And I, Reyhaneh Jabbari, am 26 years old. It has been many years since I last was at my home. I have been away from my home because of blood and pain. Now that I am silently reflecting; section 2 of Shahreh-Rey prison is in a lot of commotion. The past few days they have shut down the yard so we have constantly been walking around inside the halls. It is very stuffy in here and the worst thing is that they have also closed down the activities unit. Time goes by very slowly, so I have taken refuge on my bed to escape the insane commotion and am immersed in my thoughts….What am I doing here? What happened to my home? And then I remember what happened to me.
When I was 19, I survived a struggle with a huge man and managed to escape. I had freed myself from arms that could have easily crushed my neck. I was standing in front of the door, tired and frustrated. I entered the house. My body temperature was unsteady. I was hot for a moment and cold and shivering a second later. My mother was washing fruit. She stopped working as soon as she saw me. She looked at me. I took off my head scarf immediately. If she had looked at me closely, she could see the blood. She asked: “What has happened?” I lied and said: “I was in an accident”. She said: “But you didn’t drive today!” I replied: “I had a very bad accident in my friend’s car”. She muttered: “I have told you repeatedly not to drive other people’s cars. It is bad luck for us.” During our childhood, she had told us that for their wedding night my father had borrowed and decorated a friend’s car which broke down. So, not only had the groom arrived late but also he had to pay the cost of fixing the car. I wanted so badly to hug her and tell her what had happened, but I couldn’t. The thoughts and images were devastating me. I went to my room, changed my clothes, took the knife out of my purse and put it under my bed. I lay down on my bed, closed my eyes hoping to sleep. However, the conversations, the laughs, the heat of his hands, my weakness, the height of the balcony, the knife, the knife, the knife, blood, blood and blood kept flooding my mind. I was restless and could not concentrate. My mom came to my room. She had brought cold water and an apple. I refused them both. She said: “Get up. Don’t be a baby.” I drank the water and felt a bit better. She held my hand, stared into my eyes and said: “Tell me what happened. Why are you so restless?” I hid my eyes from her. She has an amazing talent in reading my eyes. I didn’t want her to know what had happened. She started massaging my hands as I lay on the bed and asked: “So, how bad was the accident?” I said: “It was terrible.” She asked: “Did you hit someone?” “No”. “Thank God. Then it is not important.” “Mom! I think there was major damage.” She said: “It doesn’t matter how much the damage is. Be thankful that you didn’t hit a person and you were not injured. It would have been better if you had not gotten into an accident but it happened and it is now in the past. I calmed down for a few moments. She lay next to me, put her hand on my neck and stroked my hair. My head was on her chest and my entire being was filled with security and peace. I felt free in her warm kindness. She whispered in my ear: “When I see you in turmoil, it is as if someone stabs me in the heart. I want you not to be sad.” And I was sad. She asked: “What happened to your business with Sarbandi and Shaikhi? Did you go?” I sighed and said: “Yes I did.” She asked: “Did you make a deal with him?” I said: “No, I don’t want to do the job.” She said: “Oh! that is good. I never had a good feeling about them.” She asked: “Did they give you a ride home?” I said: “Yes”. I wanted to cry loudly from the bottom of my heart and tell her what had happened, but I didn’t. But what could I say when telling her would be like stabbing her in the heart? I said: “I want to sleep.” She said: Go to sleep. I will call you when dinner is ready.” I used to kiss each of her fingers; she would touch my face with her hand after I did that and then touch her lips with her hand. We used to do this as long as I remember. Even later when she visited me in prison, we sometimes played this game from behind the window. However, we haven’t played the game in the past few years.
I, Reyhaneh Jabbari am 26 years old and confess that I miss my mother’s embrace. It is more than 18 months that we see each other from behind the window. Shahreh-Rey prison doesn’t allow in person visits outside the glass window and all prisoners should dream of the scent, the warmth and security of their families in their imaginations. Here in prison, we are not just deprived of food and water, but deprived of all sorts of things.
