“All The Promises Were Empty Promises”: A Young Woman Loses Her Husband to Iran’s War on Drugs
Note: the names which appear below have been changed to respect the interviewee's security concerns. ABF and other organizations like the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran have documented a pattern of official harassment and intimidation of Iranians who contact human rights organizations based.
We’ve lived in Karaj’s Fardis neighborhood ever since I can remember. I met Yassin, a guy who worked at an audio equipment store in Fardis, in 1998, when I was in high school. In spite of my family’s opposition, I married him in 2005-06, and our daughter was born in 2008-09. My spouse was from the town of Khalkhal. He had four brothers and three sisters and had had a tough childhood. He had stood on his own two feet and worked since the age of thirteen. He really wanted to make it; he was an honest guy and had a heart of gold. We were supposed to go to the northern part of the country on February 15, 2013. My husband called me around 5:00 PM and said: “Be ready so we can leave, I’m coming home.” He was supposed to stop by his friend’s house before coming home. I called him several times until 7:30 PM but he didn’t answer. I got worried and called his friend and said he was supposed to come here but hadn’t arrived yet. I called his brother at 8:00 PM and told him: “I haven’t heard from Yassin; ask around and see if anybody has seen him, see what’s happened. His friend’s name is Navid, he might be with him. See if you can find him.” We found Navid’s phone number but there was no answer at all. It was 10:00 PM and both their cell phones were turned off. I got even more worried and thought to myself, whatever is going on, these two are together. I waited until morning but there was no news. In the morning, I went toward Fardis with my brother and my neighbor, looking for Yassin. We asked around among his friends and were finally told that there was a guy named Hamid who knows where they are. It took us until that night to find Hamid. We asked him: “What’s happened? They say you know what happened.” He said: “Don’t look for him anymore.” “Why not? Why shouldn’t I look for him? What’s happened? For God’s sake, tell me,” I said. “They arrested them both at Navid’s chicken farm, with drugs,” he replied.
The next morning, I went everywhere I could. The News Headquarters, Information Protection, the Drugs Headquarters, the Revolutionary Guards, you name it; I looked for him everywhere in Karaj. I went to the Revolutionary Guards, they didn’t let me in. I went to Information Protection and gave them his name, they said their guys hadn’t arrested anyone by that name. I went to the Anti-Drug Force headquarters and sat there for a long time; they brought a list and looked at it and said they had no arrestee by that name. We went back to Hamid again to force him to tell us who had actually arrested the guys. This time he said it was the Information Ministry’s News Headquarters. I obtained the Information Ministry’s News Headquarters’ phone number. It was a three-digit number. I called and gave them my husband’s name and asked if he was there. They asked who I was and I told them I was his wife. All the guy on the line said was: “Don’t worry, he’s fine.” I said: “Please tell me what’s happened. I have to know where my spouse is and why you’ve arrested him.” He said, mockingly: “It’s nothing. He’s fine, don’t worry.”
“What crime is my husband charged with?” I asked. “We can’t tell you,” was the answer from the other side of the door buzzer.
On the third day I was finally able to find the Information News Headquarters’ address. It was a villa style house off of Mollasadra Street, on Motahari Street in the Gohardasht neighborhood. There was a sign at the entrance to the alley which read “Information News Headquarters”. They wouldn’t open the door and would only answer through a buzzer with a camera they could see me through. I rang the buzzer and said: “I’ve been told that your guys have arrested my spouse.” I gave the person my husband’s name. He told me to wait a moment, then he said: “Yes, our guys have arrested him.” “Why?” I asked. “It’s nothing, be on your way,” he responded. I said: “But I have to know what my husband has done and what has happened to him. What crime is he charged with?” “We can’t tell you,” was the answer from the other side of the door buzzer. “That’s not an answer,” I said, “ ‘We can’t tell you’ is not an answer. I’m looking for my husband; tell me the reason why you have arrested him and I’ll go home and say ‘well, they’ve arrested him on such and such charge’ ”. After a lot of back and forth, he finally said that they had arrested him for drugs and that he wasn’t there. “Where is he then?” I asked. “We don’t know where he is,” was the response. “How is it possible that you don’t know?” I asked again, “Please, for God’s sake tell me where he is so I can go find him.” After much begging and insistence, he told me that it was possible he could have been taken to Kachui Prison, Rajaishahr Prison, or Qezel Hessar Prison, in Karaj. I kept insisting and I could figure out from what he was saying that he had been taken to Rajaishahr Prison’s Information detention center. I went to Rajaishahr Prison and told the man who was standing in front of the visitation entrance: “I think they’ve brought my spouse here.” “How do you know?” he asked. “I’ve been told that he might be in here,” I replied. “Get out of here, Ma’am, I can’t answer you,” he said. “Please, for God’s sake,” I begged, “everywhere I go, they tell me to leave. Where am I supposed to go? I have to know where my husband is and what’s happened to him.” “Leave, we can’t tell you anything,” he said once again. I went home and went back to the prison again the next day. I said: “Please, Sir, for God’s sake. Why are you doing this? I’m a young woman and it’s not proper for me to keep coming to a place like this. Just tell me if he’s here or not. I just want to know what’s happened to him.” I insisted so much that he finally felt sorry for me and said he would call Information Protection upstairs. He called and told them: “There’s a young lady who keeps coming here and wants to know what’s happened to her husband and where he is.” He gave them my spouse’s name and they told him to tell me to go home and that they would call me the next day. I went home and the next day, around noon, my husband called. I asked if he was at Rajaishahr Information and he said that he was. I asked him if he was OK and he said that he was. He couldn’t really speak. I asked him what had happened. “I swear to God I haven’t done anything. Don’t worry,” he said, and they wouldn’t let us talk more than that.
