Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses

Inherited Persecution: A Son Punished For His Mother’s Political Activism

Seyed Ali Hosseindust Taleshani/ABF interview and translation
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
January 2, 2015


My name is Seyed Ali Hosseindust Taleshani. I was born on March 15, 1981, in the city of Rasht.

I was arrested a total of three times in Iran. Once, in 2003, on the anniversary of the July 9, 1999, [student demonstrations]; the second time in 2009-10, before and after the 2009 presidential election events; and the last time, in 2010, on the charge of insulting the Supreme Leader.


Family Background and its consequences

Before the [Islamic] Revolution, my entire family supported the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) and, naturally, opposed the government after the Revolution as well. When the arrests and executions began in 1980-81, some members of my family left the country, and some

When I finished high school, I took the university entrance exam, and I obtained a good ranking. Because of my family’s background, however, I was not admitted

others were arrested for being members of the MKO and were ultimately executed. For instance, my uncle (my mother’s brother) Habib Chavoshi, was executed by firing squad in December 1981 in Rasht. I was only nine months old at the time, so I do not remember anything about his execution. However, as time went by, and as problems arose for my family, I understood how everything had happened.

My mother had obtained the necessary tailor’s license from an institute, issued by the tailors’ union in 1980-81. When we lived in Rasht, she had illegally opened a tailor shop in the basement of the house we were renting, because the Amaken (“Business Locales”) Administration would not issue her a business permit, due to her prison record and her family’s background. She was, therefore, operating the tailor shop illegally in order to make ends meet. After a while, however, Amaken found out about the shop and, since we did not have a permit, they closed it down.

When I finished high school, I took the university entrance exam, and I obtained a good ranking. Because of my family’s background, however, I was not admitted [to the university]. Five of my friends, who had taken the exam at the same time as I, were admitted. In fact, when we were choosing our majors, we had to fill out a form/questionnaire where they asked

Unfortunately, we were faced with the same problem as before and were not able to obtain a business permit in Tehran, either

about our family and our views. One of the questions was, “Is anyone in your family a member of the anti-regime and Mohareb (“waging war against God”) organizations?” to which I answered in the affirmative. Telling the truth resulted in me not getting into college. I never followed up afterward to find out why I had not been admitted, but, gradually, I found out that many individuals, like myself, whose families were politically engaged, and, particularly, involved with the MKO, had not been able to enter college.

After the closure of the tailor shop and not getting into college, the family decided to move to Tehran. Unfortunately, we were faced with the same problem as before and were not able to obtain a business permit in Tehran, either. Ultimately, with the help of a friend who was the child of a [political] prisoner in the 1980’s, we secretly opened a clothing manufacturing shop in a basement. In addition to that, I started installing satellite dishes, which was illegal as well.


Pre-arrest Activities

Our coming to Tehran coincided with the events of the Tehran University dormitories in 1999. I met some students who had weekly meetings concerning [then-President] Khatami’s performance and other similar issues. These meetings took place every week at a different person’s home. I was naturally attracted to these issues, so I joined them. They were students at different universities; there were also two or three people, like myself, who were not students at all. I was the only one in the group that hailed from a political family.

In any case, I continued my activities until the July 9th events. I was not personally involved in the events, but I was transformed afterward. I had a special fervor to continue my activities. I thought sitting idly by was meaningless and that we had to act to overthrow the regime. That was why I participated in political protest programs between 1999 and 2003. We discussed, with my friends, what steps we should take on notable occasions, whether we should participate or not, and what slogans to devise. A number of the guys were arrested during this period.

In July 2003, demonstrations were held in Laleh Park, which ended in violence. Skirmishes began from Daneshgah (“University”) Alley and continued on to Enqelab (“Revolution”) Square. Keshavarz Boulevard was closed off from the south and the authorities did not permit any traffic or movement there. We, therefore, proceeded toward Daneshgah Alley from the street adjacent to Laleh Park, 16 Azar Street. They had brought in considerable force to quash and repress the people. Bassijis attacked people, and the people chanted slogans. I went through the alleys and side streets and got myself to Laleh Park and sat with a family that was already there. The security and police forces that had surrounded the Park attacked at a pre-determined time, arresting the youth and anyone else they deemed suspicious.


Frist arrest in July 2003

Around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., I, too, was arrested by plainclothes individuals and the police. They tied my hands behind my back with plastic cuffs and beat me with clubs.

Women acted very courageously, and a number of girls were also arrested. There was a water distribution plant across the Park with a large open space. With the exception of the girls, we were all taken there (about 1000 to 1500 people) first, and at nightfall, to the detention center. It was dark, and we were so frightened that we didn’t even realize where we were being taken.

First, they took all our personal belongings and threw 400 of us into a detention center that had a capacity of, let’s say, 100 people. The center was a long hall with 5 or 6 rooms on the left and a big metal gate. We spent the next 24 hours there.

On the third day, we were taken without blindfolds into the yard and then to the interrogation room, while being beaten

On the second night, the guys gathered in front of the metal gate and started shouting and asking why they weren’t releasing us. We got tear gas in response. They took away a number of the people who were suffocating as a result.