Mom turned off the light and left my room. And I kept remembering my fierce struggle with that man again and again. I was tired. I pressed my face to the pillow and cried uncontrollably. I wanted to fall asleep, wake up after a few moments, and breathe a sigh of relief and say: How wonderful, it was all a dream. But sleep was escaping me. My cell phone rang a few times. I don’t remember who called me and what we talked about. I was suspended between reality and delusion and could not differentiate between the two. I had a distorted sense of reality and was mixed up about time and place. My arms and legs kept twitching as if I was fighting with him again. My arm was bruised and in pain. I could smell the dinner my mom had made and hear her call me: Dinner is ready, Reyhan. I could not get up. I had not eaten since noon and was very hungry but didn’t have the energy to move. I wished that she would bring my dinner to me, like some other nights, but she didn’t. I tried to move, but couldn’t. It felt like I was paralyzed. She called me again: “Aren’t you coming, Reyhan? I couldn’t respond. I was struggling and screaming inside but I was motionless and silent. Mom opened the door. I saw her through half open eyes. She didn’t see my beseeching eyes, whispered: “Have sweet dreams my love”, closed the door and left. And I was left in my room, bombarded by the thoughts of the incident. I don’t know how much time had passed when I woke up with the sound of my phone ringing. I took a deep breath and answered. All of a sudden I was completely alert. I heard a strange man’s voice saying that someone has had an incident and my number was among those he had called. Then he asked: “Do you know Dr. Sarbandi?” I replied: “yes”. “Did you only talk to him on the phone or did you meet him in person?” “I met him in person.” “What time did you meet him?” “At 6:00 P.M.” He said excitedly: “So, you know he has been injured?” I replied: “Yes, how is he doing?” He said he was doing fine, but you have to come to police station number 104 in Abbas-Abad.” Hearing the silence at home, I could tell everyone was sleeping. I asked: “Why do I need to come?” “Just for investigation and some questions.” I said: “I can’t come now, but I will be there first thing in the morning.” He said: “It can’t wait until tomorrow. You have to come right now.” I thought to myself: what an idiot, doesn’t he realize a girl can’t get out of the house alone at this time of night? To get rid of him, I said I am not in Tehran right now and hung up. I was wide awake. I left my room. Mom had fallen asleep while watching TV. I went in the kitchen to eat something, but didn’t feel like it. I just got a glass of water, returned to my room and lay on the bed. My phone rang again. It was the same voice. He forcefully said: “We are in front of your house. Come and open the door or we will come in, and we are armed.” I said: “Who are you?” “Police” “Wait, I will be down right away.” I went down with difficulty and opened the door. There were three men at the door. One of them seemed to be the chief and I found out later his name was Shamloo. He was the inspector at branch 1 of criminal office, the one I wrote about while I was in solitary confinement and gave him the title: “Old Lizard”. He was the one who after my arrest stung me with his words, like a lizard! The other one was Kamali, the officer from bureau number 10 of Shapour investigation office. The third one was the driver, Mehrabadi. Shamloo started asking me questions right there. I told him what had happened in that apartment. He said: “We know. Where is the knife you used?” “In my room, should I bring it?” “No, you can’t go in alone. We will come with you.” The three of us went inside. Mehrabadi stayed out. Shamloo stayed in the front yard and Kamali went in my room with me. My younger sister, whom we called Badook was awake. She saw us with inquisitive eyes of a 13 year old. With a gesture, Kamali told her to be quiet. Badook covered her head with the sheet. I could tell she was trembling. I entered my room with kamali. Took the knife from under my bed and gave it to him. He asked: “What were you wearing at the time?” A moment later, he had all the three pieces that reminded me of the most horrifying time of my life. He ordered me to leave with him. As I left the room, all of a sudden I saw my mom who screamed softly and asked: “Who are you?” I said: “Mom, calm down.” She quickly covered herself, faced Kamali and asked again: “Who are you? What are you doing in my house?” She was about to call my dad when Kamali pulled his jacket aside and