“We Will Make You Love the Regime [of the Islamic Republic] Before You Leave this Prison”
I, Alireza Firuzi, was born on September 21, 1989 in the town of Fasa, Shiraz.
This statement is true to the best of my knowledge and belief. Except where I indicate to the contrary, I make this statement on the basis of facts and matters within my own knowledge. Where the facts and matters in this statement are within my own knowledge they are true. Where the facts and matters are not within my own knowledge, I have identified the source or sources of my information and I believe such facts to be true.
I was born in Fasa (Shiraz) and lived there until I came to Tehran to attend high school. In 2007, I was accepted to Zanjan University where I studied Physics for one semester, was suspended, and subsequently expelled.
I was interested in politics early on, due to my family situation. When I was twelve years old, I started working at the Shirin Scientific Center Observatory and because of that, I was in direct contact with parliamentarians, city council members, the municipality, and other governmental organs. I was also an avid reader of newspapers and would obtain information from individuals who were older than I, and I would become familiar with current events. The event that got me very interested in politics was when in 2005, if I’m not mistaken, one of my friends who was under 18, was convicted of unintentional murder and sentenced to death. Fortunately, he was released about a year and a half ago, by paying a 300 million Touman Dieh.
I started blogging in early 2007 and wrote mostly about human rights and historical issues, particularly issues related to Iranian history. My blog was filtered just prior to my getting accepted to the university, and a case was initiated against me. The story was that in June 2007, if I’m not mistaken, President Ahmadinejad had travelled to one of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf to attend a meeting, and had sat right under a poster with the caption “Arabian Gulf” and a picture of him had been taken, which was censored by the Iranian news agencies. I published the real uncensored picture in my blog. That’s when my blog was filtered and I was summoned to Ershad Court (Back then, the Computer Crimes Section had not yet been established as an independent entity). An attorney friend told me not to go until after I had been accepted to the university, since the case could potentially become a criminal record and prevent me from attending college.
It was around the same time in 2007 that I started working semi-professionally for a number of newspapers in Tehran. Around February 2008, I became the head of the photo section of Ferdowsi Magazine, a literary, cultural, political, and social publication, where I worked with Behzad Mehrani, Ahmad Batebi, Mojtaba Sami’nejad, Sheida Jahanbin, and a number of other people.
I started working with Human Rights Activists (HRA) when I first began attending university, and headed HRA’s Publications Section. Human Rights Activists was not a legal entity but was not considered illegal either, since it was simply conducting human rights activities and did not deal with or have anything to do with the government. I was also editor of HRA’s Khat e Solh (Line of Peace) which was an electronic publication and came out a few times prior to my arrest. I was mostly active in HRA’s students section and execution of children under 18 and followed up on those issues, as well as interviewing and contacting political prisoners.
Events Leading to the First Arrest
Once I started college, I became a member of the Islamic Student Association of Zanjan University, and a member of Tahkim Vahdat (“Strengthening Unity”) General Council. We organized a number of gatherings that had not been authorized after President Khatami’s era. For instance, we invited Mr. Musavi Lari [former Minister of Intelligence] and Mr. Kalhor who was Mr. Ahmadinejad’s adviser. We obtained authorization for the Islamic Student Association so that it could lawfully conduct its activities; we also started a publication and continued to write for other [university] publications, all of which had led to a more open environment at the University in 2007.
