Home | English | Publications | Witness Testimony | Witness Statement of Abbas Maroufi

Witness Statement of Abbas Maroufi

Witness Statement of Abbas Maroufi

 

Name:  Abbas Maroufi

Place of Birth:  Tehran, Iran

Date of Birth:  1957

Occupation:  Author and Publisher

 


 

Interviewing Organization:   Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC)

Date of Interview:  August 3, 2015

Interviewer:   IHRDC Staff


 

This statement was prepared pursuant to an interview with Abbas Maroufi. There are 60 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

Introductio

  1. My name is Abbas Maroufi. I was born in 1957 in Tehran. I studied dramatic literature and at the College of Fine Arts [at the University of Tehran].  I am a writer, journalist, and a member of PEN.[1]  I was a publisher and the editor-in-chief of Gardoun publishing. I was jailed, sentenced to flogging and banned from writing due to my journalistic activities. As a result, I have been residing in Berlin, Germany for the past twenty years.

  2.  I published my first work when I was 17 years old. It won best prize at a story writing competition and was published in various newspapers, including Kayhan, during the Shah’s regime.  That was 40 years ago, and I am still writing in an official capacity to this day.  The body of my work includes novels and plays.

  3. I worked as a high school teacher in Tehran when I was around 26 to 27 years old. After that, I was given a post at the Roudaki Hall, where, for three and a half years, I managed public relations, the symphony orchestra and theatrical performances.

 

 

Gardoun Magazine

 

4. It was my childhood dream to publish a magazine. By law everyone has the right to publish a magazine, but the Islamic Republic has turned this right into a privilege.  It took me five years of constant effort to get this privilege and obtain the authorization to publish. I would go to the Ministry of Culture every week and ask [an official named] Ms. Ebrahimi if my application had been approved, but she would say that she had not received any word from the Press Supervisory Board concerning applications.  There was a general hold on authorizations for some time, but right after the [Iran-Iraq] war ended [in 1988] they began approving applications for newspapers and magazines.  And since I did not have any records—criminal, political, domestic, or otherwise—and I had only been a high school teacher and a public relations officer at Roudaki Hall, I was finally approved to start Gardoun magazine in 1990.

 

  5. On the cover of the first issue of Gardoun [November 22, 1990] I published the title “Every Room is the Center of the World,” from the Mexican poet Octavio Paz, who had just won the Nobel Prize. That instigated an attack on me from the arts division of the Islamic Development Organization and the newspapers Kayhan and Jomhouri Eslami, who said that I had no right to suggest ‘every room’ is the center of the world as the only room that was was that of [Supreme Leader] Imam Khamenei!

 

  6. Basically, the fighting began with the publication of that very first issue. We took our positions very intelligently.  For instance, on the cover of our fourth issue [January 5, 1991] we printed: “You and I are the people,” which is a quote by American writer John Dos Passos.  I still believe that you and I are the people.  We can’t say that people are ignorant sheep.

 

7. [Gardoun] soon gained the support of every poet and writer from the Iranian Writers Association and became a center for young talents. Twenty-two thousand copies of the magazine were published with each run and would be off the shelves within a day. Every copy was sold.  Thus, [the authorities] became nervous and worried that something was happening.

 

8. I also put a lot of effort into reviving the Writers Association, which had been shut down for a number of years. The third Writers Association was formed as a result of the headlines and articles published in Gardoun and our efforts to raise awareness about the organization.

 

 

Pressure and Threats

 

  9. Before the attacks [against Gardoun] began, I was called by the revolutionary prosecutor’s office and told to go the [narcotics] police facility at Pol-e Rumi. I went there thinking that they wanted me to publish an article regarding the issue of addiction and drug use, but that was not the case.  Instead, I was asked why I was responding to what Kayhan was publishing.  I told them it was because my magazine was the base for the Writers Association, and if Mr. Mohammad Ali Sepanlou or Ms. Simin Behbahani, or any other such notable writer, wrote something, I would publish it in my magazine.  In response, I was threatened and told that Mr. Mehdi Nasiri is a protégé of the Supreme Leader, and that I better be careful—at that time, before Shariatmadari, Nasiri was the editor-in-chief of Kayhan.