About a month after my spouse’s arrest, he called me and said that they had transferred him to Karaj Central Prison Hall Two.
I was able to visit with my husband two weeks after they took him to the Ward. He was not doing well emotionally and mentally. He was worried about the death penalty and said that drugs carried a death sentence. I was very curious to know if they had persecuted and harassed him at Information. Every time I asked him what they had done to him, if they had said anything to him, beaten him, or things like that, he would not tell me anything in order to not upset me, nothing at all. Only once, he told me that Navid was in one room, and he was in another, that they were asking questions; he swore they hadn’t bothered him. He told me nothing about how many interrogators there were, absolutely nothing. Now, I don’t know how they extract confessions; I don’t know, can they obtain confessions so easily?
We had cabin visitations twice a month for fifteen to twenty minutes. The phones were mostly broken. The line would be cut off when time was up and they would yell and scream if we stayed a little bit longer. My daughter would cry when the line was cut off and would say, begging: “Baba! (‘Daddy’).” She would tell my spouse from behind the window: “Baba, tell him to re-connect so I can talk to you some more.” She didn’t know it was out of his hands. She would touch the window with her hands, would put her face against the window, and with a lump in her throat she’d say: “Please go ask for one more minute so I can talk to you just a little bit more.” I would scold her and say: “It’s not possible, don’t bother Baba.” We had told my daughter that her father worked there; so, every time we went there I would get my daughter a doll or some kind of toy and would tell her that her daddy had bought it for her and had put it in the closet. That was the only way I could get her away from that window; I would tell her: “Let’s go and see what Baba has bought and put it in the closet for you. My daughter would not feel well for a couple of days when we came back from visitation. She was upset and restless, she would cry and be disagreeable. We had in-person visitations once every three months for twenty minutes, and we had conjugal visits once a month. The first times we went for in-person visitation, there was a steel fence between us; we would say hello and kiss each other, and then we had to sit at a distance from each other. Only small children were allowed to be in their father’s or their loved ones’ arms and sit on their lap. But a year before my husband’s execution, they changed the in-person visitation hall and put in tables where four or five people could sit, depending on the number of family members. For example, we sat around a four-person table. My child was not able to visit properly with her father during in-person visitations. She would barely have gotten into his arms and on his lap and said “Baba” when they would say visitation was over, “get up and leave”. My daughter and I would separate from my husband with tears in our eyes. The head of the visitation hall and around five guards would be inside the hall. Prisoners would wear special prison uniforms so that they could tell them apart from everyone else. The prisoners’ bench had a different color too: it had blue fabric. A guard would stand watch over everyone. Once visitation time was up, they would first take the prisoners and then they would open the entrance door so that the families could leave. We had to be on time for visitations, be very calm with the guards, and beg them for everything. If we begged them to have an in-person visitation that day, they would say: “We won’t even give you this one if you keep it up.” They would assign a closet to every family on visitation day to put all our possessions in, like bags and other things. They wouldn’t even let us keep the rings on our fingers; we would be subjected to a body search and they would search us thoroughly. During in-person visitations, they would strip us completely naked; they would even search our hair. They would single out my 3-4 year old daughter every time, because she had long hair. They would say: “Why are you bringing her like this? Her hair must be covered.” They gave me a scarf on many occasions and told me to put it on her head and if I refused: “No visitations. Get out.” My daughter would cry and say: “I’m not going to wear it.” And I would say to her: “Sweetheart, don’t mind these things, just put in on your head.” And I would take it off of her once we were through the gate.
During in-person visitations, the prison staff would strip us completely naked; they would even search our hair.
Investigation and Trial
After a month of detention and interrogation at the Information Ministry section at Rajaishahr Prison, my spouse’s case was turned over to the Karaj Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office Branch 13 to Investigating Judge Qayumi. My work started that very day. I was a woman with iron shoes on, running after my destiny. I didn’t know what to do, I went everywhere I could, but I hardly got any answers. They wouldn’t let us enter the Court building, so we had to find an excuse to get in. Sometimes they would keep us out from early in the morning until noon or 1:00 PM and only then would they let us go in. Navid was Defendant Number One in the case and my husband was Defendant Number Two. On one occasion, in the very beginning, I had gone to the office of the Investigating Judge, Mr. Qayumi. He looked at me then at his secretary and said mockingly, laughing: “Look, she’s put hear head down on the prayer stone so much asking God for help that it’s left a mark on her forehead!” I didn’t say anything for fear of messing up my spouse’s case.
