Across a Red Line: A Young Student Testifies
I was born in April-May 1984 in Tehran. I grew up in a town in Fars Province, where I lived until I finished high school. I started attending Mazandaran University in the academic year 2002-2003.
Prior to the 1979 Revolution, a number of my family members had been politically active, including my father, and had spent time in jail.
When I entered college, I had leanings toward the political left. It was the era of reforms and I, like other students, was critical of the situation in Iran, including the ever-widening class differences, the democracy under Mr. Khatami’s administration which was referred to as “religious democracy,” the injustice that was visible in society, and the lack of freedom of speech. The result of these criticisms was that a large number of students like myself became acquainted with leftist movements whose political activities had deeper roots in Iran. We considered ourselves, in effect, that part of society which, upon entering college, bore the duty and responsibility of voicing society’s wishes and demands. We talked about freedom of speech, women’s rights, the issue of the Hijab, and freedom of thought.
It was the era of reforms and I, like other students, was critical of the situation in Iran, including the ever-widening class differences, the democracy under Mr. Khatami’s administration which was referred to as “religious democracy,” the injustice that was visible in society, and the lack of freedom of speech.
Between 2002 and 2005, Bassij and/or the [Students’] Islamic Association were not capable of addressing our wishes and meeting our demands. A number of demands that were rooted in the existing situation were issues such as class differences, social injustice, or other things. One of our demands, therefore, was to establish an independent student association so we could conduct activities with a view to eliminating or reducing class differences in society. We also wanted to shed light on society’s main pillar, i.e. labor, meaning that we wanted [the government] to allow the formation of independent labor unions, and to set aside [jail] sentences issued to individuals that had been advocating for labor syndicates.
Toward the middle of December 2004, I was surfing the internet on the University website to do research on political groups. I was checking out the websites of groups that had not been filtered by the Islamic Republic when the head of the University’s “Herassat” (“Protection [of Islamic Revolution and Values Office]”) named Talebi came toward me, asked my name, and said: “Please get up from this station, I want to sit here.” The next day, my name was on the University’s announcements board and I was told to report to the Instruction [Office]. I went there and introduced myself to the person in charge named Barzegar. He said: “Go to the Herrassat Office this afternoon between your first and second class. Mr. Talebi wants to talk to you.” Mr. Talebi was cordial at first and smiled and asked me to have a seat. After one minute, he pushed a button on something that looked like a recording device and started speaking in a very serious and threatening manner: “Does your family know what you do here? What were you looking for in those websites? What did you want? Are you a member of some [political] party or organization?” “No I’m not,” I responded, “I was checking them out just out of curiosity.” “You talk politics at the university and in the classroom. The news reaches me. You’d better be careful about what you say because it could lead to grave situations such as you being expelled from college,” he said, “and if you talk with anyone about why I asked you here, you will regret it.” I then left his office and nothing special happened for a week.
A week later, when I wanted to go home to Tehran and get ready for the end of the semester [exams], a young man with a traditional black hat and long beard, about 27 or 28 years old stood, next to me and asked if I was Mr. (...). When I said yes he told me to go with him. He took me to the Instruction building. As soon as I walked in, a largely built, unshaven man forced me to stand against the glass wall that divided the Instruction building into two sections and told me to turn around. They started to laugh when I did. The big man said: “We wanted to measure your height; we had made a bet on your height. That’s it, you can go.”
After this incident, my friends and I decided to go to larger universities with more political atmospheres for the sake of our activities so we wouldn’t be recognized, even though our activities pertained mostly to student affairs and our university was not ready for political activity. In the meantime, we were also able to find students who were closer to us from an intellectual standpoint and had a socialist outlook.
On the occasion of [Month of] Azar 16 [Student Day] (December 6 or 7, depending on the year), we planned to hold ceremonies at Babolsar University with the guys from the Islamic Association, some of whom were [former and first president of the Islamic Republic] Bani Sadr supporters and others who were supporters of the Reformists. In a meeting with guys from Sari University, Babol University, and Babolsar University regarding the manner of conducting the ceremonies, we agreed to prepare statements and write our demands in the form of slogans on signs that we would carry.
December 6, 2004 arrived and we went to Babolsar University Pure Sciences Department. A total police state atmosphere reigned. Outside the campus, every 10 feet, there stood an agent. Herassat [officials] were at the main gate and would only allow students with the University Identification card in. In order to enter the campus, we had coordinated with the guys who were inside for them to locate a part of the campus that was empty; we were able to climb the wall at that location and get inside. It was around 10 AM when we started walking from the cafeteria toward the entrances to the main buildings, singing the “Yare Dabestani” (“My Elementary School Classmate”) song. We formed a chain around the students who had been threatened so they could voice their viewpoints. At the close of the event, we left for Tehran that same night so that we could put on another event at Tehran University the next day.
December 6, 2004 arrived and we went to Babolsar University Pure Sciences Department. A total police state atmosphere reigned. Outside the campus, every 10 feet, there stood an agent.
In Tehran, the Information Ministry had summoned a group of our guys and had threatened them: “If you hold events in which you participate, or have discussions, or give speeches, you will be arrested.” The guys did not heed any of this and the commemorations went on.
The main gate of Tehran University was under strict control that day. Therefore, we entered through the Faculty of Medical Sciences gate early in the morning, with the excuse that we were going to the dentist. The events started around noon. We proceeded to the gate located at Azar 16 Street in order to break the door and let in some of the Polytechnic students who had not been allowed to enter. Once the Polytechnic guys were in, we all went toward the law faculty offices. There, a group of students spoke about the rights of minorities on behalf of the Kurdish community. We then went toward the University’s main gate. Outside, they had parked a bus in front of the gate to prevent the general population from seeing us. We therefore climbed the fence with the signs that we were holding so the people could understand what was going on inside.
When I was at Mazandaran University – also in 2006 - we submitted a request for a publication. We wanted to name it “Arman” (“Ideal”) and had told them that we wanted to write about social, cultural, and political issues. But the authorities said that “Arman” would not work “because it was a name [associated] with the masses [and communism]”. So we said, “What about ‘Arman-e Sorkh’ (‘Red Ideal’)?” And they asked what the “Red” meant, to which we had answered that it meant the blood of the martyrs [of Islam], and said that it was a good title. Some time later, I went to the University’s cultural center to follow up on the permit for the publication. One of the officials there told me: “Issuance of a permit could take more than a year. It’s best if you just forget about it. Also, problems will probably arise starting with the first issue because the Natural Resources Department is not political and it’s best if you just don’t get involved in these things. I’m not the one who makes decisions in the cultural sector; there is a board which issues the opinion and they will all oppose it.” Ultimately, in winter 2007, we and a bunch of guys from the Faculty of Agriculture were able to issue a publication called “Gavaznha.” It was at the time when Babol [University] students had been arrested; we covered the story, which resulted in the publication being banned. We only issued two volumes of Gavaznha and a special issue about the labor movement.
The Babolsar [University] environment became more political in 2007 and we were able to publish the first issue of “Shora” with a permit from the Ministry of Islamic Guidance. We were distributing the first issue on campus when the person in charge of the Cultural Division told us: “The second issue will not be coming out because I will have it stopped and confiscated.” And unfortunately that was what happened; the publication was banned.
I returned to Tehran after graduating in May 2007 and prepared for the Master’s degree entrance exam. In the meantime, I took part in the World Labor Day ceremonies in [the town of] Karaj, and got to know civil institutions working in the area of children’s rights. I started work as a volunteer teacher at the Society for the Defense of Child Laborers and Street Children.