showed her something that caused her to bring down her voice. She said: “Don’t show me your gun Sir. Who are you?” He kept ordering us to be quiet but did not explain anything. Shamloo who had heard the noise entered the room. Mom was even more scared. She leaned on the wall, sat on the floor and asked: “What is going on here?” He introduced himself and said: “Your daughter has hit a pedestrian and fled the scene.” My mother looked at me with disbelief and said: “Reyhan! Did you lie? You hit a pedestrian? Why didn’t you take him to the hospital? Is he dead? Oh My God!” Worried and puzzled, she started asking me questions angrily. “Was it a man or a woman?” Shamloo stopped her, saying: We can’t talk here. Everything will be clarified at the Abbas-Abad police station.” Mom said: Let me wake up her father and we will come with her.” He said: “No, we will take her and you can come separately.” I put on my slippers and left. I didn’t kiss my mother, didn’t even say bye to her, didn’t take a good look at the house, and didn’t say farewell to my room. I had no idea what was in store for me! I thought I would return home in a few hours and would go back to sleep. I sat in the car and we left. The driver didn’t know the area and I guided him to find his way back. On the way there, they asked me what had happened and I told them everything. Excitedly, Kamali said: “Yes, we have kept the condom as evidence.” And Shamloo said: This one evidence will save your life. Based on the evidence and article number sixty….. you have legitimately defended yourself and there is no reason to worry.” I didn’t understand the meaning of what he said. I noticed a few missed calls from my mom and sent her a quick and loving text message. In it, I said: “It looks like I will be done by the morning. My phone is running out of battery so I will turn it off. Don’t worry, my love.” Shamloo said: “You are not allowed to use your cell phone.” And he took my phone away. We arrived at a small square where the branch 104, Abbas-Abad police station was. We went up the stairs and entered a room. I sat on a chair and everyone left. I was sitting in a dark, unfamiliar space all by myself.
I, Reyhaneh Jabbari, am 26 years old and confess that I didn’t understand the signs from the universe when I was 19. I should have realized what days were awaiting for me when I was quietly sitting in that room. I should have realized that my future would be dark and gloomy. I should have felt the half dark room. I didn’t realize, didn’t know and didn’t understand.
About an hour later, they took me to another room. There was a long table with chairs around it. It was filled with grim looking men. I sat on a chair right across from Shamloo. He asked what had happened and I replied that I had already told him everything in the car. One of the men said: “Tell us too.” I retold the incident. They asked me about details and I answered. I was tired. We left the building at 6 o’clock in the morning. The grim men left and Shamloo and Kamali stayed with me. I saw mom and dad. They looked distressed. I wanted to hug them but they didn’t let me. They talked by the door for a short time. Kamali said: “Don’t worry. Your daughter has killed a …. Shamloo confirmed. Mom asked: “Was he an addict?” “No.” “Was he a drug dealer?” “No. Don’t think about it. Just come to the Inspector’s Office number 10 on Shapour Street at 11 am.” Dad asked: “Have they drawn a sketch of the accident?” Kamali laughed and I felt so ashamed, ashamed in front of my mom and dad’s nobility. They didn’t even know what had happened. I got in the car. Mom sent me a kiss and waved. I kept looking at them until I couldn’t see them anymore. Shamloo got out of the car and I followed Kamali to a building that was called Shapour Inspector’s office. Kamali asked: “Do you know what Vata is? I replied: “What?” He said: “Vata. Have you ever heard the name? I replied: “No.” He said: “Do you know who this man was?” I said: “Yes, he was a plastic surgeon.” He said: You really don’t know anything! How did you not know who he is?” I asked: “Who is he?” He said: “He was a government Authority.” Then he stopped short of finishing his sentence and said: “Leave it alone, it is not important.” It was 6:30 am and the office was unoccupied of the employees who arrived in a couple of hours. I followed an officer downstairs for finger printing. I saw mom and dad. Mom talked to the officer and dad could kiss me. When he was kissing me, I dared to whisper in his ear: “They are making it a political case.” We then went to a small room on the first floor. A blond woman