Iran News ...


Evin Hotel is further down the road

By: Shahla Lahiji
Source: Payam Emrooz, Monthly Review

I am running in a narrow dark tortuous corridor. The sound of my heart beats and the echo of my feet hitting against the ground resonate in the tunnel-like corridor like the sound of iron hitting against iron and together with the sound of the feet chasing me fill my soul with horror. I feel an intense pain in my feet. But I know I must keep running... I am escaping from some strangers who are chasing me. I can not see what is beneath my feet, but I feel the rough surface of the ground...I can hardly breathe, my feet are numb and I am still running...I pass through the bent of the corridor, I see a light at the other end. If only I could reach that light, I would be saved. My heart is exploding... Suddenly I hit against something and a sharp pain takes over my whole body and I stagger and fall down. I can not move any more. I put my hands over my head as though protecting it from an unknown attack. The sound of the feet chasing me gets closer and closer. God where is my scarf, where did my scarf disappear to? If they find me without a scarf ...It is no use to even try to get up. My feet are not under my control. I scream and everywhere gets dark...

I wake up by the sound of my own screaming. My toes are badly flexed and painful. It is as though that my heart is coming out of my throat. My mouth is parched. I am lying down on my own bed. The nightmare is over. I look at the clock above my head. It is twenty minutes past three o'clock in the morning. I had set the alarm for five thirty. It is five thirty in the morning of the tenth of Ordibehesht (April 29th) and I have to report myself to the Revolution Court at eight thirty. I still have enough time. It is too early to get up, but I am scared to sleep lest the nightmare comes back. I did take a tranquilizer before going to bed. My eyes are burning and my head feels heavy. But I prefer to get up.

I wash my face and feel a bit better...At eight o'clock there I was standing in the courtyard.

It is now a few years that I even hate the name 'Luna Park' and especially that tall ferry go round that reminds of scaffold and I hate that narrow tortuous road where Evin Prison is situated. And now here I am in front of the iron gray doors of Evin prison sitting in a car with the driver playing the horns for the guards to open the gate. The gate is opened and I find myself inside the prison.

Like a somnambulist, I get out of the car by the order of the official. It was as though a thin mist surrounded me and everything appeared like a slow-motion movie. The sounds appeared like that too - vague and incomprehensible.

Office of identification, a number hung around the neck...flash...the whole print...the woman carrying out the physical inspection asked, 'your crime?' I did not answer. 'Drugs?', she asked. I shook my head. -Check? - No. -Fighting? - No - Theft - No - 'What is it then?' - I don't know. - Whoever comes here, claims to be innocent.

  • I didn't say I am innocent. I just said, I don't know.
  • Pause.
  • Berlin Conference...
  • Aha...
  • That dancing and show...
  • Silence.
  • Was it you?
  • You must be kidding.
  • Then who was it?
  • I don't know.

[- She starts to wear disposable plastic gloves.] 'What is that for?' I ask fearfully. She drops her head and says, 'regulations. I have to obey the orders, sorry!'


[I like to tear up myself out of rage.]

I was feeling so exhausted that I thought I would fall down soon. When is all this over? I feel like lying on the floor...There is a chair near the exit, I look at it with envy. Somebody says: 'Sit on that chair while waiting for the car.'

One of the legs of the chair was broken, so as soon as I sat on it, it fell into pieces and I fell on the ground! Tears were accumulating behind my eyelids. I had to struggle hard to prevent them from pouring down. I got up with difficulty. Once again, I was standing. That thin mist was still there. The car arrived. We got in. A steep road. Another iron door was opened and closed. Another steep road. '216?' the driver asked. '209', the guard (a woman) answered. The mist got thicker. The end of the world. The end of Evin...slope...another gray door. The car stops.'

  • Get out.

The deafening sound of the bell...mist...the door is opened. The figure of a woman with black chador in dark light. I can not see her face.

  • Here is the prisoner.
  • Come in - this way.

We pass through another door. A small yard. Another iron gray door.

We enter a long corridor. It looks very familiar. It reminds me of my nightmare.

  • Your belongings.
  • Don't have anything.

There are gray small doors on both sides of the corridor. Everything is gray in color.

Follow me [we pass by closed gray doors. She stops in front of one and opens it.] Get in.

I enter the cell. The door is closed behind my back. Immediately, I turn back.

-Lady, I would like to use the toilet.

[She seems to hear my voice, but she does not open the door and through a small window installed on the door, she just says]

  • It is in your cell. You should not talk here. This is a solitary cell. No more talking.
  • But.
  • That is what I say.