After the case was done at the Investigating Judge’s Office, it was sent to Judge Farajollahi at Karaj Revolutionary Court Branch 4. The court’s only session convened on July 8, 2013.
My husband called from prison one day and said they were supposed to take him to court. I immediately hired an attorney, since we had not hired one until then. I must note that the first lawyer I went to was Mr. Farajollahi’s son-in-law. When he saw that I was alone and didn’t have anything in terms of money, he did not take the case. I had no money to spend.
They would not let you in the court building if you said that they had brought your prisoner to court and you had come to see him or her. But if you said that your prisoner was in prison and that you were there to simply look at the file, or that you wanted to get a letter, they would let you in. When they brought my spouse to court, I said I was there to look at his file, and got in with my daughter. There was a soldier standing with my husband, handcuffed to him. My husband was shackled. They wouldn’t let us stand next to each other or even talk to one another. When I wanted to stand next to my spouse, the soldier would scold me and tell me to keep my distance or they would throw me out. Or they would scold my husband and ask him why he was talking and would threaten to take him away. Families had to stand at a distance and talk to their loved ones like that. The lawyer that I hired for Yassin saw him in the judge’s chambers for the first time, and my spouse signed the retainer documents right there. I thought everything would be fine once I got him a lawyer; little did I know that hiring a lawyer served absolutely no purpose and that he would not be allowed to speak in court. Before the trial session, I noticed that Mr. Farajollahi’s son-in-law had been hired on as Navid’s lawyer. Defendant Number One was well off; his mother had once told me that she owned four houses and she would spend all of that on her son.
I thought everything would be fine once I got him a lawyer; little did I know that hiring a lawyer served absolutely no purpose and that he would not be allowed to speak in court.
Before trial, my spouse’s attorney realized that Navid’s family wanted to bribe the judge and blame everything on my husband. Our lawyer said to the judge: “Mr. Farajollahi, they’re saying inside the prison and everywhere else that you’re going to get 250 million Tumans to put the blame on my client in this case. Is that the right thing to do? He had nothing to do with anything; Navid owns the warehouse and everything else, and you want to put the blame on an innocent man with a wife and child?” No sooner had he said this than Navid’s lawyer got scared and ripped the retainer agreement apart and said: “I’m out of this case.” Then, that very moment, he introduced one of his lawyer friends who was present in the courtroom to Navid’s family, and they hired him.
The trial didn’t even last thirty minutes. The judge, my spouse, his lawyer, and I were present in court along with Defendant Number One, his lawyer, his brother and his mother. Farajollahi’s son-in-law was still there even though he had torn up the retainer agreement, but wasn’t saying anything. The judge was addressing Navid in very harsh terms during the entire session so we wouldn’t think that they had bought him off. He said to Navid: “Eight of your cell phones were tapped, you were under surveillance for one month, and you still don’t want to confess? You confessed before, the chicken farm warehouse is in your name, you worked there, and now you’re saying you had nothing to do with anything? Go ahead and confess.” Navid was simply saying: “I haven’t done anything, I have nothing to say. Ultimately I will get out of this like Joseph [got out of the well] and I will not go to the gallows.” My spouse said to Navid: “Please, for God’s sake, tell them I didn’t do anything, tell them I have never manufactured anything,” but Navid didn’t say anything.
Navid’s family also made some commotion in the course of the trial, with his mother saying things like “We are a martyr’s family [i.e. one of our family members was killed in the Iran-Iraq war], we don’t do this sort of thing”, to which the judge responded: “So you think you can do anything you want just because you’re a martyr’s family? What the heck is that? Everybody thinks they can take advantage of being a member of a martyr’s family. You’ve done something wrong and we should leave you alone just because you’re a martyr’s family?” Navid’s brother was raising hell too, making a ruckus, until the judge told him: “I will have you arrested if you keep this up.” And all Navid was saying was “I will ultimately get out of here”. The judge finally got angry and said: “You’ll see if I let you get out of here. I’ll sentence you both to death and will hang you in that same warehouse you were in.” All this time, the attorney was not allowed to speak before the judge at all, and was just writing down what was being said. The court adjourned just like that without the judge asking my spouse any questions. The judge issued a death sentence that very day in front of all of us and said that he would send the ruling to the Supreme Court. Before we knew it and before we could find out what to do, a few months had passed and the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence.
As the judge threatened hanging, our attorney was not allowed to speak.
When the death sentence was issued, they told us: “Don’t object to it. Objecting means you want to contradict the judge and that way, they will immediately hang him.” Even the lawyer said: “Why do you want to appeal? What will we say?” Worried that we might get on the judge’s bad side and have him executed, we did not appeal the ruling.
