I, Reyhaneh Jabbari, am 26 years old. As before, I am currently sitting on my bed in the Shahr-Rey prison, recounting the bitterest days of my life. The days that upon reflection open my wounds again and I feel as if I spew blood.
When I was 19 years old, I encountered men who I believed I could persuade to converse in a civilized manner. I thought I talk and they would listen. Men who I never could have imagined to be violent if I had met them somewhere other than the Shapour Police Quarters. But I can daringly say that they were dark hearted monsters that wore human masks. During the course of my interrogation day after day, time lost its meaning for me. Just like the hands of a clock, I too was taken from one place to another. Sometimes, I was taken to the Criminal Court. And the highlight of the day, an interrogation session with Shamloo would draw the day to an end. But an ominous day began in the course of my interrogations and I spent the days like an animal in a slaughterhouse.
The interrogator’s heavy-handed smacks made my ears so hot that I could not feel the pain anymore and I was no longer tormented. Karami repeatedly put a piece of paper in front of me and I wrote and he tore. Sometimes I saw Colonel Kamali. He frowned and asked questions. I wrote. He did not tear. Did not strike. Did not curse. He only read what I wrote. Sometimes I saw a fade trace of a smile on his lips which made me hopeful. He spoke very fast very fast as if he was always in a hurry to get my answers. And when I was done writing answers to his questions, he picked them up quickly and left.
I don’t recall how many days had passed. I was very tired and dirty. I wanted to take a bath so badly. The dirt on the floor of the police station cell had made my entire body filthy and the sweat the dripped during my interrogation sessions left a muddy track on my face and hair.
I had returned from court and the indefinite questioning session with Shamloo. All the way back I prayed to return to the detention center in order to get some sleep. Even if I had to sleep whilst sitting up. I wanted to rest my tired brain and have some peace of mind. But God did not hear. As soon as I arrived at Shapour Police Quarters I was taken to bureau number 10. Three monstrous men were waiting for me in a small room. Karami was not there. As soon as I entered, they handcuffed me to a chair and forced me sit on the floor. I was tired. I rested my head on the seat of the chair. I did not recognize their voices. They screamed one after another: “You think you are very smart? Stronger people than you have been reduced to nothing here. You pest, who do you think you are? Answer every question loudly. Sheikhi was there, wasn’t he?” I replied: “He got off the car on the way there, but when I was about to escape he opened the door….” I felt something on my back. I felt the swelling of my skin. And then….”Rip”…. My skin cut open. It only began to feel ablaze after I heard the “rip” sound through my nerves. It burned. And I screamed from the bottom of my heart. My ears hurt from the sound of my own scream. I did not hear the sound of the whip. It was not a whip. It was not a rope. It was not a piece of wood. I never figured out what those three fierce dragons used to burn me over a few days. I could only hear myself screaming “God damn you”. And he inflamed my back even harder. And I had fallen on the floor, belittled and degraded, drowning in my saliva, snot and tears. My arms had become completely numb as I twisted and turned under the excruciating pain with my hands tied to the chair higher than my body.
I, Reyhaneh Jabbari, am now 26 years old. The pale scars where my skin burst can still be seen on my back. Upon my return to the detention center a few prostitutes and addicts softly stroked my split skin and recited a prayer from the Quran to comfort me. And for the first time in my life, I saw signs of kindness in these women. The women whom I would have frowned upon and looked away from if I had seen them on the street. And for the first time, I saw an addict cry for me and whisper in my ears: “I hope these bastards all die!” And those ghastly and bitter days ended with my confession. I, Rehaneh Jabbari, confessed that from the first meeting with Sarbandi and Sheikhi, I realized that they worked for the Ministry of Information [the Intelligence Service]. I confessed that I knew how to spell “Vata” and its meaning. I had just realized what Kamali had asked me on that early morning. When I was 19, I wrote everything that I had told to those three monsters on a piece of paper that Kamali had given me and he read it. He looked at me. Drew his lips in and left.
I want to finish this part as soon as possible because I am afraid that there is not much time left to write. I am giving these letters to a kind woman who will be released soon. I have always told my mum that I have left her plenty of letters as inheritance. I have given her many letters over the past few years. Almost everything. Except a few that Shamloo confiscated and never returned.
I, Reyhaneh Jabbari, am 26 years old. And although the traces of pain are still on my soul and body, I don’t hate those monsters. I don’t even hate the chubby man who jumped and pressed on my toes with his industrial style boots. He caused my toe nail to break, and even to this day the toe nail is not straight and the skin around it is bruised. I don’t hate them, because a little later I met people who were even more violent than them. It was upon meeting them that caused me not to want to have long hair anymore. I realized that long hair is a weakness for every woman when fighting with one man, two men, several cowards! Hair that creates beauty can become a rope to pull a woman when wrapped around a man’s hand. It becomes the cause of a pain that twinges your eyes, prickles your ears and turns to a scream in your mouth. And I gradually realized this is the nature of some people’s jobs. There are people who live in cities, have children, go to parties, celebrate happy occasions and commemorate sad ones, say prayers and promise god to share what they have with their neighbors shop and laugh, but generate their income by creating hellfire for others. I have no complaints about these people in this world, but in the next world I am the plaintiff and they are the accused. I have forgiven them in this world and have thus started a new phase of my life. I was transferred to Evin prison’s solitary confinement, with an injured body and a destroyed soul from the final words of Shamloo: “Your parents don’t want you anymore. They have said; kill her, we never had such a daughter.” And I was hopeless and lonely while my back and shoulders had dried up blood from my injuries. I was thrown into a 9 meter carpeted room with a knee high wall, a toilet, shower and a sink. The walls were full of stains and writings. They brought me two rough and foul smelling blankets.
