mess searching the house, and took my personal items, files, documents and my family photos, which can never be replaced. They even beat me in my own house.

5.   At that time Keyvan Rafi’i and I were roommates. He was staying at my house. They beat the both of us. Our complaint against the Ministry of Intelligence agents who beat us went nowhere. They beat me during interrogations as well. In 2006 they even broke my rib.

6.   In the summer of 2011, when Mr. Dokmechi was ill, we filmed him in his painful situation. Since my voice was recorded in the video, [the Iranian authorities] took me and three other prisoners to ward 240 of Evin prison, which belonged to the Ministry of Intelligence (In the floor which is run by the Ministry of Intelligence and not the Prisons Organization). They took me there and kept me in solitary confinement for the entire summer.

7.   They beat me a number of times there. One thing that really bothered me, which is among the worst tortures that I can think of, was that they cuffed my hands and my feet, and then locked my hands and feet together, and then covered my mouth. I clenched my jaw before they covered my mouth. They wanted to cover my mouth with a piece of cloth. One of the ward 209 guards punched me in the chest, but I did not unclench my jaw. He climbed on my chest and started jumping up and down. Three of my ribs broke at that point. I opened my mouth, and he covered it. They tied my handcuffs to the shackles on my feet, and I had to lie on my broken chest until the morning. Being handcuffed and shackled was among the worst forms of torture I experienced because it wears you down and you cannot move at all.  

Behrouz Javid Tehrani on Trial

8.   [My first] trial was in 1999, in the 26th branch of the court. I met with and spoke with the judge for only five minutes, and this was the judge who sentenced me to eight years in prison. Eventually when they pardoned the prisoners who were arrested for the July 9, 1999 protests, my sentence was reduced to four years. When I was tried again in 2006 after being arrested two or three times, the judge asked me, “Was your sentence reduced to four years because of a conditional parole?” I said, “It wasn’t a conditional parole. It was the Supreme Leader’s amnesty, which was given to all those arrested following the July 9, 1999 protests.” He said, “I’ll make sure that you spend those four years in prison!”

9.   The judge sentenced me to seven years in prison, which was reduced to three years on appeal. The judge was Judge Zargar who [in my opinion] is the worst judge in [all of the] appeal courts; [however] he reduced my sentence to three years. But they made up charges again and gave me an additional four years, which meant that Judge Haddad did what he said he would do, and I had to spend an additional four years in prison to give back the four years that had been reduced from my previous sentence.

10. [In reality] I was not sentenced for actuality doing anything. It was rather because the Revolutionary Court or the Ministry of Intelligence was upset with me. In 2006 my attorney even told me that the only crime which I could be charged with was propaganda against the system. My attorney Behrouz Bigverdi represented me on a pro bono basis. When I served three years they added another four years to add the four years they previously reduced from my sentence. Because they had reduced those four years from my sentence by mistake.

Rajaee Shahr Prison

11. In order to explain the conditions of Rajaee Shahr prison we have to compare its situation between the reformists’ era and the time after that. It should be noted that the Rajaee Shahr prison lagged the rest of the country in both the initiation and end of the reform era. When we entered Rajaee Shahr prison in 2000 it was exactly in the same condition as it was in the 1980s. The uniforms were issued by the government, they cut everyone’s hair, they beat the prisoners, and phone conversations were limited to five minutes every two months, if at all. Wards were overcrowded. The hygiene situation was abysmal. Prisoners were not segregated based on their crimes. Inmates were sent to solitary confinement for long periods for infractions they committed in their wards.

12. Things started to change in 2001. Phone conversations became monthly, then weekly, then a few times a week, and then daily. We no longer had to wear the uniforms, and we could bring clothes from outside the prison, and we could wash them. They even brought in rugs to cover the floor. They brought in beds, and they allowed books. Newspapers became more regular. Overall, the prison became livable. This process continued through 2003. The number of political prisoners in Rajaee Shahr was very low. Apart from a group of about 20 to 30 dervishes who were arrested together, I was the only political prisoner in Rajaee Shahr.

