For over four decades Iran’s most notorious prison has been home to hundreds of political prisoners.
By Fariba Amini
This report is dedicated to the brave men and women of Iran who have sacrificed with their blood and their courage to uphold freedom for their homeland and continue to do so….To Neda and Sohrab who only wanted to see their votes counted and whose voice was silenced forever…
Evin, which derives its name from a village in the northern Alborz Mountains of Tehran, was built in 1971 during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Previously, it had been the home of Seyyed Zia’eddin Tabatabee, a pro-British politician who was a PM under Ahmad Shah, the last Qajar Shah. After his death, the ownership of his property was transferred over to SAVAK and was then converted into what is today known as Evin Prison. It is a large compound of a few acres and has a wall built all around it. If you go to northern Tehran from the center of the city there is a good chance you will pass by Evin Prison. There are always guards outside, and families waiting to see their loved ones.
Evin is known as a prison for political prisoners especially its 209 ward is notorious for that reason. But it is also a prison for many regular offenders and common criminals. In many instances, political prisoners are kept in the same block as others. The prison originally housed 320 inmates and there were 20 solitary cells and close to 300 communal cells. By 1977, it had more than 100 solitary cells especially designed for more famous political prisoners. At that time, there were close to 1500 prisoners in Evin.
During the Shah, Evin was a detention center for many revolutionary groups such as the Mojahedin, Fedyayeen, and Peykar, whether Marxist or Islamic alike. Members and sympathizers of Iran’s pro-Soviet communist party (the Tudeh) were also incarcerated there. Many prominent clerics such as Grand Ayatollah Montazeri and Ayatollah Taleghani were also imprisoned in Evin before 1979. Hashemi Rafsanjani was a detainee there at one time. Ali Khamenei, the “supreme leader”, was another captive who spent time in Evin. Even Assadollah Lajervadi, who later became the warden of Evin, (given the title of the butcher of Evin) had spent some time there prior to 1979 for allegedly trying to bomb the El-Al office in Tehran.
The most famous/tragic incident before the 1979 revolution occurred on the hills of Evin on April 19, 1975 when Bijan Jazani and his group (8 people) were taken and shot to death from the back. It was alleged that they were trying to escape.
“We took the prisoners to the high hills above Evin. They were blind-folded and their hands were tied. We got them off the minibus and had them sit on the ground. Then, Attarpour told them that, just as your friends have killed our comrades, we have decided to execute you - he was the brain behind those executions. Jazani and the others began protesting. I do not know whether it was Attarpour or Colonel Vaziri who first pulled out a machine gun and started shooting them. I do not remember whether I was the 4th or 5th person to whom they gave the machine gun. I had never done that before. At the end, Sa'di Jalil Esfahani [another SAVAK agent, known as Babak] shot them in their heads [to make sure that they were dead.” (From the account of a former Savak agent, Bahman Naderipour)
In his book, Tortured Confessions, Dr. Ervand Abrahamian claims that after the revolution, the population of Evin expanded to nearly 15,000 detainees, many waiting for their trial. “In theory, Evin was itself a detention center of those awaiting trial. After trial, those with long sentences were transferred to Qesel Hesar; those with shorter ones, to Gohar Dasht. In reality, Evin served as a regular prison as many waited years before being brought to trial. Moreover, prominent prisoners often served their entire sentences in Evin.”
Among those detained in Evin, many famous prisoners come to mind such as Masoud Rajavi (the leader of Mojadehin Khalgh) Shokrollah Paknejad and Saeid Soltanpour. All three were released after the revolution but the last two were executed during the Islamic Republic. According to a report in one of Iran’s newspapers,“Shokrollah Paknejad, an Iranian opposition leader, condemned by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has been executed, an official at Teheran's Evin Prison said today.” Paknejad was executed in 1982. Shortly after the Revolution, Saeid Soltanbpour who was a poet was taken to the gallows on his wedding night at the orders of the new regime in Tehran and Qom. “I can still hear the words of Saeed Soltanpour (the executed Iranian poet) who once famously asked: What has happened to my country?” writes Housang Asadi, a journalist and a prisoner of consciene himself who was also detained and tortured severely. Asadi was imprisoned for 16 years both under the rule of the last Pahlavi Shah and later under the Islamic regime. In fact, Houshang Asadi was for a period of time the cellmate of the "Supreme Leader."