 

  10. My difficulties began in earnest after that. I would find notes under my windshield wiper that contained expletives or threats to blow up my car, which I feared might actually happen.  Sometimes, I was followed by a motorcycle.  All these unpleasantries made me feel vulnerable,  I was concerned for my safety and that of my family. We were constantly monitored. They put a newsstand with a bright light on top of it right in front of our house in Niavaran to watch us.  The so-called newspaper seller would change daily!  There was never the same person there:  every day a new face.  We were constantly under their watch.  Living in a fishbowl was difficult,  and Kayhan was coming up with new attacks every day.

 

 

The Raid on the Gardoun Office

 

  11. In July 1991, after I published the 15th issue of Gardoun, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the Friday Prayer leader, spoke against the magazine. At that time he was the head of the judiciary.  After the sermon, a group of women clad in black chadors raided our office and smashed several computers.  I called the police and reported that we had been attacked. Mentioning that I was a licensed publisher, I asked who these rogue individuals were.  Both parties, Gardoun’s staff and these women, then went to the police station, because we all had complaints.  We were taken to the police task force, where the chief officer told the women that they should not have attacked us without an order.  That was that, and I left.

 

 

Summons and Interrogations

 

12 . A few days later I was summoned by the revolutionary prosecutor’s office. This marked the beginning of my interrogations. For the next three months I would have to go to the prosecutor’s office on Moallem Street every day to be interrogated by a certain Mr. Naser Nouri from Kayhan newspaper, who belittled, insulted and humiliated me.  Every day spent with them was a waste of my life.

 

  13. I asked him to arrest me at one point. He said, “No.  We won’t arrest you, because if we do, you’ll become famous and every [foreign] radio station will blow its horn for you.” They called me in every day at 6 am and would keep me until the evening.  They asked where I received money from, who in United States I was in contact with and what my connection to Israel was.  They made comments about sex and how many women I was in a relationship with. [They also asked] whether I drink [alcohol] or not, which anti-revolutionary group I was collaborating with and which country was paying me to publish such a high quality magazine; these sorts of questions.  When I answered, they would repeat the same question, or ask it in a different way.  Their sole purpose was to bring me to the point of boiling anger.  Sometimes they would leave me in a room without a chair and make me wait there for four hours, only to come back and make rude and insulting comments, ask a few more questions and leave again.

 

 

 Death Sentence

 

  14. This treatment continued for over three months until they convened a court in absentia, whereby they convicted me of insulting Islam, the Islamic Republic, the clergy, the Iranian Revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini, and sentenced me to death. They trumped up seven charges against me.  At that time I was about 34 years old.  I was baffled as to what was going on, what was happening to someone just for being a writer.

 

 

Meeting with the Attorney General

 

  15. My lawyers were Ms. Shirin Ebadi and Mr. Hamid Mosaddegh. They did some research and discovered that the Attorney General, Mr. Ebrahim Raeesi, who is now a deputy to the head of the judiciary, opened his office to the public on Tuesdays and met with groups of people to discuss their concerns.

 

  16. One Tuesday I went and signed up for a meeting and waited until noon, but was not let in. I went again the next Tuesday, but still couldn’t get in.  On the third Tuesday, however, at around noon, I was called in.  They called in groups of five at a time to go in and meet with him.  Every person would talk about his or her concern—one person’s sister was sentenced to execution, another had been convicted for involvement in the Nojeh coup, another person’s brother was jailed; everyone had some problem.[2]  And Raeesi sat there with great seriousness and might and dealt with each issue.  He either gave them a letter and directed them where to go, or declared that so and so must be executed.

 

  17. When my turn came, he asked my name. I said, “My name is Abbas Maroufi.”  He responded, “The famous Abbas Maroufi?”  I told him yes.  He said, “You stay.”  He then dealt with everyone else and then turned to me and said, “What have you done in this country?”  I said I was a teacher, writer and the editor-in-chief of Gardoun   I had not done anything in particular.  He asked, “Then why is it that these papers write so much against you?”  I said I don’t know, and that I was doing my own thing. I was born in this country and was not a member of any group or organization.  I was a teacher for many years and for three and a half years I was the artistic director of the symphony orchestra in Tehran and worked really hard to do my best, and I put my heart and soul into the magazine to introduce Iranian and world literature to my readers.  He then told me: “Last night I was at the home of Ayatollah Fazel Meybodi in Qom.  Before going to bed I read half of your Symphony of the Dead.  It is a very interesting piece of work.  I want to know where I can find a copy.”  I happened to have a copy in my briefcase.  I put it on his table. He put his hand in his pocket and asked, “How much does it cost?” I said that he could have it for free. He said, “No! This is the desk of justice. Please tell me how much it costs.” I think it was 300 toumans. I took his money and gave him the book. He then asked, “What else have you done in this country?” “Nothing,” I responded, “ just the things I told you before.”