13. I was released in 2003. When I returned to Rajaee Shahr in 2006 [former Iranian president] Mr. Khatami had left office and restrictions on prisoners resumed. Beatings and solitary confinement started again, but they introduced the changes very slowly. First they removed walls between adjoining cells, and named the new cells “suites”. There was a shower and a toilet in that room. That’s how they reinstituted solitary confinement. Then they opened section 2 of hall 1, also known as the “doghouse”. In that section, the cells have cameras, are completely dark, and their windows are fully covered by concrete. There is only a small netted window.  The prisoner has only two blankets and he is given very little food. They reopened the doghouse in 2008. Prisoners who committed an infraction or prisoners which the prison authorities disliked for any reason would be sent there.

The Medical Facility at Rajaee Shahr Prison

14. I want to discuss the medical facility in Rajaee Shahr. The conditions in that facility also changed over time. For a while it got better, and then things deteriorated. During the reformists’ era the medical facility improved, and they provided the drugs prisoners needed. Only some “luxury” drugs such as vitamins and medications for skin conditions were brought in from outside the prison. Also if the drugs were expensive the family filled the prescription and brought it to the prison. When conditions deteriorated, the medical facility cut the prisoners’ necessary medications.

15. On many occasions the medical facility of the prison, which at minimum housed 3500 prisoners, ran out of antibiotics, [sometimes] for two months [at a time]. There were lots of prisoners with infectious diseases. Sometimes, for example, if the physician prescribed 30 pills the pharmacy only dispensed 15 pills and claimed that that is all they had. There were lots of issues like this. During that period bringing in medications from outside the prison became difficult as well.

16. On a number of occasions I complained about my prescription not being filled. Sometimes they ordered the physicians to not prescribe a particular drug. Sometimes the physician claimed some medications were unavailable and that there was nothing they could do about it. This was the state of the medical facility.

17. When prison conditions became more difficult, going to medical facilities outside the prison also became very difficult. After 2009 a law was passed that required the prosecutor’s permission anytime a political prisoner wanted to leave the prison. This made things doubly difficult for political prisoners.

18. Ja’far Eghdami, a friend of mine, is a political prisoner. He has been trying to solve a nerve problem for about a year, but anytime he wanted to go to the hospital for a nerve or a muscle test he and his family had to endure bureaucratic hurdles for six months. And then, when they went to the hospital, they saw that the doctor is not there, which meant that they would need permission, yet again, to go to the hospital.

19. The same thing happened to Mr. Mohsen Dokmechi. He was sick but they would not take him to the hospital. They waited a long time to take him to the hospital, and when they took him, he was handcuffed and shackled during chemotherapy. He told them that he could not continue his chemotherapy with handcuffs and shackles and he returned to the prison. He had to use the restroom frequently during chemotherapy, and the guards at the hospital would not take off his handcuffs and shackles when he had to go to the restroom.

Solitary Confinement in Rajaee Shahr prison

20. When Shahroudi took charge [of the judiciary] he outlawed solitary confinement. First they created the “suites.” They removed walls between adjoining cells, and added a shower and a toilet and named the new cells “suites”. The suite was a trick, because they claimed that there is no solitary confinement in the Islamic Republic, and that prisoners were in suites.  This process took place in ward 209 [of Evin prison] as well. They took out the walls between solitary cells in ward 209 and created suites. It was like the suites in Rajaee Shahr, expect that not all of them had showers.  Here I would like to add that ward 209, which had the walls between adjoining solitary cells removed, ran out of cells in 2009 when the number of detainees increased. As a result, they took over one of the floors of ward 240.

21. That is why we sometimes hear that the Ministry of Intelligence has taken someone to ward 240. There are about 80 cells in the L-shaped floor of ward 240. The administration of that floor was transferred from the Prisons Organization to the Ministry of Intelligence.  People who were imprisoned in the past do not realize this when they hear that someone is in ward 240. They think that person is in solitary confinement administered by the Prisons Organization, but in reality that floor of ward 240 is run by the Ministry of Intelligence.