In 1979, immediately after the revolution, at the direct orders of Dr. Shapur Bakhtiar, who was only Prime Minister for 37 days, the doors of Evin and other prisons were opened and all political prisoners were released. It was a jubilant day both for the prisoners and their families. Bakhtiar wrote: “In the first days of taking office, I ordered the opening of Iran’s prisons and released all the political prisoners, except for the few who had committed murder.” A few years later, Dr. Bakhtiar was stabbed to death by agents of the Islamic Republic in his home in Paris.
It was only a few months later that the IRI, having solidified its base, started arresting and rounding up the same people that had contributed to the success of the revolution. The list of those arrested and later executed is too long to recount here. (Many were members or sympathizers of the revolutionary organizations or simply bystanders.)
Among the most notable of Iran’s political prisoners in Evin is Abbas Amirentezam, deputy Prime Minister under Mehdi Bazargan, who was arrested upon his return from Sweden in December 1979. He was tried and jailed on a fabricated charge of espionage, as many have been over the last 30 years. Amirentezam is the longest serving political prisoner of Iran. He has been on a leave of absence after spending 27 years in Evin.
Abbas Amirentezam recounts of his days in Evin: “The worst time of my life was when I was with other prisoners and witnessed many of my cell mates being taken and executed one-by-one, without any trials or jury. In the year 1367(1989), we were 350 people in our ward (band-e zendan), 342 of them were executed; their ages ranged between 20 -70 years.”
Mr. Amirentezam smuggled a series of letters in 1994-95 in which he described the conditions in Evin that he had personally witnessed. “For months on end, prisoners were put in small 50x80x140 cm coffins. In 1984, 30 were in such coffins. Some went mad.” He was taken to the execution chamber two times awaiting the Imam’s order and placed in solitary for 555 days. Of the general ward in Evin he said, “The cell was so overcrowded that inmates took turns sleeping on the floor.”
Amirentezam says: “those were the worst days of my life. I will never forget a single moment of that pain. The best time was when after five years, I was allowed to have books and was given both books and newspapers to read and paper to write my notes on. I was finally able to have some contact with the outside world.
Mr. Amirentezam talks of the time the UN delegation headed by Galindo Phohl visited him and other prisoners in Evin. “Mr. Galindo Pohl would take every finished sheet of writing from me and put it in his open briefcase. In the adjacent room they had put out fruits and sweets, as a way to show that we were treated well in prison. It was all deception and lies. After the UN Commission had left, I was put on the open bed of a truck and paraded around from one prison area to another. It was very cold and the wind was blowing very hard (Evin is located outside of Tehran, close to the mountains, thus at night, it becomes very cold). As a result of this grave insult and humiliation, I got a very bad cold and I had an ear infection for months. We often left a note, which indicated what we needed, for the Pasdar (revolutionary guard) behind the door of our locked cell. The Pasdar looked at my note and came back to tell me that Mr. Hossein Pishva, the head of prisons, had specifically ordered that I would not have any access to the hospital ward or to any medication.”
He continues, “as a result, I had an infection in my left ear for three months. The inner ear had ruptured and I lost hearing in my left ear. This was my punishment for having talked to Mr. Galindo Pohl. Eventually, I was taken to the prison doctor who told me that I had to go to go to the emergency room of a hospital outside the prison and be operated on. But this emergency took six months! Unfortunately, the damage was already done.”
The most horrifying incident ever to take place in Evin was the mass executions of nearly 4000 (by some accounts 5000-6000) prisoners- mostly, Fedayeen, Mojahedin and others (many were as young as 14 and 15) This event, which took place between 1981-1988 is from all accounts, the single worst mass execution in the history of any political prison in recent times. According to Shahrnoush Parsipour, one of Iran’s foremost woman playwrights, “the average age in Evin in 1981 was 19 and a half.”