Every time I went to the court to follow up on the case, they would say: “Don’t mess with the case.” I would say: “So what are we supposed to do? When we come to court, you ask us why we’ve come here and why we’re messing with the case, or why we bring the case up. And when we don’t come to court, you say that we’re not following up. What are we supposed to do? What?” They never gave us a straight answer as to what we were supposed to do. They would tell me: “Ma’am, why do you come here all the time? They’re going to kill your husband; go get a divorce and get your child.” I would say: “I can’t believe you’re talking so freely and easily. Why should I get a divorce? Why should I go?”
When I asked for the court decision, they said they were not allowed to give their documents to the outside. The only thing I was able to get was a handwritten version of it. They told me to “go to the Prosecutor, to the Judiciary; go anywhere you can and show your documents so you can do something for him.” And I would do the things they told me to do. I would take documents showing that he had studied the Koran and attesting to his good behavior, as well as a copy of the court decision, hoping that I might be able to do something for him. I went everywhere: the Supreme Leader’s offices, the Supreme Court, Tehran’s Pardon Commission, Regional Pardon Commission; I would go see whoever told me there was something they could do, but they asked for five hundred million, one billion Tumans. Even if they asked for two hundred million, where would I get that kind of money? As soon as someone would tell me so and so was well placed, I would think to myself “maybe he’s the person who will finally solve my problems; let’s see him”. They would tell me he was in another town, I would go. In another province, I would go. Anywhere they told me, in the summer or in the winter, I would take my child and go.
“Don’t object to the death sentence. Objecting means you want to contradict the judge: they’ll immediately hang him.”
I went to Karaj’s Revolutionary Court chief judge with my mother-in-law a few months after the trial. My mother-in-law took her head scarf out from underneath her chador and threw it under the judge’s feet, which, according to old customs, is a sign of respect for Zaynab [the Prophet Mohammad’s granddaughter and sister of Imam Hussein] and is an act that must be heeded. In utter disrespect, the judge said: “Stop this nonsense and pick up your scarf! What the heck do you think you’re doing? Pick up this garbage and get out of here.”
I also went to Karaj’s Revolutionary Court chief judge with my mother. I was by the chambers when a man in military uniform saw me standing there alone. He asked me what my issue was. I said I had come there for my husband’s problem. “Has he been arrested?” he asked. “Yes,” I responded. I’m sorry, but these people are so filthy, he propositioned me right then and there: “Do you want me to give you my phone number? Be with you? And have a relationship?” I called my mother so he would understand that I was with her and I said to him: “I feel really sorry for you.” He just went on his way. Honestly, when a woman goes to the court or to prison to follow up on a case, they look at her differently; all the guards, agents, security and Information agents, they all have bad intentions. They don’t care at all if that the woman is married and has a spouse, that she has somebody.
There was a woman in charge of the Sentence Implementation Section who would tell me (every time I went there): “Why do you come here? Ultimately, they’re going to kill him. Go live your life, get a divorce.” And I would tell her: “That’s my business. I’m asking you a question, you just answer my question. What do you care if they’re going to kill or not kill him? He’s still alive, he’s still breathing, and as long as he continues to breathe, I will stand by him.” This woman never gave me a straight answer and I would go home without any hope every time.
When I asked for the court decision, they said they were not allowed to give their documents to the outside.
In 2013, I once went to the Supreme Court to see someone named Cheraghi who was in charge of the case load. I had written a series of letters asking for a pardon. I went into his office and told him my problem. I said: “Please, for God’s sake, help me, give me some guidance, maybe a solution.” He said: “I don’t have time right now. Give me your documents and I will call you tomorrow.” He got my cell number and my home phone number and said: “Leave your documents here. I will review them and tell you what the solution is.”
The next day he called and said: “Come and I will tell you what your solutions are and I will write a letter for you.” I said to myself “thank God, there surely is a solution then”. I went to the Supreme Court with my neighbor. I went into his office alone to pick up the letter. “Wait outside for a moment please. Did you come alone?” he asked. I said yes. I shivered. “Wait outside a few moments so it won’t be so crowded,” he said. A short time later he called me in and said he wanted to talk to me. I went in with my neighbor. As soon as he saw my neighbor come in with me, he said: “Here, take your documents and leave. There is nothing that anyone can do for him, it’s too late.” And he didn’t say anything else. I picked up my letters and left his office.
My my husband’s sister and her husband met with Ardebil’s Friday Prayer Imam through an intermediary to submit a letter to him, but he met them very angrily and said: “Why should we help people like him and ask for a pardon? These people should be killed,” and threw them out of his office.
In 2015, we decided to gather in front of the court building with other families whose loved ones had been sentenced to death, to protest the death sentences. We were about 22 or 23 people and we gathered in front of the building. They put up building barricades as soon as they saw a crowd gather outside and hid the Prosecutor, saying that he wasn’t in the building. Then they proceeded to take videos of us. We were chanting: “Why do you have to execute? Why don’t you tend to our cases?” The families were crying and screaming, begging to see the Prosecutor for just a moment, but they wouldn’t allow it.
“Why should we help people like him and ask for a pardon? These people should be killed,” said the cleric we went to for help.