On the third day, we were taken without blindfolds into the yard and then to the interrogation room, while being beaten. My turn came. There were three plainclothes agents, two of whom were standing. The one who was sitting down wrote the answers I gave to their questions. One agent was standing in front, and the other one behind me. Before asking anything, the agent in front of me forcefully slapped me in the face and started hurling profanities at me. Then [he said], “Why were you making trouble? Who told you to come? What slogans were you chanting?” I said I was just passing through when they arrested me. The other agent then hit me in the side with his elbow which caused me to hit the table. As soon as I hit the table, the guy in front of me punched me in the chest and said, “We’ll bury you right here if you lie.”

It was the first time I had been arrested, and I was very frightened. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I kept saying to myself, “The second I utter the first sentence, it’s over.” So I kept repeating the same answer. The guy behind me kicked me a few times, which made me fall down. The other guy then kicked me when I was [on the floor], one of the kicks hitting me in the chest and two in the head. They lifted me up and slapped me a few more times and told me to get lost. The interrogation session didn’t last more than 30 minutes, and I wasn’t blindfolded.

We were about 400 people. The agents didn’t have time to investigate everything and had no idea who we were. All they wanted to do was scare us. They asked stupid questions and hit us pointlessly. For instance, they asked me what my father’s name was, and when I answered, “Mir Ahmad,” he slapped me in the face.

After the interrogation, they put plastic handcuffs on me and took me back to the yard like the others, and sat me on the ground.

There was no sign of Basijis or plainclothes agents in the yard: only police forces. At the close of the interrogations, they took everyone to Evin Prison on buses and minibuses.

Our food during that period consisted of three Lavash breads with cheese. We had to drink water from the bathroom sink. I must note that they did not return any of our personal effects that they had taken on the first day.

Once we arrived at Evin, we were taken to a building where a bunch of soldiers beat us, with the excuse of making sure everyone stayed quiet. Then another person put handcuffs on everyone and said, “Heads down. I will strangle anyone who makes a sound.”

Inside Evin, there were people from all walks of life, who had been arrested on July 9, 2003: regular people as well as students. People who had heard about the July 9th events from their satellite receivers had joined the students.

It wasn’t long before everyone was transferred to the quarantine, but the quarantine was overcrowded, and there was no room for us all. That same day they vacated Andarzgah[1] 8 (reserved for financial criminals) and transferred some of the people there. I was in a cell that had fourteen beds, and there were thirty of us. I spent fifteen days in quarantine. During that time, they released some of the people, replacing them with newcomers. We were allowed to contact our families while in quarantine, but I didn’t. I was afraid that the phones might be tapped and that my family would say something that would make matters worse.


In ward 209 of Evin Prison

The person in charge of the quarantine was a tall and husky man named Moradi. Whenever he was there he would tell me, “You’re finished.” It was obvious they knew about my family’s background. After 15 days, they told me to gather my things: “You’re free to go.” [Elated], I gave all the things that the guys had bought for me to a newcomer and told them, “I’m gone, guys.” The guards took me straight to take my fingerprints and then put a blindfold on me. In utter disbelief, I asked one of the guards where they were taking me. “To Ward 209,” was his answer.

After 15 days, they told me to gather my things: “You’re free to go.” ...The guards ... put a blindfold on me. In utter disbelief, I asked where they were taking me. “To Ward 209,” was his answer.

I was taken to a one-by-two meter cell in Ward 209. There was a military style blanket on the floor and a sink by the entrance. At the far end of the cell, across from the entrance, there was a yellow aluminum container with holes in it; I thought they might have installed a camera there.

I was very frightened. I thought I would never see the outside ever again. I had heard from my family that there had been individuals from whom there was no news for 10 years, another for fifteen; yet another had been beaten to death.

I was alone in that cell for two hours. Then a man with a prayer-stone mark on his forehead gave me a piece of cloth and told me to put it over my eyes. Blindfolded, I was taken to the interrogation room and made to sit on a wooden bench. The interrogator who was sitting to my left said, “I know your uncle was executed, and another [family member or relative] was killed in the Forugh-e Javidan (“Eternal Light”) [MKO military] operation. Five of your family members have betrayed this country. I’m telling you all this so you don’t lie to me.” Then he asked, “When did you establish contact with the MKO Sar-e Pol? We know they called you and that you were in contact with them. I know you hung out with a bunch of rich kids in a team house and planned the overthrow of the regime.” “I wasn’t involved with the MKO. I don’t even know what Sar-e Pol means. We didn’t have a team at all. That night I was on my way to a friend’s house to borrow some money. That’s why I was going through Laleh Park: to go to the other side of the street, where he lived,” I responded.

It was obvious he was trying to trick me into saying things. I could tell from his behavior that he didn’t know anything about our group. They only knew about my family background and my participation in that night’s gathering.

I spent about fifteen days in Ward 209. I was interrogated every morning for close to eight hours. I was insulted but not beaten. The food in 209 was good. We had twenty-centimeter paper inside the cell on which we could write our request and slip it under the door for the guards to see.


First family visit after one month in detention

After interrogations were over, I was taken to the court building and was able to visit with my mother for half an hour.

My mother was extremely worried, not only because I was her eldest son, but also because of the family’s past history and her memories of my father’s, my uncles’, my aunts’, and her own imprisonment in the 1980’s [and the effect they might have on my situation]. She had made a lot of inquiries and had found out that I was being held at Evin Prison and had been able to secure a visitation.