In June 2008, Mr. Madadi, University Vice President for Student Affairs and head of the University’s Disciplinary Committee, had propositioned a female student and had threatened her with expulsion and informing her parents that she had a boyfriend, if she refused to be with him. The female student came to us and, because we had heard similar stories, we informed [university] Security and the University President, but nothing came of it. June 5th was the last time we drew Security’s attention to the situation, which, incidentally, was during the final exams period. On June 13, Mr. Madadi had told the female student that she was to go to his office, which she hadn’t done. Mr. Madadi had then proceeded to go to the girls dormitory and to the student’s room (which is very strange [and uncommon] in Iran) and told her that if she didn’t go to his office the next day, he would report her to the Disciplinary Committee and would tell her parents that she had a boyfriend. He had made it clear that she was to be with him or what he was telling her would most definitely happen. She made an appointment for 6 PM the next day and so informed us. On the 14, when the female student walked into Mr. Madadi’s office, I along with 7 or 8 other students, followed her in, the video of which was published on the internet. We immediately called Security, which came and took him away. However, due to the University President’s lack of respect toward the students when talking to them, we began a four-day university-wide sit-in, which caused the closing of the University for a Week and the postponement of exams. On morning of the fourth day, Ansar e Hezbollah forces which were outside the University, attacked the campus and tried to arrest the students, which they were not able to do due to the large number of students (3 or 4 thousand.) The Zanjan Governor, as well as Dr. Nasiri, a university Professor and Zanjan Member of Parliament, came on the campus and made certain promises, including, none of us would be prosecuted, Mr. Madadi would be arrested, and the university president would be replaced. We subsequently stopped the sit-in and later learned that Mr. Madadi had been under arrest for a few days. However, toward the end of July, we learned that the arrest of student activists, including Bahram Vahedi (then-Secretary of the Islamic Student Association of Zanjan University) and Surena Hashemi, had begun. After Mr. Vahedi’s arrest in late July, I did not go home and went into hiding for about 6-7 months to avoid arrest. During this time, I went to the university a number of times to register for courses but was never allowed to do so. I hurried out of the university every time, for fear of being arrested by the Information people. I could not register online either because they would not allow me access to the site: They had banned me from continuing my education without any kind of due process; no Disciplinary Committee, nothing, completely illegally. They never gave me anything in writing; they would simply say it’s an order from higher up. I later found out that the Zanjan Province Security Council and Zanjan Province Information Administration had written a letter to the University stating that we were banned from continuing our education. This Security Council is set up for special security cases ranging from political gatherings to even floods and earthquakes, and depending on the case, for example a university-related case, there are representatives from the Information Ministry, Basij, and the University. On one occasion when I had gone to the university to enroll (I would go every semester I was not in prison) they had brought my file from the records bureau; the files are kept in a nylon bag and are sealed. Fortunately, my file had inadvertently been left open and when I looked inside I saw that letter.
It was around March that my friends were given notice of their court date. I was still in hiding. The authorities had gone to my house a number of times in order to give notice of the court date but my family had said that they did not know my whereabouts. The authorities had therefore declared me “missing” and had published the notice to appear in court in the newspaper. Of course, I found out not through the papers but through my friends. It was around the end of February that I went to the court, knowing they would not arrest me because it was too close to the trial date, and I found out about the seven charges against me, including Acting Against National Security through Illegal Gathering, Spreading Propaganda against the Islamic Republic, Agitating the Public Mind, Spreading and Publishing Lies, Disrupting University’s Order, Insulting State Figures and University Authorities and other charges.
First Court Appearance and First Detention
The first court session took place on March 11, 2009 which I did not attend. I was represented by my attorneys Messrs. Dadkhah and Ra’isian. Mr. Dadkhah was allowed to present his defense for four hours. However, since all charges had not been addressed, a second session was scheduled for April 6, 2009. Toward the end of March, early April, I was contacted by phone and told that I had to go to the Zanjan Revolutionary Court to provide certain explanations. I told them that I was travelling and could not go right then; they said to come when I returned after the Nowruzholidays. I went to the court on April 3 because I thought that since I had not attended the first session, I would surely get arrested if I did not go the second one. I also thought that since the second session was to be held on April 6, that they wouldn’t arrest me because of the closeness of the session. Also, since I knew what had transpired at the first session; I knew what to say and what not to say. However, they had re-opened my blogging case and that’s why I was immediately arrested. I was incarcerated for about 15 days. During that time I was interrogated only once, on the first day of detention. I was then transferred to the general ward of Zanjan Prison. I was in the youth ward and the military ward at first. There were six or seven individuals in my cell who were there for murder, if I’m not mistaken, two or three others for assault and battery, and another two for theft and pick pocketing.