Abrahamian writes: “The prisoners in Evin remained blindfolded throughout the proceedings…They were also ordered to discard such personal belongings as rings, watches, and spectacles. They were then led blindfolded to the gallows. The gallows in Evin were in the secluded Hosseinieyh lecture hall.” The leftists were kept from the Mojahedin and vice versa throughout the execution period. “The first leftists to go before the Evin commission [also called commission of death] were those with light, and even completed, sentences. This gives the death list the appearance of a random lottery. Some who perished on the first day were serving short sentences: some who survived in the following days were serving long, even life, sentences.” According to Abrahamian, Khomeini had personally issued a secret Fatwa to kill the prisoners, leftists and Mojahedin alike. A commission had been set up headed by Ayatollah Eshraqi, (Khomeini’s son-in-law) and his two assistants Hojat al-Islam Nayeri and Hojat al-Islam Mobasheri. “In the next few months, this commission shuttled back and forth from Evin to Gohar Dasht by helicopter. It was to be dubbed ‘the commission of death’.”
In Evin, in those days, the Ta’zir (punishment according to the Shar’ia law) room was where the prisoners would be “rehabilitated.” “After the initial interrogation, the prisoner would be taken to the taz’ir chambers for fuller confessions of crimes-real or imagined –and, most important of all, videotaped interviews.” “By contrast, Evin’s block 6 was reserved for Tudeh members with fifteen year sentences.”
Soudabeh Ardavan, a Fedayee sympathizer and a student in architecture at Tabriz University says when she “for the first time entered a cell, she thought she had entered a girls’ school. The prisoners were all young girls, in their teens. Sometimes, there were older women, as old as one's grandmother. They had apparently aided the prisoners or were family members. Her three famous prison mates were Bijan Jazani's mother; Maryam Taleghani, the daughter of Ayatollah Taleghani, and writer Sharnoush Parsipour.” Soudabeh “was charged with participating in demonstrations against the Islamic Republic. At first, she was detained, interrogated, and finally, blindfolded on the floor, and sentenced to two years in jail. There was no judge nor a jury or a lawyer. "Islamic justice" did not take more than a few minutes.” She writes: “It was the most despicable time in the history of the Islamic regime. Interrogation, torture, execution were the order of the day. For the next 8 years, she would be transferred, from Evin to Ghessel Hessar prison, back and forth, from one unit to another, spending time in between in solitary.”Most of the guards were extremely vicious and used foul language to humiliated us, and destroy us psychologically -- as they had attempted with physical torture. Most of us did not confess and kept our mouth shut. That would make them more furious. Then more floggings and beatings would begin.”
“From time to time, the head guard would come in. They were two women. They looked ugly and big and extremely rude. They were pros. I was told they were there from the Shah's era. Their names were Bakhtiari and Alizadeh. They would kick us real hard. The Bakhtiari woman wore a soldier's outfit and she would constantly curse us and beat us. She barked like a dog!
“Most of the time, in our cell, we did not have to wear our scarves or the chador, only when the male guards would come in. At times, the head of the prison, a man called Haji Rahman would come. He was huge, quite a character, very vicious. We would be ordered to put on our hejab and then he would come in and beat us. I believe he now holds a post in the Ministry of Intelligence.”
Abrahamian writes: “Some were placed in small cubicles, blindfolded and in absolute silence, for seventeen hour stretches with two fifteen-minute breaks for eating and going to the toilet… Others were forced to join firing squads and removed dead bodies. When they returned to their cells with blood dripping from their hands, their roommates surmised what had transpired. In the summer, newcomers to Evin-including women-had to pass the main courtyard and view rows of hanged prisoners.”
Marina Nemat, who was born into a Russian Christian family, spent two years in Evin from 1982, having participated in anti regime protests at her school. She was tortured in Evin prison and sentenced to death. Her sentence was later commuted to life when a prison guard by the name of Ali Mousavi fell in love with her and forced her to marry him. Under pressure, she married him only to leave when he was murdered by other guards. She left Iran for Canada in 1991. Her book, Prisoner of Tehran was published in 2007. (Some women prisoners have questioned her account, though Shahrnoush Parsipour has corroborated her story.
