The Sepah [-e Pasdaran: Islamic Revolution Guard Corp], were awaiting us at the airport right by the plane. Us three prisoners sat in the back of the car together with a Pasdar. Another Pasdar sat in the front. As we were driving through the streets of Shiraz, sweet memories of days gone by were coming back to me, but anxiety was getting in the way of the enjoyment of them. 'Adelabad Prison, ever since Shah's time, was known as the prison of the exiles!
The car stopped a small distant away from the city in front of a building that used to belong to the Third Army of Shiraz. We got out of the car. A policeman called on me and took me with him. After going for a little while through an open area we reached a building with a big sign on it: Sepahe Pasdaran.
A long and black bearded Pasdar in sandals opened the door. He had prayer beads in his hands. Behind me the big iron-gate, like the dungeons of old stories, slowly closed with a dry shriek.
In the first room that I entered, a Pasdar took my personal belongings and recorded my name and information in a book. In another room they took my picture and fingerprints. In the third, a female Pasdar with a mask on her face inspected me physically, and quite offensively. I objected:
They are bringing me from Evin; I have been a prisoner for quite a while.
Shut up. This is Shiraz Prison. It seems like you haven't heard about it.
The blindfolds they put on me were in fact different from the ones in Evin. Like a mask it covered all of my face, leaving no cracks open. Next a Pasdar made me hold one end of a pen, the other end of which he was holding himself. We started moving. I couldn't see anything and constantly felt like I was about to fall. Finally we came to a halt in front of a door. The door opened with a sound. The Pasdar handed me over and said: " Absolutely forbidden to speak." Someone answered " yes sir," and then the door closed again.
The sound of crying and calls for mercy and forgiveness was being heard from somewhere. A young girl's voice said to me:
You can remove your blindfolds; I am the person in charge here.
I put the plastic bag with my stuff in it on the ground and removed my blindfolds. Spirit- and colorless faces rapped in homogeneous white chadors [veils] were pleading and praying. The young girl had moved to one end of the hall next to a drawer, and pulled a notebook from inside the drawer, making a note of my name, then asked:
Do you pray?
She took out a black marker and went to the head of the room where the slippers were, and wrote on a green sandal that was apparently meant for me: " special" (in other words Najjes [non-Islamic, " impure "].) This reminded me of the Star of David that the fascists would force the Jews to wear on their arms. I sensed what was awaiting me. I went to the first room and sat in a corner. When praying and wailing had finished, it was time for lunch. The one in charge of the section gave me a plate and a cup, both also marked "special" apparently so that it wouldn't get mixed with the others.
Lunch was rice with stew, which normally should be hot, but was completely cold. I didn't feel like eating, and washed my plate and placed it in a plastic sack that they had given me. Many didn't eat because they were fasting.
Slowly I was becoming aware that many faces are recognizable for me. Some were close college friends of mine. None of them however came close to me. Surely they were looking at me with contempt. Pari, a very intimate college friend even got visibly upset upon seeing me and took off in the other direction. Immersed in thought I returned to my spot. My watch was not working. I asked the person next to me:
What time is it?
No answer. I thought she hadn't heard, so I asked again, and again there was no response. I asked someone else. She also didn't respond, but pointed to the person in charge of the section. I wasn't getting it. So I raised my voice:
Is there no one here who can tell me what time it is?
Why are you yelling?
I wanna know what time it is.
I told you that you are " absolutely forbidden to speak." That means you don't have the right to speak with others, and they can't speak to you either. That means you can't ask what time it is either. Whenever you have something, you must say it to me. Understand? It is three-thirty.
Then she left me there in amazement. I had not yet experienced group-solitary confinement, but could tell it would be difficult to bear. In the solitary at least you know that you can do whatever you want with yourself, you can sing, walk, even dance. But here? I got out of the room and walked in the hallway.
I couldn't focus; my thoughts wouldn't stay on anything for long. No sign of old friendships could be seen in the faces around me. I thought about my previous relationship with Pari. She was patient and giving. She was in love with the struggle, was never selfish. The same goes for Zohreh and Nahid. We had started out with going hiking. We would read secretly together. During the revolution we were together night and day. Afsaneh, Minu, Vida…
I couldn't organize my thoughts. I was running a fever; perhaps I was delirious. Faces were passing in front of me, none of which I could recognize anymore, none…
I was half asleep and half awake when they called me in for interrogation. I entered in a room and a soft voice told me to take off my blindfold.