It was right before the elections and all the political groups had become active. My arrest was getting widespread coverage. The judge in charge of my case had told my mother: “We ran after Alireza for six or seven months and couldn’t catch him. Now it’s your turn to run for six, seven months until we free him.”
Toward the end of April when I was still in prison, Mr. Karubi[one of the presidential candidates who is currently under house arrest] had come to Zanjan University and the students had put my pictures up and had talked to him about me. He knew me because I had met with him a number of times, either on behalf of the Islamic Student Association or Human Rights Activists, to discuss students banned from continuing their education and execution of children under 18. He had gone to the court to ask to visit me but was not given permission to do so.
Due to the publicity surrounding my case and subsequent to Mr. Karubi’s attempted visit, bail was set in my case in the amount of 200 million Toumans. My family posted my father’s home as bail and I was released.
Order of the Court
Subsequent to the second court session, we received the court’s decision in the middle of that summer: I had been condemned to one year and four months imprisonment.
Second Arrest and Detention
Ten days after my release, that is, on May 1, 2009, I was arrested again on the street. I was planning to attend Astronomy Day which had coincided with May Day and they thought that was my reason for being out and they arrested me. I was taken to Evin Prison’s solitary confinement ward 240 for about 20 days and was interrogated regarding the Zanjan University affair only, not about May Day at all. I would tell them that that case had been closed and that they could not question me about it, to which they would reply that even though they had arrested me for May Day, they felt like interrogating me regarding the Zanjan University events.
I was not allowed to have any phone contact with my family, neither were they allowed to visit me. Even though I was under a lot of pressure, I was only nineteen years old and the experience of my previous detention had made me kind of strong and I was able to withstand the pressure. I was much more resistant than my next arrests.
Most of the time there were only one or at most two interrogators, who interrogated me about Zanjan University. Most days, the interrogations would take 2 to 3 hours, but there were a couple of days that I was interrogated from morning till the evening.
Twice, however, I was interrogated by four or five people concerning my contacts and relations with various people, from Mr. Tabarzadi to Mr. Hafez Musavi, the contemporary poet, and Mr. Seyed Ali Salehi. They were mainly trying to collect information and not really open a new case. They would interrogate me from 8 or 9 in the morning until 5 or 6 in the evening. At times they would come in together, other times, separately. Sometimes all five interrogators would question me for half an hour to an hour, then leave and come back an hour later, three of them. I was blindfolded of course, and was not allowed to take my blindfold off. One of them had a ring that he would hit me on the head with. I would scream at him that he had no right to beat me and he would continue hitting me. And I would go on screaming! Their questions were mainly about my student activities, my blog, Zanjan University, my connections, my uncle, as well as my friends inside the prison such as the late Farzad Kamangar, and I would not tell them anything.
The food was very bad at ward 240, so much so that I lost about 4 kilos (10 pounds) in the 18-20 days I was detained there.
Upon my release on May 21, 2009, I continued my work with HRA but I was threatened a number of times that same summer. These were all phone threats, saying for instance, that if I went to the University, or continued my work with HRA, or went out on demonstrations, they would arrest me. I did go to some of the demonstrations, but my main focus was to publish the news on the HRA website. Also, every time I would go to the University to follow up on my situation, they would call my family and would tell them to tell me to return to Tehran and not remain in Zanjan.
Third Arrest and Detention
On January 2, 2010, I was arrested in Orumieh, along with Surena Hashemi. We were attempting to flea Iran. We had just arrived at Orumieh bus depot and were the last two to get off the bus, when two individuals approached and asked if we were Alireza Firuzi and Surena Hashemi. We said yes, and that’s when one of them put a Colt to our heads from behind and told us to get in the car. We later found out that they had threatened the bus driver and told him not to mention to anyone what had happened. They blindfolded us and took us to a secure building in Orumieh, which was not far from the depot, maybe 5 minutes away. It was the Revolutionary Guards’ building known as the White Building. It was an empty house as far as I could tell by peaking from under my blindfold, covered only by carpet, and I felt that it was only used for occasional interrogation purposes. It wasn’t a prison, there were no guard rails on the windows. It was a house: They took us to the third floor, told us to take our shoes off, and took us each to a different room.