and a photographer were waiting there. I had a hard time standing straight when they took my picture. I was extremely tired and hungry. I had not slept for even a minute since I had woken up the day before. I badly needed to go to the bathroom. But together with Kamali and a private, I got into a car that was in the parking lot and was driven to an unknown location. They handcuffed me for the first time and I felt the cold and hard handcuff on my skin. They took me to the third floor of branch 1 of the inspection office, an old building across from Tehran University. Shamloo was there. He asked how I was and told us to go to the first floor. We kept going up and down the stairs. I was tired and beat and the stairs were never ending. We went into a room filled with reporters. I retold everything from the beginning. I was impatient and thinking, how many times do I have to repeat telling this? I was tired of the repetition. I wanted to close my eyes, and then I had to go up the stairs to the third floor again. I sat on the green chairs in the hallway. There was a water fountain nearby and I was extremely thirsty but how could I drink with handcuffs on? I was too proud to ask for water. In Shamloo’s room, I had to repeat everything again. My voice was echoing in my head now and it was as if someone else was talking. They took me to the inspection office again. The people there were so lucky. They could easily drink water and could probably go to the bathroom. They took me to the detention center. The person in charge was an ugly woman with a hairy face. She said: “You killed your boyfriend?” I said: “No.” And she mumbled: “All of you say the same thing at first. Everything will be clear later.” I didn’t understand what she was saying then. However, I saw something the next day which made me realize what she meant. She brought an old nail clipper and clipped my nails extremely short, almost cutting my skin. I remembered when my grandmother saw a girl biting her nails, she would say: “The prophet has said women should cut their nails a bit above skin.” I was in pain and about to cry, but pretended to be OK. She sent me to a room with nothing in it except for the carpet covering the floor. There were a few other women there. One of them had strange lesions on her hand unlike anything I had ever seen before. Later on I found out these are the remnants of something called, self mutilation.
I, Reyhaneh Jabbari am 26 years old and have seen many women who when angry, cut their hands or body with a knife or broken glass or any sharp object till blood gushes out. They calm down when they see the blood. The lesion goes away but their flesh becomes disfigured until another time when they need to see the blood gushing out. I get sick even thinking about it. I have never felt like doing this even when I was extremely worried and upset. But when I was 19, out of fear, I told the women in the detention center that I had killed someone. My eyes were tired. There was no place to sleep. I managed to lie down on the floor and put my feet up on the wall. My share of this room was just the size of my upper body. I closed my eyes for a moment. An agent came and said: “This is not the time for sleeping. All of you should sit down.” We all sat. This room was at the end of a hallway. It had a dish washing sink and two bathrooms and showers with half doors. There were two other rooms that were called solitary cells. I was extremely tired and hungry. In the evening, they gave us each one potato and a blanket. For breakfast, they gave us a piece of bread the size of a match box and some cheese. There was no room to sleep. The only outlet to outside was through a small air duct. I didn’t have a watch and was unable to tell the time. I had never slept on a hard floor in my jeans. The blanket had a foul smell. Twelve of us were breathing in that small room. I had never seen an addict before and that night an addicted woman kept throwing up right by me. Despite all these discomforts, I passed out. I feel sleep Saturday morning and Sunday had ended when I awoke. They woke us up. My body was beat and in severe pain. They called my name through the speaker, handcuffed me and took me to branch 10. This time I looked carefully. I was in a big room with tables all around. The walls were short and made of black stone. There was a small door to a glass room with a table and some chairs. They took me there. Two bearded old men were sitting there. They ordered my handcuffs to be undone and asked someone to bring tea for me. Even though it was summer, I was extremely cold. My