by Bahman Ahmadi Amouee*
On june 2006 .in Tehran, more than 40 women taking part in a women’s demonstration against discrimination were arrested and sent to jail and more than 30 men, who had come to support equal rights for women, were also arrested. Except for one or two of the men who were known, the rest of the men were unknown and nobody knows them. Meanwhile nobody knows what happened to the unknown men in Section 209. The Iranian Women’s institute Tried to collect evidence of what happened to those men and have asked Bahmam Ahmadi Amouee to publish his memories as a journalist who was in the demonstration..
From a small window in the cell, the eyes of one guard were seen, standing on his toes. He said, ‘put your blindfold on and come out’. It was 3 days during which I was in one of the sections of Evin Prison. It wasn’t obvious what time of day it was. There was a light which was continually on, which made me unable to guess the time of the day . I could only guess what time of the day it was by the food given to us . From the window above my cell, which had some strong bars welded to the window, you would think that it was 2 or 3 hours after sunset . I thought that I was going for interrogation. You can see a guard, who was sitting in a chair in a hallway, under your blindfold. From there he shouted come ‘forward , come forward…….turn right and stay there’ . Unlike previous days when I was taken to one of the rooms at the end of the hallway for interrogation , the guard said ‘keep your head down and go straight forward’. I approached the staircase and went up to the next floor. I said to myself ‘maybe they want to release me’ . I was contemplating this when, suddenly, a voice said to me ‘face the wall and keep your head down’. I tried to see under my blindfold what was happening, but every time I couldn’t see more than a pair of slippers and two feet with military grey trousers. Once I protested and turned my head towards the footsteps, but again I couldn’t see anything apart from the back of the head of one prison guard whose hair had been recently trimmed. Someone was tapping on my shoulder: ‘what are you looking for continually moving your head around? Pull the blindfold further down’. Now I could see only my cheeks and the tips of my lace less shoes. On my left, at a distance of about 1 metre, there was a blindfolded woman wearing a chador supplied by the prison and standing facing the wall: I listened out but I only could hear some kind of mumbling which I couldn’t understand. The same voice who had tapped on my shoulder asked me ‘Where do you live?’ I replied ‘Punac’. @Where is the key for that house?’ ’ It was in my wallet which was confiscated when I was arrested’.
A few minutes later, we left Section 209 and I was permitted to remove my blindfold. Two people, one of whom had a suitcase, asked me to get into a black Peugot 405. I asked , ‘where are we going?’ and the person ,who had a suitcase in his hand, called Haji by his colleague, said ‘we are going to search your house‘. I said that I wasn’t going and that they hadn’t any right to do this and they needed permission and my solicitor had to be present. I was told that they had permission and the right. I repeated that ‘My solicitor has to be present If you plant things such as drugs, pornography or illegal leaflets in my house and then say that we found those things in your house, who is going to believe my defence after this ?’ ‘Does this mean that you don’t trust us ? ‘ ‘Obviously Not.’ I replied. I strongly protested at getting in the car. One of them punched me in the face with his fist and said ‘when you don’t understand my language I have to force you’. To complete their action, his colleague punched and kicked me as well and they forced me into the car. Something sharp in the car cut my arm and my arm was bleeding. One of the guards looked at my arm and said ‘it was your fault - if you had got in the car voluntarily it wouldn’t have happened.’ In the car I was handcuffed and my feet were tightly shackled . We arrived home half an hour later. I had difficulty walking up the stairs because the shackles were hurting my ankles.
My house was completely searched and in the end they collected a variety of cassettes - such as language learning tapes, music, interviews - and tens of books and notebooks to take away. I asked ‘why are you collecting all these books and cassettes? You can find all of them in the shops and also all of them are published with the permission of the relevant ministry’ The head of the group, Haji, said ‘for clues’ .I asked what kind of clue could they find in the monthly magazine Boohahra, Haji answered that ‘they would see later.‘ They were still looking in many different bookshelves. Suddenly the mobile phone of one of the guards rang. From the conversation, you could understand that he was speaking to his wife. He said ‘My job took longer and I’m at work and will be late.’ I wondered whether his wife knew what her husband was doing now. The clock showed that it was after midnight.
The metal gate of Evin prison slowly moved and, a few minutes later, my blindfold was replaced and I was taken back to Section 209.…..
