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Iranian Journalist's mother: "Not even a hard-core criminal deserves a hot, dirty, windowless solitary cell, with no air conditioning, no bathroom, no visitors, and too small to stretch his legs in" - where Bahman Ahmadi Amouie is kept
By Jila Baniyaghoob
Bahman( 1) is still in solitary confinement, and my mother says: ‘The weather’s very hot. How can he tolerate that claustrophobic cell in the basement of Rajai-Shahr prison? A cell without air conditioning or a cooling system?
My mother tells me: ‘Write to the officials in charge of Evin Prison’s Security Justice Office and explain to them that Bahman is only a journalist and should not be held in such a cell, a cell where he might not be able to stretch his arms and legs properly. Write to them that such a cell is neither the place for Bahman, nor for any other prisoners, even prisoners who may have committed murder.
Gradually, my mother seems to be turning into a human rights activist in her own right. ‘No matter what crime someone may have committed,’ she says, ‘he is a human being. A thief or a murderer must be punished, but must not be tortured to death.’
These days, more guests come and go, expressing sympathy and solidarity. Some have been held at Rajai-Shahr prison before, in the same solitary cells where Bahman is being held now. They say the hygiene conditions there are very poor. Each prisoner is allowed to use the toilet only once a day, and that a shower is allowed once a week or ten days. ‘May I die for Bahman,’ my mother says again. ‘How he must be suffering in this heat.’ She then adds: ‘And not just Bahman, even those common criminals who are in prison.’
For ten days my mother has been telling me: ‘My daughter! Maybe the prosecutor does not know that Bahman has been thrown into solitary. You are a journalist and can write. Write to them and explain everything. Write to them that those solitary cells are meant for prisoners on the death row to spend the last few days of their lives.’
‘May God take my life away,’ my mother says, biting her lips. ‘Even a death row prisoner should not be held in such a place. He must be able to spend the last few days of his life in comfort. This is how it is everywhere else in the world. Haven’t you seen that in the movies when someone is condemned to death, they give him better food in the last few days and try to carry out his wishes.’
‘My daughter,’ my mother says, talking very fast, ‘my daughter! Maybe the authorities at Evin who have sent him to solitary do not know about the conditions there.’
Noticing that I am not writing anything, my mother herself goes up to Evin Prison. In spite of the severe pain in her legs, she stands outside Evin for hours, saying she wants to see the head of Evin’s Justice Office; that she wants to see the judge who wrote the order to send Bahman to solitary. ‘I want to tell them,’ she says, ‘that Bahman is only a journalist. I want to ask them: When you were writing the order for him to be sent into exile and into solitary, did you think of God? Did you think of me and his eighty-four year old mother?’
‘That’s enough,’ I tell my mother. ‘Don’t hurt yourself so much! They won’t let you even enter the Security Justice Office, let alone sit down and listen to what you have to say.’ But my mother does not have listening ears for me. ‘My daughter,’ she says, ‘they also have mothers like me. Don’t be so pessimistic. Maybe the poor judge and the official in charge of the Justice Office have no idea. We must talk to them. We must have a conversation with them.’
My mother goes in front of Evin Prison for several consecutive days. No one gives her an answer. She then goes to the Tehran Justice Office, in her words, to see Mr Prosecutor and explain Bahman’s conditions to him; to tell him that Bahman is a political prisoner; that he is only a journalist; a very good and harmless person.
‘Mother,’ I say, ‘Mr Prosecutor does not have the time to see you. You are ill. Why do you hurt yourself so much? Sit at home and rest. Maybe the pain in your feet and hands will get a little better.’
‘No!’ my other says. ‘What do I want these hands and feet for, when Bahman is in such bad conditions? I must talk to the prosecutor and tell him that Bahman is only a journalist who has been in prison for three years because of a few articles. I must tell him that a journalist does not deserve to be in prison; does not deserve to be in a solitary cell in the basement of the Rajai-shahr prison. I want to ask how many more days they want to keep him in solitary? How many more days is he supposed to be deprived of the right to have visitors?’
My mother does not listen to me. She goes to the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office repeatedly and waits there for hours. But she can only wait behind the closed doors.
My mother appeals to me again. ‘In your weblog,’ she says, ‘write for the Judiciary officials that the weather’s so warm there that in that small cell, Bahman many run out of breath. Write that those cells are so un-hygienic that he may develop a serious illness.’ And I don’t know how to explain things to my mother without breaking her heart. How to tell her: ‘Mother, they know everything about their own solitary cells.’
‘Mother! How can I explain to you that Bahman is meant to be punished because after three years in prison, he’s still what he was before and the prison guards don’t like that. In their own words, they want to change Bahman’s opinion; to punish Bahman; to teach Bahman a lesson.’ ‘Write to them,’ my mother says, ‘that they should fear the curse of heart-broken mothers such as me and Bahman’s mother. Write to them that the prayers and curses arising from broken hearts will eventually catch up with them.’
How can I tell my mother that they are unlikely to think about such matters?
1-Bahman Ahmadi Amouee who was arrested on June 20, 2009, is currently serving a 5 year mandatory prison term in Evin prison, Tehran.The only crime committed by Bahman has been that of carrying out his professional responsibilities as a journalist. In other words, Bahman is a prisoner of conscience. In fact, his articles published by official papers and websites have been cited by interrogators at the Intelligence Ministry and the courts as evidence supporting charges against him, including the charge of charge of “spreading of propaganda against the state” and “acting against national security.
Translated by Hossein Shahidi