Eight Activists Condemned for Commemorating Forest Fire Victims

Posted on: September 6th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Eight labor and environmental activists were released from custody Wednesday, September 8th after being tried and interrogated for “Disturbing Public Order” and posting a bail of approximately $3000 USD (300 millon Rials).

HRANA confirmed the identities of the released activists: Khaled Hosseini, Mozafar Salehnia, Ali Mirzaei, Vali Nasri, Hajar Saeidi, Hossein Goili, Habibollah Karimi and Reza Amjadi, all residents of Sanandaj (Capital of Kurdistan Province).

Within two days of their trial, all eight were either summoned or detained for having organized a funeral in honor of Sharif Bajour and three other environmental activists who died of smoke inhalation and burns while fighting the Marivan forest fire.

HRANA reported on the arrests of Khaled Hosseini and Mozafar Salehnia on September 4, 2018.

Iran: One Protest Continues as Two More Begin

Posted on: September 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Over the last few days, three distinct protests were organized to express the yet-unmet demands of three separate collectives: the Citizens of Zabul, the residents of Bibayani village (of the Dasht-e Zahab tributary of Sar-e Pol Zahab), and a number of shareholders of the bankrupt Caspian Institution in Tehran.

Caspian Institution

HRANA reported today that Caspian Institution shareholders were gathering in front of Tehran’s Majlis building. The group, who started staging protests two years ago, includes a mix of investors and shareholders from financial and credit institutions. When their public demonstrations first began, the government and Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran (CBI) committed to paying the dividends owed to investors. According to the CBI, over 95% of reclamations against the Caspian Institution have been resolved.

Bibayani Village Residents Protest Water Crisis

HRANA reported today on a group of Bibayani village residents who were gathering before the Kermanshah Provincial Governor’s office. Sar Pol-i Zahab is a town bordering the province of Kermanshah.

Protestors Seal the Entrance to the Zabul City Council Building

According to a September 2nd report from Radio Zamaneh, a group of Zabul residents (in the province of Sistan and Baluchestan), in protest to financial corruption and abysmal public services in their municipality, used mud to seal shut the entrance to the municipality building on Saturday, September 1, 2018.

Some time ago, judicial officials reported on the arrest of 11 city council members and municipal employees on charges of financial corruption and embezzlement.

News agencies affiliated with the government reported that these protestors were decrying pollution and lack of public services. Images published on social media tell a different story: shared photos feature protesters brandishing signage reading “When embezzlement is ousted, Zabul will be a paradise”.

Demonstrators on the scene were reportedly chanting slogans such as “When the council is dissolved, Zabul will be a paradise,” and “We don’t want an incompetent council.”

Attorney Crackdowns Persist as Hoda Amid is Taken into Custody

Posted on: September 2nd, 2018

UPDATE: Hoda Amid was released on bail on the evening of Sunday, November 4, 2018, after being incarcerated for 65 days.

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Hoda Amid, attorney and women’s rights activist, was arrested by security forces in her home on Saturday, September 1, 2018. No further information is available on her condition or the reasons behind her arrest.

On Friday, HRANA reported the detention of two other attorneys, Farrokh Forouzan and Payam Dorafshan, at the Karaj home of imprisoned attorney Arash Kaykhosravi.

Following the detention of Kaykhosravi and Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi, public attention has turned to the increasing political pressures being placed on Iranian legal practitioners, sparking widespread demonstrations across the country.

Kaykhosravi and Sholeh-Saadi were transferred to Evin Court, handcuffed and shackled in prison uniforms, on Tuesday August 21, 2018. They were returned to the Great Tehran Penitentiary after

Iran: No End in Sight for Oppressed Attorneys

Posted on: September 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Attorneys Farrokh Foruzan and Payam Dorafshan were detained at the home of imprisoned attorney Arash Kaykhosravi on Friday, August 31st. No further information is available on Kaykhosravi’s condition or the reasons behind Foruzan’s and Dorafshan’s arrest.

On August 21, 2018, Kaykhosravi and Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi, in prison garb and fully shackled, were transferred to the court branch of Evin Prison, where they were read their charges and sentenced to one month’s detention before being transferred back to prison.

Following the detention of Kaykhosravi and Sholeh-Saadi, public attention has turned to the increasing political pressures being placed on Iranian legal practitioners, sparking widespread demonstrations across the country.

The International Federation for Human Rights recently demanded that authorities cease the judicial harassment of attorney and legal practitioner Zaynab Taheri, as well as that of other human rights defenders who have faced increased hostility from authorities.