After the visit, I was taken to the investigating judge to be informed of the charges against me. They put a thick file in front of me ([the file of] my own interrogations was not more than 30 pages) and said, “This is your family’s file, and you might get ten-to-fifteen years if you’re lucky.” “What does my family’s file have to do with me?” I asked. “It is clear to us that you were being supported by the MKO to participate in demonstrations,” they replied. The charges against me were Disruption of Public Order, Insulting the country’s high-ranking officials, and acting against national security. They had nothing on me, other than my family’s background. I had stated in the interrogations that I had not chanted any slogans but had heard what people were chanting. One of the slogans I had written down was: “[Former President] Khatami, get our votes back.”

After the investigation was over, I was taken back to Evin Prison, but this time to Andarzgah 8, and interrogations ended.

I spent nearly 45 days in Andarzgah 8. During that time, I had to participate in Nodbeh and Komeil Prayers (Islamic prayers for specific occasions) like all the other prisoners, at the end of which we had to utter Salavat (“Islamic Praise”) for the Leader, which was a sort of psychological torture for us. Ultimately, I was released on bail after two-and-a-half months, pending trial.

During interrogations, they had obtained my mother’s clothing manufacturing address from me. Four Ministry of Information agents had gone there and told my mother, “We’re from the Ministry of Information. We’ve been told that you’re conducting anti-regime activities here. You don’t have a permit for this place and, if tax agents come here, they will close it down and you will have to pay a penalty. We won’t tell them anything, but they can find out if they want to.” To make a long story short, they had put so much pressure on my mother that she had to close the shop down.


Tried and flogged

After a while, I received a summons from Tehran General Court, Branch 1031, Judge Kashanaki. On the charge of disrupting public order, I was sentenced to pay a 150,000Tuman penalty, which had been modified from jail time, and thirty lashes, which were also modified to a 50,000Tuman penalty because of my youth and lack of criminal record.

My mother ... finally came up with the 150,000 Tumans. But I didn’t have the 50,000 Tumans, and so the flogging sentence was carried out

My mother left no stone unturned and finally came up with the 150,000 Tumans. But I didn’t have the 50,000 Tumans, and so the flogging sentence was carried out.

The day I went to the Sentence Implementation Office, fifteen other people were also there, waiting for their sentence to be carried out. The first person was convicted of a drug-related crime, and I was next. They told me to take my clothes off. Then they implemented the sentence with a woven leather whip. Thirty lashes were given in 10-lash increments at five minute intervals, so that I could feel the pain even more. They hit me so hard that the pain lasted three days, and the scars are still visible on my back after so many years. They then sent me out from another door, without letting me speak to anyone.


Moving to Semnan, wedding, and a new job

After we were forced to close down the shop, my mother was able to find work as a secretary in a company owned by the same person who had helped her start the clothing manufacturing business. That same person found me a job as the technical manager at a cookie production plant, located in [the city of] Semnan’s industrial park. So I moved to Semnan.

From the first week I went to Semnan, people from Setad Khabari (“News Headquarters” affiliated with the Ministry of Information) contacted me and said, “We have your information from Tehran. You have to come to the Headquarters whenever we tell you to.” For the first four months, they summoned me every week, but that changed to once a month. All the questions were repetitive and had to do with my family: “What do you hear from your family? Have they contacted you? What is your uncle up to? What is your father doing?” They knew I was not active.

They continued to exert pressure on me and my family until 2005. On May 2, 2005, my mother and my two brothers went to Ashraf Camp

They continued to exert pressure on me and my family until 2005. On May 2, 2005, my mother and my two brothers went to Ashraf Camp[2] and settled there. I went to Tehran and, on May 25, 2005, took my wife -- whom I had married on December 6, 2004 -- back with me to Semnan.

In September 2006, I decided to open a clothing store in Semnan, but I wasn’t able to obtain a business permit, because of my 2003 arrest. We had to obtain the permit under my wife’s name. The funny thing was they would not even issue an employee/manager card for me.

After we re-opened the store, the Nejat Society[3] would send me their publication to the store address. The Nejat Society consisted of people who had left the MKO and were now working against it. The contents of the publication were different and, from time to time, they would publish pictures of those killed in the Mersad Operation. Sometimes they encouraged us to go to the gates of Ashraf Camp, on behalf of the Iranian regime.

I read two issues of this publication and realized that it [adversely affected and] preoccupied me. That was why, every time I received it, I would tear it up and throw it out. I must note that, at the time, [the Iranian regime] had succeeded in convincing members of MKO families to conduct activities against the MKO.

Ever since I got to Semnan, they called me for various reasons and would ask me to go to the Setad Khabari [the Communication Office for the Ministry of Information], where they would ask me repetitive questions.

Two or three days before my son’s first birthday, they called and told me to go there with my wife. I went there by myself, and they said that my wife had to come as well. “My wife is not political at all, neither is her family,” I said. They nevertheless called her and told her to come. She had refused at first but they kept the pressure up. My son was very sick that day; so my wife had to call her mother to ask her to come to Semnan from Tehran and to look after him, in case something happened to us.

Also, I had given a check to someone that was due for payment that day. I hadn’t had time to withdraw the money for the check from my account at Parsian Bank and deposit it into my account at Mellat Bank [on which I had drawn the check]. Therefore, my wife had to give her gold jewelry to one of my friends to sell and to deposit the proceeds into my account. This was very bad in the business world. In any event, this sort of torment, persecution, and stress happened all the time.