The 22 Khordad at 5.30pm for many of the men was the same as other days and months In the air of Tehran there wasn’t any breeze and the sun was shining as usual upon the earth and the residents with a beautiful sunset but ,in 7 Tir Sqaure, some people didn’t want to have similar days as usual. This was evident with all of the police and plainclothes police with their police radios in their hands and also policewomen dressed in their chodar or manteau, all with batons in their hands marching up and down the sqaure giving orders to the women and men shouting and threatening to arrest them. You could really feel it. In the end the police became involved fighting and kicking the people. Many were arrested and carried away in nimbuses and sent to the security police prison.
In the underground cell about 30 of us were gathered. From their conversation, it seemed that some people had been arrested on a random basis. There was a 12 year boy, who was with his swimming costume from Shiroudi pool was going to the pool near Tir Square, and he was continuously crying and saying why have I been arrested . A young man, approximately 25 years old, had some ‘manteaus’ in his hand and was crying out ‘I’m a worker in a dress shop and I was going to take these ‘manteaus’ to be shortened by the seamstress. If I don’t go back within one hour to my work I will be sacked .‘ Another man was saying to the guards ‘Tell your boss I was arrested by mistake I am a vigilante.’ The majority of the men arrested, who had participated in the demonstration, such as Ali Akbar Mosavi Khoane who was a Member of Parliament in the last government, were calming them down and trying to encourage them saying ‘you have to be familiar with your rights they don’t have any right to beat you and they cannot arrest you . You didn’t do anything to be worried about and all will be released together very soon’…..
The man next to me was a short man ,about 35 years old , and he whispered in my ears ‘Oh, they won’t do anything with him because they know him and they will release him very soon but they won’t us’. Of course, he was imprisoned for more than 3 months longer than the rest of us.
One hour later they put all of us in one minibus from which the seats had been removed and a metal cage installed. In fact, they imprisoned us in the metal cage. As it was not big enough, we had to scramble over each other. The weather was getting warmer and it looked as if the sun didn’t want to set. The people who were familiar with the area said that we are going into the Eshrat Abad Military Base It seemed that we went over a big bump and the metal gate of the base closed. We came down, one after each other, out of the minibus. Many of the women and girls who were arrested had been brought there as well.
One of the police officers said ‘Those who came with the minibus stand in 2 rows’. In front of the rows there was a metal table with police officers sitting behind with papers and pens: ‘What’s your name?’ I told them and they wrote it down . ‘Address and place of arrest?’ Again I answered and they wrote it down. ‘How many grams have you had?’ I didn’t understand, so I asked them ‘excuse me what do you mean? I don’t understand what you mean.’ ‘All of you say these things when we arrest you’ and ‘Quickly, tell us how many grams of drugs were confiscated from you. I don’t have time and there are a lot of you..‘ All of us complained and the police realised they had made a mistake and they separated us from the people who’d been arrested because of drugs. We tried to convince them to release the boy who had been going to the swimming pool.
At 11 pm we were kept in 2 special cells which were designated for drug addicts, we complained and they sent us to another cell, which was dirtier, because we’d complained. The smell of the sweat of the people in the room and urine mixed together…. Sometimes one officer came in and to give us the news of freedom in one hour. It was obvious they did not know what to do with us because of that they couldn’t make up their minds. In the end some police officers and plain clothed officers, making a lot of noise, came in and sat us facing the wall and beat us with fists and kicking us on our heads and backs and swearing and repeated continuously, ‘We will make you human you anti- revolutionaries…….’.
‘You want to be heroes? Do you think that it is easy - we sort out the gangsters in prison so we can sort you out.’ When they thought we had been punished enough and humanised again, they put us in the minibus and, after one hour’s drive in the streets and on Tehran’s quiet motorway, the minibus stopped at the big gate of Evin Prison and in less than 10 minutes we were in a row in the yard in Section 209.They gave us blindfolds and said ‘with your left hand touch the shoulder of the person in front of you.’ One officer shouted ‘don’t lose touch with the shoulder of the person in front of you. Put your heads down and walk slowly.’
Again we stood facing the wall for a few minutes and we were ordered to do squat jumps. I remembered my time in the army and the squat jumps The worker carrying the ‘manteaus’ ignored every thing around him, dropped the ‘manteaus’ on the floor and lay down on them.
Translated By Bahram Ahmadi
*Bahman is an Iranian Journalist .He can be reached by email at :[email protected]