It was a normal room, with a number of chairs and a table. The white light of a single florescent lamp was giving light to the room. In the middle of the room there was a podium-like table and behind it a long-bearded and masked Pasdar was sitting. Only his eyes could be seen, giving him quite an uncanny appearance. He told me to sit on a small chair in front of the podium. The seating provided him with a height-dominance over me from whence he would look me directly in the eye while talking. He called me with my family name, asking me what I was doing. I said I have been an Evin prisoner serving a ten-year sentence.
Once again and from beginning, the questioning commenced.
Describe all your activities.
I have been interrogated for about one year and eight months already; I won't answer any more questions.
Perhaps you don't know where you are. This is Shiraz, and quite different from Evin.
At any rate I have been interrogated, judged and sentenced to ten years. You could ask for my files from Evin.
This is Shiraz. You have a huge file here. At least some 40-50 people have spoken about you.
Naturally, because I was a student here. Both during Shah's time and also afterwards I have had open activities as a student. After a while I put activism aside and by the way have been sentenced to ten years.
We will get what we want from you anyway. We are not joking here.
Being interrogated without the blindfolds is more difficult, because the interrogator looks you in the eye, and you see that he observes your every move. He exercises complete dominance over you. I was nervous and didn't know if the interrogator has noticed this or not. In any case after a row of threats and intimidations, he sent me back to my cellblock.
Characteristics of the Cellblock
Our section had two rooms and in these two rooms there lived about forty people. There were two toilets and one shower. After my arrival, they put a " special" sign on one of the toilets for me; the other toilet was for everyone else. Although there were long lines particularly in the mornings, no one used my toilet. In order to use the shower I had to let the person in charge know ahead of time, so that she could, after I was done, wash the showers. I wasn't allowed to participate in any activities, and anytime my hands were wet, I wasn't allowed to touch anything.
Most of the prisoners were constantly praying, from the time they would wake up until they went to bed, on one huge Sajjaadeh [prayer rug] that was spread at all times, save for two hours a day. Most of my fellow inmates were constantly fasting and praying. Some only slept a few hours and were up praying the rest of the time. They would even take anti-pregnancy pills to avoid their periods and so that they could constantly be eligible to pray, making up for all the prayers they had had neglected.
The food had a relatively high quality and there was plenty of it, although since the majority was fasting, not a whole lot of food was actually consumed. Even the sick were allowed to have special diets. After the meals, some would wash the dishes while the rest would go on with prayer. From the forty, there were only perhaps five or six, who only prayed five times a day and weren't fasting.
At one end of the section there was a little cabinet that held some publications such as Pasdare Enqelab [The Guard of Revolution] and Soroush [The Message], but no one had anything to do with this cabinet other than to get the Qur'an, the Sajjadeh and other materials for praying.
We were being interrogated almost everyday. The method was different than those practiced in Evin and considerably tougher. At 'Adelabad, the interrogator would first speak with the prisoner, and then would take her to another room and have her write down what she has said. Here the interrogators didn't even have pseudonyms. They only had secret signs, each his particular one. After one was done writing, she had to tap the special sign on the table using the pen. I picked up rather quickly on the fact that my interrogation was conducted mainly in order to complete my files relating to my student days. Also I came to realize that the agents of the prison in Shiraz have no information exchange with Evin.
One late winter day as I left the section for the usual interrogation, they took me to a different room and handed me over to an unfamiliar Pasdar. He asked me to remove my blindfolds and sit on the chair in front of him. He had a particular accent, and his speech would make me anxious. I sat in front of the masked face. He greeted me softly. I replied. He went on to ask how I was doing. This was not usual. After a while he stopped and asked if I had recognized him. I considered and didn't immediately reply. In a louder voice he called me by my first name and repeated:
I couldn't recognize his voice and this made me further anxious.
No, I don't recognize you.
Silence. After a short delay he removed his mask. I was taken aback. I did in fact know him. He was a fellow student. During Shah's time he would participate in group activities and knew all the political students quite well. I had debated Marxism with him quite often.
Are you still prepared to debate Marxism with me?
I wasn't ready to take part in any at all discussions. There is no discourse between the prisoner and the warden.
Why not? There is open discussion here, either I will convince you, or you will me.