Every time I went to Setad Khabari, the interrogator would bring someone along with him who never said a word, never batted an eye, never moved, and just sat there like a statue. I would always say hello to both of them; the interrogator would say hello, and we would shake hands, but the other person wouldn’t even move. My wife had had the same experience: once when the interrogator had left the room for a smoke, my wife had asked the man what time it was. “He just stared at me and did not respond. For a second I thought he was dead,” my wife recounted. I don’t know if those people were there for training purposes or just to torment us.


2009 elections and campaign for Mir Hossein Musavi

In any event, these monthly sessions went on until the 2009 presidential elections. I was always in touch with the guys in Rasht and Tehran, and I would tell them: “If you want this regime to be overthrown, there must be some fundamental change. Don’t vote.” But this time it was different. I don’t know why, but I had the feeling that there was something different about those elections. [Therefore], every time I talked to the guys, I would encourage them to vote.

I started supporting [presidential candidate] Mir Hossein Musavi. To that end, I turned my store and the restaurant where I had worked since 2008 into Musavi headquarters and put his pictures up on the windows.

Four or five days before the elections, the store windows and the lock were broken, but nothing was stolen. I called the detective squad and asked them to come to the store to investigate what had happened, which they did. They fingerprinted the place and said they would pursue the case. My wife and I stayed at the store until around 3:00 p.m. to have the windows and the lock replaced. At 4:00 p.m., in our absence, the incident happened again, and we called the detectives again. They came back and, upon further investigation, they said, “The reason they’re breaking your windows and lock is because you have put these posters up. Take them down, and it won’t happen again. Nothing has been stolen, so it’s obvious that it’s because of the posters.” The same thing had happened to a lot of other people in town. The guys in the towns of Some’ehsara and Fuman were saying that they were being persecuted because the towns were much smaller. I would tell them to resist a few more days until the elections but some of the guys had taken down the pictures in their own shops and had started to work at other headquarters.

I joined the ranks of protestors after the elections. On June 15th, along with my wife and child, I participated in demonstrations held by students as well as regular people. Some would clap and chant slogans as a sign of protest; others were just standing and watching. All of a sudden, plainclothes agents, the Police Force, and the Special Guards came among the protestors and said, “Families must leave. We are about to take action.” But we didn’t listen, and so they separated the students by force and started beating them, and then they arrested some of them.

On Friday, June 19th, Mr. Khamenei gave a speech which had an extremely negative impact on me. I was thinking that I would sacrifice my life for this if it came to that. The people had decided to wear black from that day forward and to go to demonstrations. We were in Tehran that Friday, and the atmosphere in the city was frightful. We were at my mother-in-law’s place in the Naziabad neighborhood, and I didn’t move from there. They were arresting people wearing black and people talking here and there and would put them in vans and take them away. This was the day before the day that became known as Bloody Saturday. We went back to Semnan that Friday, but I couldn’t stand it. In spite of my wife’s opposition, I returned to Tehran the next day, Saturday noon that is.

The morning of June 20th, I got Etemad and Sharq newspapers and went to the restaurant. I was so nervous and tense that I didn’t last until noon. I wrote my will and put it in the safe, and then I told one of the guys to look after the restaurant. I then got into a car that took me to Tehran’s Azadi Square. Once there, I joined the crowd that was marching toward [Tehran] University. The agents prevented us from proceeding by force, and turned us in the direction of Aryashahr Square. On the way, we chanted slogans and sang Yar-e Dabestani-e man (“My elementary school friend”) and Ey Iran (O Iran) anthems. I cannot describe the scene. There was thick smoke coming from in front of the University; they had fired tear gas and had blocked the way; people were running away and were being beaten. People were giving each other news of such and such having been beaten or killed. It was on that day that people started chanting, “Death to the Dictator,” “The government commits crime, the Leader supports it,” and “Our shame is our radio and television.”

Before we got to Aryashahr Square, I realized there was a tremendous military presence all around the Square. People were chanting, “Iran has turned into Palestine; People, why aren’t you taking action?” These slogans made the agents’ blood boil. We were about 100 meters from Aryashahr Square when they fired close to 15 rounds of tear gas. Revolutionary Guard forces and plainclothes agents armed with chains, clubs, and metal bats, started to attack and beat the demonstrators, who, in turn, continued to chant slogans, set fire to trash cans, and throw stones at them. I must emphasize that the police force and the soldiers, whose uniforms differed from the special guards,’ and simply had a club hanging from their waste, had left people alone that day, and people expressed their appreciation by chanting, “Police Force, thanks, thanks.”

Around 10:00 p.m., I returned to Semnan. I decided to communicate with others through text messages: If there were a new slogan, or important news, or another gathering, I would text all my friends, whose number totaled 600, not knowing that my phone was tapped and was being monitored. Also, if there were any gatherings in Tehran, such as the Ashura demonstrations, I would go there early in the morning and come back to Semnan at night.

I even had an email account, which I later found out was being monitored [as well]. In fact, they were doing that through one of those friends I was unfortunately very close to, and with whom I exchanged information.

