I am 26 year old Reyhaneh Jabbari. My home is a bed in prison where I share the bathroom, shower, the sky and even the air with others. There are 2000 women housed here who are convicted of all sorts of crimes both large and small.
This year was a very cold winter which coincided with our heating system being broken. All that could be heard was chattering of teeth, coughing, sneezing and moaning. This year we had a lot of snow to the point that all those who had lived here before could not ever remember so much snow. But the snow brought with it some joy here. Some were throwing snow balls in the yard and laughing. I did not go. I was freezing. I sat around with hot water bottle I prepared for myself. The chattering of teeth takes me back to the year 2007 when I was kept in solitary confinement with wounds all over my body – I would be shaking from anxiety and fear. Sometimes I was interrogated at Evin and other times at the criminal justice building across the street from Tehran University. Officer Shamloo rarely interrogated me; I was questioned mostly by two men whose names I have never found out. They would dictate and I would write. Once they took me somewhere for interrogation where I saw a 14 or 15 year old girl hanging from the ceiling from her wrists. The girl was very pale and her lips were cracked from her tears. She was moaning. The interrogator sat across from me and said today or tomorrow we will go get your little sister…He referred to her by name; Badook. “It is her turn he said….she is very thin….how long do you think she will last hanging like that?” He asked. I was going crazy inside. He was telling me in detail what he was going to do to my little sister- a sister whose birth I remember clear as day, a sister who is so cute and sweet but always complained about homework. My last image of her is during my arrest. She was so scared that she threw a sheet over her head and I could see her shaking under the sheet. That is my very last image of her. I started crying and begged him not to do such a thing. He said that he had no other choice. As he was speaking I remembered that a few days after my arrest I had seen the president of my company with handcuffs in the corridor. He looked in rough shape; he showed me the palm of his hands. They were grotesquely swollen. He asked me: “girl…what did you do?” I turned my face away from him both from shame and not having enough energy to explain. I thought if they had done such a thing to him for sure they will hang my little sister form ceiling. I was desperate. I asked him what I could do to stop him from hurting my sister. He said:” it was very simple. Just confess that you had bought the knife before the murder….what difference does it make…whether you bought the knife or you found it there at the apartment I asked him why would I have needed to buy a knife at all? He said: “.Just say that the victim told you to buy it for your own safety…” If I wrote that then my sister would be safe with the family. Much later I found out that Officer Shamloo, officer Kamali, my two interrogators and two other men had cruelly taken my sister from our home as “accessory to murder”. They were going to question her. My father begged them to let him drive her in his car but they refused and took her in a police car with Kamali driving and Shamloo and the others following in another car and father following them to the police headquarters. My sister, who is only 14, was shaking from fear. As the car passed a Mosque Kamali said:” God, please help this little girl and her sister.” His prayer was somewhat comforting for my sister. At the headquarters Officer Shamloo asked my sister if she had any prior knowledge of the murder. She answered no. Shamloo said fine, you are free to go but ordered my father to bring her back the next day for questioning. He never did. Weeks later, due to the shock of the incident, my sister’s hair and eyebrow hairs all fell out. Doctors diagnosed her with Lupus. To this day she has a nervous condition even with therapy. I wrote that I had bought the knife beforehand, signed it and breathed a sigh of relief. My sister was now safe. I asked him if they had released my mother which surprised him and told me that my mother had never been arrested. I told him what about the fact that I had her voice.