22. This pattern continued and conditions grew worse each day. This went on until they broke the arms and legs of two prisoners when they were beating them. They even inserted a baton into one of the prisoners. We made a video showing the conditions of these prisoners after they were released. The video shows their injuries, and that video is available on the internet. After that video came out severe beatings were stopped. [The authorities] were afraid that more videos like this would be leaked. Instead, they started to beat prisoners on the soles of their feet. Bastinados became commonplace. As I was about to be released, bastinados were used in the same manner as in old Iranian schools. But they did not use sticks. Instead, they used white-colored water pipes. These pipes are known as green pipe in Iran but they are actually white. These pipes are very painful. They are much more painful than standard batons. The beatings were severe in 2007. At that time cell phones were not yet being smuggled into the prison.

23. Once, when I was in solitary confinement, I got into argument with a guard. They handcuffed and blindfolded me, put me in shackles, and started to beat me. The guards circled me and hit me with batons. One hit me in the knee or thigh, which made me bend in pain. Then another one hit me in the back, which made me stand up in pain. This continued for more than half an hour. I threw myself on the ground, but the beating continued. But thank God they beat me with standard batons. I always thank God that they did not use water pipes that day, because those pipes break the bones. The beating of prisoners has become a real problem. When beatings started, other [types of] mistreatment increased as well. When a guard can do whatever he wants he does not care about treating the prisoner with respect. He says whatever he wants to the prisoners.

Prison Wards in Rajaee Shahr

24. There are 24 halls in Rajaee Shahr prison. Each ward has three halls. There are eight wards, one of which is run by the Ministry of Intelligence. But this ward is called the IRGC ward. The Ministry of Intelligence brings its prisoners to solitary cells in this ward. This is Ward 8.

25. Rajaee Shahr prison used to have a ward 7, which held female inmates. But [now] they send female prisoners to Varamin and Evin prisons. Now [in ward 7] they keep mentally ill patients. Instead of taking mentally ill patients to a mental health facility they dump them in this ward. This ward is in a terrible condition because many of the patients cannot eat properly or wash themselves.

26. After my release they built a new ward outside the prison complex. It is called ward 10. If Google Earth updates its new satellite pictures this ward can be identified. This ward was first supposed to be a women’s ward, but they changed their plans later. This is one of the worst wards. I later contacted some of the prisoners at Rajaee Shahr and they told me that the solitary cells are dark and dreadful. This building is separate from the main building of Rajaee Shahr prison. If you look at Rajaee Shahr prison on a satellite map, you will find it.

27. [The authorities] built another building in Rajaee Shahr prison for women. But later they decided to transfer the women [prisoners] to Varamin and Evin prisons. So this ward was allocated to some prisoners who were transferred from Evin to Rajaee Shahr prison. The prisoners are very unhappy about this ward. I have not yet had the chance to talk to someone who has been in that ward. The prisoners who have talked to me have heard about this ward from others. Based on what I have heard this ward is worse than the old buildings. Instead of improving, that ward has only gotten worse.

28. The phrase used by the authorities for a ward is andarzgah [literally translated into “house of advice]. If in the Prison Organization website you found “andarzgah” it actually means ward. But we used the term “ward” so that we do not use their phrase. Ward 5 houses the youth. Based on the information I have, there are more than 170 or 180 inmates on death row in that ward. Those prisoners were under the age of 18 when they committed a crime but nonetheless have been sentenced to death. We have not been able to obtain their actual names. All three floors hold teenagers and youth under 25.

29. Hall 10 of ward 4 holds Sunni prisoners. For the first time in Iran prisoners have been segregated based on their religion. This started in 2011, and [at the time] prison authorities claimed [the segregation was on account of] al-Qaeda prisoners. They transferred al-Qaeda prisoners and all Sunni prisoners in Rajaee Shahr to hall 10. This was a bit strange for us. Many Sunni prisoners who were there for common crimes such as drugs or murder left that ward on their own request. They could not live with al-Qaeda prisoners. Also many Sunni Kurd prisoners, who were supporters of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, requested to be transferred back to hall 12. Hall 10 still houses al-Qaeda and Jondollah prisoners.

