Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses

I want to scream the pain that all detained human beings share

Abolfazl “Puya” Jahandar
Abdorrahman Borumand Foundation
August 21, 2008

A Letter From Evin Prison

They say, "Be silent, be silent again.  Sacrifice the truth for your interest.  Your interest is in remaining silent."  

I believe that silence brings forgetfulness.  Being silent sometimes means telling a lie, a cowardly and deceitful lie. I want to scream the pain that all detained human beings share.

Two years have passed. It seems like yesterday. I cannot forget that Monday:  August 21, 2006, at 6:20 a.m. In spite of all the hardship, these past two years flew by quickly. But I'm sure this was not the case for my father, who suffered a lot and never asked anybody for help during this period. It must have been like a century for him. The last time that he came for a visit, I couldn't look into his eyes, fearing that he might see in my eyes his aging. Looking into his tearful eyes was more difficult and intolerable for me than any torture. What a painful experience to hear the soundless cry of a man.

I said that the past couple of years flew by quickly for me. But not so fast for my mother, who suffered and worked hard. For me, she is the symbol of an indestructible nation and its resistance against all kinds of obstacles.

It seems like yesterday when a red Toyota with five passengers stopped in front of me:

"Get in! You have to come with us."

"I have to call my workplace and let them know that I'm not coming."

"It's not necessary. We'll let them know ourselves."

"Where are you taking me?"

"Get in. You'll find out."

"Why should I come?"

"To explain certain things. It won't take long."

Then they rushed to our house and searched everything. Even our family photo albums were taken. It was like a hurricane and an earthquake together.

When I saw the prison sign, I realized that I had been taken to Evin Prison. We got out of the car in front of a warehouse, which later on I realized was the infamous Section 209. They rang the bell, the door opened, and I entered blindfolded. I realized that a blindfold is the personal property of a prisoner and should be with him until his last day in prison. They didn't blindfold me outside, but they did inside, so I wouldn't see many things.

They took me to a room blindfolded and asked me to take off my clothes. Then, they gave me different clothes with two blankets. You have to pray for clean blankets. They may have lice or fleas. Then, solitary confinement is waiting for you. They call it "a suite." Maybe they are ashamed of having them. Your hobby in the cell would be whatever previous prisoners wrote on the walls. Poems, memoirs, expressions, etc. are going to be your only friends there, in order to pass the time. That is, if you are lucky enough and the writings are not cleaned up. When you pay attention, you will see that people of various backgrounds have entered your cell before:  Kurd, Turk, Baluchi, reporter, student, teacher, lawyer, lawmaker --- people from all social strata, who thought differently, have been there. You must write about freedom and justice, I concluded, when thinking is the cause of suffering and unhappiness.

The interrogation began. The first thing they said was, "Have you heard about the rooster that lays eggs? This is the place where a rooster lays eggs! You have to realize that if you don't confess, we'll force you to confess."

"What about the law?” I asked. “What happens to civil rights? Based on such rights, aren't solitary confinement and blindfolding prohibited? Isn't confession under pressure and torture against the law?"

"Shut up, you miserable son of a b

.  Here, there is no such thing as the law. We are the law. We are in charge, and we can issue any rulings against you, because our words are the final words."

In the meantime, the poor family of the prisoner must search all the hospitals, detention places, and security force bases to find out something about its loved one. The later the connection with the family takes place, the more pressure on the prisoner's psychology there would be. Finally, they let you call your family.

My first phone call was about a month after my arrest. This type of torture, keeping you in the dark, erases your memory. If you still can remember your friends and the phone numbers of your family members, you are lucky. My message was short and clear: "Hello brother, I'm in Section 209. I'm o.k. Don't worry."

When you hear footsteps, you pray they don't come to your cell. Your first daily shock is to hear the footsteps, and the second one is when you hear your door being opened. Again, you have to put on your blindfold and drag yourself to the interrogation room. You wish that the room wasn't so cold that you shiver all the time during the interrogation. They tell you, "If you don't have anything to hide, why are you shivering?" They want you to believe that you are guilty. The long periods of interrogations continue to keep you anxious. One month, two months, three months  … . You ask yourself, "What have I done?"

Oh, God, I am not the king of sugar, or the king of iron, nor the king of cement. I didn't have a smuggling dock.  I didn't import contaminated meat, nor did I bribe anybody or steal anything. I didn't smuggle goods or currency. Nor did I have confidential documents in my house. I did not spread addiction among the youth of my country. But, if my charge was any of the above, I'd be treated much better than this.

Maybe I should accept this situation, because I have committed the crime of hating tyranny and enslavement, maybe because I considered freedom and justice the right of everyone, or maybe because I couldn't convert my hatred of injustice into silence, as millions of my countrymen have. I don't know. 

The interrogations finally ended. I still feel pain remembering them. Several times I demanded, unsuccessfully, to see my attorney. One morning, they told me to put on my blindfold and go to court. When I got there, I saw my attorney for the first time. They didn't let us say hello.  They separated us immediately.

Finally, I entered the court and sat beside my attorney. I should be grateful that they authorized the presence of my attorney.  My second court session was held without a lawyer.

The judge didn't know that for the sake of appearances he must pretend to be impartial. He first thought that the session was for the execution of rulings. I was lucky that they didn't carry out any ruling against me. Right away he yelled at me, "Aren't you ashamed to have done these things?"

My indictment was read. There were eight different charges. The first thing my attorney said in my defense was, "This court has no competence for these charges. They should be investigated in a public court."

I was shocked. Was it possible that the judge didn't know his jurisdiction? It reminded me of the Hawaii University scandal in, which many leaders of the Islamic Republic received phony academic diplomas, including Ph.D.s.  A more recent scandal involves the claim of the current Minister of the Interior that he has a Ph.D. from Oxford University.

In short, I didn't accept any of the charges and explained to the court that all the confessions were taken under pressure. But the sentence was handed down based on the judge’s own disposition, which had been clear from the beginning of the trial, when he read my indictment.

Judgment without justice is a crime. It means the destruction of the soul and the horrific annihilation of human rights, the summit of corruption. Damned be those who sit as judges and rule hastily, without reason or logic, without any conscience at all.  Their discredited judgments stain human values.

The court finally ruled and condemned me and my friends, and I've been serving my time for two years now. During this period, I have realized that law, civil rights, human rights, and justice are strangers in our country. The political charge needs no proof, and individuals are presumed guilty before trial. They punished us for what we did not commit. But I believe there is no better judge than history. As long as the public judges us with impartiality and fairness, we won't fear the judgment of our oppressors. Public conscience and the suppressed sobs of our oppressed and conscious people are the best tribunal, even though they have had to turn their screams into silence, as they did with their hatred.

Abolfazl “Puya” Jahandar

Chief Editor of the Puya News Website

Ex-member of the Islamic Students Association of Allameh Tabatabaii University

Public Council Member of Daftar Tahkim Vahdat (The Office for Consolidating Unity)

Hangout Place for Iran Lovers, Evin Prison

August 21, 2008