 

 18. Raeesi then told me to wait for a moment. He went to the next room, looked at his computer and returned.  He said, “There is nothing in your record, not so much as harassing a young girl!”  “No, because I am married,” I replied.  [Mr. Raeesi] then asked me to call one of my employees to his office and have him to bring a copy of every issue of [Gardoun] that had been published thus far.  I called a member of my staff and he brought the copies almost immediately by motorcycle.  That day, Mr. Raeesi asked me to stay and have lunch with him, but I declined his invitation because I had to go to work.  Less than a week later I received a letter indicating [that my previous sentence was rescinded due to] lack of jurisdiction. They had transferred my case to the Press Court.

Trial at the Press Court

 

   19.  My case, and that of Gardoun magazine, was the first in the 103-year history of press in Iran to be tried before a jury. Prior to that there were no juries.  At the Press Court the jury acquitted me, and after an 18-month ban, I began publishing my magazine again.

 

20. Mohammad Khatami was the Minister of Guidance during my trial. Four years later, when he was the head of the National Library, Mr. Khatami’s secretary called and said he wanted to meet me.  This happened just a few days before I left Iran.  I visited with him for about three hours and discussed many issues.  He told me, “When I learned that they wanted to execute the creator of Symphony of the Dead, I did not sleep the entire night.” “It was my last day as minister,” he continued, “I went to the office and established the Press Court Jury.”  He told me he wanted to prevent the execution of a writer and was very happy for having done so.

 

 

Harassment by the Authorities

 

  21. There was one occasion where I was scheduled to speak at a gathering of press executives at the [Tehran] International Exhibition Center. When I left my office to go there, a policeman came and pushed me against the wall and started searching me.  He said, “Are you selling drugs?”  The policeman stripped me on the street and vulgarly dismissed a passerby who objected to how I was being treated and tried to tell [the policeman] who I was. When I eventually made it to the hall for the lecture I was crying [and thinking], “you are concerned about ink and press machines, but I [am concerned] about my basic right to walk the street.’  The next day there was a piece about me in Kayhan and one other newspaper that stated “If a policeman stops him to see if he is trafficking or just a user, he gets offended!”  This demonstrated that these acts of harassments were organized efforts and that I was constantly under their watch.

 

   22. After that, I got caught up in the investigation of Saeed Emami’s team, which was involved in the Chain Murders.[3] I was summoned three or four times a week for interrogation.  I had two interrogators; one was named Mahdavi and the other Mohammadi.  Of course, these were their pseudonyms.  They would call my office, and, for example, tell me to go to room 707 at the Hilton Hotel the next day at 10 am.  I had no choice in the matter.  If I did not comply they would come and take me themselves.

 

   23. I would arrive at the Hilton at 10am and wait. They would order lunch and keep me until 8 or 9 at night.  I was subjected to the same process, insults and pressures as before.  They would ask about various individuals, who they were, what they were about. This started in 1993 and continued until 1995.  I was under pressure for three years.

 

   24. My interrogators would ask, for instance, “Who is Surmelina in Symphony of the Dead?” I would respond that the character is imaginary.  They would say, “No! One cannot write if one has not experienced it.  Is she so and so’s wife?”  I would say, “I don’t even know so and so’s wife, and I am not even the type to involve in such conduct.”

 

   25. They discussed language and all kinds of subjects, such as the Kurds. For example, they asked, “In your opinion, should the Azeri’s have their own text books?”  I responded, “Yes.”  Then they said, “No! They are separatists and want to separate Azerbaijan.”  I disagreed and said, “No!  That is not true.  You should give them the opportunity to learn to speak and write in their mother tongue, have local television and learn Farsi all at the same time.  Same with the Kurds.  You must have the courage to allow them these things.”