One of the most famous women prisoners in Evin is Mehrangiz Kar, a human rights lawyer, who spent 53 days in solitary. She later shared a small cell with the well known publisher, Shahla Lahiji. Mehrangiz Kar writes: "Like other women who had been handpicked, I tried to get closer to those whom we shared our thoughts with. It was obvious that confinement of a woman for political reasons alongside others who are accused of prostitution or drug addiction is in total disregard of all international laws. But where should we speak of these injustices. Everything and every word have its respective place."
Shahrnoush Parsipour spent four years and seven months in Evin. She had been imprisoned for 54 days under the Shah in the same prison. Monriou Ravanipour, a novelist, was also arrested and imprisoned for a long period.
On June 23, 2003, upon a visit to Iran, the Iranian- Canadian photo journalist who was seen taking photos of Evin, was taken into custody and died while in prison. The Iranian government claimed that she died from a stroke while being interrogated, but doctors examining Kazemi's body found evidence of rape and torture, and a skull fracture. It is said that Saeid Mortazavi, Tehran’s prosecutor, was involved in her torture and murder. (On Aug 11 of that year, Azam Taleghani, Ayatollah Taleghani’s daughter and a candidate for the Iranian Parliament had a sit-in in front of Evin prison to voice her outrage at the arrest and murder of Zahra Kazemi.)
Farhad Behbehani and Habibolah Davaran, both sympathizers of the National Front and Nehazt Azadi (Freedom Movement, were taken into custody for signing a letter to the then President of Iran, Hashemi Rafsanjani. They were interrogated and tortured. Under severe physical and psychological torture, Behbehani was forced to make false confessions. Later, they wrote their account in prison in a book called “In the Company of Haji Agha”. The following is Behbehani’s account: “In Evin, Siamak Pourzand, Ali Afshari, and Nasser Zarafshan greeted us. Mr. Amir Entezam had gone on a walk in the prison yard. We were so happy that we were at least in the company of our friends. We sat together and had dinner. It was good to see all of them even in the awkward situation in prison. While we were in Evin, rumor was going around that in fact a person by the name of Bakhshi had been involved in the death of Mrs. Zahra Kazemi. I don't know what his exact title was but apparently he is one of the high officials at Evin prison.”
“After the publication of the book, we were arrested again and taken to Evin while waiting for payment of a huge bail sum before our release. We paid for our own transportation to Evin. When we arrived, Dr. Davaran couldn't even walk properly; I had to hold his hand. There were skirmishes around the prison area. Parents of the newly arrested students were there, looking for their sons and daughters. They let us through the crowd who were yelling and looking for their children. We also heard that a few days earlier, Zahra Kazemi had been killed under torture.”
In front of us were other prisoners. The Evin guard started insulting them. Dr. Davaran asked me "Why is he so insulting?" I said, "Don't worry he is not insulting us." As soon as a young guard saw Dr. Davaran, he said, "Father what you are doing here? Did the ministry of intelligence arrest you?" I said no, the Tehran prosecution office. He asked, "What did you guys do anyway?" I replied, we wrote a book and as a result we were arrested." He said, "Didn't you have permission?" Dr. Davaran said, "Yes, we did obtain a permit for the publication of our book, yet they arrested us anyway." He looked around and said in a funny tone, "What a screwed up country!” (Ajab mamlekat khar too kharist)!
He told Davaran, "I am so sorry about this. I am truly sorry that you are here." He said to a guard, "Take them to Section 1." They wanted to handcuff us but the same guy said "no, no handcuffs." I noticed that the prison conditions had changed from 13 years ago. There was TV and AC in every room. I saw that prisoners could call their loved ones and most prison officials were acting more civilized. I attribute this change to the Khatami era as well as international pressure on the conditions of Iran's prisons.