We asked them what they wanted but they didn’t answer. They forced us to take our clothes off. Then they threw us on the floor and proceeded to beat us on the head, kick us, and hit us with their rifle. They beat us hard. There were three or four people but I couldn’t tell anymore, since they were beating me very hard. One would kick me in the head; the other would hit me with his rifle. One of them tried to hit me in the groin a few times; I would crumple up to prevent that, at which point he would step on my groin and push hard. All I could do was scream. They kept asking us if we were armed.
Then they proceeded to interrogate us. This was after the events of Ashura 88 [in which a number of protestors were run over by security forces vehicles] and they kept telling us that we were the ones that had insulted [the Leader of the Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei and the President] and that they would execute us. They beat us and questioned us from 8 in the morning till around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and insisted that we write that we intended to leave Iran, which we wouldn’t do. The interrogator then wrote [this confession] and forced me to sign it. They took us back to Tehran that same afternoon and, while beating us, inadvertently told us that they were [Revolutionary] Guards Information agents (since I kept asking them who they were, and wanted to get them to allow me to contact my family) and could do whatever they pleased. They took us straight to Evin Prison Ward 2-A, which was under the control of the Information Section of the Revolutionary Guards. It was around 2 or 3 in the morning and I had been beaten the entire day, when the guard came and took me from my cell to the interrogation room.
The interrogator told me something to the effect that: “Every detention you’ve had so far has been a joke. Here, we will detain you in such a way that when you leave here, you will love the system [of the Islamic Republic.]” Right then I remembered George Orwell’s 1984, which said, we don’t kill you here, we’ll make you love Big Brother, then we release you. The interrogator told me that no one would beat me there, and that I would be treated with respect, and to let him know if there was anything I needed, to which I replied that I needed a doctor because of the beatings I took and that I wanted to lodge a complaint against those who had beaten me. The result was that I was not allowed to see a doctor for 25 days until all my wounds had healed. My left ear had bled, and hurt so badly that I couldn’t sleep on my left side. There were no mirrors there and I only saw those injuries and the ones on my face after scrubbing the sink and seeing my reflection in it.
They had opened all my emails and that’s how they knew I was going to Orumieh. They had arrested a very close friend of mine Hossein Ronaqi Maleki, with whom I was involved in human rights activities through HRA, about 20 days earlier and hacked his computer and had then hacked the other emails including mine. I was in complete contact with Hossein since 2006-2007 through our work with HRA.
Conditions of Detention
Ward 2-A is different than all other prisons in that there is no contact with the outside world, it is not under the supervision of the Prisons Organization, and is completely independent from the rest of Evin Prison. All traffic is through the main door in 2-A’s own vehicles, that is, no prisoner is brought in through the main gate, nor are they released through the main gate. Their prisoners go in and out in their own vehicles through the main door until the ward itself, and when they release them, they take them outside and let them out wherever they please. It’s a completely illegal detention center.
The first month, I was in a 6ft by 6ft cell in which I could hardly fit, with a 2-3 meter ceiling that a light that was always on. We were not allowed to make a sound, touch anything, or ask for anything. In Ward 2-A, no one is called by their name, everyone has a number. The guard would call my number, I was not allowed to say a word, and was blindfolded until I returned to my cell. I didn’t hear sound. The walls were very thick and no sound could be heard from another cell. If we wanted something there was a piece of cardboard that we would leave under the door for the guard to see to take us to the toilet. If he didn’t see it, we were not allowed to knock on the door; if we did, we would be insulted and beaten and would never get to the toilet or bath. The food was good, though. But since I exercised in my room, I would get hungry all the time and when I wanted to buy food the interrogator wouldn’t let me. And the interrogator also determined the number of cigarettes I could buy. Sleeping was not easy, though. At night, in order to fall asleep I would read the Koran, the only book that was there, without my reading glasses because they wouldn’t give them to me, which exerted a lot of pressure on my eyes. When I didn’t wear my glasses, I would get a severe headache after half an hour or an hour of reading, and I would keep reading until and my eyes would tear up and get tired then I would be able to fall asleep. And then I would wake up and read the Koran again.