So this was Evin prison, the prison I had heard all about in family parties when older people talked about it in the Shah’s era. I lied on my stomach. For many hours I could not believe the silence. I could still feel the screams, mixed with the unbearable pain in my back. O my god, what am I going to do with this loneliness? Why have I become forsaken? Do I have to be lonely the rest of my life and never see my parents and sisters? Does this mean, if someday we see each other by accident they will turn away from me? O God, how I have always loved and still love them. I passed out and don’t remember how long it took before I woke up. In solitary confinement, many times I would wake up after having nightmares. In these nightmares, a hand would come in from the window and pull me out in a blink of an eye, or that same hand would take away my father and others and make them disappear, but I would stay where I was. I could not move despite desperate struggles and did not have a voice despite screams. I was in my new home for two months; a home that created the seed of vengeance in me and it took me a few years to control it. One day, one of the guards gave me a card and told me the card was equivalent to having money. By then, my injuries had healed and I could take showers. That same day an old woman came to clean my cell. This was the custom at Evin, women who were lonely and had no visitors had to work to earn telephone rights and by selling their phone time to other prisoners would earn a living. Her name was Nessa. She was full of regret and disappointment. I gave her my card and asked her to buy me a pen and take as much money as she wants from the card. She brought me the pen together with a cookie with a golden stem. I was experiencing a new taste that reminded me of home and happier days. Now I had a pen! Shamloo had prohibited me from reading newspapers, having visitors, reading books, getting any news or reading the Quran. But I had a pen which was complimented by some papers I took from the trash cans when I took walks outside. I would put them in my pockets and bring them back to my cell. I started writing on little pieces of white paper. I expressed my anger, complained, got angry, cursed ….. and gave Shamloo a nickname, the Old Lizard. One sad afternoon, a woman opened the little door to give me food. Her name was Fakhteh. She said she had been sweeping the cashier section of the visitor area when a man and a woman came to deposit money for me. The woman had asked the cashier: “Will you really see Reyhaneh to give her this money?” When the cashier had confirmed, the man had said: “You are lucky…you get to see my daughter”. I never forget the sense of happiness and hope Fakhteh brought for me. Her simple message assured me that the Old Lizard had lied about my parents disowning me. I gained strength, forgot all my pains and started writing letters to my family. I realized then that the money card had been provided by my parents for me while I was prohibited from having visitors. I realized that the pen that had cost me 10,000 tooman [$3.00] was their gift to me. I still have that pen even though it is just a faded, empty Bic pen. However, that pen reminds me of many other things. When Shamloo confiscated my letters – which I will later talk about in detail – he introduced a new theory in my file. He had said: “You have great organizational skills. You have managed to find so much paper and start writing while I strictly ordered that you should be deprived of everything. Therefore, you have the ability to plan a murder systematically. I was shocked by his logic. He had never been in my situation to realize that some people who live in absolute poverty, can provide you small things to help you live a little happier even if a lizard tries to sharpen his teeth for you. And in this crazy life, Fakhteh, the woman who flew by my cell and brought me the gift of hope was executed a few months later. That was when I realized for the first time that at times, they take a person who will never come back.
A fluorescent light was always on in my solitary cell. I could never see the outside light to know whether it is day or night. I only realized it was day time when workers and guards were busy walking about. And in the night time silence, I learnt to hear things by putting my ear on the cold metal door and have conversations with the inmates in my neighboring cells through the little food doors. I had learnt to stay up at night time. On one of those sleepless nights, I got to know Akram and Parvaneh. Akram was the wife of a clergy and I never understood why she was in prison. But Parvaneh had a different story. She had been in prison in the 1980s but had miraculously been saved from execution. Now she was in prison for supporting a man I didn’t know but she told me about. His name was Osanloo and was apparently the head of the bus company’s labor union. I could not understand why a person should be imprisoned for such a thing. I had told Parvaneh my injuries were getting healed and she constantly told me about the importance of resisting forced confessions. Sadly, she came to my life too late when I had already confessed everything, to participating in politics which I never understood and to all kinds of relationships.
I, Reyhaneh Jabbari, who had never been arrested before and had never done anything to even get a warning from the university’s security office, confessed to[illicit] relationships with many people. And it was the Old Lizard who said any contact between a man and a woman who are not related – even a phone conversation – is a relationship. And I, who stayed away from even talking to people that I didn’t know, confessed to what he wanted me to.
Another night ended at the Shahr Rey prison and I have to get prepared to go to the cultural unit, quickly. Undoubtedly and very soon, I will write about all the atrocities the prison system, the interrogators and Shamloo did to me. I don’t want to be buried and let my sufferings be forgotten.
End of Part 4