I was talking to my spouse on the phone at that moment when I saw Navid’s brother. I told my spouse that Navid’s brother was there. He said to go talk to him and ask him what they had done and what news they had. As soon as I said hello, he said: “They’re taking our guys.” “What?” I asked. “Go inside and ask. The order of sentence implementation is here; they’re taking them tomorrow or in the next couple of days to be executed,” he responded. As soon as he said that, I made up an excuse to get inside the building. I said: “They contacted me and told me to come here.” I then went the Sentence Implementation Section and asked them what was going on and they said that the order for implementation of the sentence had been issued. I became ill right then and there. Navid’s family said that we had to write a letter and ask to see the Prosecutor. Ultimately, we were able to make an appointment with the Prosecutor for Tuesday of the following week. I went there with my daughter and said: “Sir, I have a small child. Please give him another chance. I swear to God he hasn’t done anything and here are his documents.” He said nothing and simply looked at my spouse’s Koran education and good behavior documents and wrote down my explanations and we left his office. By chance, I saw my spouse’s lawyer there that day. I told him what had happened and asked him: “How come you don’t know about it? They’re supposed to take him for execution.” He immediately wrote a letter of request for a pardon to the Karaj General and Revolutionary Prosecutor and, after much begging and imploring, was able to get it to Mr. Lotfi, the Director of the Pardon Commission asking him for additional time so that we could send the case to the Pardon Commission, hoping we would get a positive response. My spouse’s case went to the Pardon Commission twice, to no avail. When the country’s Attorney General came to Karaj, I took the letter and his Koran education documents, and asked for a pardon, for forgiveness, but no response ever came. President Rouhani came, we submitted the letter and my daughter’s picture and said that that was the condition of our lives, and that my spouse needed to take care of us: No response. I submitted the letter to the Supreme Leader’s Office, asking for pardon and forgiveness. They told me to contact them twenty days later. This was their answer twenty days later: “He has a death sentence, so he must be executed.”
When we wrote the Supreme Leader’s office for pardon, they responded 20 days later: “He has a death sentence, so he must be executed.”
On Saturday, May 21, 2016, my spouse and three other people were transferred to solitary confinement for the implementation of the sentence. My father was home that day. I got a text on my cell around 1:00 PM. I didn’t pay attention to it because it wasn’t the time that Yassin would normally call. And we had talked that morning and he was doing well. My cell phone rang after a few minutes. It was my sister-in-law asking where Yassin was. “Where do you think? In prison!” did you talk to him?” she asked. “Yes,” I responded. “Are you sure?” “Yes.” I got worried all of a sudden: why were they talking like that? “So why have they called my brother from prison?” she asked. At that point, I looked at the texts I had received. It was one of the guys from prison. Some prisoners have cell phones clandestinely. They cut prison phone lines off when they take someone away to be executed in order to prevent prisoners from informing their families. I quickly called my brother-in-law and asked him what was going on and he told me that they had taken Yassin to solitary. I became extremely upset. Wanting to console me, he said: “It’s nothing, he got into a fight.” “He’s not the type that gets into fights, you’re lying,” I responded, “he called me this morning and said he was doing well and was on his way to Koran class.” I became hysterical and couldn’t understand anything anymore, I kept crying and moaning. My mother passed out and fell in the middle of the room; my father passed out. I didn’t know what to do so my child wouldn’t be alarmed. I called everyone and told them to come over, that they had taken Yassin away, that it was all over. All our friends and relatives came over. It was about two or two and a half hours later when Yassin called and said they had taken him to solitary. He had a particular serenity about him. He said he had been praying when the person in charge of the ward had called and told him that the person in charge of cultural affairs wanted to talk to him. He had said: “This is nonsense, I’ve seen all these things before. The cultural guy doesn’t deal with anyone at this hour; he’s not even here at this hour. I know where you want to take me. Let me gather my things and say my goodbyes.” He called and said: “You told me everything would be OK. I know the Koran by heart, I read it and recite it; why have they brought me to solitary?” “It will be fine, trust in God and don’t lose hope,” I said. His co-defendant had not been taken along with him so we were hoping that they had just taken him there to frighten him, and they would take him back. It had happened a lot where they would take the prisoner to solitary to scare him and take him back the next day. They called it the “fear sentence”. I said: “They’re giving you a fear sentence, because they haven’t taken Navid to solitary. If they wanted to take you to be executed, they would take you both together.” I was hoping that this would be nothing but a “fear sentence”. “Trust in God and I pray to God that that is the case,” he replied. We called everywhere to see if we could come up with some money to pay someone off so they wouldn’t carry out the sentence. Some guys would send numbers from inside the prison; some families on the outside said they knew people. We didn’t know if it was true or not, whether they could do anything or not. We just wanted to do something for him but alas, we couldn’t. All the promises were empty promises. I called Mr. Cheraghi at the Supreme Court and said: “Mr. Cheraghi, they’ve taken my husband to solitary. Please, for God’s sake, can you do something for him at the Supreme Court? A letter, something?” “Do you have [the smartphone app] Telegram?” he asked. I didn’t have the app on my phone but one of my friends said “say yes”. So I said: “Yes, I do.” Is it your own phone line?” “Yes.” “I will send you something I want you to look at.” “I want to come over there,” I said. “OK, come alone,” he replied. “I can’t come alone.” “You either come alone or you don’t come at all.” I begged him and said that the person who was coming with me would stand at a distance. “No, you must be alone,” he insisted. “No,” I said. “OK then,” he said and hung up the phone and didn’t send anything over Telegram.