Shamloo came in and asked me if I had broken the light bulb in my cell? And whether I knew my mother had complained about him. I looked at him with bewilderment. The experienced interrogators break the light bulb so no one can see the things they do in the cell. I said that he had told me that my mother had been arrested. He said: “so what..We said it…. that is police procedure all over the world to say whatever you need in order to get to the truth. “I shook my head; everything became clear to me at that moment-what they were doing to me. I was returned do solitary where I would havethe occasional conversation with women in adjacent cells. A few days later I was taken for interrogation again. Shamloo was there with two thin men with very long beards. The two men never said one word. Shamloo left and returned with my mother. My heart was beating very fast. My hands were handcuffed. My mother hugged me and kissed me over and over again. Shamloo ordered her to sit next to me. Shamloo said that he had arranged this meeting to that my mother could see I was fine. My mother complained that she had told him over and over again that she could not live without seeing me….and when she had asked to see me they had said that Reyhaneh would get more resolve from seeing me which would hinder the investigation. She said: “so I had to put in a complaint about you, what other choice did I have?” She said that she had not complained to organizations outside Iran but those inside Iran and nothing had been done. I listened. How much I loved my mother who even under such circumstances was logical and in control. Shamloo said: “ Reyhaneh you love your mother a lot…did you tell her I tortured you?” I put my head down and chose to say nothing as to not make the situation worse. My mother got angry and asked me why I put my head down…why don’t I you say about all the wounds on my body? I realized that another prisoner named Parvaneh had told my mother after she was released. My mother said “go ahead and show your scars” I started crying and said whatever happened it is over now. She said not for me. She started questioning Shamloo. She asked who is Colonel Keremi and is he involved in this case. Shamloo said no the Colonel is not involved. My mother asked then why he interrogated us? I started to feel faint. I wish I had my mother’s resolve and would say how Colonel Keremi had sucked the life out of me. I wish I could say the various ailments I had from those interrogators. But I said nothing. Shamloo got angry, said he would look into it and asked my mother to leave. My mother got up and hugged me so tight I could not breathe. She said: “no matter what happens …bad or good….I love you….I adore you…God gave you to me” To which Shamloo said: “ well she is no good” My mother looked into his face and said: “ Well even if she is bad she is mine, let me take her.” Shamloo put his head down and said our meeting was over. They took me downstairs in car. I could see my parents running after the car telling me how they adored me and loved me. I was on the moon knowing that my family was investigating my case.
A few days later, my name was called. I took all the little papers I had written on to give to my family. Shamloo’s assistant interrogated me. He said that I had complained that their section, the judiciary had beaten me…and hurt me… and he said that he will send me to be interrogated by the department of intelligence so I would really see how easy I have had it here. He told me to write down that I had had relations with my classmates and co-workers. I did not want to implicate these people who were innocent but I also could not tolerate being tortured by the intelligent services. The interrogator went to get some water as we were both thirsty. I saw my father at the door. He was outside arguing with the interrogator. He was insisting that my interrogator take the money for the bottle of water they had bought me. The interrogator laughed and said why….we are family. I felt sick.
He finished questioning me and I was allowed to go and see my parents. The guard that day was Ms. Shekari. She found my papers of writing, confiscated them and gave them to Shamloo who said he will read them and return them. He never did. So I realized I had no rights to anything.
I am in a situation that I never ever thought I would be in. Sometimes I wonder why they see me as such a threat, such a big deal. If they had paid attention they would notice that I reacted wrongly and gave in to them and accepted the fate they chose for me. I was hopeful at the beginning that the Judge would realize the problems of this case. Like when the officers planted the cardboard cover of the knife under my mattress-which they found seconds into their search. Surely the Judge would realize that no one would take leave the cover of the knife when they plan to commit a murder. After years I lost all hope.
I also want to say that in 2007 when I was returned to Evin, I was not sent back to my solitary cell. I and a few other women were kept in the corridors for a while. After they allowed us to return to our cells that night, I noticed the cells were cleaned and all our personal items like plates, utensils, soap and shampoos were missing. A kind lady, a guard, whose name I will not mention as it may cause her harm, told me that they cleared out all solitary cells because a human rights organization had been visiting conducting an investigation. As a result, they emptied the cells to make it appear that no one is kept in solitary. She also told me that Mr. Shahroodi had built these cells. The old cells were not like these one. She said the one I was in was like a hotel compared to the old cells. I began to see how lucky I was to be in these new cells which had a toilet. Many had endured in much much worse. Soon after, I was transferred to the public section of prison with other prisoners. I chose section 3 where prisoners get to work a bit. It was two floors. The upstairs housed girls 18-21 years old. Everything was made of tiles. I was to share a room with 14 women. This room was 6 meters x 4 meters with bunk beds lining the walls. The prisoner, who was showing me around, Tayebeh, said everyone is in the yard and she took me there. The yard was surrounded with extremely tall walls with barbed wire on top. There I saw some signs of life at least. Everyone was doing something. One person was washing some clothes, some were playing with a ball and one person was drinking her tea. Tayebeh, said that she has been in prison for the last 4 years. I remember thinking to myself “FOUR YEARS HERE”…I would just die if I were her. I had no idea that days….weeks and months would be go by for me there…..
End of Part 6