The biggest pressure they put on us was that they would not let us call our families and they would always give us the run around. On the 17th or the 18th day of detention, they moved me to a cell off a hallway and after a few hours, I heard people from two other cells talking very slowly to each other. I gave them my information and a non-political friend of mine’s phone number and told them to inform him that we had been kidnapped and that Hossein was in prison with us. Two or three days later, one of the guards realized that we were talking. That night I was beaten with an electric rod, kicked and slapped. He wanted to know what we were talking about. So I started yelling in a loud voice, so that those other guys could hear what I was saying, because none of those people were there for political reasons; they had either put a comment on the internet or written something insignificant. They had never been detained and so they did not know what to say in such circumstances, contrary to myself and Surena, who, even though we had no contact with each other, we had the experience of previous arrests in common and knew what to say and what not to say. I told the guard in a loud voice that we had just started talking and that I did not know who the other guy was, so the guy to whom I had given the information would know; he was to be released in four days. And every answer I gave, I received a kick or a slap in the face. I did not say a thing but the next day, the interrogators had taken that kid and had beaten him, and he had confessed everything. That’s when they took me for interrogation and beat me for, I don’t know, 15 minutes, half an hour, with everything they could get their hands on. When one of them proceeded to interrogate me, he told me exactly what I had said and that was when I realized that my resistance had been futile and that the other guy had told them everything we had talked about. I had to admit to what we had talked about. I was more worried for him than for myself because I knew I would not be released anytime soon and I knew that they would keep that poor kid in there for a long time too. I later found out that a week after my first phone call to my family when the news of my whereabouts had been published, they had released him, that is just prior to Nowruz 89 (March 2010.)
The interrogations continued, sometimes for 3 or 4 or 5 hours a day. They would ask me about my emails, my contacts, about everything. Certain things I would take a stand on and would not let them get into or be insulting, such as my private relations, my family relations, and my friends. But they would bring my hacked emails and ask me about them. Another thing that bothered me was that they stopped the interrogations for twenty some days which was really scary. When you’re in solitary, the only thing that you appreciate is when they come and take you to be interrogated because you don’t talk to absolutely anyone, especially in a place like Ward 2-A. You’re in a six feet by nine feet cell, with a nine foot ceiling, a Koran, if they decide to let you have one, and three blankets. They take to the toilet three times a day, blindfolded. They take you to the Ward 2-A yard twice a day for ten minutes, blindfolded. You don’t talk to anyone, you have nothing to do, you don’t hear as und, not a sound. From the moment they take you out of your cell until they take you back, you’re blindfolded and that makes you hungry for talking. I preferred to be beaten than to be alone. There was a Koran in my cell and I must have read it six times during those 17-18 days they did not interrogate me.
After that almost 20-day period, I had a thirst for talking! At interrogations, I would start talking about the things I wanted to talk and would go on and on. I would recite poetry, for instance, for hours, and when they would question me, I would tell them that I wanted to continue reciting. Since they were the Guards Information section, I knew that they only had access to my emails and not my phone calls, and my instinct was not wrong and it turned out that they only had access to my emails. So I would only tell them about the people with whom I had contact through email, and only about the fact of having had contact with them, nothing more.
My biggest worry was that my family didn’t know where I was and my even more major concern was that around the 30th-40th day, I realized that they wanted to catch all of the HRA people. They started pressuring me and telling me to contact my family through Skype and tell them I had left Iran, which I refused to do. This continued for a few weeks, until March 3, when they arrested 52 of my friends, including my uncle, for their activities with HRA and brought them to Ward 2-A.