On Friday, November 30, 2007, there was a memorial held by the Iranian Writers’ Society at Tehran’s Emamzadeh Taher [cemetery] for Puyandeh and Mokhtari, [two writers] that were killed in the Chain Murders [in 1998]. I took part in the memorial. The Writers’ Society guys designated December 4 “Freedom of Speech Day” and a number of Tehran University students announced that the Students’ Day events would be held at Tehran University on December 4. The reason for the change from December 6 to December 4 was that the Islamic Republic had observed Students’ Day on December 6 for years and Tehran University students wanted to establish a day that would distinguish it from the history of the Islamic Republic. At the close of the memorial, the necessary steps were taken to hold the events. It was decided that identity cards would be issued for a group of Shiraz University students who were supposed to join us so that they could enter the campus. Tehran University students also entered into negotiations with the Islamic Association and Tahkim Vahdat (“Strengthening Unity”) people to organize the ceremonies but since we leftist guys had given the main speeches the previous year, they weren’t happy with us and so they did not agree.
On the morning of December 2, 2007, as I was standing in my neighborhood bakery to buy bread, a plainclothes agent with an athletic build approached me and said: “Sir…?” He held my hand and asked the guy on the other end of his radio “What do I do with him?” He was told to “bring him to headquarters.” I asked him where he was taking me. He said: “We have arrested someone with a hundred kilograms of drugs who says you were in on transporting the drugs with a car.” I said: “I don’t even have a driver’s license.” “We’ll clarify everything when we take you to the police precinct. We’ll ask a couple of questions and we’ll release you.” He took me to a Mazda 4 by 4. There was a man of about 50 sitting in the car, clean-shaven and somewhat bald. As soon as he saw me, he said: “You’re…?” “Yes,” I replied. “You’re kind of young for this” he said. “For what?” I asked. “Nothing; get in and we’ll find out.” We drove off and a Pride [brand of car] followed us from a few yards behind. We were passing my house when I told the two agents that my mother wasn’t feeling well and that I should inform her, but they said it wasn’t necessary and that I would be back.
We proceeded to Mozaffar Brothers Street from Rudaki Street. Both cars stopped when we arrived at the Peygiri (“Follow-up”) Office building. They opened the gate and got me out of the car before entering the premises. A soldier came toward me and put a blindfold on me. I was able to see the courtyard before he blindfolded me: There were a number of cars and there were a few steps to the right going down, about 15 yards ahead of me. I was taken toward those same steps when I was blindfolded. We went down the steps, turned to the right, and entered a carpeted room where I was told to take my shoes off. They sat me down on a chair that resembled the ones at the university. Then someone asked: “What’s your name? What’s your surname? Empty your pockets.” Another person then entered the room and said: “Seyyedi says to take them upstairs,” and told someone else “hold his hand and take him toward the car.”
When we got close to the car, one of the individuals standing there yelled: “Yes Haji, these fucking faggots want to start a revolution.” I said: “Watch your language.” As soon as I said this he started to insult me: “Shut up you demented piece of garbage,” and pushed me in the car while hitting me on the head. He handcuffed me to the door handle and said: “You have a lot of nerve. Put your head between your knees and don’t raise it up.” Then we sped away from the Peygiri Office. When we got to Valiasr Intersection they said: “You can raise your head slowly if you promise to be a good boy.” I raised my head and asked if I could contact my mother because she was sick. One of the agents said I had plenty of time to contact her.
When we got close to the car, one of the individuals standing there yelled: “Yes Haji, these fucking faggots want to start a revolution.” I said: “Watch your language.” As soon as I said this he started to insult me: “Shut up you demented piece of garbage.”
When we got to Keshavarz Boulevard he lifted my blindfold, and about a hundred yards before we got to the Evin Prison gate, the car, a Peugeot, stopped and the driver, who was very angry, slapped me in the mouth with the back of his hand and said: “You’ll have to just find out where we’re taking you because when we get there you’ll piss your pants out of fear.” Then the individual sitting behind the driver got out of the car, opened the back door, un-cuffed me, and tried to handcuff my hands from behind, though he was unable to. He told the driver: “Haji, his hands are too short to handcuff from behind.” “Then handcuff him like before,” was the reply. He handcuffed me to the door again and the car drove off. Inside Evin Prison we arrived at a dead end alleyway with brick walls. Someone was waiting there for us with blindfolds.
We put the blindfolds on and entered a hallway. I subsequently learned that it was Evin’s Ward 209. They placed me on one side of the hallway and my friend on the other side. Someone came out of a room and told me to go inside, which I did. They took down my personal information and told me to wear prison clothes. There were two buckets there, one containing unmatched slippers and the other containing light blue pants and shirt, which was the 209 uniform. The clothes had not been washed and stank. I told them I wouldn’t wear them, and so I didn’t take my white shirt off and only put on the pants and slippers. I put my own pants in a basket and was taken to the infirmary upstairs. They weighed and measured me, took my heart rate and blood pressure, and the person said: “Were you beaten on the way here?” I said I had been beaten on the head. He examined me and asked if I had any particular illnesses, to which I answered no. “Wait outside, they’ll come and get you,” he said. You could hear a voice reading the Koran, people praying and crying from the hallway where the infirmary was located.
From there I was taken to a cell. There were two pieces of paper, food, and three blankets left there from before. The person who took me there gave me a light green piece of paper and said: “You throw this paper out so that we’ll see if you want to use the toilet when we run our checks.” My cell was really two cells: the wall between had been removed and there were two doors, one of which had been closed off. The air was cold and the heating was not working. Up above, there was a metal sheet with lots of holes through which a little light came into the cell. Behind the metal sheet was a series of bars. Every other cell was empty so that the detainees would not be able to establish contact with each other.
They came to get me in the afternoon and told me to put my blindfold on. As I stepped out of my cell, several other detainees were taken out of other cells and were told: “Put your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you and start moving in one line.” One line was formed. We were going down the stairs when I saw a short man with a large belly, unshaven, and wearing dark glasses, from under my blindfold. When we reached this man he asked me: “How are you…?” He looked familiar. Then I realized I had seen him by the mosque near my home. We went to another section. This time, someone with an accent from [the city of] Ahvaz came toward me, took my hand, and said “This one is mine” and took me to the interrogation room.
There in the room, I sat in a chair with handles. Behind me, there was a desk where the interrogator was sitting, from which he had put his foot on my chair handle; his head was about four inches from my ear. He gave me a piece of paper at the top of which was a verse from the Koran which meant: “Your salvation is in honesty and truthfulness”. Then the questions began: “When was the last time you came to Tehran University? What was the exact date? Which institutions are you familiar with at the University? Which of them were you cooperating with?” Then he wrote a question on the interrogation paper regarding faith, to which I did not respond. “You mean you have no faith?” the interrogator asked. Another question had to do with an alias. I answered that I did not have one. The interrogator was concentrating on my latest entry into Tehran University at that session. I told him that it had been a long time since I had been to Tehran University: six, maybe seven months. The interrogator said: “Don’t think this is your neighborhood police precinct, that there’s been a fight and someone has made a complaint, and that you can give a signature and go on your way. No; this is Evin Prison, Ward 209.” With every question he wrote down, he would tell me to explain and would leave the room.
I would draw a line at the end of each answer I gave. I’d learned this from the guys who had previously been interrogated, so they wouldn’t add anything to my responses. When the interrogator found out I was drawing lines at the end of the answers, he said: “Go ahead, draw lines to the very end.” So I did. He took the paper from me and said: “Yeah?! Mr. …, we’re not going to add anything to what you say.” Then he took my hand and told me to go with him.
The interrogation room was connected to another room where they were questioning another detainee. When we walked in, the interrogator said to another person: “Look Haji, this guy’s been trained. When he finishes his response, he draws a line so we don’t add anything to it.” Then they started to whisper to each other and took me back to the same room. The interrogator said: “I’m going to write here ‘failure to cooperate with the interrogator’. Starting tomorrow, you will have a different interrogator.” When the guard wanted to take me back to my cell, the interrogator asked: “Have you done your military service? Do you know how to do left face and right face? Do a right face and go straight,” which I did and ran into the wall. Then the interrogator said to the guard: “Now take his hand and take him to his cell. That’s enough for tonight.”