 

  26. One thing that the Islamic Republic was very sensitive about was a story of mine called RamyRamy is a well-known Arabic term used during the Hajj—it refers to the ritual of Ramy al-Jamar?t or “stoning the devil.”  My story was about a Revolutionary Guard who goes on pilgrimage [to Mecca], and while caught in a mass of people moving towards the Jamar?t pillar, he sees the arms of a black woman, becomes sexually aroused by them, and forgets to cast his pebbles on the pillar.  The story ends with him sitting and leaning on the pillar while the woman casts her seven pebbles on him and leaves.

 

  27. The point I was making in the story is that devil is in every one of us; the inner devil, not that physical pillar. When the story was printed, Jomhouri Eslami published a caricature of Salman Rushdi with breasts and me as a baby on his lap being nursed.  The caption over the caricature said “Domestic Salman Rushdis must be killed.”  There was also an article in that paper critiquing my story, saying that Maroufi was very daring to publish such a story in this country whereby he insults the Revolutionary Guards by insinuating that they are all devils.

 

 

Revocation of Gardoun Publishing’s License

 

  28. In addition to all these comings and goings from the Ministry of Intelligence I also had to contend with Gardoun’s publishing license being revoked in 1993. These kinds of economic attacks were carried out alongside [the harassment and interrogations]. One by one they were closing all the avenues by which I could earn a living. Gardoun publishing had a different license from Gardoun magazine, each had its own license. So in effect I was no longer able to publish books. I could have earned a decent amount as a writer. They were trying to put me in a financial bind so that I would have to come to them and beg for work, amenities or paper.

 

29. At the time, print media outlets were given [subsidized] paper, but we could never access it, considering that how unfavorably [Gardoun] was viewed. They constantly pressured me with respect to my paper supply, hoping that I would shut down.  I always paid seven or eight times the price [of the subsidized rate], but my revenue and expense balanced in the black because we sold all 22,000 copies of the magazine at each print.  My income came from sales and advertisement.  I never had more than 1,000 copies returned.  If I had a 5,000 copy circulation, I would no doubt have gone bankrupt and been destroyed, but because circulation was so high, I was luckily able to cover all my expenses.

 

  30. I was repeatedly summoned by the Minister of Guidance and the head of the domestic press bureau at the ministry. The Wahhabis of Zabol, in retaliation to a firearm attack against their mosque, put explosives at the Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, and a number of people died as a result.  That day, the television was showing gruesome images of the casualties and played a mourning theme.  The head of the domestic press at the time was Mr. Hossein Entezami.

 

31. He called me the day after [the incident] and asked me to go see him at his office before going to work, and said it was an urgent matter. As soon as I entered his office he asked me, “What are you intellectuals doing in this country?”  I replied “We are publishing magazines, no?!”  He asked another question: “Haven’t you seen the television and the atrocities that have taken place?”  I told him, “Yes, I know, and I am really sorry for what happened, but I run an arts, literature, and culture magazine.”   His response to that was, “You must write in your magazine that the bombing was done by the Hypocrites [the MEK].”[4]  I said, “Unfortunately I cannot do that, because I don’t believe so.”  We argued until noon and could not reach an agreement.  [Mr. Entezami] told me, “If you publish this, we will give you paper.”  I answered back that “I don’t want paper.  My magazine has to do with arts and literature and I will not enter the arena of such politically charged issues.”

 

  32. When I returned to my office I received a call from an interrogator, asking me to report to the Ministry of Intelligence. I went to the ministry’s headquarters at Zarrabkhaneh Three-way, where I was interrogated by none other than Saeed Emami himself.

 

  33. Saeed Emami interrogated me three times, but never face-to-face. He always sat behind me, with me facing the corner of the wall.  I recognized him by his voice later on when I saw his speech about me.

 

  34. That day, like so many before, I was held from the morning until seven at night. My colleagues Houshang Golshiri, Parviz Kalantari, Esmaeel Jamshidi and others who were at my office that day were concerned about me.

 

  35. Throughout that session, Saeed Emami told me that I had to write something [about the bombing incident], or I would not be released.  He said, “This is our red line, otherwise we’ll shut down the magazine.”  I told him, “Look, I will not write [about the bombing].”  At the end, he lost his patience.  He tore down a piece of paper from the calendar on his desk and wrote on it, “I, Abbas Maroufi, believe that the bombing was an inhumane and despicable act, and I condemn this act of bombing done by the blind-hearted Hypocrites.”  Then he said, “Here. Publish these words somewhere in your magazine.”  I took the paper, left the room and never published it.  I even told him that I would never do such a thing, because the day after I did so, as I would be driving my car and a brave-hearted motorcyclist (as opposed to a blind-hearted Hypocrite) would come and shoot me in the head four times. Then Kayhan would print a headline, saying “Abbas Maroufi was assassinated by the Hypocrites.” I then told him, “That is why, I will never play your game and I will never put myself in such a quagmire.”

