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Prison Diaries: Seven Doors To Freedom

Mohamad Ghouchani
Source: Sabk No (New Style), literary, artistic review, No.1, 1380

The Tale

Doors were closed one after the other with a terrifying sound that arose from their iron bodies, and the prison guard led me to the most deserted closet of my life: a solitary cell. With each opening and closing of the doors, he nodded his head as a sign of sympathy; 'you are going to no-man's land where for days you would only have to dream about sun....' he said. And I who had deliberately chosen prison, while having no other wishes than touching this new experience called prison, told him with an honest sincere tone of voice, 'don't scare me.' Perhaps I wished to touch this painful experience with my own soul. Foolishly, I didn't believe that I had done anything to entitle me to solitary cell - later, I discovered that this is the share of every prisoner at least for the first days of detainment - and full of hope for reunion with the writers I had been working with until a few months ago, I stepped into Evin. With a feeling of emptiness overflowing my heart, devoid of any joy or grief, with a sack full of clothes and books that I had put into it that very morning before going to the court, announcing my presence and then after having my house undergoing a thorough inspection, I entered Evin in an old Benz It was only when they closed my eyes and I heard them pulling my leg and from all those books, only a Koran was left for me and a few on-loan dish, was I brought out of that cardiac arrest. Once the door of the cell was closed, the emptiness changed into awe. I counted the doors that were closed behind me, there were seven doors unto freedom.

Prison is not an invariable experience. Not only for everyone, but every nook and corner of it brings about a new experience. I spent at least four seasons of the prison during my 36 days of detainment.

First- Five days of solitary confinement with closed eyes, iron doors, cement walls, deprived of open air (in the prison sense of the word, as it meant half and hour walking in a room with iron guards and in the presence of a soldier and permission to smoke, not for me, but for the prisoners who smoked). Here, prison is no different from grave. Not a single sound could be heard. The sunlight was allowed to enter through a small window near the ceiling and guards were replaced every six hours. The cooked food of this ward was not bad at all. It was served every six hours, at six o'clock in the morning, at noon and six o'clock in the evening that in a cell without a clock, it was about the only criterion for discerning the painful passage of time. Another criterion in that cold soulless cell, that could prove that time was indeed passing was the warm sound of the call to prayer (azan) that echoed in the prison three times a day. In these cells, you'd have no visitors, so there is no need to worry about 'the cracking of the fragile glass of your loneliness.'

Second- Twelve days of life in another solitary cell without closed eyes, that if in a way it is an advantage, it can be quite inconvenient too. The light of the solitary cell is brutally on until morning so the blind can protect your eyes from this cruel merciless light. The door of this cell is wooden, with a small eye in its heart that watches you every hour not out of shyness, but duty. I was not allowed to go to the open air until the last day of my imprisonment. On the last day, however I was permitted to walk in the prison yard for an hour that not only it did not satiate my thirst for freedom, but intensified it. The most exciting parts of the experience for me were the hours of investigation that in passing from that cell to the room where it took place, I could have a short trip inside the prison. In addition to having a share of the blue sky, watching all those seven doors to freedom being opened - not including the two entrance doors - it revived the sense of closeness to the other side of the prison doors and this was an important advantage (?) (what am I saying? undergoing investigation is an advantage? heaven forbid). In this second solitary prison, I could hear sounds. My cell was just underneath the office of the prison guard and I could hear the sound of TV. My ears had sharpened during that time and my wit to recognize different TV programs- that appeared quite pleasant- had increased. It helped me to think that although I am in prison, but life still continues and this is absolutely necessary for preventing a prisoner to turn into a utopian.

Third- Life in the public ward is more like the ordinary life. Rooms with many beds, TV, ice-containers (instead of fridge), heaters and... and a corridor that looks like a street: with a shop, telephone kiosk, basin, bathroom, barber shop, namazkhaneh (prayer room), library leading to a yard with trees and a pool and a gymnasium like space. Prison in the form of public ward is not very different from our society outside it. The truth is that the civil society has extended into the prison too. Prisoners are now aware of their rights and demand them. Differentiation and division of duties has already taken place and discourse as a mode [of communication] has replaced arguments and fights. The prison has also a closed-circuit TV network and the programs include music, azan and movies about prisoners. But there is no doubt that none of these opportunities can be on a par with even one breath of free life.

Fourth- It seems that I have also spent a day in the worst ward of the prison, the ward of the young people; full of crimes that are reproduced everyday in the minds of its prisoners. Everybody is spending his time in a state of suspension, but not like those in other bands that await freedom or death; death in the eternal prison, death on the scaffold or even death under the shadows of fights with other prisoners. I truly ran away from there, but those condemned to living in that barren field of crimes would never find an opportunity to be liberated from this bitter experience.

Doors were opened one after the other with a terrifying sound that arose from their iron bodies and the prison guard led me to the freest moment of my life, the moment of freedom from prison. I told him my secret, while we had not yet reached the last door, I said that every night I thought about the seven doors to freedom. He asked me to count them for him. I did. He laughed and said, 'but you've made a mistake' and while pointing to the eighth one, he added, 'there is yet one more door to freedom.'

-- Translated for by Roya Monajem,

... Payvand News - 6/5/01 ... --

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