The next morning, the guard took me to the interrogator, blindfolded. I was standing outside the interrogation room, facing the wall when someone slapped me very hard in the face and said: “How are you doing Mr. …, Fadaiyan (leftist organization) Guerilla? So now you don’t want to cooperate with us?” Another person said: “Seyyed, make it so he bleeds from the nose.” Seyyed took me to the interrogation room and told me to sit on the chair. Then he sat in front of me, very close to me, rolled up his sleeves, put the interrogation paper and a pen in front of me, put his hand on the paper, and said: “Look, you only have two options: either you cooperate with me and you leave this place, or you don’t cooperate with me - and then who knows what could happen. What is your date of birth? What is your Birth Certificate number?” I couldn’t remember. Seyyed told me to stand up, and as soon as I did, he slapped me hard in the face and said: “I slapped you so you would remember.”
The next morning, the guard took me to the interrogator, blindfolded. I was standing outside the interrogation room, facing the wall when someone slapped me very hard in the face and said: “How are you doing Mr. …, Fadaiyan (leftist organization) Guerilla? So now you don’t want to cooperate with us?” Another person said: “Seyyed, make it so he bleeds from the nose.”
During the interrogation, Seyyed kept asking me: “What were your plans for December 6? You have to tell me what your plans were for December 6.” I would respond: “December 6 is a Friday and a holiday; we had no plans.” Seyyed would slap me and tell me to do squats. Then he wrote on the paper: “What were your plans for December 6?”
He left the room once in the course of the interrogation, and that’s when I heard a girl screaming from the ductwork. After the scream, Seyyed came back, panting, and came toward me and stuck his genitals, which were not in the usual state, to my right arm for about a minute and then left the room.
Seyyed came back and when he saw that I had written the same response as before, he left the room. Then a different person came in and stood behind me: “What were your plans for December 6?” “We didn’t have any plans,” I responded. “We didn’t arrest you just for the hell of it; why did they bring you here?” he asked. “That’s something you need to answer; I don’t know,” I said. “Well, we’ll find out whether you really had any plans or not,” he stated. “So let me go for now, and arrest me once you have evidence,” I said. “No, we’re not going to release you just to arrest you again. You’ll stay with us for now,” he responded. Then he left the room. Another individual came in and said: “Ah, this guy stinks,” and exited the room. Around lunch time and the call to noon prayer, someone came and said: “Take this guy to his cell to eat.” Seyyed said: “He doesn’t need to eat for now; he will stay right here.” An hour after the call to prayer Seyyed said: “Enough for today. Go to your cell and eat. They will charge you this afternoon, and then we will start dealing with you.”
In the afternoon they lined me and a few other detainees up and took us downstairs. They added a woman to our bunch from another hallway; I could see her Chador from under my blindfold.
We were sitting on a bench when someone took us to a room. A voice said I could take my blindfold off. A young man in a suit who was more than thirty years old was sitting behind a desk with the Judiciary emblem. Without introducing himself, he said: “I’m the judge in your case. You’re charged with acting against national security pursuant to Article … of the Constitution. A 100-million-Tuman bond has been set for you.” “We don’t have that kind of collateral,” I said. “Cooperate with your interrogator,” he responded. “I did,” I replied. He asked: “What were your plans for December 6?” “We didn’t have any plans. They told me they had arrested someone with 100 kilograms of drugs and that I had a hand in it,” I answered. “What happened? What did they say?” “That’s what they said” I responded, “and my mother is not well and I have to contact her.” The judge signaled the guy who had brought me and said: “It’s been coordinated, it’s not a problem.” Then they returned me to my cell.
I was waiting for them to come and get me to contact my family. Around 10:30 PM, when I was asleep, the guard and Seyyed showed up. The guard opened the little hatch on the door. Seyyed asked: “What is he doing? Is he sleeping? Wake him up.” The guard told me to get up and sit with my back to the wall. Seyyed walked in to the cell and said: “Don’t turn your head,” handing me an interrogation paper and a pen, saying “write the names of friends you’re in contact with so that we don’t arrest someone by mistake and bring them here; they’d be helpless and miserable.” Then he left the cell. I wrote down the names of some of my non-political friends and went to sleep. Seyyed came back again and asked the guard: “What is he doing? Ask him if he’s finished with the paper or not.” The guard asked me and I said that I was done and handed it to him.
I lied down again after they left but less than five minutes later they came back. The guard told me to sit facing the wall. Seyyed walked in, hit me on the head and on my rear and said: “I will straighten you out you fucking Tudeh-ee (member of the communist Tudeh Party). I’m going to call you downstairs and I make you bite the ground from the pain [I’m going to inflict on you].” Then he left the cell.
Half an hour later, I noticed someone arguing with the guard, saying: “You were not allowed to let the interrogator enter the defendant’s cell without coordinating with me. Write up a report of this incident.” This was about the interrogator coming into my cell, if I’m not mistaken.
The next day was December 4 and they left me alone until noon. They took me to the interrogation room in the afternoon. At the start of the interrogation, Seyyed wrote out the square root of negative 2. I said there’s no negative in a square root. He said: “Here there is,” and slapped me a few times. Then someone they called Haji entered the room. Seyyed said: “Haji, he loosens his body when I hit him so he won’t suffer and get injured.” Then he told me to stand up straight in front of Haji. Haji slapped me in the face, grabbed me by the collar, slightly lifted me up from the ground and hit me under my foot but didn’t let me fall. Then Seyyed told me to do squats, and hit me a couple of times in the shin with his shoe. Since I didn’t make a sound, he said: “So you resist; we’ll make a hero out of you here.” Haji said: “That’s enough. Come here, I want to crucify you: open both arms and legs. If you bend your legs, I will kick you.” I stood in that position for a long time. My legs started to shake a few times; as soon as I wanted to gather myself up, he hit me in the thigh. They continuously kicked and slapped me. Haji said: “Why were our guys killed on the [war] front?” “For the people,” I said. He spit in my face and said: “No, you have to say for Islam, not the people.” Seyyed was standing on one side and Haji on another side of me. Haji said: “Lift up your arms and one leg. If your leg drops, you’ll get kicked.” He kept slapping me non-stop; I would lose my balance and move a little. Suddenly Haji said: “You know we’re not going to bury you in a Moslem cemetery? Nobody knows you’re here now; we’ll just bury you in these holes here at Evin.” Then Seyyed said: “Go sit in that corner like you’re going to take a dump.” When I did, he called the other interrogators and told them: “Look how he’s sitting.” They laughed and left the room. A short while later, Seyyed told me to do squats again; I was doing them when a man they called Doctor came in with two or three other people, one of whom was a young guy, and hit me twice in the chest with the palm of his hand so hard that I could hardly breathe. The young guy who was wearing slippers kept saying: “Jump on his feet, jump on his feet.” But since the Doctor didn’t listen to him, he jumped on my feet with both of his himself. The Doctor grabbed my hair and pulled it down and hit me so hard on the neck with a karate chop that my head started to spin. At the same time he slapped me in the face and said: “I’ll cram Lenin up your ass so far he’ll stick out your throat.” Haji then told me again to stand in a cross position.
Haji said: “Why were our guys killed on the [war] front?” “For the people,” I said. He spit in my face and said: “No, you have to say for Islam, not the people.”
After a few moments the Doctor asked if I wanted a smoke and I said I wouldn’t mind. He brought a lit cigarette close to my mouth and held it under my nose. He was constantly playing with the cigarette, bringing it close to my nose or my mouth. Then he stepped back for a few moments and said: “We want to celebrate your birthday here tonight. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you!” I saw from under my blindfold that he was moving his feet in a dance move. The Doctor said: “Now we’re going to get your father and bring him here to see what we’ve done to his kid.”
I wasn’t feeling well and they told me to do squats. In the middle of them the Doctor said: “He seems strong.” He told someone to put a heavy chair with handles on my back, which they did. Then he said: “Let’s see if you can lift the chair up.” I did. “No, it seems our kid is still strong, he has power.” I was bringing the chair down when he jumped on it and said: “Let’s see if you can lift me up now.” I couldn’t. “Learned your lesson? Take the chair off his back,” he said. Seyyed took my hand and said: “… Stand in the cross position.” I wanted to raise my head once or twice to see his face but he slapped me in the face very hard. The Doctor said: “You’d better not try to see us because if you do see us, our image will be engrained in your mind for the rest of your life and you’ll never be able to have nice dreams.” Then he laughed and left the room.