I have no arguments, and after university I don't partake in political activities.
Why were you sentenced then?
I don't know.
Are you prepared to speak in front of other prisoners and denounce Marxism and your previous activities?
His tone changed and he began to threaten me. He was saying that he would reopen my case and ask for me to be tried anew. Then he threatened that he will have me whipped.
I lowered my head.
Do you have nothing further to say?
I said no. He paced up and down the cell for a bit and then sent me back to my section. After that threatening interrogation, they didn't interrogate me for a few days.
It was 15 days into the spring when they read off the list of some new prisoners who were to be transferred to 'Adelabad. My name was among them. I picked my stuff that was in a plastic sack and got on the way. By the time I got to the gate, I noticed that some others had gotten there ahead of me and were waiting.
There were ten to fifteen of us. Zohreh, an old friend, was also among the transferees. Unlike Pari, she seemed to be quite composed and although no words were exchanged between us, I realized that she was not in Pari's condition. We boarded a minibus. Zohreh sat next to me. I had heard that she had been tortured almost to death, and that she had resisted. Zohreh was a member of the Peykar Organization. She was picked up in 1982 along with three male comrades of hers at the headquarters of Peykar where they did their printing. The boys were executed and she had been tortured to inches of her life. As the minibus was exiting the Sepah prison, Zohreh started to speak:
Just listen to what I tell you, and decide for yourself afterwards. I hold it to be my responsibility to clarify some things for you. We have been resisting pressure for 5 years and it hasn't yet subsided. In 1982 the leftist prisoners, majority of whom were from Peykar, started to organize on the inside of the prison. Some of the members of other organizations such as the Minority Faction [of Fadaii Marxist Party] and Rahe Kargar [The Worker's Way] were under our cover as well, and we had negotiated recognized limits with the Tudehiis and the Majority Faction [of Fadaii]. We were resisting incredible pressures and were continuing our work. We were in contact with the outside as well. In '83 after the arrest of a number of our members (from the Fars Province Division) the organization on the inside was cracked. Almost at the same time the " strategic recantation" of the Mojahedin on the inside was also exposed to the wardens. Since then they put us under a scrupulous pressure that has continued to this day. First the interrogation circled around the matters pertaining to the organization on the inside, but then added to this was the issue of our refusal to pray. Each of us, in order to compensate five prayers a day would instead be whipped five times a day. I was lashed for forty days and five times each day. Anyone who wanted to recant at some point, in order to prove her new allegiance would be forced to whip her closest friends. For instance Pari, after she couldn't bear it anymore, was forced to whip me. And this was just the beginning. After that they would isolate [E] us and give us private ideological [E] lessons, since we were mostly defending Marxist positions and organizations. Their thesis [E] was this: Either you convince us, or we will convince you. So for 7 to 8 hours a day we would have to participate in debates with those of them who were familiar with Marxism. The discussions would cover everything from the origin of existence all the way to matters of economics, politics and philosophy, and this for months on end. Under ideological pressure, the prisoners would see themselves more and more jaded and weak with each passing day, advancing towards nothingness and emptiness. Under these circumstances the majority would break down and attempt to take their own lives. The wardens wouldn't try to prevent suicides, but after the attempts at it were made, they would take the half conscious or unconscious kids to hospitals to revive them. Women Pasdars would then, in spiritual and motherly poses, lean over the kids as soon as they would come to, saying: God has saved you! And in this way and under these conditions the new converts would be deliver to God. A human being who feels she has to recant and renounce her sins of years and years past, then, would quite often end up to be more dogmatic of a believer than most Pasdars. Some collaborate in matters of prison and the gathering of information with the Pasdars. It is easy to talk about these things, but resisting three years of torture and brainwashing is not a simple matter. The few who have been freed are mental patients. After long time of resistance, in order not to go crazy, I also took up prayer and the practicing of Islam. But I still refused collaboration. For this reason I am not considered as having fully recanted and am waiting to be sentenced again.
Here she broke into tears. I was also already quietly weeping.
It is not easy. Take care of yourself and take calculated steps.
She continued to cry the rest of the way. It was the bitter tears of a difficult defeat. Now I knew why she was so hunched when she walked. I squeezed her hand.