Others at Evin included members of the Hezb- e mellat Iran (Iran’s People’s Party) such as Khosrow Seif, who was arrested shortly after the 1999 July student demonstration. Mr. Seif recounts: “A few days after the bloody incidents at Kouyeh Daneshgah, some of our party members and I were arrested. Eight men came to my house and took everything, even pictures that I had with the Late Forouhar from almost 50 years ago. Without an official warrant, they took me to Towhid prison [formerly Komite prison under the Shah, known for its brutal tortures, closed under Khatami]. Then they arrested Mr Namazi and Mr.Mehran Abdolbaghi at their homes. Mrs. (Dr.) Jeylani was arrested while she was walking in the street. In prison we were tortured, not physical but psychological torture. Sometimes, there was physical torture, sometimes psychological torture, and then the two combined… I was charged with instigating the bloody incidents at Tehran University and condemned to death. Later my sentence was lowered to 14 years. I spent close to a year at Towhid and Evin prisons. During this time, I had heard that they dealt most violently with the arrested students. They had tortured them severely, like Batebi, Mehrdad Lahrebi( who just had a small book stand outside the university) and the Mohammadi brothers.”
In the last decade, political prisoners held at Evin have included Iran’s most celebrated
investigative journalist and human rights activist, Akbar Ganji (held there from 2000 to 2006),
who went on a hunger strike for months and almost died as a result. Ganji was arrested for writing several books exposing the serial murders of 1998. While in prison, he wrote his famous manifestos which question the Islamic regime's legitimacy on political as well as ideological grounds.
Others include, Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, head of a student organization, Mohsen Sazegara, a former member of the revolutionary Guards (in 2003), Nasser Zarafshan, a lawyer for many prisoners, Akbar Mohammadi and Ahmad Batebi who were arrested during the 1999 student demonstrations at Tehran University, and Ali Afshari, a student activist and member of the Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat (The Student Coordinating Committee) who was arrested in 2000 and held until 2003. Afshari was in solitary confinement for nearly 400 days. Hojatoleslam Mohsen Kadivar, Siamak Pourzand (missing in 2002 first, later found at Evin) and Hashem Aghajari (arrested in 2002) were also prisoners in Evin.
“Siamak Pourzand was kept in Ward Three of Evin Prison until he suffered a severe heart attack in April 2004. Later that night Pourzand was hospitalized in the critical care unit of Sa’databad Hospital. The guards accompanying him refused to let reporters speak to him. The Islamic Human Rights Commission of Iran was also refused access to him. Only his sister was allowed to visit him. She later told Peyk-e Iran that during her visit “the guards kept monitoring our conversation.” Pourzand was chained to the hospital bed at both the wrists and ankles.” Kadivar, an enlightened cleric“was convicted by the Special Court for Clergy in 1999, and sentenced to eighteen months in prison on charges of having spread false information about Iran's "sacred system of the Islamic Republic" and of helping enemies of the Islamic revolution. He was released from Evin prison on July 17, 2000.”
Akbar Mohamamadi was one of the prisoners who died in Evin after undergoing severe torture. He was arrested during the 1999 student uprising and spent nearly 5 year in prison. He was released and was re-arrested in 2006 after writing his memoirs (Ideas and Lashes) He died under torture in Evin on July 30, 2006. He was in Evin with Ahmad Batebi. Both were arrested during the July 9, 1999 student demonstration. Ahmad Batebi became a symbol of the student movement. He spent nearly 15 years in prison. In March 2005, Batebi was temporarily released from Evin in order to get married. He failed to report back to prison. On June 23, 2005 a newspaper interview reported him "currently on the run, avoiding the authorities in Iran". Batebi was re-arrested on July 27, 2006 and re-imprisoned. He continued to serve his sentence. He was held in notorious Section 209 of Evin Prison which is run by the Ministry of Intelligence. After finally posting bail, he left Iran clandestinely for the US in 2008. He was later released on bail. He endured harsh interrogation and torture in Evin.