Hall 12 of Rajaee Shahr Prison

30. Now in respect to hall 12… In 2010 they transferred some political prisoners, including several of those arrested in 2009, to rooms referred to as hosseinieh. These were dining halls located at the end of each ward. [The authorities] placed about 10 to 15 political prisoners in that room. These rooms had decent facilities for the political prisoners who had been arrested in 2009. They slowly started placing other prisoners there; including supporters of the Mojahedin Khalgh Organization. Mansour Osanlou, a labor activist, and I were also transferred there. Lots of information was leaked to the outside from that room.

31. I remember that the prison intelligence chief once told us, “You are now sending information out through the internet.” They believed that we had cell phones and that we had access to the internet. He told us that he had a plan for us. I should note that a week before that they had installed cell phone jamming devices so that no one could call outside.

32. One day they took all of us to hall 12 of ward 4. They brought all the political prisoners in Rajaee Shahr, including Bahá’ís and Kurds. They even brought al-Qaeda prisoners. They shut down the phone room. However, a number of prisoners had been able to open the door and call outside a couple of times. Later on they removed the phones entirely. They also ended in-person visits, and going to the hospital became conditioned on obtaining the permission of the prosecutor’s office. I believe this was the cause of Mohsen Dokmechi’s death.

33. The situation became more tough. Each ward has its own recess time. Each ward had three floors. We were in hall 12 on the ground floor. Since our ward was separated from three other wards, its recess had become more restricted. Our daily recess was 2 hours, but it could increase depending on the prisoners’ haggling. The recess issue was a bit annoying. But the good thing about this ward was that the number of prisoners was very low. While other halls at times housed 600 to 700 prisoners, our hall, which housed 50 people, was more like a park.

34. Another problem in hall 12 was that its door was always closed. If a prisoner became ill, opening the door was difficult, especially during the night. On a number of occasions prison guards beat political prisoners over this issue.

The Social Dynamics at Rajaee Shahr Prison

35. It is useful to discuss the social dynamics inside the wards that are considered dangerous. There are wards known as “death-sentence wards” and “life wards,” and they house common criminals. In Rajaee Shahr these prisoners have their own special customs. For example, they had an un-elected council, and all prisoners knew that only one of those three or four inmates could help them if they had a problem. If someone was bullied, this council was the only recourse. These inmates were ward elders. This was complex and, at the same time, a beautiful phenomenon.

36. I never saw anyone bullying someone else in these wards. Although we refer to these inmates as criminals, they ran their ward much better than an advanced society with intellectuals. They made their own laws and ran their wards. Even guards did not dare go into those wards alone and search a room, because they were afraid they could be beaten. In such a ward everyone was on death row and nothing would change for them.

37. Another interesting thing that I observed was a phenomenon called “taking.” It is good to talk about this “taking”. There were prisoners who were sentenced to death. Now, if someone was arrested for a crime such as possessing 30 grams of heroin, which carries the death sentence in Iran, a “taker” would step forward and take responsibility for the crime in exchange for 500,000 tomans, a refrigerator or a TV or something like that. On one occasion I saw the file of someone who had 23 death sentences. One of them was his own file—but he had “taken” the rest. The taker knows that he will be executed, but this way he will make some money while he is in prison. He continues doing this until he is executed.

38. The only social problem that existed in these wards was intravenous drug use. There were some intravenous users who didn’t practice good hygiene. There were some mentally ill patients who were on medication and could not take care of themselves. Some even had difficulty eating. [The prison authorities] kept them with other prisoners. There were some prisoners who had not taken a shower in years because there was no one to take them, and now they had sores all over their bodies. Some slept on the floor during the recess, and all their bodies were blistered by lice. The psychologically ill inmates really bothered other prisoners, and they were a real problem for hygiene conditions in the prison. Unfortunately the government sends these individuals to prison instead of mental health facilities. There are many of them in prisons. The criminals that the Iranian police are able to catch are mostly these individuals.

