Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses


Mahin Esmati
January 1, 1997
Journal article

Between September 8 and January 26 we lived in terror and anxiety, after which our situation did not improve and neither did our anxiety. The distinctive characteristic of this period was that we knew nothing about the situation of the prisoners. We did not have visitation rights nor did we receive any letters or phone calls; absolutely no communication. We were tormented by distress. Everyday at around 2 p.m. we would read the execution list in the newspaper where there would be around 70 to 80 names listed. We would always take a quick look for the name of our prisoner in the newspaper and would be delighted by not finding his name. This is amazing but true. During those dark hours, there was no distinction between joy and grief. Our happiness lied deep in our sorrow. We were never at peace. We would first review the names in the newspaper, and then we would listen for discrepancies during the radio airing of the execution list at 4 p.m. In any event, the radio had the latest news. At 6 p.m., we would watch television so we could once again hear the names.

Night became day, by seeing nightmares of arrests and executions. At 6:30 in the morning we would find our way to Evin prison. When we would get to Lonapark we would see a huge crowd. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives of the prisoners had established Lonapark as their place of congregation. They would stand in small groups and exchange the latest news concerning the prison, while armed guards patrolled the area. The mothers were belligerent towards the guards, while the guards would do anything to humiliate and intimidate the families. They would often curse and make disparaging remarks about us and our prisoners and they would push and threaten to arrest us. They would yell and say "we have executed all of them, the remaining ones... we will send them to hell." During such attacks, the elders would try to divert the guards and showed kindness to the younger ones.

Throughout the course of those excruciating few months, the guards would only impart information to the family of those prisoners who were executed. They would give them their grave address, belongings, and a will, if the deceased had left one behind. Despite all this, the relatives would not concede to the guards by showing any emotion, while we could see them crumbling from within. For our part, we were in anguish and agony. This was even more distressing for us than going through the newspaper list. What was just a number in the newspaper became a reality there. Each one of them had a mother and a father, and perhaps a spouse. Their loved ones would say, "my son was an engineer," or "my daughter was a university student," or "she was only 15", or "he never got to marry" or "she did not get a chance to be a bride." Parents would cry about how difficult it was raising their children and that they were their only hope for the future. Or they would say "he was the bread winner." Like other days, with tears in our eyes, tired and hopeless, we would leave for our home without obtaining any piece of information and would look for the newspaper and television.

In November, they announced that they will charge each family 2000 Rials for each prisoner. We happily lined up to pay our dues as this was a sign that our prisoner was still alive. The following week, they lined us up once again to give us our receipts. On the back of the receipts we recognized the writing of our prisoner saying, "The sum of 2000 Rials has been received," and this was a sign of life!

At the same time, they began constructing an office building on the grounds of Lonapark. They built a metal fence and divided the families alphabetically. By doing this, they broke off any connection we had with other families, dissipating our previous unity.

They collected money from us a few times until January. One time we sent a blanket and clothing. There was a rumor that they were building a visitation area.

The first visit took place on January 26th [1989]. We were so excited about this visit that we spent the night at Lonapark. We sat all night in the car and we did not leave. Early in the morning, the pre-visit procedures began. They issued us identification cards to wear and carefully searched us. At around 10:30 a.m. we got into a minibus which took us to Evin prison.

As we entered Evin, we approached a path, which on one side was enclosed by the visitation building, and on the other a wall, blocking the view of the outside. We were directed to the entrance; the building was unfinished. We sat waiting in the hallway on the ground level. A religious [Islamic] program was running on a closed-caption television. A door opened to a large hall, and we were cursed at and booted in. The guards of this section consisted of 14-16-year old kids, and each one was equipped with a machine gun. We had 10 minutes to visit. A glass divided us and the inmates. Guards were walking on both sides and listened in on our conversations. The telephones were not yet connected, so we could not speak to each other; it was more like communicating with signs, but this wasn't really important. Seeing them and knowing that they were still alive was much more important. During this time we did our best to keep our emotions in check so as not to burden them, instead we displayed our love. We told them that we were waiting for them. After about 7 or 8 minutes, which went by quicker than a twinkling of an eye, the guards yelled that visitation time was over. We came out of the intoxication and were shown the door, but we could not take our eyes off of each other. It felt like we gazed into each other's eyes until eternity, as we were not sure if there would be another visit.


Source: the magazine Noghteh, 6, 1997, p.7.