Hassan Zarzadeh (Ardeshir) was among the students arrested during the 1999 July demonstrations. He was the spokesperson for the United Student Front, is a human rights activist and journalist. He was first taken to Towhid and later transferred to Evin. He did not know where he was at the beginning as he was blindfolded but later found out he was in ward 209 of Evin. He was kept there for 5 months. “I was in Evin’s general ward for only three months and was in solitary almost the entire time. He says of the conditions in Evin, “political prisoners have no rights whatsoever and if they object to the existing conditions, they are immediately taken to solitary. The prisoner does not get decent food or medical care. The wards are so overcrowded that you are obliged to sleep in the hallways. Each ward of Evin is connected to one or another wing of the Ministry of Intelligence. The normal rules of prison do not exist; each ward has its own rules. They put enormous psychological and physical pressure on prisoners in order to get confessions. One time, because I would not talk much less confess they brought in a friend of mine and started beating me harshly in order to get me to confess. He had already talked and they wanted to get my reaction.”
The head of Iran’s trade unionists, Mansoor Ossanlou was another detainee. He was in prison several times between 2005 and 2008. “On Tuesday, July 10th 2007, Mansoor Ossanloo was abducted in public by the security forces and was taken by them to an unknown location. Two days later, his wife informed the public that Mansour Osanloo is in Evin prison (in Tehran) but is being kept completely isolated with no visitation rights.”
Iranian American academics who visited Iran or went to live in Iran and were imprisoned at Evin include Dairush Zahedi , a professor at the University of California, Berkeley in (2003), Ramin Jahanbegloo (2006) Ali Shakeri, and Haleh Esfandiari (2008) who spent 100 days in Evin and most recently, Kian Tajbakhsh ( jailed first in 2007 and again arrested in 2009-present.) As one news report said: “Kian Tajbaksh was arrested at his home in Tehran on May 11, 2007, to be incarcerated, detained, and put under house arrest in 2007. He was held without charge in Evin Prison for more than four months.”
Iranian American journalist, Roxana Saberi was arrested in January 2009 and released in May 2009. She was also charged with espionage. She had been living in Iran for many years before her arrest. Nazi Azima of Radio Farda was also held for months before she was released. Maziar Bahari, a reporter for Newsweek, is currently in detention in Evin after he went to Tehran to cover the June 2009 elections.
In the last decade, many of Iran’s notable journalists and bloggers have been sent to Evin. Among them are Masoud Behnoud, Emaddedin Baghi, Mohammad Ghouchani, Fereshteh Ghazi, Soheil Asefi, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Shahram Rafi’zadeh, Javad Gholamtamimi and Omid Memarian. They were arrested at various times, charged and released by paying hefty bails (most had to put up their families’ home as collateral or post large amounts of bail.) They were told by Ayatollah Shahrudi, the current head of Iran’s Judiciary, “don’t tell anyone what happened to you in prison and I promise I will solve the problem!”
Roozbeh Mirebrahimi said of his days in detention: “Most of the time I was in the special secret prison of the security forces connected to the office the prosecutor of Tehran for interrogation. Only the last 6 days I, along with 4 others who were charged with me came to Evin. We were kept in a cell. Our cell was in the 4th ward of Evin prison which is known as the ward for those awaiting executions. In one of our cells there was a professional killer whose name was Mohammad Bijeh; he had abducted dozens of kids, raped and burned them. There was another common criminal who was also waiting to be executed.
The reason they took us to this special ward was to frighten us so that they could go ahead with their plan. The plan of confession and show trials and making us sign confessions that we have repented. The condition in Evin for me who had spent days in that horrific prison blindfolded, and interrogated and tortured was more tolerable. Of course this is my own experience in Evin. I am sure today many are experiencing a different and far worse situation in prison.
I was let out of Evin by putting up a large amount of bail. After 4 years I was sentenced to two years and 84 lashes. Three of my original verdicts have not been carried out.”
A recent report in the Times of London states: “When Mehrnoushe Solouki, a French-Iranian film-maker, was taken there two years ago. She was kept in solitary confinement for a month but each night heard the cries of women and the sound of beatings. She asked her guard whether she was hearing criminals fighting one another. The response was no — these were women who “threatened national security.”