In January, I was at the restaurant, as usual, reading the papers and keeping an eye on the restaurant employees through a closed circuit camera, when, at around 9:00 a.m., two huge, burly, scary looking guys came into the restaurant. “Are you Mr. Hosseindust?” they asked. “At your service, Sir,” I replied. “Would you come outside with us for a second?” they said. As soon as I got up, one of them went behind my desk and started looking. They turned everything upside down, the documents, the books, the tables. They even took the camera out.

I expected something like that would happen [sooner or later], because, not only had I participated in demonstrations, but I was always arguing with customers who were Ahmadinejad supporters.


Second arrest and interrogation in Semnan

At the entrance to the restaurant, they showed the second page of a two-page, handwritten letter addressed to me. It was a letter submitted by the Ministry of Information to the Prosecutor’s Office, enumerating my crimes. The Prosecutor had signed and sealed the letter and issued an arrest warrant ordering that, “this person be arrested and questioned, his house and shop searched.”

They then took me into a gray Samand (Iranian manufactured car), where there were another man and woman. We were on our way when one of the agents received a call saying, “His wife just left the house.” The agent told him that we were going in that direction, then asked me, “Do you know why we’ve arrested you?” “Yes,” I replied. The other agent sitting next to him said, “So, you surely must have done something.” “No sir. You’ve arrested everybody; sooner or later it would have been my turn,” I said. My wife had been under surveillance, as well, and they knew what time she went to the store.

When we got close to my home, I saw my wife leaving the alleyway. I told the agents my wife was leaving. They stopped the car and called her. My wife was surprised that I had come back home in the morning and thought I was with some friends. But when I got out of the car, flanked on each side by an agent, she understood. One of the agents proceeded on foot to our house, accompanied by the individual who had been watching my wife. They put us back in the car and drove toward our place.

Once we got inside, the female agent went to search the bedroom, and one of the other agents started searching the closet, the library, the CD’s, my son’s toys, etc., and threw everything on the floor. The other agent went to the rooftop and brought down two satellite dishes and the LMB’s that went with them. That day, they took two satellite dishes, two LMB’s, one receiver, my phone book, and our cell phones, and then took the store key from my wife and we proceeded there.

At home, they had asked if I had a computer or laptop, and I had said no, not thinking that they might take us to the store and conduct a search there, as well. Once we entered the store, my laptop was on my desk. They said, “What is this?!” “You asked me at the house if I had a laptop, and I didn’t have one there,” I responded. The agent hit me in the chest and said, “Are you mocking us?” “No, why would I?: It was obvious that you would see this once we got here, and I wouldn’t be able to hide it,” I replied. The agents then threw the mannequins in the middle of the store, turned all the clothes and all the cabinets upside down, then took my laptop and two other phone books, and we left the store.

They sat me in the middle of the backseat of the car and told me to put my hands behind my head and lean forward and put my head between the two front seats. Then they took me to a place unknown to me, to a room where they sat me in front of a mirror; I could see no one but myself. About forty-five minutes later, two individuals started interrogating me. They were sitting on the other side of the mirror, and I couldn’t see them. But I immediately recognized one of the interrogators’ voices: It was the same person who had interrogated me the previous time. The other one was a young guy that I did not know. The interrogator would write the question and slip it to me from under the mirror. I would write the answer and slip it back. The questions started as follows: “Write down the first and last names of your family members at Ashraf Camp. When did you establish contact with the MKO?” Suddenly, I got angry for a second and said, “Excuse me? I don’t understand.” The interrogator said, “I’ll write it so you can understand.” Then he wrote, “When did you establish relations with the MKO? When did you establish contact with the MKO Sar-e Pol?”

For a second, I couldn’t think. I was thinking of a real bridge (“Pol” means “bridge.” “Sar-e Pol” literally means “by the bridge,”) and I had no idea what “Sar-e Pol” meant. I was asking myself where it could be. But later, I found out “Sar-e Pol” meant the contact person between me and the MKO. They asked the question a few times, and I kept saying that I had absolutely no contact with the MKO. The interrogator then started insulting me: “I will keep you here until you rot. This isn’t your auntie’s house.” So, the first day I was interrogated from noon until 8:00 p.m. That same night, they took me to Semnan Central Prison, located at Sa’di Square, and therefore known as Sa’di Prison. Upon arrival, they announced, “Security detention. No tea and no cigarettes.” “Why are you depriving me of tea and cigarettes,” I asked. “It’s out of our hands. Orders from higher up,” they responded.

I was taken to a solitary confinement cell where there were three other detainees, whose average age was between 18 and 20. Two out of the three were drug addicts and used crystal meth in the solitary’s bathroom. The other one was mentally unstable: he was sitting underneath the camera inside the cell and kept cussing and saying, “I’m a newborn child, Jesus Christ. You have arrested me to prevent me from bringing justice to the world.” They didn’t give me anything to eat that day, but my cellmates shared their food with me, which consisted of an egg and loaf of bread, each. I was so stressed out that night that I didn’t sleep a wink. I must note that they allowed me to call my wife and tell her I was detained, without telling her where.

My cousin had also been arrested four months earlier for participating in street protests and had been aggressively interrogated about me. She used to call me occasionally from prison and tell me to be careful... The fact was that my cousin had come to Semnan once, after the elections, with two or three of her friends, and we had had a meeting. In the course of her interrogations, they had zoomed in on this and had bombarded her with questions about me...

