It is a bitter day, one of many, this Monday, May 31st, 2010, for the freedom of the press in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Bahman Ahmadi Amuee, economic journalist arrested on the 20th of June 2009, just a week after the disputed presidential election(whose story we have already reported in these pages) is now back in prison. He was temporarily released on the eve of Norooz, the Persian New Year, the 21st March, and therefore he could spend some months beside his wife, Jila Baniyaghoub, a journalist too, arrested with him but released after a couple of months.
Bahman knew - and we with him - that his freedom was a fixed-term freedom, and that this cruel day would come: there is a sentence to serve, and in the meantime it’s become definitive, namely five years of prison. Yet as an obscene truth that you refuse to recognize, we pretended not to see. It was enough, for us, to know that Bahman and Jila were together at home, and every day of freedom seemed to be a piece of life and of joy taken away from the tyranny of the monster.
Two days ago, Bahman brought us back to the real world as he simply announced online, that his return to prison was imminent ."I should go back to Evin tomorrow," he wrote. But "tomorrow", that is Sunday, May 30, the chance would have it also fixed the hearing of the trial against his wife Jila at branch 26 of the revolutionary court. "I want to be at her side, so I will go back to jail a day late."
It is a strange country where an independent journalist has to feel ashamed of being free and living in his house beside the woman he loves, because he sees that the best ones among his colleagues, the bravest, are in jail. The Iran of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, of the Revolutionary Guards and Basijs, is this strange country. "In recent days I felt uncomfortable," writes Bahman Ahmadi Amoii, "because I knew that some dear friends of mine - students and journalists like me - are imprisoned in harsh and sad conditions, while I’m out. So it is a relief to go back. "
Among his friends, in Evin, Bahman will meet again Hengameh Shahidi, a journalist serving a six year sentence who has a heart failure that should make her detention inadmissible in any civilized country; Shiva Nazar Ahari, a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, about 300 of the last 365 days spent (in two steps) in jail just because she took care to detect and report violations against human rights committed by the regime; Majid Tavakoli, leader of the student movement, in prison for six months and a half, just back in the general section of Evin from the clinic where he had been hospitalized after a week of a wet hunger strike (the reason: he had been sent back to solitary confinement, where he had already spent most of the period of detention); Kouhyar Goudarzi, who also is a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters and is recuperating from a devastating hunger strike that prompted the authorities to hospitalize and force feed him. Bahman will meet again many others whose names the space limitations prevent us from remembering.
Yet Bahman will not meet in Evin some other friends and colleagues, who were long since transferred to Rajai Shahr prison (in Karaj city), a prison for common criminals where political prisoners for which the regime grants a "preferential" treatment share jail and cells with murderers and drug dealers, a prison from which just recently we could watch evidences and images of gruesome tortures and abuses against detainees. There, journalists Isa Saharkhiz (whose health is reported by time as worrisome and deteriorating), Ahmad Zeidabadi and Masoud Bastani are imprisoned, all arrested between June and July 2009, so close to one year of detention. Petitions, appeals, and letters have so far not been able to obtain their release, nor at least their transfer to Evin.
A few weeks ago Mahsa Amrabadi, wife of Masoud Bastani, and a fellow journalist (imprisoned the last summer after the election), sent us a distress call: "Do not leave us alone: it would be important if the Italian journalists’ associations issued a statement of solidarity with Iranian colleagues in prison." Perhaps the impending June 12 (anniversary of contested elections) could suggest a steady and resolute stance to the newly elected Council of Italian Guild of Journalists and to other professional associations.
Those reading this, please do something.