Prison staff would often take people to solitary as if to execute them in order to scare them: this was called the “fear sentence.”
The next day was the 15th of Sha’ban [a date on the Islamic calendar held to be the birthday of the Twelfth Shi’a Imam and celebrated by Shi’a Moslems] and everything was closed and we couldn’t do anything. Monday was visitation day. My spouse called and said they had allowed visitation. We understood that there was nothing that could be done anymore. At 4:00 AM Monday morning, we started to follow up on his case, hoping something could be done.
We went to the Ministry of Justice in Tehran, the Judiciary Branch, the Supreme Court, Information Protection, and many other places, but we were not able to do anything for him. We went to the judge and he said that it was out of his hands and told us to go to the Prosecutor. The Prosecutor said: “This has nothing to do with me and it’s out of my control. Go to the Judiciary Branch.” They just gave us the runaround to kill time.
Other families called and said that visitation was almost over and that we should hurry up and get there. We rushed there as quickly as we could. Some in my spouse’s family had already visited him. My spouse’s two brothers and two sisters who had been with me, my own family, my daughter, and I, were the only ones left. We got to the prison at around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon. Everybody had left except for two officials who were still there. My sister wanted to come inside with me to visit but one of the officials said he wouldn’t let her because she was “namahram [a person with whom contact is forbidden on religious grounds owing to lack of close relation], and if you talk too much, I won’t even let you in,” he said. I wanted to see my spouse for the last time. I took my daughter by the hand and went in with my parents. Yassin was sitting in a chair in the visitation hall. I didn’t know whether to kiss his hands or his feet. I told the guard who was in the hall to let my sister come in and see my spouse. Yassin and I begged so much that they finally allowed my sister to come in. My husband picked our daughter up and held her in his arms: “We have to make a promise to each other,” he said, “you have to take care of your mommy and your mommy has to take care of you. Baba has made a mistake and he’s going to go be with God.” My husband’s father had passed away two years earlier of a heart attack due to stress. My husband said to my daughter: “I’m going to be with your Grandpa.” “Don’t say these things, Baba,” my daughter said with a lump in her throat. Then they announced that time was up and we had to leave. My daughter, in his father’s arms, was clinging to him and would not let go. It was an extremely difficult moment. I wish he had died in an accident, I wish he had had a heart attack, or died some other way, so I would never have had to see that day, to have to part with my beloved. I became sick and fell to the ground. My sister dragged me on the floor and got me out of there. I could not part with my husband; even in our last visit, I was not able to see him properly. They could have let us spend a little more time together but they didn’t. They didn’t have mercy on us even then, and didn’t give us a little time to be together; all I wanted was just to sit with him. We were able to see one another for only fifteen minutes. When we left the hall, a young cleric who taught the Koran in the prison said: “Who’s Yassin’s daughter?” This cleric knew my husband and was very kind to him. As soon as he mentioned my daughter, my mother, sister, and I threw ourselves at his feet and kissed them. It was as if he was waiting for someone to throw themselves at his feet. “This is Yassin’s daughter Haj Agha. Don’t let her lose her father. Yassin is a good man, he doesn’t deserve to die. Please, for the love of God, do something. Haj Agha, I implore you, you know my husband was a model prisoner. Didn’t you say things would be OK if he learned the Koran by heart? Was everything you said just empty promises?” I asked. He smiled and said: “God willing, it will work out.” My old mother kissed his feet: “Haj Agha, don’t let them take my son-in-law.” “It will be fine, I’ll take care of it,” he replied. Feeling sorry for my daughter, he caressed her head, and left. We got out and got into the car and went to my parents-in-laws’ home, crying. The entire family and relatives had gathered here. Yassin was still alive and breathing, but here we all were mourning him already; we knew it was all over. We were buying a burial plot for someone who was still alive. One of my spouse’s family members said: “Where do we bury him? Give me his birth certificate.” Even though I knew by dawn the next day the whole thing would be over, I yelled: “You people! He’s still breathing. He’s still alive, he’s not dead yet. Why should we buy him a grave?”
“You have to take care of your mommy and your mommy has to take care of you. Baba has made a mistake and he’s going to go be with God” said my husband to our daughter.
They allowed my spouse to contact us a few times even though he was in solitary. I would tell him: “Talk some more,” “Please call again and again,” “please don’t hang up.” He would say: “It’s not up to me to call whenever and however many times I want. I call whenever they let me.” The last time I was able to talk to him was midnight. “I swear I feel like I’m flying,” he said, “I feel so light. I’m very calm and serene, and I just want to go.” “That wasn’t our deal, you weren’t supposed to leave us alone,” I replied. “This was the amount of time destiny had allotted me,” he said. “I won’t say goodbye; you have to wait for me there so I can come and be with you,” I said. He said for the family to watch out for each other: “Take care of each other. Take care of my daughter. Take care of yourself. I’m on my way to be with God.”
