Three years ago, on the first day of November, I was in a solitary cell at the Evin Prison, a horrifying prison in Tehran. All the signs were telling me that I should have been proud of myself. I just wrote articles and nothing else. But when they put me in prison, the judge claimed that they had found alcoholic drinks in my house too. Drinking alcohol is considered a crime in Iran and I was reasonable enough not to keep such dangerous properties whose ownership can lead to being whipped. Alas, it did not help. I had to spend days in a small, 150 by 280cm cell, and while I had nothing to keep my mind occupied, I looked at the wall which I had never seen so much near. Out of all things that I reflected upon, one was my own fate, the fate of a journalist with 35 years of experience who would be found in the same place, i.e. prison, if he wrote about freedom, before the foundation of the Islamic Republic, too.
My charge, my real charge was writing articles about America that was considered as the 'Great Satan' by the regime. During my trial, they read my other articles too and regarded them as sacrilege and blasphemy to religious authorities and high statesmen of the country. These are considered crime too in Iran, but none was as heavy as the one written in support of the re-establishment of relations with the USA. I said at my interrogations that 'negotiation with the USA has nothing to do with objecting to its policies. It is possible to have relations with a country and still oppose its policies. But my interrogator said, having relationship is the beginning of friendship and what is the use of friendship between wolf and sheep? In reply, I explained that Russia and China oppose America, but have relations with her. "But we are in a different situation. We are sheep and America is wolf. America wishes to occupy our country and enslave our people and plunder our oil," he argued. Then I would fall silent. Sitting blindfolded in front of an interrogator whose face you cannot see, makes arguments extremely difficult.
Six months later I was condemned to 23 months of imprisonment on the charge of supporting resumption of relations with the USA (four months of those 23 months was for writing that article). But when I was supposed to return to prison, I stayed in London and am still staying there.
Now the wall is not that near. And there is no prosecutor or prison. I am free. Meanwhile America that had already invaded Afghanistan, attacked Iraq - another neighbor of Iran. Afghan Taliban and Iraqi Saddam were both against us. Iranians were happy when they were overthrown, but now we read in the news that American spy helicopters are flying over our border cities too. A few days ago a balloon equipped with photography and other measuring facilities fell in the town of Dehloran. At Tehran, they believe these are signs of the US getting prepared to attack Iran. Some whisper in houses in Tehran, "After Iraq, it is Iran's turn." Newspapers wrote that if Ahmad Chalbi had not misinformed military and intelligent systems, Iran would have been attacked first and before Iraq. In other words, my prosecutor was right.
So I look at broadcasted films and photographs of the US attack on Iraq. I look at them in such a way as though they are coming from Tehran and the woman who is moaning over the head of her dead son, whom was asleep at home, is my mother or aunt; as though the man who had lost his hand was one of my pupils. Under Saddam's regime, Iraqis who defended freedom were - like me- were sent to jail, and if they spoke of democracy, their place was at the Abu Qarib, somewhere like the Evin Prison.. They were accused of having connections with foreigners. Some of them, like some of us Iranians, thought they have attained freedom when the American led forces reached Baghdad and Saddam's statutes were brought down. In those days, there were people in Tehran who thought Afghans and Iraqis truly found freedom. I wonder if there are still people thinking that way, today?
Sa-d is an Iraqi who came to London many years ago. He had escaped Saddam's regime; otherwise he would have been killed like his three pals. He defended free rights and hated dictatorship. When Saddam was captured, he could not believe it first. When they showed dead bodies of Saddam's son, Udai and Qasi, he still could not believe it; but now he is convinced that Saddam is in jail. Now he keeps his TV in his small flat in the north of London off all the time, so that he would not see and here about Iraq! He says, there is never any good news and he gets sick when he hears and sees the news about his country. He knows Baghdad and its streets and alleyways. He even knows some of the people who were and are killed. On returning to his birthplace after eighteen years, he found it a dangerous ruined place where nobody dares to stay out after noon. There is no electricity or job and most important of all, no security or hope.
The primary goal of attacking Iraq was to discover and demolish weapons of mass destruction. Saddam had all this and during the war with Iran, he poured them on Iranians and Iraqi Kurds. But now that the doors of his munitions factories are opened, nothing is found, though there are still people in Tehran's hospitals suffering from Saddam's chemical bombs since twenty years ago, and every day we read the news of their death.
"Whence did Saddam obtain chemical arsenals and other weapons of mass destruction?" Sa-d asks me. And he answers himself: "From the ones who have now gone to Iraq and found nothing.
The second goal was democracy for the people of Iraq who for years suffered in the hands of a bloodthirsty dictator. Yet, today it appears that democracy (like weapons of mass destruction) is not that accessible, for the fear of possible election of people like Masab Zarqavi-s and Moqtada Sadr-s, who take innocent people hostage and behead them. So what remains from the Middle East Map to be re-drawn by the President Bush? Nothing, except a deep fear in people who are losing hope and an excuse for the governments to accuse those who defend freedom of spying for the Americans and to put them in jail in advance, lest they open the way to the American military force.
My interrogator asked me: "Do you support the American attack on Iran?" "No." I replied. I wanted to add, "I support only democracy and freedom of speech". But I did not dare. Now, I am out of that walled small cell and I am free. Now he is not around to interrogate me. Yet I am still saying the same thing to myself.
Sa-d, my Iraqi friend says, we once thought the world would turn into heaven without dictators, but we are beginning to understand that these days only hell is exported from the heart of democracy and that is exactly what is happening to Iraq today. And I believe we should complete our statement in this way:
"Without dictators and without Bushes, the world is a better place to breathe in and to feel free. It would be a world without those narrow cells with close walls, and without the news of death and demolition. To actually see such a world, should the oil countries of the Middle East closely watch the results of the imminent American presidential election hoping that they might not elect Bush?"
... Payvand News - 11/19/04 ... --