tehranbureau An independent source of news on Iran and the Iranian diaspora

From Kayhan to Evin


06 Jun 2010 03:524 Comments

Mohammad Nourizad is a writer, producer and journalist. He began working for IRIB under Morteza Avini, producing the documentary series on the Iran-Iraq war, Revayateh Fath [Tales of Resistance].

Prior to the election, he wrote for the hardline newspaper Kayhan, but what made him a household name was his support of the opposition after the election, and his letters to the supreme leader, for which he is now serving time in prison. He published a fifth letter to the leader on Friday.

In this letter, he recounts meeting Tehran's prosecutor general, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi.

They lead me every which way while I am blindfolded. When I enter the room, I see a forty-something-year-old man sitting across a long table. He shows me the other end of the table and I sit down. After the usual greetings,

He says: Mr. Nourizad, I really didn't want to see you here. Why do you have to be here?

I say: This is my home. I believe I'm a landlord here, not a lunatic felon who is here to be disciplined and punished.

He says: You're causing quite a mess these days. The guard has written me and has complained that you've punched him and ripped his shirt!

I say: The difference between that guard and me is that his letter reaches you in two days; but a letter I wrote to the prosecutor general more than a month ago has yet to reach him.

The man who is sitting across from me raises his amputated arm and tries to scratch his face. This is when I know that the person sitting opposite me, who seems to have the nerves of steel, is no one other than Tehran's prosecutor general, Jafari Dolatabadi. I'd heard before that the prosecutor general had lost one of his arms up to his wrist, in the war.

I say: You must be Mr. Jafari.

He says: Yes

I say: They took me out of my prison cell for a walk and then raided my cell while I was gone, taking my personal belongings.

He goes through some notes he has in front of him. Then he says: Why must you write "We are alive and so we shall live" on your t-shirt?

I say: What part of our intelligence and security services will this simple sentence of mine affect?

He says: This reminds me of Descartes who said: "I protest therefore I am!"

I say: Your friends removed two of my writings from my personal effects. You have my permission to read them and get them to those they were intended for. The first is called the secret of the donkey's "hee-haw" and the second piece is called "A letter to members of parliament." I don't care much about the first piece, which is directed at the Intelligence Ministry, but give my second letter to Mr. [Ali] Larijani, the head of parliament, so he can distribute it and read it for other MPs.

He says: I have nothing to do with parliament. But why don't you write a letter to the father [Khamenei]? If you write it, we will get it to the father really fast, through Mr. [Sadegh] Larijani of the judiciary. If you ask for a pardon in the letter, it will be even better.

I say: I will not ask for a pardon, because I believe I have done nothing wrong. The problem with my letters is that nobody sees that I write them out of concern. Like today, it's been three days now that I've been on a hunger strike. Why? Because I can't find any legal authority who actually respects the law.

He laughs. The word "hunger strike" makes him laugh.

He says sincerely: No, Mr. Nourizad. Do not go on a hunger strike.

I say: They've transferred me from ward 240, from a prison cell with a bath and a toilet, to ward 209, to a cell with no facilities, in scorching heat. I insist that I want to see the guardian of the ward, but they pay no attention. When I hit on the cell door out of protest, the door opens, the guard gets violent, he calls on others and the five of them pick me up from the ground and throw me back hard. My head gives a thud sound. My shoulders are injured. My eyesight is worse and I have a terrible headache.

I say: And this is how headaches turn into nausea.

He accepts my words, but insists that I stop my strike.

I say: Mr. Jafari, I am determined to continue my hunger strike. It's been three days now and I had to drag myself here with much difficulty. I have not even had a cup of water or sugar. They've taken x-rays of my shoulders at the prison. There may not be anything in the x-rays, but I'm on this strike because of the lawlessness of your friends. You will drag my body out of the prison cell in a few days.

He says: It's not right for you to kill yourself with your own two hands.

I say: Why did Imam Hussein [3rd Shia Imam, who according to Shi'a history was murdered by the tyrant caliphate Yazid] do it then?

He says: Because he was confronting Yazid.