I look around. So that is how a solitary cell looks like. A small space, two meters by one and half. There is a gray soldier's blanket on the floor. I am standing in the middle of the cell. Flabbergasted. I glance at the black object that looks like a toilet bowl. It is dirty and ghastly. I turn the tap. There is no water. I hit against the door with the palm of my hand. The small window opens.

  • What is the matter?
  • There is no water.
  • So what?
  • I need to use the toilet.
  • Wait a second. [The key is turned in the key-hole and the door opens.]
  • The public toilet is there. Use that one, but don't make any noise.

Once again I step into the gray corridor with small gray doors, all closed...I enter the toilet. There is no light...With a solemn face, the guard is standing in the middle of the corridor. She takes me back to my cell. Before closing the door, I ask

  • Where is the lady who was with me? Mrs. Kar?
  • We have no such a person here.
  • I saw her myself. We were together. I just like to know how she is?
  • That is what I said. She must have been transferred to somewhere else.
  • I...
  • No more talking.

The door is closed with a dry sound and I am standing in the middle of the cell. There is a feeble gray light illuminating the space. My edematous feet hurt. I lean against the wall. [...behind this stony wall/you and I are imprisoned/...I hear the melancholic singing of a woman] Go on singing... There are two thick pipes sticking out of the wall that penetrate back into the wall a bit further down the wall. They are covered with a thick layer of dust and dirt.

The small window on the door is opened and a pair of eyes stare at me.

  • Why are you standing there?
  • What should I do?
  • Sit down.
  • I can't. It is very dirty here. The blanket is full of vomit and dirt...

The window is closed and I hear the key turning in the key-hole and the door is opened.

  • Take this.
  • What is it?
  • Supper. [a piece of bread and some halva shekari (a special kind of pastry) What should I do with it?
  • Eat it.
  • I can't, my throat is dry.
  • There is water in the tap.
  • There is no water in the tap.
  • Try the other tap.
  • I don't have a glass.
  • You should buy paper cup and plate. 150 toumans.
  • All right. [I don't know what to do with the bread and halva]. The door is opened again.
  • Three glasses, one plastic spoon and a plate.
  • I take them with my other hand and put them on the floor. I pay for them. The door is closed again. I put the bread and halva on the plate and hold the glass below the tap. The water is tepid and smells of naphtha. I bang against the door [the small window is opened.]
  • What is wrong again?
  • The water is tepid and smells of naphtha. I just want a glass of water.
  • You lady, here is Evin prison. Evin Hotel is further down.
  • But...
  • There is no but. Be quite and don't make any more noise, otherwise...

The door is closed with a deafening sound. I force myself to drink the water. Feeling absolutely exhausted, I lean against the wall with my edematous feet still in shoes. There is a black large beetle moving down the wall of the toilet bowl. I don't even bother to kill it. I follow it with my eyes as it crawls beneath the blanket and disappears. I can't think. While still standing I lean my head against the wall and close my eyes.

It is as though I have plunged into a deep well....deeper and deeper I go into this well. I open my eyes fearfully. My feet are dumb and painful. I look at my watch. It is four o'clock in the morning. I can't bear to stand on my feet any more. I no longer care about anything. I throw aside the blanket with my foot and wrap myself in my chador and sit on the floor and lean my head against the wall. The mist becomes thicker. I close my eyelids again and extend my legs...

I open my eyes. The sunlight is filling the room through the gap beside the window and the clay-bounded clefts of the windowsill. The pale light of the cell is lost in the sunlight. And I start my first day in the solitary cell of Evin prison. It is 6.30 in the morning. The key is turned in the key-hole. The door is opened. A young face behind a trolley looks at me amazingly.

  • Breakfast. Would you like a cup of tea?

God, I feel extremely thirsty. Joyfully I say:

  • Of course, may I have two cups?
  • Why not.

I take off my shoes and put my inflated feet on the cool mosaics of the cell. I pick up the cup and drink the tea with great enjoyment. It has a strange smell, no matter what, it is tea. I look around. The beautiful sun of Ordibehesht (April-May) has conquered the cell through the dusty gaps in the windowsill and graciously bestows its light. A stem of a wild chamomile is showing off behind the dusty window. Outside the spring is blooming. The thick and think mists have disappeared. And I am here in prison. So what? I notice an engraving on the wall of the cell: "Life should go on as long as there are poppies." No matter what, I should clean up the cell today...

-- Translated for by Roya Monajem,

... Payvand News - 2/4/01 ... --

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