We had reached 'Adelabad prison. A female Pasdar was in charge of us. A large iron gate opened. We crossed a long courtyard and entered a big hall. A florescent lamp lighted the way. An intense odor of Alcohol permeated the hallway. There were many people on the way, coming and going. Everywhere there were thick makeshift curtains hung. We stopped in front of one of these curtains. Then the curtain was opened and we entered the cellblock behind it. The structure of the cell got my attention right away. 'Adelabad Prison was unlike the prisons I was familiar with in Tehran. It has been built on the American model: the cellblock is three stories and has tall corridors. On the two sides of the hall there are rows of cells with tall metal bars. They put me in a three-person cell relatively in the beginning of the corridor. It was a small cell with a three-story bunk bed, a bookcase and a small window on top. The space inside the cell was very limited, but unlike in Evin the cells here had light during the day.
Kamil Prayer Ceremonies
The daily programs of the cellblock were planned by the administration of the prison. These plans would then be implemented by the repenters of each cellblock. The Pasdars would also keep an eye on the proceedings as executed by the repenters.
First thing after breakfast and tea were instructional classes, then the noon prayers, followed by a period of free reading and fresh air; then the evening prayers would be next, then dinner and finally different specific prayers for each night. The coordination of everything from sanitation of the cell, the distribution of food and tea, the washing of dishes and even the personal hygiene of individual prisoners including their showers and laundry, all were done by the repenters.
Most days I stayed in the cell. My two cellmates would leave the cell each morning for compulsory chores and would return only for lunch and dinner.
After the passing of 7 or 8 days, one of my cellmates asked me embarrassedly:
Why don't you pray and don't partake in the compulsory activities of the cellblock? At first I thought you were on your period, but now that 7 or 8 days have passed?
I am not planning on praying, or participating in any compulsory chores.
Don't think that I am a spy, but every one here is required to report on her cellmates, and refusal to do so is against the regulations. It is quite possible that they call us in and ask us about you. The two of us have not reported anything about you until now. You have to realize that this has repercussions for us. They still hold my friend and I to be pragmatists and secret resisters and don't accept our prayers, saying that our commitment is superficial. For this reason the ones in charge of the cellblock is suspicious of us. Here only the recantation of those is accepted, who fully cooperate with the administration of the prison on every thing: spreading propaganda, walking the beat with the Pasdars, turning up for appointments for the purpose of arresting old comrades and every other cooperation that they demand. And yet my friends and I only do what we absolutely have to. Because we don't want any trouble, you should tell us yourself what you are doing.
If they asked you about me, tell them the truth.
No, we like you. Why are you destroying yourself? Don't take the matter lightly. This is not Evin. Three of those who even resisted in the Qezelhesaar Prison broke down in Shiraz and are now here. The deputy president of Justice Department has Moqtadaii himself has said that Shiraz is one of the most successful prisons in all of Iran.
For now, my decision is what I told you. I might decide otherwise later under pressure.
If they asked us, we'll say it's your period, until you decide for yourself.
Her glance was friendly and this was a prelude for a friendship and closeness. I realized that despite appearances the real repenters who cooperate with the regime number very few. Most would respect the regulations of the prison only after a lot of pressure and torture. And then there were a few who were doing well and as they themselves say, had taken on this cover, only to save themselves. For this reason the administrators would create tensions among the prisoners every now and again, and the prisoners would get entangled and sometimes even get into physical fighting, which occasionally end with broken heads and hands. This would usually happen on Thursdays, after the Kamil prayers, which would work up the true repenters against the so-called resisters. According to prisoners the fistfights sometimes would lead to some ending up unconscious. Zohreh was always worried about the fights and would tell me to be careful.
One Thursday night, when the sound of the prayer would not permit thinking, I was busying myself with a book of poetry. After the prayer, loud chants of Allah-Akbar were heard and then the cellblock began to shake with calls for " Death to Traitors," and " Death to Communists." I got down from the bed quietly and slowly made my way to the front of the cell and stood in a corner. The slogan " Resisters Must Be Annihilated" functioned as a battle cry. Some pointed to others saying, " why don't you chant, Resister?" and a few others would begin to pound the victim, but the sound of chants would drown out the screams of pain and agony. The unfortunate prey would be pummeled for a while until a next victim would be found and then the next…
No one would complain about this state of affairs. Filled with fear, I ran back quickly to the cell and crawled into a corner between the bed and the wall with a comforter over me. The shrieks and shouts mixed with slogans would sometimes appear near and sometimes further again. My mouth was dry and I was awaiting the attack. Then I heard a voice:
She's unconscious. Her teeth are broken, let her go.