Seyyed said: “Do you want water? Is there anything you want me to bring you?” “Yes, I’m thirsty,” I replied. “Oh, thirsty [Imam] Hossein in Karbala” he said, and went out and told the Doctor to come in. when they came back in, he unbuckled his belt, put his hand under his genitals and said: “Here, here, here, come and drink all you want.” Then the Doctor took my hand and told me to sit on the chair while running his hand across my fingernails: “What beautiful fingernails you have. It would be a shame for us to pull them out. Bring him some water.” I was drinking the water when he took it from me, put some sugar cubes in it, and said: “Now drink it.”
The guy who had jumped on my feet was also sitting down and brought his foot close to my bottom. I said: “Take your foot away.” He didn’t listen and brought his foot even closer and stuck it to me. I took his foot by the ankle and tossed it aside. Seyyed put a piece of paper in front of me and the questioning began. I was tired. Seyyed slapped me in the face and said: “Don’t sleep, don’t sleep, you have to stay awake. Start writing so I can transfer you to the Al-Qaeda ward and tell them you’re a communist; they’ll rape you and you’ll be walking funny tomorrow. Write down your beliefs. What school of thought do you follow?” I said: “I want freedom and social justice, and any school of thought that can satisfy these requirements [is fine].” “No, that’s not the answer to my question,” he said, tearing up the paper and throwing it in my face; “You have to write that you are a leftist Marxist.” “Why?” “This comrade is not just any comrade,” he said. I snickered. The Doctor slapped me in the face and said: “That’ll be the last time you make fun of our guys. What was your father’s case about? He was one of those who repented.” They only had word of my father’s pre-Revolution activities and since I didn’t say anything, they weren’t able to maneuver on that front.
Seyyed slapped me in the face and said: "Don’t sleep, don’t sleep, you have to stay awake. Start writing so I can transfer you to the Al-Qaeda ward and tell them you’re a communist; they’ll rape you and you’ll be walking funny tomorrow."
I couldn’t open my left eye properly because of all the beating. That’s why Seyyed asked me: “Why do you have a twitch?” “It happens whenever I work out.” He became angry and hit the desk very hard with his hand and said: “You’ll work out tomorrow, you’ll work out the day after tomorrow, we do workouts here every day! Now you can go back to your cell.” The guard came and took me away.
I was interrogated until 11 PM that night, and the four or five interrogators questioned me incessantly. I ate the cold kabob they had left for me when I went back to the cell and then slept. During the interrogation, I learned that the December 4 events had already taken place. This made me happy even though I was being beaten severely.
I had cramps in my legs when I woke up the next day. They took me to interrogations that very morning. This time, Seyyed was asking about Osanlu and the World Labor Day ceremonies at the Shirudi Sports Complex: “You wanted to have an illegal gathering?” “Having a gathering is not illegal,” I said. “I will bring you the Constitution,” he replied. “OK, bring it,” I answered. As soon as I said that, he started to slap me: “Why the heck do I have to bring you the law? When I say it’s illegal, that means it’s illegal. Stand up. You’re the same as that good-for-nothing Osanlu. I’ll straighten you out myself, right here.” Then he made me stand in the form of a cross and started to slap me. After a while, he allowed me to sit. Then suddenly he said: “You want to make a leftist out of me like that Ehsan Tabari? Won’t you ever learn?” He slapped me on the hand with plastic handcuffs he was holding and told me to stand up; as soon as I did, he slapped me in the face twice and pulled my hair. When I bent down, he hit me in the back with his elbow, pushed me to the floor, sat on my back, and started to hit my head against the floor: “I won’t leave you alone until you kiss the floor.” “How long are you going to play these games?” I asked. He let me go and I sat back on the chair. Seyyed asked: “Do you know Hassan Saremi? Do you know Reza Farahmand?” “Yes” I replied. He slapped me a few times and said: “Write down that you’re a leftist Marxist.” I wrote down “leftist Marxist.” “This is no good; you have to write that you are a leftist Marxist,” he insisted. Then he asked me about the principles of Islam. I counted many but he said: “I’ll report that you don’t believe in the principles of Islam. What is your opinion of the Hijab?” “I don’t have an opinion,” I replied. “I’ll write that you don’t believe in Islamic covering, I’ll write that you’re not cooperating with the interrogator. Then you’ll come back to me so I can straighten you out,” he said.
Before taking me to the cell, the Doctor came in, lifted my blindfold for a second and quickly put it back and said: “Hey, hey, don’t look at me, you’ll never forget me.” Then he brought his mouth close to mine and said: “I wanted to kiss you.” His breath smelled like sewage. I turned my head away. He laughed and left the room, and I was taken to the cell.
When the guard brought food over that night, I could not easily get up. My left eye was black and blue and I couldn’t open it properly. The guard asked: “What happened to your left eye? Why can’t you stand up straight?” “I was beaten at interrogation,” I responded. He took a look at me and called another guard, and they took me to the infirmary.
The doctor at the infirmary was from Shiraz. He examined me and the bruises on my body and said: “Don’t worry, I’ll put all of this in your file. Did you become political because your stomach was full (meaning, you had nothing better to do)?” “No, actually, I became political because my stomach was empty,” I responded. He prescribed a vitamin shot and some pills for me. I was taken back to the cell. The guard brought over a piece of paper and said: “Write about the interrogations and the beatings!” So I wrote everything. He took the paper and left. The next day, my interrogator had been changed.
When I was taken downstairs for interrogations the next morning, Seyyed stood in front of me: “Hey little communist, I saw your videos at Emamzadeh Taher. You looked good. I’ll make it so you’ll bite the floor in pain, just wait.” They took me to the upper level to take my picture. Seyyed followed us everywhere and would tell me: “You think you’ve gotten away from me? You’ll come back to me.” After taking my picture they took me to the lower level. A man took my hand and said: “His room will be changed.” I was waiting by the interrogation room when someone took my hand and turned me over to Seyyed, who said: “You people are vile and dirty. You rape each other: this is accepted and you do it freely. What were you singing at Emamzadeh Taher? You think there are actually bodies in those graves? What were you singing there?” “The ‘Internationale’,” I replied. “What?” “The ‘Internationale’,” I repeated. “You piece of shit, why weren’t you singing ‘My Elementary School Friend’,” he said. “We sing that too.” Another interrogator who was from Ahvaz and was in the room said: “Who wrote ‘My Elementary School Friend’?” “A fighter,” I answered. He made fun of me: “A fighter, a fighter.” “Take him away,” Seyyed said, “You’ll be right back here with me again, we have a lot of work to do here.”
Seyyed said: “Hey little communist, I saw your videos at Emamzadeh Taher. You looked good. I’ll make it so you’ll bite the floor in pain, just wait.”
I was taken to another interrogation room. There was a chair in a corner and I was told to sit there. I heard a sound behind me like someone opening a briefcase and shuffling papers. After about 10 minutes, someone said: “Now you can slowly pull up your blindfold.” I did. I saw the walls and they seemed like they were made of wood. The person said: “I’m an expert on leftist issues. When I tell you to turn around, you will turn around, keep your face up, and you will look at me. There is nothing between us: if we see each other on the outside, you don’t know me and I don’t know you.” As I was about to turn around, the door opened and several people entered the room and I was told to lower my blindfold again. One guy was eating potato chips: he gave me a cigarette and some chips, sat behind me, and said “Yes, I have a kid about your age. When we’re done with our conversation here, I will interview you.” I said: “Like the interviews under [first prime minister under the new Revolutionary regime] Bazargan - you condemn us for having a free discussion?” He got up and said angrily: “I’m not concerned with this stuff. We have to stop these kids now, because when they get older, you won’t be able to control them. Everything must stop, right here, right now,” and left the room in anger. The interrogator waited 5 minutes for things to calm down and said: “Now you can lift your blindfold up and turn around.” He was a clean-shaven man over 40. “I’m a PhD student in political science,” he said. “I interrogated Ali Amui: their rooms were here before.” “Let me see their rooms then,” I said. “Cooperate with me. What do you know about Marxism?” he asked. “Marxism is the science of revolution,” I replied. “You said you were a leftist Marxist. You are young now and you have little knowledge of the left: the masses are like sheep, they need leaders, and we will prevent that leadership from taking shape,” he stated. “Why do you insult the people?” I asked. “I’m sorry,” he responded, “I did not mean it as an insult.”