 

  36. In total, they asked me to publish something on three occasions and I refused every time. One such occasion involved an article by Dr. Amir Hossein Aryanpour, which was handed to me by my interrogator.

 

  37. Another such occasion involved an article by Ehsan Naraghi, which Saeed Emami himself gave me from behind during an interrogation. I told him I would not publish it.  He said, “I did not ask you to publish it. Just read it.” Then he left and said he would return.  I read the article and half an hour later Emami came back.  He asked if I read it, I told him I did.  He said, “Publish it in your upcoming issue.  I will instruct them to give you paper.”  I responded, “I will not publish this.  Ehsan Naraghi is a political figure, my magazine is literary.”  I resisted and did not publish it, but the same article was published in Adineh later in 1994.

 

38. The third article was allegedly by Saeedi Sirjani, but [I have no doubt that] the interrogators had written it in his name. It had something to do with memoirs of the front line and the war, but when I read it I saw so many syntax errors that I knew Saeedi Sirjani would never make.  For instance, instead of “I will file a complaint against him,” it said “I will file a complaint opposing against him.’ The word ‘opposing’ is redundant and Saeedi Sirjani would never make such an error. Or, for instance, it said, “What is it that is important” instead of “What is important.”  Saeedi Sirjani taught us syntax and composition, so when I read it I could immediately tell that these were not his words, and even if they were I would not have published them just because I was told to.  I would not do as they said.  The article was ultimately published in Donya-ye Sokhan.

 

 

Dealing with Censorship

  39. We also had to contend with the censorship of books, but we learned how [the system] worked [and how to get around it]. For instance, in publishing my 150 page novel Peykare Farhad [The Body of Farhad], itself a product of the Pygmalion effect [a phenomenon whereby higher expectation leads to an increase in performance], I added 15 sharply toned sentences.  The book was about the Arab Muslim invasion of Iran, and so some of these sentences said things like “The Arabs attacked our girls with their bent swords.” While such an insinuation already exists in the novel, these sentences where much more graphic.

 

40. The censors at the Ministry of Guidance intiailly only removed thirteen of the added sentences, so I told them that there were two more that they missed. They were very pleased and said that I was an honest and honorable man.  I told them that I did not intend to jeopardize their jobs, livelihoods, or reputations.  Of course I don’t like to write like that, it’s not my style.  Even if they did not remove those sentences, I would have taken them out myself.

 

 41. I removed those extra 15 sentences and published the book. Many of us at the Writers’ Association discussed this strategy of adding sentences that would catch [a censor’s] attention [and make them miss other possible controversial content], which would ultimately allow us to save the work.

 

42. Another incident occurred in 1986 over The Last Greatest Generation, a novel about a wrestling coach who goes to Egypt with his team for a wrestling competition. The coach, instead of concentrating on the competition and his responsibilities, becomes obsessed with a humble maid at the hotel and puts all his effort towards getting her in bed.  He harasses the girl so much that at the end she throws herself off from the top of the hotel.  I had explicitly described the body of the girl in the novel.  The man in charge of [censorship] at the Ministry of Guidance told me, “According to the Imam’s fatwa, it is forbidden to describe a woman’s body.”

 

  43. So, in order to keep the description, I had to change the name of the hotel to Isis. Isis is an Egyptian goddess of beauty.  Then I described a statue of Isis, with her lips puckered up as if she were to whistle or bite on a cherry, with doves sitting on her shoulders, and streams of rain water making their way down her body.  I described the figure of the statue down to her knees and shins.  I used the statue to describe the body of this girl.  My point is that we had to come up with creative ways to do what we needed to do.

 

 

Second Trial and the Closure of Gardoun

 

44. In 1996, the authorities announced in certain newspapers that they wanted to shut down one hundred anti-regime papers and magazines, starting with Gardoun. Because my trial was such a high profile one they formed three consecutive hearings for me, meaning I had three hearings within a period of 20 days.  Each hearing was adjourned around noon.  Ultimately, at the third and final session, I was convicted.

