By Jila Baniyaghoob
translated by Hossein Shahidi
Thursday, 5 October 2009
This Monday too I met Bahman*. Of course, like previous occasions from behind the opaque window of the visitor’s cabin. I also heard his voice through the telephone. The window was not very clean and the telephone handset was not new either; maybe that’s why I could not hear Bahman’s voice well. Every time I had to say, “Bahman, my darling, for God’s sake speak up, I can’t hear you.” My voice was too supplicant; perhaps because I was afraid that the twenty minutes would finish and we could not tell each other all we had to say.
I rubbed my hand on the window pane, hoping that it would become a little transparent and I could see Bahman’s face more clearly. Bahman too was doing the same over on the other side of the window. But there was not use. There was too much dust and filth on the window to be cleaned up so easily. At one point, it became my greatest wish to have a few hours of time and the full range of cleaning equipment so I could wash every part of the hall which houses the visitors’ cabins. I would scrub the windows so hard that I could see Bahman well and all the families who wait all week to see their loved ones for twenty minutes could also see their prisoners through clean, transparent windows. What a futile wish!
So far, Bahman’s interrogator has only allowed us to use the visitor’s cabin, rather than meet each other in person. Every time I want to appeal to the officer in charge of Ward 209 [Evin Prison’s ward for political prisoners] to ask the interrogator on my behalf to allow me to meet Bahman personally, I regret the idea immediately. I regret it because I remember that Bahman always would tell me that if he were to end up in prison, I should never plead to the prison officers and interrogators. That I should not degrade myself in front of them even one tiny bit. And every time I try to forget how much I would love to sit next to Bahman and hear his voice directly, rather than through Evin prison’s old telephone hand set, and every time I try to overcome the feeling that I miss holding Bahman’s hand in my hands and telling him, “I love you.”
Above all, Bahman said he was worried about [two other imprisoned journalists] Hangameh Shahidi and Fariba Pajuh. He had seen them accidentally in the visitors’ hall a few times and had found them emaciated and depressed. “Do whatever you can to free Hengameh and Fariba,” he said. “Do whatever you can.”
All I could say was: “You can be sure of that. You can be sure of that.”
I could not bring myself to say that,, “These days, there’s precious little that anyone can do. One official issues a release order; another one overturns it. One person says twenty prisoners will be released soon. But only a few days later, someone else says the Prosecutor General has ordered that all releases be stopped! In such conditions, what can we do for Hengameh and Fariba?”
*According to Amnesty International, 13 journalists were among the thousands of people arrested in Iran since the disputed presidential elections on 12 June. Seven have since been released; five are known to be in prison. Amnesty International says it has no farther information about one journalist, Rouhollah Shahsavar.
In its statement, “Iran: Seven Iranian Journalists Released”, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/i..., Amnesty International says those who have been released include two women: Jila Baniyaghoub, who is also a women’s rights activist, was released on a bail of nearly US$ 130,000; Mahsa Amrabadi, who is pregnant was released on a bail of almost US$ 200,000.The other five freed journalists are all men: editor of the newspaper Gilan-e Emrooz, Mojtaba Pourmohsen; freelance journalist, Fariborz Soroush; Iason Athanasiadis-Fowden, a British-Greek journalist, who was freed on 5 July and has left Iran; Mostafa Qavanloo Qajar, who works for the monthly magazine Sepideh Danaei; and Abdolreza Tajik, editor of the weekly magazine Farhikhtegan.
Amnesty International says at least five other journalists, all male, who remain in custody, have been denied legal assistance. They are: Jila Baniyaghoub’s husband, Bahman Ahmadi-Amouee, who is in solitary confinement; the editor of Etamad-e Melli newspaper, Mohammad Qouchani, despite the payment of bail for his release; Maziar Bahari, a Canadian-Iranian reporter for the magazine Newsweek, and Saeed Laylaz a writer for the magazine Sarmayeh; and Keyvan Samimi Behbehani, editor of the banned Nameh. (For more information, see Amnesty International’s statement,.)