"You are young now and you have little knowledge of the left: the masses are like sheep, they need leaders, and we will prevent that leadership from taking shape.”
During the interrogation, he would at times stare at a corner of the room, raise his hand, and say: “Islam is a universal religion.” I immediately responded: “I say Mr. Khomeini was the Imam of Time (the twelfth and last Imam of the Shi’a sect, the equivalent of the Judeo-Christian Messiah, who is absent until he appears to save the world) but you prove that he wasn’t.” He was taken aback and did not say anything. He brought his hand down and said: “You’re very young, you’re 22 years old, you can change the course of your life. A 50-year-old has already chosen his path and my words will have no effect on him when he is brought here; they won’t change him. But you can change the direction of your life. Tell me what you want. Tell me you want a bag full of money: I will give it to you and I will release you at Enghelab Square in one hour and you can go about your life.” Then he asked about leftist political movements and political groups, about the Tudeh Party Youth Organization. And I would criticize them so he wouldn’t connect me to them.
I had two weblogs before being arrested. The interrogator asked me to explain the contents of one of them. I tried to talk a lot about the 28 Mordad Coup (August 19, 1953 coup d’état), the late Dr. Fatemi, and not so much about leftist Marxist movements featured on the blog. “I can have you sentenced to three years in prison for just these two sites” he said. “Do you know Hassan Saremi?” “Yes,” I answered. “How about Ali Saremi?” “No, I don’t know him.” “How can you not know Ali Saremi?” “Well I don’t, I’ve never seen him.” He asked about Student Day and the events, all of which I denied. Then he drew an organizational chart with all the Shiraz guys under me, which I did not accept; I stated that the guys in Shiraz were independent, that there was no organization, let alone a chart of that kind. Finally he said: “I have a lot of work: I will just pray for you, may God help you. Tomorrow you will have a different interrogator.”
I ate in that interrogation room around noon. Then 3 or 4 other interrogators walked in. The interrogator told me to put my blindfold on. One of them who had an Ahvazi accent said: “If there have been family members of yours who were political prisoners or have been executed, tell me now.” “You have my entire file, and I have said all there was to say,” I replied. He repeated: “Yeah, tell us what you did so you don’t waste our time. Tell us what events you participated in so you don’t waste the guys’ time and make them come back.” “I didn’t participate in any events.” “We’ll find out,” he said threateningly. He walked and banged his fist against the wall, then he would caress it and say: “You don’t know what people were in these cells in the 80’s. There were so many people standing in these cells, snug, one against another, air-tight, here, right here. It’s much better now. Your guys are very different than the guys from the 80’s and from before the Revolution. Back then we had to hang them up [by the ceiling] to get them to utter a single word, but now we say ‘A’ and they recite the entire alphabet for us.”
He talked about all the different kinds of torture for two hours: “We had a chair that had a torch underneath that we could turn on; we don’t use those anymore. We used to tie a string around the tip of the genitals and you couldn’t go to the bathroom for hours; your life would pass before your eyes.” He was going on and on when someone said from behind the door: “Has he learned his lesson?” “No, no, no need, he will talk,” he responded. “I said all I had to say; I have to talk to my family,” I stated. “I talked to the person in charge of the ward and he won’t agree to let you contact your family,” he said. Another individual entered the room and asked about my father and my uncle. He left when he was done asking his questions, but he kept leaving and coming back. He became my interrogator after a few days and showed me pictures of the 16 Azar ceremonies I had participated in at Tehran University. He pointed to me in the picture and asked who it was. I said it was me. He slapped me hard and said: “You’re crazy. You want to wear a size 14 shoe?” “I don’t mind,” I said. “You’re crazy, you’re stupid; you’re going to lose your kidneys if we get a Ta’zir sentence for you. You have to cooperate with us!” At the end of the interrogations, he handed me a few pieces of paper and said: “Go to your cell and fill out these interrogation papers at night.”
The interrogators and the interrogation rooms changed constantly in the course of two weeks. I had four interrogators.
One night during the third week of detention, two people interrogated me simultaneously. One of them had a beard and a prayer stone mark on his forehead. A part of his right thumb had been cut off and he was wearing an agate ring. The other interrogator was over 40 and wore glasses; his shirt was unbuttoned the first time he walked in the interrogation room, and he was wearing a thick chain around his neck. He came toward me, brought his hand forward, and said: “Run your hand over mine. You see these bumps? It’s all shrapnel marks. It’s not important to us what happened or didn’t happen at the university; just tell us when and at what time you were supposed to go to Ashraf [Camp, MKO base in Iraq].” “I’m a leftist. What would I have to do with Ashraf?” I said. “How long have you been in solitary” he asked. “Two weeks,” I responded. “You’ll stay there so long your beard will grow long. Then you’ll beg for me to see you but it will be too late” he stated. He wrote several questions on some interrogation papers he had numbered, gave me a pen and three cigarettes, and said: “Go to your cell and answer these questions nicely and bring them back. You have to fully explain to me whatever you’ve said to the other interrogators so far: about the student movement, the history of the leftist movement, and the books you’ve read.” When I went back to my cell that night, I only wrote down the names of Marxist books I’d read. The next day the interrogator asked: “You mean you’ve never read an Islamic book in your life?” I said I had, but that he had told me to write the names of the books I liked. He took a look at me and said: “You’re not giving any explanation about Ashraf.” “I don’t know where Ashraf is; I wasn’t supposed to go to Ashraf at all,” I said. “You don’t know Mehdi Same’e?” “I do and I criticize him.” He tore up the interrogation papers and threw them in my face: “Go back to your cell and whenever you decide to talk, you tell the guard you want to talk to Seyyed.” I asked for a cigarette. “No,” he said, “if I give you a cigarette, your brain will stop working. By the way, what did they charge you with when they arrested you? They said they caught you with 100 kilograms of drugs. I’ll put 100 kilograms of drugs right behind your cell if you don’t cooperate with us; then I’ll take a picture with the drugs and I’ll put it in your file.”
They asked about the Noruz 1385 (2006) commemorations at Khavaran cemetery in which I had participated. They had the video and said: “Why did you participate? There’s no one buried there and no such thing happened.” They ended up putting that in my file as another charge.
I became ill twice during this round of interrogations, and I was taken to the infirmary. I had nausea the second time and I was throwing up a yellow liquid. They administered an injection and took me back to the cell. Two or three days later, they took me to a room on that same floor. There were two other people there, one of whom said: “Lift your blindfold and write about what transpired during the interrogations. Who was in your cell?” I wrote down everything about the interrogations: the torture, the insults, the cuss words, and finally stated that I was alone in the cell. He said: “No, but think; who was in the cell with you?” I told him I was by myself. He was a little taken aback: “Do you swear you’re telling the whole truth?” “Give me more paper and I will write more,” I replied. “This is sufficient,” he stated. The other guy who was sitting behind him and was playing with his prayer beads said: “Mr. …, I read your file. Unfortunately, you have not cooperated with the interrogators. When you do, you will see results. Promise you will cooperate with them.” “I promise you that I did cooperate with them,” I said. “No, you did not” was his reply as he left the room. Then they took me to the two previous interrogators again, and a few hours later I was taken to a different room. The man with the prayer beads, my Ahvazi interrogator, and another man were there. The unidentified interrogator said: “We had a revolution and we fought a war for eight years. We’re not going to let the likes of you squander our accomplishments. Cooperate with us.” Then he asked about Ali Saremi and his daughter Zeinab: “We’ll give you a job and money, a life. What is it you want? Just say what we want you to say and leave. What did Zeinab want with you? Did Zeinab want to connect you to the Mojahedeen Organization (MKO)?” I was in fact in contact with Mr. Saremi’s family, and they wanted to cause trouble for the family because Zeinab was pursuing her father’s case.