My cousin was sentenced to death, at first, for the crime of “Moharebeh” (“waging war against God”). Fortunately, her attorney, Ms. Manijeh Mohammadi, was able to reduce the sentence to five years imprisonment and exile to Borazjan Prison. In the meantime, she was able to obtain a two-day leave for her on a 50 million Tumans bail. My cousin used the opportunity and fled to Turkey.

They said, “You’re in the interrogation phase and cannot retain an attorney”

On the second day, they took me to the interrogation room at 8:00 a.m. The interrogation room was 3-by-3 meters in width. There was a one-by-three-meter table in front of me with a very high mirror installed on it. To the right of the mirror, there was a dark purple curtain that went all the way to the wall and separated my part of the room from the interrogators.’ I always felt there were two people behind the curtain, because whenever the door would open, light would shine on one of the interrogators’ faces, and I could tell he was exchanging something with someone.

Initially, I asked for an attorney. They said, “You’re in the interrogation phase and cannot retain an attorney.” Then the interrogations started. It was the usual questions: “You have to tell us when you established contact with Sar-e Pol and what the nature of your relations were. We have your phones, we know they call you. When did your mother call you? What did your Uncle Sa’id or your Uncle Akbar tell you when they called you? How did he tell you to participate in demonstrations? We know you took part in all the demonstrations.” They showed me a number of my text messages that they had printed out. In the first and second interrogations, they mostly wanted to know when my contact with the Sar-e Pol had begun.


They would take me from prison to the Information Administration every morning at 7:30, and would bring me back around 9:00 p.m., at the close of interrogations. In the car, I would put my hands behind my head and put my head between the two front seats. If I wanted to raise my head, one of the agents would push my head back down. It took about 45 minutes each way, but it was obvious they were going around town in circles, because Semnan is a small town and, from Golestan Park, its northernmost point, to the Railroad, the southern point, is a 10-minute drive. I would be left in solitary on Fridays.

When I got out of the car, the man who accompanied me would put his hand in front of my eyes and would tell me to keep my head down, so that my chin could touch my chest. I was, however, able to see my surroundings. The place they took me for interrogations was an old house where there was a dead tree in the middle of the garden.

Interrogations were conducted by two groups of two persons each, where one interrogator would play good cop, the other, bad cop, constantly insulting and threatening. The bad cop would say, “Given what you people have done against this country, I should come around and cut your balls off. I’m going to send three people over there right now.” The good cop would say: “Haji, he’s a good kid, he hasn’t done anything so far. He has a wife and kid. His wife is alone and is waiting for him at home. If, God forbid, anything happens to his wife and kid, we’ll be responsible.”

As for the subject matter of the interrogations, on the first day, they asked about the contact person, in a respectable way. On the second day, it was threats. On the third day, they said they could prove I was guilty. On the fourth day, they said they had arrested my friend a few hours before they arrested me, and that he, too, had made incriminating confessions against me. On the fifth day, they said my child was sick. On the sixth day, they said, “Your checks have bounced, and your wife is running around trying to get money, and she might do anything for money.” None of them touched me or even came near me until the sixth or seventh day.

After the third or fourth day, two Baha’i prisoners named Afshin Iqani and Behfar Khanjani were taken with me for interrogations from the prison to the Ministry of Information interrogation house. Before being transferred, we spent some time in the prison hallway and were able to talk a bit. They told me they were store owners in Semnan and were not political. They had been asked to repent and leave the Baha’i religion, which they had refused and were therefore arrested.

It was on the sixth day, if I’m not mistaken, that I severely objected to the cell’s condition, and they took me to another cell.


Charged after 11 days in detention

On the eleventh day of detention, I was taken to the interrogation room, where I was, for the first time, told what charges were brought against me. “You are charged with membership in the MKO, recruiting members for the MKO, spreading propaganda against the regime on behalf of the MKO, and promoting and participating in demonstrations. I have no choice but to turn your case over to the Judiciary, and I’m sure you will receive an extremely severe sentence,” the interrogator said. I was then taken back to the cell and was not interrogated for four days.

I weighed 95 kilos (210 pounds) when I was arrested, and I had lost 22 kilos (48 pounds) when I was released

During the sixteen days I spent in detention, I was given three small lavash breads, a very small piece of cheese (the size of a knuckle joint), and some tea (so watered down it was more like plain boiling water) for breakfast. The three breads were for the entire day. Lunch was always a hot dog that they had cut in half and put some egg on it, with two or three fries. I must note that, with the exception of the last three days, when interrogations had ended, I had lunch at the Information place, and it was good food, because they had to give me whatever they ordered for themselves. We had 15 minutes for lunch there. I weighed 95 kilos (210 pounds) when I was arrested, and I had lost 22 kilos (48 pounds) when I was released. My pants just fell off of me.

During this time, my wife had closed the store to pursue every avenue to secure my release. She had met someone who was a friend of Semnan Prison’s warden. He had told her, “They have nothing on Hanif, unless he himself confesses to something that can later be used against him.” She had been informed by that same person that interrogations had ended and that she had to come up with 50 million Tumans bail money. Ultimately, the money was provided by one of my friends, and I was released on February 1, 2010, after 16 days of detention. I texted the message, “Hanif has come with the Imam” to all my friends. What was interesting was that, when I was arrested again in 2010, they used that text message as evidence of my insulting the Leader.