It's enough for tonight. Say Allah-Akbar and Go back to your cells.
When the calls of Allah-Akbar subsided, I heard the voice of my cellmates and came out from under my cover. They were both chalk-white. A deadly silence persisted. The main corridor of the cellblock had turned to scenes of street clashes. A few were scattered all over the place bloodied and bruised. No one dared get close to them. One had broken teeth and was unconscious. After a while Pasdars came in.
What's going on?
We disciplined those who resist.
It was Zahra who reported. They took the unconscious one to the clinic, but the injured ones were sent to their cells.
Qesaas [Law of Talion]
The courtyard of the prison was big and charming. The flowers were designed quite beautifully and orderly in little gardens, and a fountain showed itself off in the middle of a quaint little pool at the center of the courtyard. There were some laundry lines at the back of the yard where we would hang our cloths to dry. Underwear of course had to be covered up. On one end of the courtyard, adjacent to the cells of the women's sections, another row of windows opened that were rumored to be those of Resisting-men, who had been there since '83 until now ('87) under interrogation and ideological pressure and yet had stood their ground. From the perspective of women-prisoners, these were exceptional human beings and secretly enjoyed much awe and respect. The other end of the courtyard was connected to the bureaucratic headquarters of the Sepah and the police.
One evening it was announced that all should go with Chador and masks down to the courtyard. One of my worried cellmates climbed on the bed to check out the courtyard from the window above.
The police agents.
What does that mean?
It means painful things. It means psychological torture.
What are you talking about?
There are also non-political prisoners at 'Adelabad. They took us to the courtyard in the same way a few months ago. They had placed a table in the middle of the yard with a box under it. They told us to stand all around the courtyard so that we could all see the table in the middle. Then they brought a thin, yellow and miserable looking man who had his hand handcuffed to the hand of a policeman. The man reached the table slowly. The policeman opened the handcuffs. We were all holding our breath. Then another policeman declared to us loudly and using a bullhorn: On the charge of theft, Mr. So and So has been sentenced to have his hands cut off, and this sentence is to be carried out here and now. Meanwhile the Pasdars made sure that no one looked away. I felt like I was watching a movie. I couldn't believe it. They put the man's hand on the table, read some Qur'an and then cut the man's hand with a small axe. Then came a thundering scream. Immediately afterwards they dipped the wrists in hot oil. A few of the prisoners completely lost it. Many were just stunned. But some of the repenters called out Allah-Akbar.
Listening to this story turned my stomach and I began to despise the beautiful flower-studded courtyard. An hour passed. I decided not to go to the courtyard, come what may. Others went down with Chadors. I couldn't sit still. Finally I took refuge to the shower room, turned on the water and stayed under it for quite a while.
Then suddenly the sound of footsteps brought me back. I thought it's the Pasdars, but couldn't react. It turned out however that it was my cellmate. I blankly looked at her until she said:
Come out, they didn't perform the sentence. It has been delayed.
Got out of the shower and put my cloths on with great difficulty. Was shaking and felt cold. Took a pill to calm down and threw myself on a side of the bed.
The next day the president of the 'Adelabad prison called for me. In his office he read off a list of rules and regulations of the prison and asked me if I was prepared to follow these regulations. Reporting on others was part of the deal. I said no. Then he threatened me some and finally sent me back. The same afternoon they called my name over the loudspeaker and said for me to gather all my belongings. First I was scared, but thought to myself let come what may. Slowly gathered my belongings and took my leave from my friends. I just didn't have the power to face Zohreh. In tears and nervously, she said goodbye to me, adding
I hope it's Evin.
Return to Evin
A car with the Sepahe Pasdaran emblem was awaiting us. They took me along with three male prisoners to the " Shiraz Committee for Drugs and Illicit Things." I spent the night in the jail of the committee and in the morning they flew me back to Tehran.
Evin valley was green and delightful. Gentle spring weather was bringing back dormant feelings. My Sahar would turn four this year. I wished I was with her, could hold her. I was happy to know that her hands were being held by kind hands. I was handed over to the warden's office of Evin. I entered the building. My nightmare was over.
Source: The Magazine Noghteh, 6, 1996, p.9.