On June 19, 2018, the day after the execution of Mohamad Reza Salas Babajani, Taheri was detained by the Culture and Media Court for charges of “spreading misinformation with intent to disturb public opinion and campaign against the regime.” She was released on bail on August 8, 2017.

Political Prisoners Pen Condolences in Wake of Deadly Forest Fire

Posted on: August 31st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Four political prisoners in Rajai Shahr Prison (a.k.a Gohardasht), Karaj, have written an open letter to express compassion over the deaths of four environmental activists who lost their battle with the forest fires of Marivan, located in Kurdistan in western Iran.

The deceased activists — Sharif Bajour and Omid Kohnepoushi, both members of Chya Green Society, and Mohammad Pazhouhi and Rahmat Hakiminia, members of Marivan Environmental Office — were fighting wildfires near the Iraqi border in Salasi and Pileh. Marivan’s county governor revealed their cause of death to be asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation.

Two other activists, Mokhtar Aminejad and Mohammad Moradveisi, were injured in the same fire.

Below is the full text of their letter, translated into English by HRANA:

It is not my lot to die a natural death;

Better for the holy grail than in blissful sleep,

And on truth’s command, I welcome that death

which releases freedom from chains of darkness

It was with great shock and sorrow that we heard the news that Sharif Bajour and the others had perished; grief engulfed us like flames. We struggle to reconcile with the sad reality that the chestnut oaks of Zagros Mountain (1) have lost a dear friend.

Sharif Bajour, so appropriately named (2), leaves the Zagros bereft. He was a true friend to the mountains, plains, and forests of Kurdistan. Had he lived anywhere else on earth [but here], his death would have roused the lament of a nation. If the state-run media shrouds his death in silence, he remains an eternal hero in the hearts of the people. His loss leaves a void in the heart of his nation, who has seldom known so noble and gentle a soul as his. His new and creative path of resistance is his legacy.

Bajour’s resistance involved guarding the chestnut oaks of Zagros with his body and soul, biking for the cause of peace on earth, and staging a hunger strike outside the media spotlight.

As political prisoners of Gohardasht prison, we express our condolences to the families of this respectable man, as well as to the families of the other Zagros fire victims, whose names we regrettably do not know. We extend our deep sympathy to his friends and comrades from the Chya Green Association, to all those who care about the environment, and to the people of Kurdistan. They have lost some of the most honorable men of their time. Much like the fire that took their lives, the loss of these beloved souls has burned our spirit.

Arash Sadeghi,
Loghman Moradi,
Zanyar Moradi,
Saeed Shirzad

—-

(1) Mountain range in western Iran and scene of the fatal forest fire
(2) Sharif means “honorable” in Arabic

Photo Report: Rallies against water shutoffs in Khuzestan

Posted on: August 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Monday, August 27, 2018, residents of Jafir Village (near Hoveyzeh) in the Khuzestan province (southwestern Iran) rallied on the road before local oil companies who have recently cut local water services.

An informed source told HRANA: “There are several oil and gas companies near the village. After receiving numerous complaints from the villagers, they had promised to look into it and get their running water back; a group came to the village to resolve the problem, wrote up a report, and reconnected the water for just one day before cutting it off again.”

The source added: “The villagers were disappointed by the promises from provincial and county officials, and blocked the road to these companies in protest of the problem. [The villagers] threatened to prevent company staff from entering if things continue this way.”

In July 2018, HRANA reported on water problems plaguing the villages surrounding Hoveyzeh. Hoveyzeh is a border town in Khuzestan with a population of approximately 20,000, most of whom work as farmers and ranchers. Due to the drought affecting Khuzestan, about ten regional villages face a crisis of water shortage.

Jafir Village is located 30 miles west of Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan. A large oil field encompassing the village contains an estimated 2.1 billion barrels of oil reserves. In addition to oil, there are layered reservoirs of natural gas in the region with a production capacity of 6.3 million cubic feet per day. Nevertheless, the villagers of this region are deprived of their basic rights.

Below: Jafir villagers protest on Monday, August 27, 2018.

Exclusive: Prosecutor Declines to Investigate Rape Allegations against Parliament Member

Posted on: August 27th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- An investigation into the rape of a 28-year-old woman by Iranian Parliament member Salman Khodadai was recently halted by the Prosecutor General who, citing “lack of jurisdiction,” has declined to examine the case further.

HRANA has reported extensively on multiple rape and sexual assault allegations against Khodadadi, a member of Iranian Parliament (aka Majlis) representing Malekan, northwestern Iran, who also chairs the Parliament’s Social Committee.

In her long ordeal to seek justice, the plaintiff, a Malekan resident, filed charges against Khodadadi with the Prosecutor General of Malekan County. The Prosecutor General has now issued the decision that it will not be prosecuting her case.

The young woman has contacted and filed complaints with several government bodies, including but not limited to the Parliament Member (MP) Conduct Supervision Committee, All-Party Womens’ Group, Iranian Parliament Security Office, Revolutionary Guard Intelligence Office of Malekan, Intelligence Office of Malekan, and the Justice Ministry and Prosecutor General of Malekan. Thus far none have replied to her inquiries, nor to her request for an investigation. In fact, not only is Salman Khodadadi still serving as MP and chair of the Iranian Parliament Social Committee, but his tenure as the head of the Tehran Boating Federation was also renewed in August for an additional four-year term.

The plaintiff has repeatedly contacted the Guardian Council (an appointed body which vets candidates for elections and ratifies laws passed by Parliament), who was initially responsive, promising to investigate and even assist in procuring her a lawyer. On subsequent contacts, however, she was rebuffed and told that she would have to find her own lawyer and pursue the case on her own through the Prosecutor’s office.

The reactions of the Guardian Council and Parliament Security Office raise concerns over these bodies’ ability to perform their functions without bias, as Khodadadi thus far remains immune to legal pursuit.

The stonewalling of the parliamentary security office and contradictions of the Guardian Council compelled the alleged victim to file a complaint with the General Prosecutor of Malekan, where she was interrogated for several hours by the Ministry of Intelligence and IRGC Intelligence agents. At the conclusion of her questioning, authorities agreed to launch an investigation on the condition that she refrain from speaking to the media. The Prosecutor agreed at that time to press charges against Khodadadi.

Despite all the promises and engagements secured through her multiple follow-ups, the Prosecutor’s office decided not to move forward, citing lack of jurisdiction.

The text of their decision reads:

“With regards to the accusation of rape, harassment, psychological abuse, threats, and insults which are the subject of the complaint filed by Ms….. daughter of …., the accused is nonetheless a Member of Parliament. Notwithstanding potential veracity of the charges, based on section 307 of the Criminal Procedure Code, an investigation into offenses committed by deputies is the jurisdiction of the Tehran Criminal Court. Consequently, this prosecution office recuses itself from prosecuting this case, in favor of the jurisdictional authority of the Tehran Criminal Court.”

Mehdi Ali Moradi
General and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Malekan

The plaintiff sought the assistance of other parliamentarians, but to no avail. The SMS screen captures below show her correspondence with various MPs. Offering only a glimpse into their communications, the content of the messages indicate the plaintiff’s repeated attempts to plead her case with officials.

The first screenshot shows parts of her conversation with Mahmoud Sadeghi, an outspoken reformist MP, in which he advises her to contact the MP Conduct Supervision Committee.

After HRANA published an audio file of a conversation between Khodadadi and one of his alleged sexual assault victims, state-run news agency Etemad Online followed up in interviews on July 24th with two prominent officials: Parvaneh Salahshoori, head of the All-Party Womens’ MP Group, and Jamali Nobandegani, spokesperson for the PM Conduct Supervision Committee. In the report of these interviews, both denied ever receiving complaints against Khodadadi and added that in presence of any incriminating evidence would file a formal complaint.

The alleged victim proceeded to follow up with Salahshoori herself, providing her with further case documentation. Upon receipt of the documents, Salahshoori promised to follow up with the case and submit a correction to her statements made with Etemad Online. When the plaintiff checked in with Salahshoori five days later, she replied simply that she was “no longer with the All-Party Womens’ Group.”

Excerpts of their exchanges are below.

 

The plaintiff repeatedly contacted Ali Mottahari and Masoud Pezeshkian, who are Parliament deputy speakers that preside over the MPs’ Conduct Supervision Committee per internal Parliament protocol. In their most recent response to her, they indicate that the Committee will not be intervening in the case, and advised her to resolve the issue directly with Salman Khodadadi, her alleged sexual aggressor. This effectively discouraged her from pursuing the matter further.

The plaintiff had also confronted Tehran MP and Etemad Daily managing director Elyas Hazrati, requesting that he reveal the sources of his publication’s aforementioned report in which heavyweight interviewees denied the existence of her claims.

The Guardian Council, which has frequently come under the fire of media and public opinion for allegations of corruption in its vetting of parliamentary candidates, has recently published a documentary in collaboration with Fars News Agency — which has strong ties to the IRGC — to justify their screening process. Entitled “Very Confidential,” the documentary cites factors for disqualifying candidates, including criminal records and charges of rape, and features interviews with Guardian Council members who insist that the Council conducts its candidate background checks with the utmost scrutiny.

Salman Khodadadi has several times run and been elected as an MP, successfully passing the vetting process, despite a record of charges against him that include illicit sexual relations and rape.

January Protests: Roya Saghiri Transferred to Tabriz Prison to Serve Sentence

Posted on: August 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On August 25, 2018, Roya Saghiri, a University of Tabriz student and one of those detained during the January protests, was transferred to Tabriz Prison to serve her sentence of twenty-three months’ discretionary imprisonment, ruled in Branch Two of the Tabriz Revolutionary Court.

On July 11, 2018, HRANA reported on the upholding of this sentence by the East Azerbaijan Appeals Court.

Branch Two of the Tabriz Revolutionary Court sentenced Saghiri, as well as Nariman Validokht, to eight months’ discretionary imprisonment for the charge of “Propaganda against the regime,” pursuant to Articles 500 and 514 of the Islamic Penal Code, passed in 1979, and Articles 134 and 215 of the same code passed in 2013. Saghiri’s sentence for that charge was relatively lenient on account of her clean criminal record but was compounded by an additional charge, against both Saghiri and Validokht, of “Insulting the Supreme Leader,” carrying a fifteen-month prison sentence.

In another case tried by Branch 103 of the Tabriz Criminal Court, presided by Judge Vatankhah, Saghiri was sentenced to a one-year suspended imprisonment term as well as ten lashings for the charges of “Disrupting the public peace through participation in an illegal gathering” and “Appearing in public without the Islamic veil by way of unveiling in the streets”.

A large number of participants in recent protests, referred to as the January protests, were detained and interrogated across the country. The protests resulted in the death of 25 individuals and the detention of around five thousand.

Of the January protests, Ministry of the Interior Rahmani Fazli said, “A number of protests took place in 100 Iranian cities; in forty of those cities, the protests turned violent.”

Some of the January Protest detainees were released on bail to await their trials while others were transferred to prison. The precise whereabouts and fates of a number of protestors are still unknown.

Nasrin Sotoudeh Starts Hunger Strike in Evin Prison

Posted on: August 25th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Nasrin Sotoudeh, prominent lawyer and human rights activist, who has been detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison since June 13th, started a hunger strike on Saturday, August 25th.

Sotoudeh has published an open letter to declare her hunger strike. The arrest and harassment of her family members and friends is the reason behind her protest, she says in the letter.

Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, published a note to confirm his wife’s hunger strike.

The full text of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s letter, translated by HRANA:

My fellow Iranians,

After I was arrested two months ago, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence undertook the unlawful action of arresting the esteemed citizen, Dr Farhad Meysami. They searched his house and that of his relatives and friends to discover evidence of protest against mandatory veiling.

After they failed to find anything in the house of my husband’s sister, they confiscated a satellite device [instead].

Since none of my correspondences to the authorities has been so far responded to, I have no choice but to embark on a hunger strike to protest against the arrests and judicial pressures brought upon my family, relatives and friends.

In the hope that law and justice will one day prevail in our beloved country, Iran.

Nasrin Sotoudeh
August 2018

<b> —- </b>

Nasrin Sotoudeh had recently refused to appear in court, despite a summons order issued by the authorities. She wrote an open letter to explain why.

According to a report published by HRANA on August 18th, Reza Khandan’s house and the house of other relatives and friends of the family were raided by the authorities.

<b> *** </b>

<h3> UPDATE: </h3> Nasrin Sotoudeh ended her hunger strike on October 3, 2018, her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi told HRANA.

Writer Nader Faturehchi Decries the Plight of “Ordinary” Inmates at Great Tehran Penitentiary

Posted on: August 24th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Released on Monday, August 20th after spending one day in the Great Tehran Penitentiary, writer, translator, and journalist Nader Faturehchi was moved to publish a post on Facebook about the miserable conditions of the prison’s quarantine ward.

Having been arrested the day before, Faturehchi was sent to the Great Tehran Penitentiary (also known as “Fashafoyeh”) when he was unable to post bail, HRANA reported. He was arrested pursuant to charges brought by Mohammad Emami, who himself has been charged with embezzling money from a pension fund for teachers.

Summoned to answer to Emami’s accusations on August 19th, Faturehchi wrote, “A serious battle with corruption has begun. I’m going to court, coerced to ‘explain myself’”.

Born in 1977, Faturehchi writes on politics, art, social issues, and philosophy.

Below is the translated text of his post:

I had a very short stay in Fashafoyeh Prison.

I write here not to describe “personal suffering”, but to deliver on a promise that I made to the inmates of the quarantine ward.

All that’s worth saying about myself is that I “went” to Fashafoyeh Prison; the judge had insisted I go to Evin [Prison], but I was transferred to Fashafoyeh instead. Unbelievably, prisoners are made to pay their own transfer costs (if they can afford it), and naturally the fee for a transfer to Evin (150,000 rials) [about $1.50 USD] is “considerably” different from the fee for a transfer to Fashafoyeh (1,000,000 rials) [about $9.50 USD].

At any rate, the greed of police agents afforded me a glimpse into the conditions of Fashafoyeh’s quarantine or “drug offenders” ward.

Among inmates, the colloquial name for the quarantine ward is “Hell”.

The accused, the convicts, the inmates awaiting transfer, or any other kind of “client” will spend four days in the quarantine ward before transfer to a ward known as “the tip”.

The prisoners said the difference in living conditions between the tip and quarantine wards are analogous to those between a bedroom and a toilet.

Having witnessed the quarantine ward on three different occasions in the 90s and 2000s, I can definitively corroborate their accounts of how “grave” the conditions in Fashafoyeh’s quarantine ward really are.

In a routine four-day quarantine period, the prisoner, no matter their crime or sentence, is deprived of potable water, ventilation, toilets, cigarettes, and digestible food (there is cold, half-baked pasta, and cold, uncooked yellow rice).

Fashafoyeh, designed for drug addicts with limited mobility, doesn’t have a public toilet. The toilet is a hole on the floor of a 2X2 foot area without light or running water, separated by a curtain from the ward’s beds and 10X10 foot cells, known as “physicals,” that house between 26 and 32 prisoners. The living conditions in the physicals are so inhumane that quarantined inmates call them the “place of exile”.

Quarantine cells have three-tier bunk beds and two blankets spread on the floor. Two glassless skylights are all they have to regulate temperature. There is no running water between 4 p.m. and 7 a.m., and the only light glows from a 100-watt fluorescent bulb. Should it burn out, the prisoners say, “only God could make someone replace it”.

The cells operate on an unspoken caste system. “Window beds” are reserved for convicts with longer sentences and greater street cred (lifers, drug-dealing kingpins, gang members, violent offenders and grand theft cases); ordinary beds (with no access to the skylight) go to lower-ranking prisoners (small-time drug dealers, pickpockets and petty thieves, etc.), while drug addicts, Afghans, and newcomers are directed to the floor.

Crowding at the prison evidences a mass daily influx of newcomers. Every 24 hours or so, more than 40 new prisoners are brought to the quarantine ward, while a maximum of ten [prisoners] leave the ward each day.

“Floor sleepers” — most often Afghans and intravenous drug addicts — endure conditions similar to those in “coffins”, the coffin-sized cells reserved for political prisoners in the 1980s that were barely large enough to lie down in.
In the cramped conditions, floor sleepers are sometimes pushed to spending the night beneath the beds of other inmates. Coined as “coffin sleepers,” it is typical for other inmates to sit on the floor next to their sleeping enclosure, restraining their movement and blocking their access to light and air.

The stench of sweat and infected wounds is unbelievable. Many inmates are detoxing from drug addictions and are in no state to be taken to the so-called “bathroom” to wash up, which thickens the stench.

More than 80 percent of quarantine inmates are intravenous drug addicts and homeless people unable to stand on their own two feet who belong in a hospital, not in a prison.

A single guard presides over the entire ward, a government agent, while the rest of prison labor (reception, maintenance, cooking, night watch, chaperoning for transfers and even medical work) is performed by the inmates themselves.

In addition to the guard, a mullah (cultural agent) and social worker count among the “staff” whose presence is of no use to the prisoners.

The prison machine is a hierarchical one. Representatives and monitors of each ward are usually white-collar convicts charged with embezzling and fraud. They bunk in cells with amenities like private beds and telephones and have the freedom to move around, smoke cigarettes, don personal slippers and even wear socks. One rung down from them are the “night monitors,” also financial convicts. The third rung down (reception, maintenance, kitchen staff) are theft convicts who have been in the “tip” for less than two weeks.

From what I’ve seen myself, the population of educated people in prison charged with white-collar crimes has spiked in recent decades. This invites an urgently relevant case study from a sociological point of view.

Aggression, insults, and mockery toward newcomers are natural, given that the prison is run by prisoners who, tasked with running the place, tend to be much more amenable to familiar wardmates. And while newcomers are met with brute force and verbal aggression, the guards develop compassion towards them after this initial hazing period has passed (intravenous drug addicts and detoxers are of course an exception to this rule).

I myself was spared insults or humiliation, both from the staff and the prisoners in charge, even though I arrived at the ward shackled hand and foot. For 99 percent of my fellow prisoners and even the staff, the charges against me were considered “incomprehensible, unknown, and strange.”

At no point did I experience disrespect, insults, or aggression, and though my status would have made of me a “newcomer and floor sleeper,” I was shown kindness and respect from the beginning by fellow prisoners, especially from the ward representative, monitors, administrative staff, police officers, and guard. My special treatment was made all the more obvious by the fact that I was the sole newcomer whose head was not shaved, as it is the protocol in quarantine. Drug addicts, theft convicts, “dirty ones” and Afghans are treated like livestock from the moment they step foot in the ward.

Fashafoyeh is a prison for nonpolitical cases and ordinary criminals who do not elicit media attention or human rights outcry, and that is the greatest criticism one could make of civil and human rights activists.

Drawing attention to conditions of the “ordinary prisoners” in Fashafoyeh is an urgent and immediate necessity. No one in Iran is more oppressed and vulnerable. They exist in the epitome of “inhumane conditions” and are victims of a twofold oppression. To bear this, even for one day, is beyond the power of the human spirit and will undoubtedly cause permanent trauma to their body and soul. Every day, the number of cases like these only multiply.

Above the entryway to the Fashafoyeh Prison is a banner reading “Great Tehran House of Regret.” And yet, beneath the physical and spiritual pressures awaiting inmates across the threshold, there will remain no heart with which to reflect. It is impossible to think, let alone regret.

Another deplorable element of Fashafoyeh is its perimeter. Families of prisoners sit in the desert outside, and no one (I.e. the few soldiers on outside duty) are ignorant to who is or isn’t contained there (either that or they don’t reveal to the families what they know.) This is critical when Fashafoyeh prisoners come from poor families who can only come by taxi, at a cost between 1 to 1.5 million rials [approximately $10 to $15 USD].

I met people in Fashafoyeh who had been arrested four days prior and had yet to receive their due right of a free two-minute phone call. For the prisoners from poor families, a call at cost could mean millions of rials.

As I left the prison, I met a group of Gonabadi Dervishes, including Kasra Noori, Mr Entesari, and others. Their kindness and camaraderie chased away the emotional turmoil I had faced in the hours before. To see them was like seeing a familiar face, a ray of light in a dark abyss. I will never forget the warmth of their smiles.

My conscience was deeply troubled after I was released from Fashafoyeh, and I don’t think I will be ever able to forget the horrible conditions my fellow inmates were living in. Seeing their living conditions and their eyes devoid of hope; the putrid odor of the corridors; people who had nowhere to go; cells like cages; their constricted breaths; all of these sensations left a deep wound on my soul. With every glass of water that I drink and every cigarette that I smoke, tears pour down my face.

My arrest is of absolutely no importance. Banish it from memory. The outpouring of media attention and kindness that surrounded my arrest embarrassed and even somewhat upset me. My case is the least of this country’s priorities, a speck in the current of deep human sufferings over this land. The living conditions in prisons, especially for ordinary prisoners, is too terrible for words.

To quote Paul Valery, “This is humanity, naked, solitary, and mad. Not the baths, the coffee, and the verbosity”.

Note: If I didn’t respond to the kindness shown to me by comrades and friends, it is because I was haunted by the grim plight of those who remain there, and for whom I could do nothing. I apologize to you all.

Photo: Half of the Bahman cigarette, gifted to me by one of my dear Dervishes. In my last moments inside, two cigarettes were given to me by Mr Moses, an inmate on a life sentence with a big heart. He put the cigarettes in my pocket and said to me, “Praise the Prophet, all of you, and pray for the freedom for all prisoners… go and never come back, kid”.