Translated by: Cristina Annunziata
They were arrested in the middle of the night of June 20th, 2009. Six men came to their home: intelligence agents in plain clothes. None of them showed any identification. Three of them stood outside, three entered the apartment and ransacked it from top to bottom for two hours. Bahman and his wife, Jila, were interrogated and questioned about their professional activities and their political views. CDs, books, writings and even family albums were confiscated. Then they were presented with an arrest warrant signed by the former Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, whose reputation has gained him the nickname "Butcher of the Press."
Bahman and Jila were put in two cars , taken to Evin prison and locked up in ward 209. He, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, is still in jail since that day, while Jila Baniyaghoub, was released on bail after 60 days of detention on 19th of August.
Since that day, this tiny and tenacious woman’s goal, has become to bring her Bahman and other friends who are still imprisoned in Evin, back home. But it is an unequal battle, because the opponent is a monster who fights without rules. And the monster, for now, has won: Bahman was tried on 11th Dec 2009, at the 26 branch of the Revolutionary Court. The sentence is harsh: 7 years and 4 months in prison - and 34 lashes.
Jila and Bahman are both journalists. She, as the chief editor of the website, ‘Kanoon-e Zanan-eIrani’ (Focus on Women of Iran), has long been in the forefront of women’s emancipation, a minefield in the Islamic Republic. She was already imprisoned in 2006 and again in 2007, when she was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated in the dark and forced to drink polluted water. Jila was among the founding members of the "One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality”, seeking to change Iranian laws regarding to gender discrimination. In 2009, the International Women Media Foundation awarded her the “Courage in Journalism” Award (in the golden book there is the name of Anna Politkovskaya too). But in October, when ceremonies for the award took place in New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles, Jila was not there. Even if she had been allowed to leave, how could have she have left behind her imprisoned Bahman?
Bahman specializes on other matters. He is an economics journalist and has worked for several reformist newspapers, including Sarmayeh (closed by the censors a few months ago). He comes from the Bakhtiari tribe. His people lived through farming and livestock, moving between the slopes of the Zagros Mountains and the province of Khuzestan. Bahman went to school in Khuzestan before studying economics sciences at the Babolsar University, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. His career started from there.
Yet, he has made a serious mistake. In his articles, he often criticized the economic policy of Ahmadinejad’s administration. He focused on the high level of corruption in the country. He even argued that the serious deficit and runaway inflation were due to of the government’s decision to control every aspect of economic life. Furthermore, he (along with Jila) supported Mir Hossein Mousavi’s candidacy for presidential elections in June 2009. This was enough for Mortazavi: Bahman should be served with a special treatment.
In branch 209 of Evin, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee was kept in solitary confinement for over two months and was seldom allowed visits from family members (only one in the first 65 days of detention). They lied to his lawyer, Farideh Gheyrat, saying Bahman’s file had disappeared, preventing her from knowing the charges against him, or which section of the court should have been contacted to request bail. Then in November, Bahman was punished because he dared to complain about health conditions in Evin andas a result was sent back to solitary confinement in ward 350.
And what about Jila?
Jila has kept fighting outside of Evin prison. She gave interviews, did sit-ins in front of the court, sent appeals and wrote love letters to her Bahman.
On 1st September she writes: "My dear, I came to Evin prison yesterday. I had the premonition that they would not allow me to see you. I came anyway, because I feel better within the walls of Evin, closer to you and to my other dear friends in prison. I’ve come to Evin not only on Mondays, which are visiting days, but the other days as well , to feel closer to you and all my other friends still imprisoned. "
On 8th November: "Today, after ten years of our life together, I know you better than ever before, and more than ever I am proud of you. I’m proud of you because every time I meet you, you do not ask about your own case. You never ask when you will be released and every time that I wish to talk about it, you change the subject. "
On 18th November, their wedding anniversary: "Today is exactly 11 years that I’m with you. It ’was just on a day like this that we started our life together. That day we had a small and simple ceremony, to celebrate that beginning. And you were just like you always have been. You did not dress up. You wore the same jeans and shirt that we like. Only when our friends insisted to take some pictures of us, did you put on a jacket. "
At the end: "Do you remember that you would always quote the Asian saying (“Let us turn pain into strength”)?
I promise you that I will transform all the pain that I will face into strength. I hope that you, on your part, have not forgotten the motto and allow for the pain and penalty of prison to be converted in strength. I’m sure that you can do it. "
It published Articolo 21 website with this title: "Jila and Bahman, Love Letters to Evin" ,February the 8th 2010.