They never asked me to make a televised confession during the time I was detained. Generally, they didn’t really get physical with me either. It was mostly insults and threats. Semnan had a police state ambiance. There were close to three thousand prisoners at Semnan Central Prison, and I was the only political prisoner. They were all there for drug-related crimes, or for not having paid mahr[4]. They didn’t even bring student detainees there.

I’m positive they knew I had no organizational activity and that I was opposed to armed struggle. I was simply opposed to elections results. I would ask the interrogators, “How do you even put me in the same place with the MKO? The MKO was saying that participating in the elections was betrayal, whereas I was actively supporting Musavi. You can’t even reconcile the two.”

 I would ask the interrogators, “How do you even put me in the same place with the MKO? The MKO was saying that participating in the elections was betrayal, whereas I was actively supporting Musavi. You can’t even reconcile the two.”

Free on Bail, lawyer, and the extrajudicial murder of my brother

Upon release, Mr. Mazdak Etemadzadeh took on my case as the attorney and came to Semnan on February 20, 2010, to go over my file. Having read it, he said to me, “You haven’t done anything my son, and your file really doesn’t have anything. It’s a joke, compared to some of my other cases. I would love to help you.”

On March 5, 2010, I found out that my brother Habib had been executed in Rasht. Habib had returned to Iran for personal reasons on May 2, 2005, approximately one month after he had gone to Ashraf with my mother and my other brother. He had been living in Some’ehsara with my grandmother. He was constantly summoned to the Information Administration until 2009. I went to Some’ehsara the same day for his burial, but they would not release the body to us for five days, giving various excuses. Also, they had threatened our friends and acquaintances by phone not to attend the burial. They even tore down the announcements and mourning drapes our friends had put up on the walls at the house.

I hadn’t invited a cleric for the funeral, because they had told me they had sent a cleric from Rasht. [The agents] asked me why I hadn’t brought in a cleric. I told them that it was because the town was too small, and I hadn’t found an appropriate one. They knew exactly what I was doing for the funeral, minute by minute. They had my phone number, and it was surely tapped. On March 9th or 10th , when I had gone to the [town of] Some’ehsara’s Investigating Judge’s Office, Branch 2, to obtain an order to conduct an autopsy on my brother, the judge said to me, “You have a case pending yourself. If you bring a complaint and ask for an autopsy, it will aggravate your own case.” Then the chief of the police precinct summoned me and said, “Your sentence has already been typed. You have a case, and it will be bad for you. Don’t follow this up.” An Information agent also called me, and our conversation ended in an argument.

The burial finally took place. At the mosque [where the wake was taking place], I read the article I had written. That article caused me to be arrested in July 2010 for insulting the Leader.

After my brother’s death, my wife developed psychological issues. So I sent her on a 5-day tour to Istanbul with a friend but, unfortunately, the Ministry of Information had reported the trip to the court about 15 days after her departure, on April 18th or 19th, 2010. My lawyer told me that, “the Ministry of Information had reported that she either wanted to seek asylum in a foreign country or wanted to go to Ashraf Camp.”

I must note that, upon the expiration of our business permit, my wife had gone to the Amaken Administration on March 19, 2010, to renew it, and they had rejected the renewal application. We were forced to permanently close the store around the end of April.

Also, the Information people had pressured the owner of the restaurant where I was working to fire me, but he refused to do so and resisted until the last moment.

My trial was on May 29, 2010. I went to Semnan Revolutionary Court, Branch One, with my attorney Mr. Etemadzadeh. The judge’s name was Einolkamal, and political cases were not his area of expertise. He [mostly] adjudicated drug-related cases. He told my lawyer at the start of the session, “You’re not allowed to speak. If you have something to say, write it down.” The session lasted four hours, and I defended myself. I was acquitted of the charges of membership in the MKO and recruiting members for the MKO. I was, however, convicted of propaganda against the regime on behalf of the MKO and promoting participation in illegal gatherings. I was sentenced to a one-year imprisonment. Also, on June 9, 2010, I was tried for possession of satellite equipment by Semnan General Court, Branch 103, presided by Judge Javad Ra’isi, and sentenced to a 300,000Toman penalty.

On May 31, 2010, I was at work when my wife called around 11:00 a.m., crying and not feeling well. I immediately went home. My wife said, “They came this morning and wanted to come into the house. They didn’t show me a warrant, and I said I wouldn’t let them in without a warrant. Then one of them pulled my hand and I fell down the stairs and they entered the house.” Unfortunately, my wife had started bleeding and lost the six-week-old baby she was carrying.

I think they were trying to find evidence that I was seeking asylum. At my trial, I had been able to convince the judge that I was not trying to obtain asylum [which had enraged the Information agents].

After that incident, we went back to our normal lives. I continued to work, but because of our dire financial situation, I was no longer able to send my son to pre-school. My salary from the restaurant was not enough, and I had trouble to even pay the rent. The friend we were renting from, however, was a true friend and didn’t ask for rent payment.

On the morning of Monday, June 28, 2010, when I was getting ready to take my request for appeal to the Appellate Court, that same six-member group, who had previously arrested me, showed up on our doorstep and, as soon as I went outside, [they?] came in, punching and kicking. I got into a fight with them, and they broke my nose.