They also asked about our reading circles, the books we read, our hiking programs, NGO’s, and other activities. This round of interrogations lasted a week, during which they gave me religious books like Hossein’s biography and Motahhari’s book to read in my cell.
When the interrogations were over, I was transferred to a smaller cell next to the bathroom. The cell was 170 cm (67 in) by 200 cm (78 in), half of which was dark and the other half lit by a yellow lamp. There was also a blanket, a pillow, and a bunch of religious books there.
After 54 days in solitary confinement, a guard took me to another cell one night and said: “Now you can be social.” There was a student there from Yazd whom I had seen at Shamlu’s commemoration; he had been arrested in Tehran. He told me that he had been in contact with his family for over two weeks. I asked him to ask his family to contact mine, to tell them I was fine and not to worry.
I was allowed cabin visitation with my family after 56 days, on a Monday. As I was being taken to the visitation hall, I saw two of my friends outside Ward 209 who I kissed and greeted. At that very moment, a soldier wearing a soldier’s cap and glasses took me by the collar and said: “Open the trunk of the car and we’ll throw this guy in there. He hasn’t straightened out yet.” But after a few seconds he changed his mind, saying “Ah, forget it.” My other friend and I sat on the back seat of the car and the soldier sat in front; he then turned around and slapped me in the face and said: “If I knew you were from [a provincial] town, I wouldn’t have told them to bother you.” I was able to visit my family for the first time behind a glass window in the visitation hall.
My first court session took place 58 days after my arrest. I did not have an attorney. We were taken to court in two Peugeot cars with two other detainees: one a human rights activist, and the other a Kurdish Tehran University student. Judge Mussavi was presiding over Branch 2. He stated my charges as “[illegal] gathering, conspiracy, and propaganda against the regime,” none of which I accepted. He then issued a 100 million-Tuman bail. They took us back to Evin Prison when the session was over.
They would not accept the deed my family had put up as bail, saying there was an outstanding loan on it; this was not the case and they just wanted to bother us. In any event, with my uncle’s help, [my family] was able to put up two deeds for the court as bail for my release.
Ultimately, I was released on February 8 after 68 days of detention. I gave all my things and warm clothes to my cellmates (who had been transferred to our cell 2 or 3 days earlier and were from the North [of Iran]) on the day of my release, and I was taken to the lower level. When we got there, they slammed me to the wall and asked about political movements, the Hekmatist movement, proletarian communism, and the DAB movement (Daneshjuyan-e Azadikhah va Barabartalab) (“Libertarian and Egalitarian Students”). Then they returned my clothes that they had taken the first day. I went from Ward 209 to fingerprinting, then to the main gate. There was heavy snow fall and none of my family members had shown up. I walked to a street, got a taxi, and went home.
When I was in solitary confinement, I would hear loud arguments and screaming from outside, as if they were torturing someone. The water was always cold when we wanted to take a shower and I had to quickly put a blanket on myself to warm up. They wouldn’t let me shut the door completely when I needed to use the bathroom. I used to exercise by myself in solitary. On the Night of Yalda (longest night of the year, winter solstice), they brought me some warm clothes and I was able to change the bloodied and stinking clothes I’d worn for three weeks. I was somewhat able to see the reflection of the bruise under my eye, as well as my long hair and beard, in the aluminum wrapping of the cookies they brought me. In one of the interrogation sessions, the interrogator said to me: “Look, the prisoner’s food and the interrogator’s food are the same.” “Yes,” I replied, “but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that OUR food and the PEOPLE’S food be the same.” A few times they tried to force me to do an interview and I would say: “If I do an interview, I will talk about my beliefs; I will defend social democracy and I will not say anything to the contrary.”
I had bruises under my eyes caused by torture, and I had back pain. Upon my release, I went to the doctor who did an MRI and told me all my vertebrae were vulnerable to herniated disk [issues].
After my release, my sister and I along with eleven other people (some of whom were students) decided to start an NGO to deal with women, children, and workers’ issues. We needed a permit. We had heard that the fastest way to get a permit was through an institution called the Youth Organization, known in Iran as the Youth National Organization.
We needed by-laws in order to obtain a permit. We therefore decided to go to Laleh Park on August 23, 2008, in order to discuss and draft the by-laws. We had hardly been together for 10 minutes when, at 6:00 PM, a policeman wearing a dark green uniform came over and asked if we were students. The students among us answered in the affirmative. “Who is in charge here? One of you must come and answer a few questions” he said. I said I would go, and I went with him to the Park Police office. There was a plainclothes officer there who said: “I’m an officer. Why were you gathered together in the park?” “We had gathered to discuss an association we have together and didn’t do anything illegal” I responded. He called to have [the headquarters] send someone over to investigate, and sent another policeman to bring the rest of the guys to the office. A few minutes later, a tall, heavyset agent wearing the uniform of a second police lieutenant walked in and said angrily: “Why didn’t you gather in your own homes? Why did you come here?” Then, without delay, they took us to Enghelab Police Precinct. They didn’t have enough cars to take us there, so the second lieutenant said: “I’ll bring the women myself; the rest of you, get a taxi with this soldier and come to Enghelab Precinct.” So we went there at our own expense. Once we got there, the soldier asked us for money to go back, to which I said: “Go get it from your officer; you should have brought enough cars if you wanted to arrest us.” The police did not treat us well at the precinct. The soldiers were impolite toward the women and made snide remarks at them. We were there for about an hour and then we were taken to the Security Police located at Nilufar Square in a van in which men and women were separated by a steel fence. The women went first and we followed them. One of the officers told one of the guys who had his hand in his pocket: “Why are you playing with your balls? Hurry up.” Both my friend and I were offended. “Why do you talk like that?” I said. “You have no right to say something like that.” He turned red and separated my friend from us and took him back into the precinct. When we were all inside the van, I put my foot in the door and said: “We won’t let you close the doors if you don’t bring my friend; when he’s in here with us, then you can close the door.” They brought my friend a few minutes later and the van proceeded to go to Nilufar Square. At first, none of us knew where we were going. But one of our friends who lived around the neighborhood said that we were at the Security Police station at Nilufar Square.
There, they gave a piece of paper to each of us on which they asked a number of questions such as “Why were you gathered at the park? What was your objective?” and told us to answer them. Then an interrogator would take the papers and study them. Then they allowed us to contact our families. Some of the guys’ families showed up and put their birth certificates up as collateral for their release, and were told to come back the next morning so that we could all be taken to court. I, my sister, and three other people were not released. A friend and I were taken to a cell right there in the basement, and the women were taken to Vozara [Street Precinct] until the day of court.
They took away our personal belongings like shoe laces and belts before they took us to the basement accompanied by an officer. He said: “There are both solitary cells and communal cells here. You can go to solitary if you want; if not, you can go to communal.” We chose a group cell. There were four other detainees there. Around midnight, we heard a boy crying while being flogged, saying: “I’m sorry, I apologize.” The interrogator was saying: “I swear I’ll make you talk. Go ahead, hurry up, who did it?”
When everybody showed up the next morning, they took us to another room to have our picture taken. They put a sign around our necks that read “Unauthorized gathering in the park.” They took our pictures full face and profile. Then they took us to Revolutionary Court Branch 3 in a car. I don’t remember the judge’s name but he had a thin build. Since I had accepted responsibility for the group, the judge sent everybody else out and talked to me. When he was done, he told me to go and wait outside until he called me back. After a few minutes someone came out and said that the judge wanted everybody back in. Inside, the judge said: “What you did was fine, but our guys arrested you for the women not observing hijab.” Ultimately, we were all acquitted and released.
The agent who had accompanied us to the court said a car would come and take us back to the Security Police to get our things back. After we got our personal belongings, they took me to another room where there were several other people. One of them, who was sitting behind a desk and spoke with more authority, said: “Where did you find these guys? What did you people want to do? Why did you go to Laleh Park?”