39. Most ordinary prisoners respected political prisoners. But the dynamics of the ward are also important. In 2006-07 there were six of us, and we were transferred to the “House of Quran” ward. The prisoners in that ward were different. Most inmates in that ward had agreed to memorize the Quran in order to be paroled or gain other advantages in prison. They would do anything. The prisoners followed everything the prison authorities asked them [to do].  With the exception of the “House of Quran” ward, the relations between political prisoners and other inmates were great in the other wards. Other inmates respected political prisoners tremendously.

40. Whenever a political prisoner went to the ward of common criminals in Rajaee Shahr prison, the political prisoner would almost certainly not sleep on the floor. Other prisoners gave their beds to political prisoners out of respect.

41. In my experience the best place to serve time is with common criminals who are on death row. They have reached the end of the line, and they have no hope of getting out. They also have nothing to gain from the authorities. They know that this is their last home, and they try to enjoy their lives. They try to make the rules in a way that makes life easy for everyone. Overall living with the prisoners on death row is enjoyable.

Prison Authorities

42. [Let’s talk] about the Rajaee Shahr prison authorities whom I met during these 10 years. I was in Evin for a short time too so let’s start from Evin. The first name that comes to mind is Momeni. I still come across his name in the news, especially because he takes action against political prisoners. Momeni was the internal manager of Evin prison and still holds the same post. Based on what I hear, he is still very tough on political prisoners. I have read that he beat three political prisoners to force them to wear prison uniforms before sending them to trial.

43. I remember the names of a number of Rajaee Shahr prison officials. One of them is Hasan Akharian, whose name appears in the latest list of European Union sanctions [against Iranian officials]. He was the ward chief, and he severely beat the prisoners. It was during that period that two videos on the torture of prisoners in Rajaee Shahr were released. After those videos came out and complaints were lodged, he was promoted and put in charge of the sentence enforcement office at Evin prison.

44. Farajnejad is another prison official who now heads the intelligence office at Evin prison. He was also involved in subduing both common and political prisoners. He is the person responsible for most trumped up charges against prisoners. Farajnejad is the only reason that Mr. Arjang Davoudi [a political prisoner] is in Evin prison now. Mr. Davoudi complained against Mr. Farajnejad once. Farajnejad retaliated by fabricating allegations against Mr. Davoudi. Farajnejad is one of the most despicable figures in Rajaee Shahr prison.

45. Mardani is the new chief of Rajaee Shahr prison, and his picture is available. He forbade the entry of clothes into the prison. Prisoners were no longer able to bring clothes from outside. He was also very strict on solitary confinement. He has given his subordinates the authority to do as they wish with the inmates. He implemented an austerity program to deal with a budget deficit. The quality of the food has declined, and the medical facility rarely prescribes any medication. I do not know whether it is due to his incompetence that he has not been able to get money, or whether this problem is the fault of the government. He puts a lot of pressure on prisoners due to the budget cuts. 

Rajaee Shahr Prison Shop

46. Let me share something about the prison shop. Many of the items are not available at all times. Some of the items are deficient. They charge much more than the fair market value of the items, because the shop is now run privately. For an item that costs 8,000 tomans they charge 10,000. The inmates are willing to pay the additional price, but the items are not always available. Sometimes they do not have rice for six months. Sometimes there is no tea, sugar cubes, or tuna.

Rajaee Shahr Prison Kitchen

47. One of the things I forgot to mention is the prison kitchen. In 2004 they installed natural gas piping in the prison. They built kitchens, and put a number of burners in each ward. This was a big help. The inmates who suffered from malnutrition and only had access to prison food could now boil an egg or cook for themselves. They could use the stoves to recook the prison food. These kitchen were built in 2004 and improved our situation in prison. Fortunately the kitchens are still there.

Rajaee Shahr Prison Visits

48. In-person and conjugal visits for political prisoners have stopped. A “cabin” meeting is when an inmate can only see his family through a glass window and talk to them with a phone.

49. In an in-person meeting the inmate can sit next to his family without the glass separating them. Now they have built a wall in the in-person visitation room and inmates can no longer embrace their families. The family of political prisoners can have an in-person visit if they can obtain permission from the prosecutor’s office. But the monthly in-person visits are over.