Their main goal was to find a way to condemn us to long prison sentences and one of the ways they tried to do this was to connect us to the Mojahedin Organization. But it was clear from my writings that I had no contact with them whatsoever, and that, in fact, I considered them a terrorist organization and not at all an opposition group. I had received an email from them saying that the president of Iran’s resistance, Ms. Rajavi wanted to talk to me directly (after the events of Zanjan University,) to which I had answered respectfully, that I considered their organization a terrorist organization and that she was, not only not elected by the Iranian people, she had been selected. There was a particular sentence in that email which went something to the effect that, I kiss Ali Khamenei’s hand and all his crimes, but I’m not willing to have the Mojahedin in Iran for a single day, because they would commit much worse atrocities. So when my interrogator showed this to me, I asked him why he hadn’t shown that to me before, to which he responded that it would be worse for me because I had insulted the Leader [of the revolution.] I told him that I would rather be convicted of the latter because the prison sentence for insulting the leader is six months to three years but for contact with Mojahedin, it’s six years to execution!
They would also pressure me in other ways, for example asking me why I didn’t pray. One of the interrogators once put a question to me in writing to that effect, to which I responded that they were not allowed to ask me that, because legally, that was considered inquisition into my beliefs. During the period I was in solitary, about 68 days, I was interrogated more than 25 times.
In March 2010, about two and a half months after my arrest, I ended up being in a cell with Surena. After 25 days, they allowed me a doctor’s visit, who prescribed pills for my stomach problems and for my nerves. I had major stomach problems which were compounded by the very poor quality of prison water. It was around the same time that my kidney problems started and after I was transferred to Evin prison, kidney stones and my kidney problems really did me in. I passed two kidney stones, once about a month after I had been in jail, and the second one on the morning I was being released. I was also prescribed Xanax for my sleep issues, which they administered during the day, and had gotten to 5 or 6 pills a day around the end of my incarceration. They would readily prescribe pills to calm the nerves but not the ones that treat anxiety and relax you, such as Floxitin and Citalopram.
On the 68th or the 69th day, the interrogator allowed us to call our families for the first time, and it was then that I learned that my uncle and Hossein had also been arrested. There are public phones in the wards that require phone cards. The interrogator or the guard would insert the card, dial the number, and hand us the phone. He would then stand there and listen to the entire conversation. We were not allowed to stay on the phone for more than five minutes, nor were we allowed to talk about our case or where and in what conditions we were being kept. Even if we said we were not doing well, they would cut off the phone. We had to say: “I’m fine. Are you OK? I’m eating well, don’t worry about me, I’ll be free soon.” That’s about the extent of it! I could ask how my father or my brother was doing, how things were going at home. I was never authorized to tell them I was being kept in 2-A.
During the last month and a half of detention, Hossein and I were in the same cell and Surena had been released. They separated Surena and me before Nowruz and put me up with two Baha’i friends, Sama Nurani and Ighan Shahidi, who are still in jail as we speak. One of the interrogators asked if I had any problems with being in the same cell as Baha’is. When I asked him why I would have any problems he said: “Well, because they’re filthy and impure. Some people are sensitive about that.” I said I was fine with it and so he sent me to their cell. After a while, the interrogator told me that Hossein was there. He had also informed Hossein of my presence in the prison, and, seeing how we had insisted on being in the same cell, and given the fact that there was not much else that we could say to each other that was of any relevance to them (or so they thought) we ended up in the same cell. Hossein’s case was different than mine, of course, because he was the founder of Iran Proxy Group and his charge was very important. Even then, he was suffering from kidney problems but not like today. It wasn’t that bad. One of the factors that adversely affected his condition was the water at Evin Prison.
It was after I was put in the same cell with Hossein, around March 28 or 29, that I learned my uncle’s phone privileges had been taken away and I therefore went on a hunger strike. Four days after I began my hunger strike, the interrogator informed me, in the interrogation room, that my uncle had been allowed to make a phone call. After I got in touch with my family and learned that that had actually been the case, I ended my strike.