I said: “These are all my friends. We wanted to start an NGO and there was no other park. From now on, we will let you know beforehand when we want to gather in a [public] place.” “Why don’t you just work with Ms. Shirin Ebadi’s NGO? We issued her a permit, go work with them,” he stated. “Ms. Ebadi said that we were political and that she didn’t want to work with us,” I responded. He didn’t say anything else but asked if I had had a previous arrest. I said that I didn’t and he replied that he would find out. Then he said I could go.
When we got out of there, one of the women told me: “Yesterday the interrogator told me to say that you and your sister were responsible and that you had invited us to gather in the park. He said he would let me go if I wrote that.” She had told him that we hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary for her to denounce us.
Sometime later, we went to Baqershahr and decided to get active in the area of women and children’s hygiene and education. Since we didn’t have a permit, however, the township didn’t allow us to conduct our activities, telling us they would cooperate with us if and when we produced a permit. We went back to the Baqershahr township office in the summer of 2009 after we had obtained a permit for the NGO. This time they said: “We have to figure out whether it’s British Dollars or American Pounds behind this.” We said we were a popular institution, that we paid for all our expenses [ourselves], that we did not receive financial help from any place, and that we wanted to work there. “We determine your activities and you will work based on our program. We tell you where to go and what to do,” they said. We did not agree to that, so they ultimately did not agree to our activities. So, toward the end of the summer, we went to Mahmudabad and Khavarshar and started our activities there.
We went back to the Baqershahr township office in the summer of 2009 after we had obtained a permit for the NGO. This time they said: “We have to figure out whether it’s British Dollars or American Pounds behind this.”
With a permit from the Ministry of Guidance, we were able to observe World Children’s Day with Shush Children’s House’s Society for the Defense Children of Labor and the Street at Laleh Park Amphitheater in October 2009. On October 14, 2009, we observed the World Day Against the Death Penalty at Shush Shahriaran-e Javan House with the Death Penalty Society and the Children’s House. Mr. Mostafai gave a speech at the gathering and we put up a sign [denouncing] the death penalty.
I was sent to perform my military service at Tehran Air Force base in November 2009. It was in March 2010, if I’m not mistaken, that they contacted our home and told us to go to Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 28 for my final defense. I didn’t go because I was a soldier. In March-April, we received a notice at home which had set the court date for June. I spoke to the two attorneys who had agreed to represent me after my release. They said: “There’s a lot going on right now and it’s not a good time. They might slap you with a heavy sentence. Go to court, tell them you’re a soldier, and ask for a postponement.” I went to the court one day before the court date and requested a postponement. Judge Moghisseh, who was in charge of my case, said: “Lawyers can’t do anything for you.” “I respectfully ask for a postponement, however. Please set a different date,” I said. I got close to 45 days from the court and the trial was set for the end of July, early August, if I’m not mistaken.
I went to Revolutionary Court Branch 28, presided over by Judge Moghisseh, with one of my attorneys on the prescribed day. His conduct was neither good nor bad: “I’m going to Mecca; come back in early September,” he said. We went back in early September. Judge Moghisseh said during trial: “You had two weblogs called Chape Enghelabi and Arman-e Khalq, right? Were you involved with Tehran University too?” After I answered his questions, he asked what I wanted, and I said freedom of speech. “You wanted freedom of speech so you could pick up a knife and come out to the streets and stab people’s kids?” he asked, adding “You and your family altogether are just leftists and you won’t change.” The trial ended in about ten minutes. The sentence was issued in December and my attorney received it in January. I had been acquitted of the charge of association and conspiracy, and sentenced to one year imprisonment for propaganda against the regime. In the decision, Mr. Moghisseh had written that I had participated in the commemoration of those killed in the 1980’s and had chanted slogans against the regime. We never chanted slogans at all. I appealed the sentence. Appellate Court Branch 36 Judge Zargar upheld the lower court ruling and said: “I think he got away easy; he should have gotten a heavier sentence.”
Toward the middle of November 2009, they also contacted our home from the Peygiri Office and asked that I go back to pick up the things they had taken from me in 2007. When I went there, they put an interrogation paper in front of me and asked about some of my friends who had left the country, the elections, military service, where I was stationed, and the Reformists. Then they gave me back my computer case without the hard drive.
I received a summons from the Sentence Implementation Bureau on the night of February 3, 2010, telling me to report in order to start serving my one-year jail sentence. Before I could do that, however, my sister and I were arrested at our home on February 8.
We were getting ready to sleep on the night of February 8 when the intercom doorbell rang. My mother answered [seeing them through the intercom screen] and told them to wait a moment until she went downstairs to open the door. In the meantime I picked up and hid some illegal leftist books, called “white cover” books, which the Islamic Republic did not allow to be published. About six plainclothes agents who said were from the Security Police entered the house with a warrant which my father took and looked at. They told me and my sister to get ready and go with them. I said I would go myself and that there was no need for my sister to go, but they said she had to go too.
My sister was active with the Grieving Mothers [Society] and I thought that might be the reason they wanted to arrest her. I also had a feeling they might come for us too because around mid-January, a number of members of the Society to Strive for A World Worthy of Children and the Better World NGO had been arrested. They took my personal computer and took us to the lower level. As soon as we left the house, they handcuffed me and gave me another pair of handcuffs and told me to put them on my sister. I think they brought three cars to arrest us. They took us to Evin Prison. On the way, we heard one of the agents ask someone on his radio “where the next destination was;” it seemed they were going to arrest a lot of people that night.
Once we got to Evin they gave us blindfolds and told us to put them on. They separated my sister from me and took me to Ward 209, which was extremely crowded; they had arrested a lot of people. First they took me to change my clothes. Then they gave me a form to fill out, giving my personal information, my occupation, and arrest record. Ten minutes later, they pulled me out from among the other arrestees and took me to have my picture taken. Then they took me to the infirmary where they checked my blood pressure: since my blood pressure was high, they gave me a sublingual pill. I was then quickly taken to the upper level for interrogation.
I was questioned by two interrogators until the morning call to prayer. The questions dealt with previous arrests, the NGO, the financial assistance it received, participating in the elections, my sister’s human rights activities, the Grieving Mothers, and the leftist movements. They also asked about the army and opposition forces in the army. I said I had no knowledge because I was not in contact with anyone. They then took me to a cell where Mr. …, an al-Qaeda member, and someone from Gold Quest were present.
They took me blindfolded to the interrogation room to bring charges against me the afternoon of the next day. There were about four people there. As soon as I got there, I sat on a chair with handles, and a guy who introduced himself as the judge in the case sat behind me. They put a piece of paper in front of me and said: “Why were you arrested? Do you have an arrest record?” “Yes,” I replied. “Write it down,” he said; “You are charged with [illegal] gathering, conspiracy [against the regime], and collecting information for foreigners. Do you accept the charge of collecting information for foreigners?” “I served society and I will not accept such a charge,” I responded. I was then taken to the cell and they didn’t come for me until February 11.
Judge: “You are charged with [illegal] gathering, conspiracy [against the regime], and collecting information for foreigners. Do you accept the charge of collecting information for foreigners?”
Prison officials distributed sweets among the detainees on February 11 [the anniversary of the Revolution] and took me to another cell in the afternoon where the previous deputy director of state radio and television, an Islamic Revolution Mujahedeen member, and another individual were held. They also allowed me to contact my family for five minutes in the presence of the interrogator to tell them I was fine.
I was taken to the interrogation room on February 12. This round of detention lasted about twelve days, and they would take me for lengthy interrogations every 2 to 3 days. The interrogators’ conduct wasn’t bad and they were mostly young. One of the young interrogators once told me: “You want to get arrested so you can [get out of the country and] go across the ocean.” The main interrogator who was old said: “Stop doing this once you’re free, don’t gather people around you. Don’t get up to any group activities. Every time we arrest you, we incur a lot of expenses.” There were no beatings this time. In one interrogation, I wrote down on the paper that “I accepted entire responsibility and legal consequences for the association’s activities” so that they would leave the rest of the guys alone.