50. There is also the conjugal visit. Depending on prison conditions married prisoners were previously allowed one conjugal visit per month or once every two months. The prisoner could be with his wife for two hours. Political prisoners are now deprived of this two-hour conjugal visit. This is another instance of discrimination against political prisoners.

Rajaee Shahr Prison Library

51. Another issue for the political prisoners is the library. There is a small library near the entrance of every ward. These libraries contain 300 to 400 books which have been selected at random. The inmates who like to read can ask the prison authorities to use the main library. But after [June] 2009, political prisoners were no longer allowed to use the main library.

Continuing Education in the Rajaee Shahr Prison

52. One can continue his or her education in prison. In 2003 an educational institution called Hazrat-e Ebrahim was established near the movie theatre. I can show it on satellite images. This institution had classes from elementary school through high school. For higher education Payam-e Nour was available. This system has been running since 2003. [Instructors] came from the Payam-e Nour institution to administer tests in prison. After 2008, political prisoners were prohibited from using the Payam-e Nour institute.  Even prisoners who were already enrolled, like Missagh Yazdannejad and Saeed Masouri, were not allowed to finish their studies.

My Memories of Executed Inmates

53. One of my memories is of Farzad Kamangar. They took him to the House of Quran ward. At that time five other political prisoners and I were in a secondary room in that ward. At the beginning of each hall, which had 40 solitary cells, there was a 10-20 square meter room which was referred to as the ward secondary room. It had a toilet and a shower. The six of us were there one day when we saw that Farzad, Ali Haidarian and Farhad Vakili were brought to House of Quran ward. The inmates transferred there from other wards were forced to attend Quran classes and group prayers. Farzad Kamangar, Farhad and Ali did not agree to attend the Quran class and the group prayer. When they refused to attend the religious services, three days later they were ordered to be transferred out.

54. We became good friends with them, and asked them to join us in our room. We decided to close the door and not let the authorities take them. We had a bench like the ones in schools. We placed the bench behind the door. The officials came and told us to let them take the three of them. We told them that we will not let them go, and that we wanted to meet the prison chief. We went on a strike to see him. He was away at that time, maybe he had gone to Mecca. He did not return until three days later. We continued doing this until 11 pm or midnight. The bench was behind the door and someone was sitting on it until 11pm. At that time we thought they had given up, and we went to sleep.

55. I was about to fall asleep when they suddenly broke the door and twenty soldiers rushed into the room. My bed was on the third bunk, and I did not have the time to climb down from my bed. I saw that they took Farzad, Ali Haidarian, and Farhad Vakili, handcuffed them, put them in shackles, and tied the handcuffs and shackles together. Then they took them away, and we were not able to do anything. This was my memory of Farzad Kamangar.

56. I also have an interesting memory of Mehdi Eslamian. I have shared it in many different places. Mehdi was a very simple guy. His brother was involved in a bombing in Shiraz. His brother was a member of the Royalist Association and had a political motivation for bombing a hosseinieh in Shiraz. Mehdi, however, was a taxi driver and did not have a clue about politics. He was 22, and he was earning a living. When Mehdi’s brother learned that he was being pursued, he came to Mehdi and asked for his help. The only thing Mehdi did was that he gave 200,000 tomans to his brother. When they arrested Mehdi’s brother, they arrested Mehdi as well. In his confessions, Mehdi’s brother stated that Mehdi had given him 200,000 tomans. They arrested Mehdi, and they executed him for the 200,000 tomans he had given his brother.

57. I should note that Mehdi’s case was on appeal when they executed him. His lawyer was Khalil Bahramian. He was not supposed to be executed. Even if the appeals court upheld his death sentence, he could have appealed to the Supreme Court. A lot of procedural steps had to be taken before he could be executed. But they executed him along with Farzad Kamangar, Farhad Vakili, Ali Haidarian and Shirin Alamhooli.  This was after the 2009 uprising, and they wanted to intimidate the people. Mehdi was sacrificed. He was the most innocent person I knew.