The last two months of detention they put tremendous pressure on me to do a television interview. They wanted me to say things about the case that were not true, and to that end, they used different means: Sometimes they’d say that they would close my and my uncle’s files. Other times they would tell me to tell the truth about what I had done, to which I would respond that I had done nothing illegal. Or they would say: “Admit that Ahmad Batebi was with the Mojahedin but you didn’t know.” Why would I say such a thing when you haven’t been able to prove that to me. I will say what I’ve done but I will also say what you’ve done to me.” This back and forth went on for about a month. They put me in front of the camera a couple of times but each time, I would refuse to say what they wanted me to. I would make mistakes, talk about things that had nothing to do with the subject at hand, and all in all, they weren’t able to get even 5 seconds of worthwhile footage. I knew that doing the interview would only worsen my situation and was just an unnecessary burden to bear.
The pressure and the interrogations continued as before until, if I’m not mistaken, May or June 13 (I really don’t remember) 2010, when I was freed by posting bail. My uncle was released about a month and a half later. My case was referred to Revolutionary Court Branch 26.
Prior to this last detention and subsequent to the events of 2009, a list comprising the names of a hundred and some bloggers, I among them, was submitted by the Ministry of Guidance to newspapers and news agencies, warning them that those individuals are not allowed to be employed. What I told my interrogators was that if they wanted me to leave them alone, they should allow me to work at a non-political newspaper, that I would have nothing to do with them and they would have nothing to do with me. That was how I was able to go back to work at Asia Newspaper.
Subsequently, I obtained a letter from the Ministry of Higher Education’s General Inspection Office, stating that they (the Office) were to be informed of the reasons why I was not allowed to take courses. I took the letter to the University and a couple of weeks later went to the University President and the vice president for student affairs and they authorized me to register for courses. I took courses and studied that semester, Fall of 2010, and the following semester.
Decision of the Court of Appeals
I had appealed the decision of the Zanjan Court, sentencing me to a total of two years and ten months imprisonment. Two years and ten months later the decision of the Court of Appeals was two years suspended imprisonment and six months imprisonment to be served. The Court Decisions Implementation Bureau of Zanjan Prison summoned me in May 2011 to serve those six months, and no matter how much I begged to go to jail after the exams, they didn’t budge and simply said I could take the exams in prison.
Fourth Detention and Prison Conditions
I obtained the necessary permission from Zanjan Prison to serve my sentence at Evin Prison, which I did, but contrary to what they had said and had a legal obligation to do, they did not allow me to take the exams and I was officially dropped that semester.
At Evin, they transferred me to Ward 8 which was reserved for financial criminals. However, after a month, all the prisoners who had revolted at Qezel Hesar and Rajai’ Shahr prisons, were brought to Tehran and into Ward 8, and financial prisoners were transferred to Ward 4. The result was that I was kept with hoodlums. Now imagine 300 individuals being kept in a prison ward with a capacity of 110! Half of the prisoners, including me, were sleeping on the floor in the hallway for two and a half to three months, a blanket under us and one on top. There simply wasn’t room; all the cells were full, all the beds were full, and people were literally sleeping on top of one another.
After the financial prisoners were transferred out, the conditions in Ward 8 became truly frightening. There were fights every day, and there were people in my cell who used illegal drugs on a regular basis; how those drugs actually got into prison, no one knows, but they were there and in large quantities. At Evin, it isn’t the authorities who bring the drugs in; it is incoming prisoners or prisoners coming back from leave that smuggle them in using different methods. In other prisons, as recounted to me by other prisoners (I have not been in Qezel Hesar or Gohardasht prisons, for instance,) it is the prison authorities themselves who bring the drugs in, but I never saw such a thing at Evin.