Once inside, they turned the whole house upside down. They even threw my son’s toys on the floor and emptied the contents of the refrigerator in the middle of the kitchen. I will never forget that scene: while I was lying on the ground at the entrance, my son had grabbed an agent’s leg and was asking him, “Please, uncle, these are my toys. Please don’t throw them on the floor.” My wife was so angry that she took her clothes off and said, “If you want to search everywhere, go all the way, why don’t you. Here, search me too.” In any event, they kept beating me and then put me in the backseat of the car, my hands behind my head and leaning between the two front seats. They continued to punch me in the side and kick me in the leg, even the agent who was sitting in the front. They took me to the same Ministry of Information house as before.

They sat me in front of the mirror again, without blindfolds, and started to insult me. They said I had insulted the Leader. I argued, “When did I insult him?” Twenty minutes had gone by when four individuals walked in and beat me senseless. They then threw me on a chair, put a piece of paper in front of me and said, “Write down what your intention was in insulting the Leader.” I wrote nothing and slipped the paper back from under the mirror. The interrogator said, “You want to have some more fun? I’m going to get someone to f… you up the a.., right now.” Suddenly I broke down, “Why do you do this to me, what have I done to you? What have I done to deserve what you’re doing to me?” I asked, sobbing. They brought me a glass of water. I drank the water and he slipped the paper back again, “What was your intention [in insulting the Leader?]” he asked again. “Before I answer, I want to contact my lawyer,” I responded. “You know your stuff!” the interrogator exclaimed. “You are the reason I learned about the law. I didn’t know a thing. You kept bringing me here and I learned everything.”

The interrogator said, “According to the law, you are not entitled to contact your lawyer at this point.” He then slipped the paper back to me, on which I wrote, “I request to contact my attorney, Mr. Mazdak Etemadzadeh, and this is his [phone] number.” He started insulting me again. “Why did you write this? Answer the question.” I said, “Didn’t you say: “according to the law?” Then, please write down the article of law that you’re talking about.” He tore the paper up and wrote the same question again. I thought, if I return the paper blank again, he will kill me. So, I wrote that I hadn’t insulted the Leader.

He put the printout of the texts I had sent to my friends around the end of April in front of me. By insulting the Leader, they meant the text that said, “Happy new year, again, double the ass-kissing.” “You write a sentence like that, and then you say you didn’t insult the Leader? Anyone who insults even the Prophet must be executed,” he said. “Excuse me, but is he the Prophet?” I asked. “Don’t get cute.” “Well then just tell me you want me to keep quiet,” I said. “Hanif, I swear to God, I’ll send you over to the other side, have someone take your pants off and take a video while they rape you,” the interrogator exclaimed.

“Just tell me what you want me to write, and I’ll write it, but don’t try to convince me. I won’t be convinced, and I won’t say that I insulted him, because I didn’t,” I said. “No, I don’t want you to write what I say. Write down the truth. You insulted him, and you must write down that you insulted him,” he retorted. “No sir, I did not insult him, and I will not write that I did. Do whatever you want,” I repeated. “I’ll teach you a lesson, I’ll make an obedient boy out of you, yet,” the interrogator said. This back and forth went on until about 3:00 p.m. Then he went out, and I was left alone in the room until 9:00 p.m.

At 9:00 p.m., accompanied by Information agents, I was taken, bloodied and all, to the Prison judge, who was on call that night. One of the agents who was in charge of the group and was called “Haji” went to the judge with my file. Thirty minutes later, they took me to the judge, who was about 35 years old. He said that the Ministry of Information had lodged a complaint against me, charging that I had insulted the Leader. “I did not insult the Leader, sir. And I told them so. They wanted to force a confession out of me,” I said.

The judge said, “How am I supposed to believe that they wanted to force you?” “Man, I have blood all over my clothes and even down in my socks. My entire face is bloodied and injured. Do you not see, or do you not want to see? How can you tell they wanted to force me?!! OK, I’m sorry, I apologize, they didn’t force me, I beat myself up!” I said. “It’s exactly because you have such a big mouth that they keep bringing you here,” he said. “I swear to God, they are the ones who gave me this big mouth,” I replied.

The judge showed the two text messages from my previous file, which purportedly insulted the Leader and said, “Why do you send texts [like these]? Are you crazy? Why do you say these things? You have committed a crime, and it is clear to us. You just don’t want to admit it.” “When Mr. Ahmad Khatami and Mr. Jannati officially order killing people, well, that’s when you’re instigated. I just sent a couple of texts, I didn’t do anything wrong,” I said. The judge wrote on the paper, “Because of what was said in the Friday Prayers, I was instigated to encourage people to participate in demonstrations.” Then he told me to sign it, which I did, without paying attention to what he had written down.

I was then transferred to prison and solitary confinement until Saturday noon, when I was released on 10 million Tumans bail.

I had an operation on my nose within a month after being released. After a few days, I went to Tehran to meet with my lawyer. He had gone on a business trip and told me to get in touch with, and go to, one of his colleagues.

I went to this lawyer and explained the whole situation. In spite of everything we discussed, he ultimately told me that all it took for me to be executed was for the Ministry of Information to bring another case and charge me with Efsad-e Fel-Arz (“corruption on Earth” which carries a death sentence). I decided to leave the country. Ultimately, I legally entered Turkey on July 27, 2010, and applied for asylum.



[1] “ward” - some prison wards, including Evin Prison’s, are referred to as “Andarzgah”)

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Ashraf

[3] http://www.nejatngo.org/en/

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahr