He was scared when the doorbell rang at that early hour in the morning. It was our fault. We had called an hour ahead of schedule. “I didn’t know who they were,” she told us when, already far from her home, we called her by phone. “I didn’t know who they were. “I was waiting for you later.”
The concern was understandable. Already on June 9, 2021, the day of our meeting, an Iranian court had sentenced Narges Mohammadi to prison again. This time two and a half years and 80 lashes. The crime: “Spreading propaganda against the system.” They could arrest her at any time. This new sentence came only months after being released.
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“They do it because I continued with my activities; If I had stopped doing it, even if they had legal cases against me, they would not seek to imprison me so quickly,” explained Narges, who confessed that we had gotten her out of bed. “I spend most of my nights writing a book about white torture that I want to leave ready before going to prison,” he said before going on to describe in detail the torture to which he refers: “Imagine that you are in a really small, a space of 2×2 meters. No color is seen, there is absolute silence… And the pressure of the interrogators. From the cell to the interrogation room.”
And then, as if that were not enough, comes the relationship with the questioner. “Start putting pressure on yourself. He gives you wrong news. Your mind starts to get confused. Then he threatens you. We are going to execute you. And he puts you under pressure. And you can’t ask anyone but him for help. That is the point at which the prisoner is seriously injured. His mind is hurt. He suffers serious psychological damage,” he continues.
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These methods lead many people to confess to crimes that they did not commit, as explained in the book that has finally seen the light of day under the title White Torture. Interviews with imprisoned Iranian women (Editorial Alliance). The prologue is by the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi.
When we visited her, the nights were the only relatively quiet time for this woman who resumed her activism as soon as she was released from prison on October 8, 2020. Ten days after being released, she went to Shiraz to support the family of the fighter Navid Afghari, executed months before. She then launched a campaign against solitary confinement in prison and, through interviews with Persian media abroad, she denounced the abuses to which women are subjected in prison.
“Many women are attacked, sexually harassed and even physically punished… I know some who have been sexually harassed by interrogators,” explained Narges, who, following Iranian traditions, insisted on making us tea accompanied by a large plate of various fruits and pastries. .
Mohammadi, today in prison, recounted the torture: “The interrogator threatens, ‘we are going to kill you’”
“Why is it so difficult for many women activists to report these types of attacks?” we asked her. “First of all, all political prisoners do not feel comfortable talking about these issues. They are worried about their future. They have families and are respected people in society. If they talk about this, they know that the Government will put more pressure on them. They will send them back to isolation. They will be sentenced to prison again,” she explained before referring to the situation in Iran’s lesser-known prisons, where female prisoners are held for crimes such as murder, prostitution or drugs.
“In normal prisons, women suffer a lot of sexual harassment. I have seen that in Zanján prison they can never complain… Nobody listens to their voices. And basically they are not capable, they do not dare. But I declare in this interview that women are attacked in the prisons of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” she explained before saying that in that same prison, in the city where she was born in 1971, she had also been attacked.
It happened in 2019. “Then I complained… of course, but my complaint has not been processed. There were about 24 marks of his hands on my body and the medical examiner made a visual report, but the Islamic Republic of Iran has never investigated the case. Therefore, when they do not deal with this issue legally, we are forced to start a media campaign.” In the room where he received us, two photographs stood out. One of them with her two twin children, Kiana and Ali, when they were just children.
At the time of our meeting they were 15 years old and I had not seen them for seven, when after a great struggle they obtained permission for them to leave the country and join their father, Taghi Rahmani, exiled in Paris. “I have really come to the conclusion that I cannot choose another life than this one, I have to fight, fighting is my whole life. I feel like I’m not a real person if I don’t fight. I can’t be anything else. I have to fight,” he explained.
“Political activity in Iran is dangerous because there are arrests. Many people are sent to prison and even subjected to solitary confinement. And this matter is not easy and it is very difficult. This means that someone who works in the women’s field or a woman who works in any field can lose her job. I lost it,” explained Narges, who studied Physics and Engineering and worked as an engineering inspector until she was fired. “No one would give me a job. Nobody,” she insisted.
“You can also lose your family… I lost mine. Although I have two children and a husband, I have been living alone for many years. Very serious injuries can also be suffered. During this time in prison I had three major surgeries. And it has all been because of the pressure I have endured,” she continued explaining.
Before ending the meeting, he wanted to explain how he has seen Iran after so many years in prison. “Women want to be more free. They fight more to be free. They are more aware and this has to do with the connection they have with the world… It means that they can use the virtual space more to express their own voice.”
The dissident said she had lost everything, including her family, in exile, in her fight against the regime
The interview took place before thousands of women, led by the youngest, took to the streets in 2022 after the death of Mahsa Jina Amini in the custody of the morality police.
Imprisoned, the day Narges learned that she had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her defense of human rights, she celebrated with her cellmates. Yesterday, while her children were collecting the award, she began a new hunger strike.
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