 

45. This trial was one of the most crowded in the history of press, attended by over one thousand spectators. The head of the Ministry of Justice in Tehran Province, Mr. Ali Razini, Asadollah Badamchian, Habibollah Asgaroladi, and the entire leadership of the Mo’talefeh party formed the jury.[5] On one side [of the courtroom], there was Masoud Dehnamaki with a handgun and his entourage of Hezbollah members, and on the other Esmaeel Jamshidi, Houshang Golshiri, Fereshteh Sari, Ebrahim Zalzadeh – who was sadly murdered later during the Chain Murders –and a number of other writers who had come to support me.

 

46. I was sentenced at 1 pm. However, the verdict was published in Kayhan, which comes out of the press at nine o’clock in the morning.  When we came out of the courthouse we saw issues of Kayhan in people’s hands with the large headline “Abbas Maroufi Was Convicted.”  My sentence included two years of imprisonment, a ban from writing, the closure of Gardoun and flogging.  I was sentenced to 100 lashes, but the 8pm news announced that I was sentenced to 85 lashes, and two days later it was reduced to 35.  That same day, eight writers and poets including Simin Behbahani, Houshang Golshiri, Esmaeel Jamshidi, Akbar Radi, and Fereshteh Sari wrote a petition to the court that asked to share in my sentence of flogging and imprisonment.  Then, in a separate note, Mr. Golshiri wrote to me saying “during the two-year-ban from writing you are welcome to use my name.”

 

 47.I only had twenty days to appeal. On the nineteenth day I went to court with Ms. Shirin Ebadi and Mr. Hamid Mosaddegh and filed an appeal, and that same evening with the help of the German Consul I went to Germany. I did not have my passport [when I was convicted].

 

 

Leaving Iran

 

48. Before [I decided to leave for Germany] I didn’t know what to do. Maurice Copithorne, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, had come to the country.  Before he came, I received a call from his secretary asking me to go see him on Wednesday at the UN office in Tehran.  I said I would not leave my office.  The secretary said that Mr. Copithorne would not be able to come to my office.  I told him that was no problem and hung up.  Half an hour later, [Mr. Copithorne] called me personally and introduced himself.  He indicated that he wanted to come to my office and asked that I give his secretary my address.

 

49. During [Mr.Copithorne’s] visit to Iran the only other place he visited besides the UN office was my office. In a span of three hours I told him everything, which he put in his report.  He asked, “Why don’t you leave Iran?”  I said, “Mr. Copithorne, the Ministry of Intelligence has seized my passport.  I have no travel document.”  He said he would talk to the judicial authorities and have my passport returned to me.  The next morning my interrogator called and said, “You can come get your shitty passport,” and that is how I got it back.

 

50. I then received a call from the German Consulate asking me where I wanted to go. The Consul told me that German writer Mr. Gunter Grass had invited me to Germany as his guest.

 

51. I chose to visit Germany because one of my books was being published there. I was reluctant to go at first. I kept buying [airline] tickets and returning them, because I found out that my interrogators had told Golshiri, Daneshvar, Sepanlou, and Shamlou that “Maroufi was fleeing the country”.  I could not figure out how they knew I was buying tickets.  I had not fully committed to leaving for Germany until one Wednesday evening when the secretary of the German Consul called me to say that the Consul was leaving on Friday, March 1, 1996.  I understood what she was saying.  I immediately contacted a friend who had a travel agency and asked him to get me a ticket on Lufthansa on [the Consul’s] particular flight.  The flight was apparently full, but at midnight he managed to find me a seat and brought the ticket to my door.

 

  52. My three daughters cried when I left for Mehrabad Airport. Two cars full of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) agents followed my car as I drove from my house.  I developed cold sores and a rash all over my face from fear and stress.  When I finally arrived at the airport’s passport control, I saw the German Consul waiting.  Normally, people like him go through the VIP pavilion, but that day he went through the regular passenger route.  At the third passport control station, staffed by the Ministry of Intelligence, the officer asked me, “Mr. Maroufi, what are you taking with yourself?”  I had a small bag of three or four kilos in my hand that held my toiletries and some basic items.  I told him that that was all I had, plus a fountain pen.  I then left with the Consul and boarded the aircraft.