They also took me to my sister’s interrogation room twice and allowed me to visit with her. She was very upset when she saw me for the first time after the arrest and started crying: “They’ve charged me with espionage.” “It’s ok, be resilient and tell the truth, not what they want you to say,” I replied. The interrogator said: “Don’t give her any ideas, don’t explain anything about the interrogations.”
Since February was the time to take the master’s degree entrance exams for state universities, I requested that they allow me to take part and the prosecutor agreed. It was eight days after my arrest, if I’m not mistaken, that they said they wanted to take me to take the exam. I changed clothes and they took me to the Polytechnic University in a Peugeot car. We went in from the University’s back entrance toward the theology building and walked toward the mosque. They took me to a small room in the theology building about fifteen minutes before the exam started and gave me the questions. During the exam I could hear several of the University’s religious students talking about the elections, saying “If they order us, we will destroy all of these people.” The University’s Herassat people would also come into the room once in a while, take a look at me, and leave. I was taken back to Evin Prison Ward 209 in that same Peugeot after the exam. I changed into a prison uniform and went back to the cell.
During the exam I could hear several of the University’s religious students talking about the elections, saying “If they order us, we will destroy all of these people.”
Finally one night they told me to pick up all my belongings and go with them, which I did. I saw my sister one more time, was transferred downstairs for fingerprinting, and was released from prison at 12 midnight.
In this round of detention we were allowed to go out in the yard. They would close the door when we went into the yard and we could take our blindfolds off. There was a camera there to control us. There was a large crowd the first time I went to the yard, people sitting three feet apart from each other. The food quality was good at 209, and we didn’t have any issues with going to the bathroom and the shower, which were both in the same area. They would give us soap as well, and allowed my family to bring me clothes.
When I went back to the barracks to continue my military service after my release, the commander summoned and questioned me: “Where were you all this time?” Also, the Belief [Inquisition] Office summoned me once. The Inspection Office also sent me a letter telling me to report to headquarters. I was also summoned by the Information Protection Office once, where they asked: “What were the charges against you? What did they ask about the army? What were the questions? Describe the leftist movements that you know. Name the people that you know. Name the members of the NGO. How is it financed? What were its programs? What kind of gatherings and ceremonies did you hold?” They also asked questions about the elections, Khordad 30, Azar 16, Aban 13 (Quds day), Tasua and Ashura (Imam Hussein’s martyrdom) and about my whereabouts on those days and what I was doing. Fortunately, I was in the barracks on those days, and that was evidence that I did not participate in the demonstrations. Ultimately they said I had to perform my military service for an additional period because I had been absent, to which I responded that I would take the matter to the media if they bothered me and that it would be costly for them. I ended up doing two additional weeks of military service. On the last day the Belief [Inquisition] Office summoned me. A person who introduced himself as the interrogator for leftist soldiers said: “Did you belong to any movements or not?” “No,” I replied. “You got away from us,” he retorted. “I did not belong to any movements to need to get away from you,” I responded. He finally told me I could leave.
My sister’s detention lasted longer than mine; she was released two days before Noruz 2010. I went to Evin Prison’s Sentence Implementation Bureau on April 19, 2010, to serve my one year jail sentence.
I went to Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 28 with my attorney on April 19, 2010, and showed them the letter they had sent us. The person in charge said we had to take it to Sentence Implementation. The person in charge of Sentence Implementation counted 65 of the 68 days I was in Ward 209 as time served and deducted it from my sentence. When I asked how he had made that calculation he said: “We start the count from the day they declare to us that you have been arrested.” Although, according to law, every day served in solitary confinement is to count as 10 days, for me each day in solitary counted as a single day. Then a soldier took me to the Police Force Temporary Detention Center which was located in the basement of the Revolutionary Court. Further, they refused to return personal belongings I had taken with me to go to prison and said: “We’re not allowed to get your things; get your family to take them to Evin Prison; they will turn them over to the ward.”
They handcuffed me at 2 PM and took me to Evin Prison. First I was quarantined, then fingerprinted and registered. Ten minutes later, a plainclothes agent took me to Ward 350.
The entrance exams for the master’s degree at Azad University were in May and I put in a request to take them. However, even though I had been in jail for one month and I was entitled to leave time, the warden did not grant it and I was unable to take the exams.
At the same time that I had appeared before Sentence Implementation, a letter had been sent to our home in May-June 2010 ordering me to appear before Investigating Judge Branch 3 under Judge Beigi. On the day of the trial, I was taken to one of the rooms in the quarantine that was 12 ft by 12 ft. There were other political as well as regular prisoners there who were also supposed to be taken to court. At 9 AM they took everyone to court handcuffed in special vehicles. They took me to Judge Beigi without removing my handcuffs, to which he objected. Without asking a single question, he put a piece of paper in front of me and stated the charges as being “illegal gathering and conspiracy and collecting information for foreigners” neither of which I accepted. I wrote: “I do not accept the charges. I served my society.” The session was very short and I was not represented by counsel.
I was taken back to Evin Prison. I retained a lawyer during my detention and was able to meet with him several times in prison. In January I received a letter ordering me to appear on January 23, 2011, before Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 28 presided over by Judge Moghisseh. My lawyer met with the judge and informed him that I was serving my sentence. The judge therefore postponed the session to February 12, 2011, and I was released on 50 million Tuman bail on February 7, 2011.
Ward 350 was composed of two floors. The lower level and two upper level cells were reserved for political prisoners; the rest were regular prisoners. I was taken to the cell of Farhad Vakili, who represented the Ward at the time. New prisoners like me had to sleep on the floor for close to two months. If a detainee was released, we could then occupy their bed.
Medical attention was scarce in prison. For instance, they would not take prisoners with death sentences (such as Mr. Hajaghai) to the infirmary, only taking them out of the Ward to carry out the sentence under the pretext of taking them to the infirmary. The Prisons Organization food was of low quality. Sometimes you would notice a date pit or mouse excrement in the food. Prisoners would therefore alter the food with groceries that they themselves bought, in order to make it edible. Prisoners were free to contact their families, but if prison officials wanted to take someone to carry out a [death] sentence, all means of communication with the outside would be cut off in order to prevent information from getting out. Family visitations were either in a cabin [from behind a glass window] or in-person. At first, in-person visitations were handled by the person responsible for the ward in a revolving manner; in other words, he would determine who was allowed to have in-person visitations. After a while, however, the prosecutor was charged with this responsibility. I was only allowed in-person visitation once but had cabin visitations on a weekly basis. Families were also allowed to bring personal belongings for the prisoners twice a year.
Medical attention was scarce in prison. For instance, they would not take prisoners with death sentences (such as Mr. Hajaghai) to the infirmary, only taking them out of the Ward to carry out the sentence under the pretext of taking them to the infirmary.
On February 12, 2011, my attorney and I went to Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 28. The judge asked why I had been arrested. I said I hadn’t done anything, to which he responded: “They wouldn’t arrest you just like that.” “I was a soldier and I was in the barracks on the dates they’re alleging I participated in gatherings. As for the NGO, we had a permit for our activities,” I stated. “State you last defense.” “My last defense is that I served my society,” I declared. The judge’s secretary wrote down the last defense and the court adjourned.
My attorney went to court on April 7, 2011 to obtain the court’s decision. I had been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for illegal gathering and conspiracy, and acquitted of the charge of collecting information for foreigners. My attorney objected to the sentence.
While we had no information about the status of my case which, at that point, was at Appellate Court Branch 54, my mother (who was the person who had posted bail) received a letter from the Islamic Revolutionary Court Sentence Implementation Bureau in October- November 2011 stating that I had to appear before the Evin Prison Sentence Implementation Bureau within 20 days in order to serve the sentence, otherwise the bail would be appropriated.
When my mother received the letter, my family members pressured me into leaving the country as soon as possible. My family did not want me to leave illegally. Therefore, after consulting with my attorney, I went to the passport office in late November 2011 to see whether I was allowed to leave and learned that I was. I bought a ticket that same day and left the country legally for Turkey.