“Ms Solouki, a film student at the University of Quebec, was taken to Evin in February 2007. “It wasn’t Guantánamo Bay, but it seemed to me like the world’s biggest jail for women journalists, female activists and students,” she wrote after her release. She described being in solitary confinement in Evin as “like stepping into a grave.”
Other prisoners who have spent time in Evin include Dr. Ahmad Zeidabadi, a renowned journalist and political analyst who was arrested in 2000, 2003 and re- arrested in 2009 (as of this article) Abdollah Mo’meni, Manouchehr Abtahi, Issa Saharkhiz, and Abdolfattah Soltani (a prominent lawyer of many of Iran’s political prisoners), along with many of Iran’s best and most courageous journalists and human rights defenders. (They are in prison at the moment with some 100 others, having undergone torture and put on show trials.)
Since the disputed 2009 elections, Shadi Sadr, a lawyer, (she was released recently) Jila Bani Yaghoub, a woman activist, and many other women civil rights activists are still in detention in Evin.
Other political prisoners of conscience, men and women, who spent time in Evin include: Hassan Yousefi-Eshkevari, Ebrahim Nabavi,Emad-ed-din Baghi, Fariborz Raeiss-Dana, Mahmoud Dolatabadi, Mohammad Ghoochani, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Latif Safari, Khalil Rostamkhani, Manouchehr Mohammadi, Alireza Alavi-Tabar, Mohammad-Reza Jalaïpoor, Saeid Sadr, Mohammad-Ali Sepanloo, Ezatollah Sahabi, Shahla Sherkat, Shahla Lahidji, Jamileh Kadivar and. Khadijeh Hajdini-Moghadam. (Most of the above had attended the Berlin conference and arrested upon their return in 2000).
In August 2005, shortly after Ahmadi Nejad had been elected, I went to Iran. This is what I wrote: “I wanted to take photos from Evin prison. We would pass by there every time we went to Shemiran but I was told not to do it. "Did you forget the fate of Zahra Kazemi?" they would say. But I was determined. Thus, one of the days that I took a cab to go to Tajrish, I asked the cab driver if he would slow down so I could get a photo. It was a day of molaghat (visit) unfortunately the photo didn't show the whole tableau of Evin so on the way back from Tajrish with the same cab driver I asked if he could pass by there again. He didn't refuse, in fact, he was so courageous that he slowed down right in front of it and I took the photo. When the guards saw me and blew their whistles, the cabdriver pushed his gas pedal and zoomed past the prison. He could have been arrested alongside me.”
“Later, that week, I asked another driver, to take me up the hills to view the prison from its outskirts. He, like many of my countrymen was not scared. I took photos of the compound from high above. One could only see the structures from afar. The driver, a young man, told me this is where our best are held. I only sighed in silence”
Recently I visited the first concentration camp under the Hitler regime, Sachsenhausen (Oranienburg), located near Berlin. It was the first detention center of the Nazi regime which held political prisoners-Jews, social democrats and communists. After the war, it became a Soviet detention camp. Today, it is a visitor sight reminding people of what humans are capable of doing to each other. Yet, after sixty- five years, we still have not learned. Crimes against humanity still continue throughout this world.
I only hope that one day, Evin, will become a memorial commemorating those who endured interrogation, torture and murder. In the midst of despair, darkness and terror, they confronted their oppressors with courage and defiance.
May all Iranian political prisoners see freedom soon. May their families embrace them even if their bodies and souls have been shattered. May their captors be held responsible and tried in a court of law, something that they denied others.
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*This report is far from being complete. There are numerous men and women whose names have not been cited here, known and unknown ones. I only hope that readers will add to the long excruciating list. All and all the number of those who have been executed or perished under the Islamic Republic is far greater than under both Pahlavi rulers combined.
*Almost all those arrested and prosecuted in the last 30 years have been charged with similar charges: espionage/acting against National security/membership in illegal organizations/ provoking and disrupting the public /propaganda against the state/insulting the leader/engaging in illegal meetings/ and other non-political charges such as having sexual relations/consumption of alcoholic drinks/facilitating corruption by shaking hands with women/improper Islamic dress code (for women)
Photo by Fariba Amini, 2005