The family said for me to go pray for him. “Your prayers and your Koran mean nothing to me anymore,” I said, “my child suffered so much these past three, four years. She stood by the window every evening and raised her arms in the air and said ‘God, please bring my Baba back to me; please God, help my Baba.’ She suffered so much. Whenever it rained, she would say ‘Mommy, your prayer will be answered if you pray in the rain.’ And I would go out in the rain and say ‘Oh God, have mercy on us,’ but none of that did anything; none of that had any effect. There is no God, no Koran; it’s all a bunch of lies.” I stayed up until the morning call to prayer. I kept saying to myself “they’re going to call now and say that they have taken him back to the ward” but they never did. It was 5:00 in the morning when we went to the prison entrance, and stayed there until 6:00 AM. We went and asked the guards what was going on and their reply was: “Go to Behesht-e Sakineh cemetery and take delivery of the body.” We were overcome with grief, we started to pound our fists on our heads. We called the families and told them to be ready to take Yassin for burial. I didn’t take my daughter for the burial; I left her at my mother’s home with my sister-in-law, my brother’s wife. I saw my husband’s body; he was sleeping with a particular serenity. When they wanted to read the special burial prayer for him, I said: “What does he need a prayer for? He prayed so much and read the Koran so often in these past three, four years that it’s God who is indebted to him, not the other way around,” and I dragged the coffin and didn’t let them read the prayer for him. I wasn’t myself so I couldn’t tell what was going on, but our friends and relatives later told me that plain-clothed agents were constantly coming and going to make sure nothing happened and that no one made any false moves or said anything disrespectful.
“Your prayers and your Koran mean nothing to me anymore,” I said, “my child suffered so much these past years.”
After the burial was over, I told my sister-in-law to bring my daughter over to my mother-in-law’s home so everyone could see her. When my daughter arrived she asked “why is everyone wearing black? What’s happened?” On the way home to my mother’s I talked to my daughter who was clueless until that moment. “What’s happened Mom?” she asked. “We have to make certain promises to one another, sweetheart,” I answered. “OK, Mommy, I promise.” “You have to take care of me and I have to take care of you.” “Why? What’s happened?” “Your Baba has gone to be with God.” She became hysterical and started to scratch her face and her feet. “What are you saying, Mom?” “Baba has gone to be with God and Grandpa,” I replied. “Why? Why is God so unfair? Why did He take my father? My father was kind, he was young; you mean I don’t have a father anymore?” “Yes, you do; you have a father; he has always been your father and he will be your father as long as you live. He’s with us right now; he can hear us.” “All the other kids have fathers and I don’t. I have to live without a father.” She became restless and started to cry: “How did my father go?” “I don’t know how he went sweetheart.” “What do you mean? Is he in a good place now?” “Yes, he’s in a very good place.” She talked about how good her father was, as did I. I said: “Baba was so good and so kind that God took him from this world; this world is so filthy, there are so many filthy people around us that God didn’t want Baba to be with filthy people; so He took him so that he could remain pure and good.” “Will you take me to his grave?” she asked. “Yes, my love, I will take you there. From now on, we’ll go there to be with him.”
We went to the prison the day after the execution to pick up my spouse’s will. He had divided up all of his belongings there among his friends inside. He had said he did not want anything to come out. In his will, he had asked his older brother to watch over our daughter like a father would and not let her feel like she did not have a father. He had asked his sisters and his family’s forgiveness and had asked that they always read the Koran for him. He had asked my forgiveness. And he had asked for his mother’s forgiveness. His family was waiting for his will, thinking that he had left assets for them; they couldn’t believe that my spouse had nothing.
"Why? Why is God so unfair? Why did He take my father?” my daughter asks.
My spouse had no choice but to eat prison food, which was not good, but he was content, because our financial condition wasn’t such that we could spend money to make his life easy there. My daughter and I were under so much pressure and my family was providing for our expenses. His brother would deposit 50 thousand Tumans into his account in prison, twice a month. He and some of his ward mates would put their money together and buy things like rice and fruits from the prison store and would sometimes make some food. We were allowed to send him clothes every six months. For instance, we were allowed to send him an under-shirt, a T-shirt, and a pair of pants, the fabric of which they specified. That’s it, just these two or three pieces of clothing. In the few years my spouse spent in jail we really were not able to provide for him the way we should have. The only thing I could do was to calm him down. I would just tell him to be patient “for my sake, for your child’s sake.”
The family’s mental and financial state before and after the execution
The day they arrested my husband I didn’t even have 50 thousand Tumans, I really didn’t. Even though my father is retired and lives on a retirement pension, he wouldn’t let us want for anything. He paid for our expenses and wouldn’t let us be empty-handed. He said: “We will take care of you no matter what. We will eat less but we will not let you and your daughter suffer.” Even the bread that I bought was paid for by my parents. If I wanted to take a cab, I would ask them for money. My spouse’s older brother helped us out too once in a while, and would give us 50 or 100 thousand Tumans a month. We waited and were patient, hoping my husband would be freed and would come home.