voice trembled and my teeth chattered when I talked. The old men said they were not from this office and that they had come from the Leadership Office. They just wanted to know what had really happened. They merely listened. They didn’t take notes and I wasn’t asked to write anything. And through the entire process I never saw them again. I returned to the detention center. The blankets were not there anymore. They brought lunch, a little rice that was red and foul smelling, but there was no room for complaining. My body was still aching. I was not allowed to lie down and closed my eyes while sitting. My head felt extremely heavy. The next day, Tuesday, I was taken to Shamloo’s room early in the morning. Sitting on the green chairs in the hallway, I saw Mom and she saw me. She ran to me to give me a hug. Kamali said: “Don’t get close.” She leaned on the wall across from me and fell to the floor. She said: I am sitting here to see you. I could hardly keep my head straight but I sat erect. I could see horror and worry in her eyes. Dad came later. He had been looking for a parking space and mom had not wanted to wait and had come earlier. Shamloo started the inspection again and said: “This case is very costly for us. You have to say something else.” And I didn’t know what he was talking about. That afternoon, I was sitting and facing the wall in branch 10 of the inspection office. They had instructed me not to turn around. I could hear two people screaming while getting close to me. From their accents, I could tell they were Afghanis. Some people were hitting and cursing them. The Afghanis were begging for mercy. They were forced to run around the big room. I could hear their heavy breathing when they passed by me. I could see the blood trace as they ran. I was really scared. Later on I found out that they were let out of this small door and forced to run so that their soles wouldn’t get swollen [after flogging on the soles of the fee]. I had to sit in front of this black stoned wall repeatedly through the process. I used to stare at the wall and look at the shadows reflecting on it. Every time a shadow was getting close, I would press my teeth so that they would not break if they hit me in the head. I would keep my neck erect to lessen the force of impact. That day, two men came near me. One was a chubby man with a stubble whose name I never understood and another man whose name was Colonel Karami. The chubby man said: “Tell me how the murder happened.” I told him what had happened. He said: “Don’t play games girl and tell us the truth.” I said: “What I told you is the truth.” Karami jumped and pulled my hair from behind. He pulled my head back forcefully, just like Sarbandi had done. My neck was cramped. As he held my hair, he dragged and threw me in the room with the small door. There was a table and a chair. Two other chairs were across the room. I sat behind the table. They gave me a piece of paper and a pen. They told me to write and I wrote: When I was attacked by Dr. Sarbandi, I stabbed him with a knife one time. Suddenly, Karami hit me in the head from behind. It was sudden and I had not kept my neck erect. My head hit the table. He took the paper and ripped it. He said: “Write again. Write the truth. Karami left the room and the chubby man said: “This is not a joke. If you cooperate we will tell the judge and he will reduce your sentence. Tomorrow, they are going to arrest your entire family. Don’t you have mercy on them?” I felt like crying. I said: “Believe me, I told you the truth. Why did he hit me? What should I have written?” He said: “He hit you? You call that hitting?” I replied: “I don’t have anything else to say and will write the same things.” He said: “Does someone need to make you?” Karami returned to the room with two other men. One was tall and bearded and the other was average height with no beard. The two sat on chairs. The chubby man was behind me. Karami yelled: “Will you write or not? So far you have given us nonsense. Now tell us the truth.” The chubby man said: “No, she is going to cooperate. She will write soon. Just give her a little time. She is putting her thoughts together.” Again, I wrote what I had written before. The chubby man pulled my head back and the un-bearded guy slapped me a few times on both sides. Left, right. Left, right. This was the first time I was hit in my life. Karami was yelling: “What was the man’s name?” I said: “Sarbandi.” He yelled louder: “What was his first name?” And I didn’t know.
I, Reyhaneh Jabbari 19 years old, had killed a man whose first name I did not know.
End of Part 3