Monday, 10 October 2011
By Jila Baniyaghoob
For some time, I had been wondering why the Iranian security and judicial authorities have imprisoned my spouse, Bahman, and several hundred other political prisoners, and how much of the goal that they follow through their imprisonment has been reached.
A few days ago, a memory came back to me and told me not to think too much about their aim or try to understand it.
A few years ago, just after our colleague Mr Akbar Ganji had been freed after five years in prison, I was arrested for the coverage of women’s peaceful protest in Tehran and was interrogated for a couple of weeks.
One day during the interrogation, I asked the interrogator or, as they call themselves, the Specialist: ‘Please tell me, honestly, what your regime has gained by keeping Mr Ganji in prison for five years. Haven’t you paid a heavy price for keeping him in prison, with all the publicity against you by the international media and human rights organizations? Has Mr Ganji not become more famous than ever and more determined to follow his goals?’
Mr Interrogator thought for a moment and said: ‘Well, for five full years, we didn’t let Ganji have a life.’
What an argument! They did not let him have a life for five years!
‘Mr Interrogator,’ I said, ‘I am trying to see things through your eyes. Is this really your understanding of the national interests of a regime which you apparently love, that you should not let someone have a life for five years? Is this really an achievement for you and your regime?’
Perhaps I am now more capable of understanding why the interrogators and the security system would like to keep Bahman Ahmadi-Amouee, Abdollah Mo’meni, Massoud Bastani, Ahmad Zeidabadi, Mehdi Hosseinzadeh, Nasrin Sotoudeh, Vahid Nosarti, Atefeh Nabavi and many others in prison. They don’t want them to have a life.
Sometimes my friends ask me why the authorities would not let me and Bahman see each other face-to-face for only twenty minutes, instead of only allowing us to meet in a cabin, separated by a glass window, talking to each other through a telephone. Would a direct meeting amount to a special privilege for a prisoner who has spent several years behind bars?
I can now answer that question better than before: Because they want to stop Bahman and me from ‘having a life’, and they do not really care that they and the government they love do not gain anything in exchange for the deprivations they impose on us.
But let them think they are not letting us have a life. What do they know about the truth of the separation that the high walls of Evin prison has imposed on Bamhan and me? How could they know that such separations have made us get close to each other and given such meaning to our lives that could not have existed before? How could they know that our lives are even more active and purposeful than ever?
Let them think they have taken away our lives. Let them be happy, thinking that they are not letting us live. But we do live: Bamhan and I; Bahareh and Amin; Nasrin and Reza; and ...
No one may know better than us, who tolerate these separations, that we never pity ourselves. But we do sometimes pity ‘them’ ... because we are sure that we do ‘have our lives’, but we are not sure if they too ‘have their lives’.
Translated by Hossein shahidi