There were always fights over food too. Hot water would constantly get cut off, sometimes for two or three weeks in a row. Evin water is frightfully cold and impossible to shower with. Even cold water was cut off for a few days. Due to the large number of prisoners, certain illnesses would spread that would linger and not go away. One of those, which the prisoners had named “prison fever,” which both Surena and I caught for two months, was a strange sickness the main cause of which was the pollution of the prison environment. The fever would go away and I would feel well in the morning, and it would come back again early evening until the following morning. Medical care was practically non-existent and the conditions of the ward itself were catastrophic: Addicts and crack heads, fights every day, people transferred to the clinic or the hospital for having been severely beaten. One or two people died due to lack of medical care; I’m sure about one person but I don’t remember whether the other one who was transferred to the hospital made it or not.
This was the situation from June to October 2011. We complained a few times: we wrote letters to prison authorities (I was allowed to write to the warden from inside the prison,) our families pursued the matter with the Revolutionary Court and any other authority they could, we even threatened to do interviews with various networks and tell them about the conditions, but nothing came of any of it and the situation remained the same in the ward. I went to Evin Prison’s Security Prosecutor, Mr. Rasht Ahmadi and described the conditions. I told him that even though I knew about Ward 350, which is a security ward, and the conditions there (such as not having phone privileges,) I would rather be there than in Ward 8. I did not get a response.
At some point a news piece was published in Shargh Newspaper and some government news agencies, that 105 individuals, including Surena and me, had been pardoned, even though we had not made such a request. A couple of government news agencies put out the news around eight or nine in the evening, that we had been released. Our families were roaming around the prison walls all night to find us, but the news was, of course, untrue: Sixty of those 105 people, who were complete unknowns, were freed, but none of the political activists. They do this type of thing willfully for propaganda purposes.
After that, due to the pressure exerted from the outside by our families, we were taken to the Deputy Security Prosecutor, Investigations Branch 2 for Security at Evin Prison, who told us to submit a request in writing stating that our case was security related and that we wished to be transferred to Ward 350, which we did. Still no response; they simply said they would consider it and will let us know.
One of the most routine occurrences in prison general wards is that you submit a weekly request for leave, which we always did, and, one day, we saw our names on the board. Both my and Surena’s name were there; our families had been able to secure a one month leave for us, which was renewed after we had gone on leave, and, at the expiration of which, we were freed. The result was that we spent the last month of our sentence on leave.
By order of the Ministry of Higher Education, I was expelled from the University. The Ministry had decided to expel me and would not allow me to register for classes. No decision was ever communicated to me; they simply called me once to tell me to go the Ministry’s Disciplinary Committee, and that was when they informed me that I had been expelled. When I asked the reason, they said it was confidential and that if I had any objections I should submit them in writing, to which I replied: “First I have to see the order in order to write an objection to it!” They refused to show it to me. I therefore wrote: “Even though I have not seen the decision and do not know its content, since I was not present at the Disciplinary Committee meeting, this decision is illegal and I therefore object to it.” Later they said that the decision had been confirmed and that I was expelled from the University.
In February 2012, the person who had posted bail for me was informed that my Court Order had been confirmed and I was to go to the Security Orders Implementation Bureau of Evin Prison. My attorney followed up on the case to find out what was going on and it became clear that the legal process had not been observed. Legally, in Iran, notice of a court order must be officially communicated three times to the accused, and three times to the person posting bail. Then the collateral is confiscated. None of these steps had been taken, that is, a week after the decision in my case had been confirmed by the Court of Appeals, the order had been communicated to the person who had posted bail and had therefore reached the final stage, which was, either I went to prison or the collateral would be confiscated. The court order was two and a half years imprisonment and two years suspended sentence, which had been reinstated for a total of four and a half years. In those circumstances where I had only been released four months prior, was working again (even though I had been expelled from the University,) I had registered for classes outside the University, and my life was going back to normal, neither I nor my family possessed the mental capability and patience of enduring another four or four and a half years of prison. That is why I decided to leave Iran, which I did on February 14, 2012.
 "The Islamic law of Dieh (literally meaning "blood money") is financial compensation for death or injury, paid by one who has caused injury to the injured person, or, by one who has caused death, to the victim's heirs or next of kin."
 A semi-independent, democratically elected student organization.
 A government-controlled militia organization.