58. I want to tell you how they took Mehdi Eslamian to be executed. I mentioned Hassan Akharian earlier. He was in charge of our ward. He beat the inmates and treated them in an inhumane manner. Anytime he beat someone, I sent that information out. He realized that I was the one who leaked the information.  He called me in one day. He wanted to bribe me so that I would stop. He said, “Why are you doing this? I want to put you in charge of the prison medical facility.”

59. Being in charge of the medical facility was a high-income position, because that person could leave the ward. Body building drugs, cell phones, and metallic goods were in demand in prison. Akharian knew that being in charge of the medical facility was a coveted position that inmates fought over. He wanted me to take this position, and, in return [for the job], [he expected me to] stop sending information to the outside. I told him I was too busy to take this position, but I suggested Mehdi for that position. Mehdi came from a very poor family. Akharian accepted, believing that I would stop sending information out. He told me that he would talk to Mehdi. I returned to the ward. During lunch I told Mehdi that he would be placed in charge of the medical facility.

60. Then suddenly they called Mehdi’s name over the PA system. He had not finished his lunch yet. He said that either, after months, his mother had come to visit him from Shiraz, or that they wanted to talk to him about the medical facility position. He said that either way he had to look good. He put on his best clothes. He even wore cologne. He went to the prison authorities. I kept his food in the fridge. But he did not come back. We got worried. I called my friends to see what was going on. We could not do anything.  I heard the news of his execution the next day at noon. His food was still in the fridge.

61. Another memory I want to share is about the first friend of mine who was executed. When we were arrested in 1999 they took us to the Tohid detention center. That building was built during the Second World War. It was a very frightening detention center. Or maybe I felt that way because it was my first time being arrested. I was transferred to Evin prison after two months.  That was on September 1, 1999. Since I was born in 1978 they sent me to the youth ward. I was 20 years old. At that time it was called ward 295. Now it is called ward 350.

62. In that ward I had a friend named Davood Sangini Zak. He was charged with killing a police officer during an armed robbery. Davood was my first friend who was executed. His execution really had a negative impact on me. I had asked my mother to follow up his case. I met his sisters the last time Davood and I had visitors, and my mother had gotten to know his sisters. My mom was supposed to go to north of Iran with her sisters on the same day. They wanted to speak with the family of the victim and ask them to spare Davood’s life. On that day they transferred me to Rajaee Shahr prison, and they took Davood to Ghasr prison for his execution. They took us in the same car. We said good-bye at the gate of Ghasr prison.

63. The execution of Davood negatively affected me. My mother later told me that they were told that Davood would be executed on the same day, and that they did not go to see the victim’s family after all. My mother shared this part with me. She also told me that they had gone to Ghasr prison on the next two days. On the first day, they lashed him. I think he was sentenced to 160 lashes. There are two kinds of lashing in Iran. One is Ta’ziri [based on the civil law], and the other is Hadd [based on Shari’a]. Lashing based on Shari’a is more harsh. I think he was given 80 lashes, two times over, which becomes 160 lashes totally. My mother told me that they had whipped him so hard that the person washing his body had broken into tears. This is what happened to my first friend who was executed. Maybe he had it better than me. He went to Ghasr prison and got executed, and I went to Rajaee Shahr….I don’t know.

Mother’s Death

64. During the second half of 2003 my mother was no longer able to come visit me. She was suffering from breast cancer and was hospitalized. After she was not able to visit me, I found out that she has cancer. My sister came [to visit] instead. I requested leave [from prison] so that I could visit my mother. They didn’t agree to it. My sentence was reduced from 8 years to 4 years and was about to end. My mother passed away exactly 42 days before my release, but they didn’t grant me leave so that I could participate in her memorial service. I was released two days after the 40th day ceremony after her passing.

The Cost of Not Staying Silent

65. I tend to laugh about all the problems I face in life. I try to have a positive outlook on all the hardships I have suffered in the past 11 years. I feel that if I did not do what I did I would be no different from those who cooperate with this regime or remain silent about its crimes. I am happy that I was not silent even if I paid a price. 

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Tagged as:

Torture, Imprisonment, Witness Testimony