 

53. In an interview with the BBC a little earlier, I said that even if I got passed passport control they could still come and take me from the aircraft. So, I still terrified even after I went through the passport check.  Luckily, I was saved because I was with the German Consul.  Six or eight months after I left Iran, this happened to Faraj Sarkohi, who was caught and held for 43 days.[6]  I had read about this kind of thing happening in Latin America and Russia, where a passenger would board the plane, but [the government] would come up with a Jeep and remove him or her.  In other words, it would look like the passenger left the country, but he or she ended up elsewhere.

 

54. .In 1997, when I was in Germany, one of my former interrogators, who was known as Mahdavi, was convicted for involvement in the Chain Murders. His real name was Khosro Barati. He was the bus driver who in 1996 had attempted to make his bus fall off a cliff. The bus, which was headed to Armenia, was carrying a number of writers.  I recognized him by the descriptions that I heard from friends and colleagues.

 

55. In his trial in Iran [Barati] stated, “I went to Germany to kidnap Abbas Maroufi, but did not succeed.” Afterwards, I received a warning from the German police that they had some intelligence about a kidnapping scheme concerning me and that I should be careful.  I immediately published this information.  I was protected by the German police for 18 months.  At that time I was a guest living at the Heinrich Böll house.  The police deputy of Düren invited me to his office and asked me not to drive alone, leave home alone or travel and to keep them informed of my whereabouts at all times.  They wanted to put a police officer at my door or change my residence, but I did not accept this protection because I did not want my children to find out I was in danger.

 

56. The other interrogator called me several times at the Heinrich Böll house. I asked how he had found my number and he said he would find me even if I hid under a rock. He threatened my younger daughter and said, “Either shut your mouth and do not give interviews, or your dear Mina will be….”

 

  57. This went on for a while, but after I moved out of the Heinrich Böll house things calmed down. Later on I became the director of the Heinrich Böll house and worked out of there.

 

  58.  In 2000, I was in Berlin walking home from work when I noticed a young, breaded Iranian guy who was wearing a knitted hat. He was walking alongside me and kept laughing, but once we reached a quiet area near a park he took out a knife and charged at me.  I ran towards the street and was nearly hit by a car.  The guy then jumped into a black Mercedes that had three other passengers in it.  They were never caught.

 

59. I was not involved in the 2000 Berlin Conference. I just wrote an open letter to Mrs. Böll stating that in my opinion she had invited the wrong guests from Iran and had unnecessarily politicized the event.  Instead of so many political and controversial faces, she should have invited more cultural and literary figures.  My open letter was published in both Persian and German in many places.

 

  60 . Afterwards, Mrs. Böll told me how astute I was in assessing this matter and how she wished she had consulted with me ahead of time. Her consultants should not have invited a group of reformists, many of whom were not trustworthy.  So much hype was created around this event, and they could have had a fantastic cultural conference that discussed the plight of the Iranian people.  It could have been so much more significant and meaningful.

 

[1] PEN International is a global association of writers. Promotion of literature and defending freedom of expression are among its core objectives.

[2] The Nojeh Coup was a failed attempt by a number of Iranian military officers to overthrow the Islamic Republic. The attempted coup was foiled in 1980, resulting in a large number of arrests and executions.

[3] The term Chain Murders refers to assassination of a number of writers and intellectuals in 1990s. In 1998 Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence indicated that “rogue” elements within the ministry were responsible for the murders. Saeed Emami, a deputy at the Ministry of Intelligence, was the most senior official arrested in relation to the Chain Murders. He reportedly committed suicide in prison by ingesting a hair removal product.

[4] Mojahedin-e Khalgh (MEK) is an opposition group that has engaged in armed resistance against the Islamic Republic since 1981. The MEK’s ideology has elements of both Marxism and Islam. The Iranian government refers to the group as Monafeghin (hypocrites), implying that they are religiously misguided.

[5] Mo’talefeh Party, which is a conservative political organization known to be close to the traditional merchant class, traces its roots to 1962. According to its website, Mo’talefeh was founded on the recommendation of Ayatollah Khomeini. Mo’talefeh has never controlled any branch of the Iranian government.

[6] In an account published on BBC Persian, Sarkohi indicated that he was held for 47 days. See http://www.bbc.com/persian/iran/2014/01/140110_l45_chain_murders_faraj_sarkouhi_letter.shtml.

 

  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Tagged as:

No tags for this article