I say: Wherever there is lawlessness, there is a Yazid. Like our legal system, which I'm sure has nothing to do with Islam. You take "P" [probably Abbas Palizdar] and send him to prison, but you leave free all those he has exposed. You arrest Shahram Jazayeri, and give... [probably Sadeq Mahsouli] who has become a multi-millionaire through laundering government funds, a ministerial position.

I say: This system is so dysfunctional and decrepit that someone like... is easily used by others, and through his driver and mother, commits the most atrocious injustices.

He says: These very clever men have given 200 Million Tomans [~$200,000] to his mosque.

I say: I've heard it too. But I've also heard that they've given a villa to his driver, and they've asked him to sign many things. As a prosecutor general, you have no courage to protest? Why? Because you are too needy of this high table and your high rank.

He says: That's not true. I'm just a war veteran.

I say: So what? High ranks are coveted by everyone, war veteran or not. Why don't you protest? This system is rife with incompetent, unjust judges.

He says: It is, but not around me.

I say: Why don't you resign?

He says: I remain here so I might be able to do some good.

I say: Everyone tries to justify their own wrong deeds using that excuse.

I say: Most of our system is stained with bribery and smuggling. Most disregard the law. But you've thrown me in jail for telling the truth, and you've allowed ignorant interrogators to beat me and threaten my family. But those who are misusing government funds are free. And you don't even have the courage to arrest them.

I say: Justice in our legal system is only a big joke. I'm in prison for criticizing this justice which has fallen ill. And those who are responsible for the illness of our legal, financial and security systems are free and are even given support.

The prosecutor general listens to my words calmly, and reiterates his request that I write a letter to the leader.

I say: I will write, but only the way I want to.

He says: Just write.

They bring me a pen and paper, and while I am struggling after three days of a hunger strike, I write: "If someone visits a holy city and sees that city being overpowered by the stench of garbage, do they have no right to complain? Must they arrest him and throw him in prison for complaining? This is what has happened to me. I don't see this much ugliness befitting of the revolution -- a revolution which took all that effort. In prison, I have been subject to the brutal beating of ignorant interrogators; interrogators who use the most vile ways to force prisoners to confess; interrogators who use the dirtiest ways, and the most despicable language. I really wish that I could come to you and tell you of the second Kahrizak and to tell you of the despicable behavior shown by those who claim to be the soldiers of Islam..."

I do not fold the letter, and I give it to the prosecutor. In a separate letter I write to him: "When my verdict has yet to be announced, why am I being kept in a zendan-e vezarat-e ettellaat [intelligence ministry prison]?" And I ask him to be transferred to the general ward. Now that I write this, I am in the general ward. In section 7, hall 5. ~Mohammad Nourizad

SHAREtwitterfacebookSTUMBLEUPONbalatarin reddit digg del.icio.us


In " My Happy Days in Hell" poet G. Faludy describes how he and fellow inmates of a post-war Hungarian prison camp felt they were freer inside the gates than those outside because they could dispense with the soul-destroying charade. Nothing to lose - what a relief. I imagine Nourizad and many of the other political prisoners feel much the same. Sorry about he book review

pirooz / June 7, 2010 11:34 PM

I agree with pirooz. He is now a free man, free of charades and shadows. Actually he is enlightening us with each letter he sends us from prison. He reminds me of Hor-Ibn-Riyahi who was with Yazid's army but then joined Imam Hossein's army after deciding what is the right side and became a martyr by Yazid's army. I am not religious but it seems everything is religiously political in IRAN so I am becoming like one.

amin / June 8, 2010 2:45 AM

The regime is creating an army of courageous dissenters, hardened and enlighted by their prison experience and more resolute than ever to see their tormentors removed from power.

gloumdalclitch / June 10, 2010 4:53 AM

mr. nourizad is reaching to his conscintious and is evaluating the revolution that he and many others supported.they failed to recognize that democracy comes with knowledge and ability to sit and listen to one another with civility and underestanding.these were not the ingredients used for islamic republics rise to power.the pioneers of this revolution should not be surprised to see that,once the regime is in danger the history repeats itself.

fay moghtader / June 10, 2010 7:33 AM