We found out we were under surveillance when they had first arrested my spouse. A Samand brand car followed us for a while. My younger brother once told me that a Samand car had followed him for a few days. I asked a couple other prisoners’ families and they said that a Samand was always following families, that they were from the Information Ministry and want to know where the families go and what they do.
We found out we were under surveillance when they had first arrested my spouse.
On March 1, 2014, my father-in-law passed away due to the stress he endured after my husband’s arrest. We went everywhere and did everything to get permission for Yassin to attend his father’s funeral but they didn’t allow it. I went to the Karaj Revolutionary Court supervisor and met with the prison warden to no avail; they said I had to “put up upwards of a billion Tumans in collateral, and even then, he would come handcuffed and shackled accompanied by a guard, for only a minute”. My spouse loved his father very much but was not able to see him one last time.
No one endured the suffering my daughter and I endured those three, four years. There was no one else but me to run after his case. My daughter was three years old when they arrested my spouse. I would take my daughter and follow up on the case in cold or hot weather, come rain or snow. My daughter finally went to school, but never once did her father take her to or pick her up from school and that always greatly bothered her. She studied under very difficult conditions and her father would someone work with her on her homework over the phone.
We went everywhere and did everything to get permission for Yassin to attend his father’s funeral but officials didn’t allow it.
I would tell my daughter that her father worked at the prison whenever we went for visitations. She would ask “Well, why doesn’t he come home? Daddies who go to work come home at night.” “Well, sweetheart, his work place is very far and he can’t come and go every day. A lot of daddies work in faraway places,” I would answer. She really suffered a lot. If she wanted me to buy her something I would tell her to wait until the following month when I could get some money. I have said that to her so many times that I am truly ashamed and don’t know what to do. My financial situation is awful, as we speak. I haven’t finished making the payments for the house we’re living in, I mean, I have not been able to make the payments, and they’re going to foreclose on it one of these days. The government gives 91 thousand Tumans in aid to my daughter and me, which is nothing in this day and age. Cold season is upon us now and my child needs a warm jacket; well, I don’t have money for it. Where do I get it? I’m making the same false promise to my daughter that others made to me when my spouse was in prison.
My daughter’s behavior changed when my husband died. She became abrasive and angry. If I raise my voice a little, she immediately raises hers and says “I wish my father was here with me”. A few nights ago, she was in her room studying and didn’t answer no matter how many times I called her. I went to her room and saw that she was hugging her father’s picture and lying down under her blanket. Sometimes she says she misses her father: “Why did Baba leave? Why are you and I alone?” And sometimes she asks: “Do you love me Mommy?” and I say that I do and she says: “Don’t love me and I won’t love you, because God quickly takes those that you love away. I won’t have anybody if God takes you from me. My Baba is gone; who do I stay with if you leave me too?” Other times she asks: “Mommy, am I a good girl? Are you happy with me?” to which I say yes, and then she says: “So I will go be with Baba. Isn’t that what you say, that God takes good people away? Well I want to go be with Baba as soon as possible.”
“Don’t love me and I won’t love you, because God quickly takes those that you love away” says my daughter.
My husband’s family forgot about us after the wake held for the fortieth day of his passing. His older brother just calls once in a while and asks how we are doing. I’m living under very difficult conditions; not a day or night goes by when I don’t cry. Sometimes I even curse my late husband and say “Why did you leave me? What happened? You left and you’re at peace and you left me here with a mountain of hardships and a child”. Not a day goes by when my daughter doesn’t mention her father. It was a tremendous blow. I have become forgetful. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about how I will deal with life. People look differently at people like me in this country. I withstood everything for four years, thinking things would finally be fine and my husband would come home. So where are you, God? Why don’t you hear my calls? I’m not saying I’m the only one who is in these difficult circumstances; there are a lot of people like me around. They took these guys and killed them, and what happened? Is anyone taking care of their families? Has the country gotten better? No, I swear to God, it hasn’t. Many times I have wished that I had died and he had stayed. If he had had a heart attack or an accident, I would have been better able to accept it, but we cannot accept this at all. I truly am devastated when I think of those moments. I don’t wish this on anybody. I swear, our country is a no good country. Don’t the authorities themselves go astray? Don’t they have children? Don’t their children make mistakes? Don’t their children deserve to be executed too, for any crime? Must anyone who makes a mistake in this world must be executed? Why do they keep people in prison at all when they don’t even look at the file? Why don’t they just kill them as soon as they arrest them? Why do they torture them?
They took these guys and killed them, and what happened? Is anyone taking care of their families? Has the country gotten better?
My daughter chose her father’s grave stone herself; a white stone. And we wrote on it the poem that she always read to him:
My beloved Baba, a bouquet of flowers,
Sits in a flowerbed.
When the flowers bloom,
My beloved Baba is all the more lovely.
Whose lovely flower is he?