Iran News ...


5/1/07

Somayeh Farid: Prison is a terrible place

Translated By Sholeh Irani (Wednesday 25 April 2007)
Source: Change for Equality


Somayeh Farid

My introduction to the Iranian women’s movement is but a few months old. The Campaign for Collection of One Million Signatures to Change the Laws for Equality (from now on referred to as “The Campaign”), was a way for me to enter the realm of women’s social activism. I experienced incarceration early and now that about a month since that experience has passed, I want to take advantage of the distance I have to gain a perspective on the experience and to write about it.

Upon our release from the prison, we spoke of solidarity and togetherness. We spoke of our ability to break the impenetrable air inside Unit 209 [of Evin Prison], and how we were able to at times test the limits of our jailors. We spoke of the moments when our consistencies and our truthful answers to their interrogations frustrated them, and despite their disbelief, our honest faithfulness strengthen our will…

I don’t know how to write about the value of so much virtue for someone like myself who had just entered this line of activity, or how to express my genuine joy that my introduction to women’s movement had brought new friends into my life. It is hard to explain how close we all felt to each other, and how if one of us was hurt, we all shared the pain…

But was that all there is to say about our experience? Now that I look back at those days, I believe there were many stories that never got shared. Perhaps, this is due to my novice exposure to such activity and no one else felt quite like this, still I resolve to share my thoughts…

I am determined to confess To confess that when the police first began to club my legs, I was afraid. When I was pushed to the vans my heart tightened and a shiver of anxiety ran down my spine. My anguish did not subside in Vozara Station, and perhaps if my mind were not racing so fast, I would not have fallen down the stairs so hard that after all this time my legs continue to hurt. I want to confess that in the car that drove us to Evin Prison I cried my heart out, although not quite certain as to why. To confess that in the corridors of prison, when I was sneaking a peek from under the blindfold to look at the feet of the men who passed me by and occasionally yelled out from the other end of the corridor, I was scared.

The experience of prison was remarkable for it brought us closer together and made us stronger in our belief and friendships.

But prison is appalling and inexcusable. It is appalling because of the sound of the plastic slippers of a man who shuffles his feet as he walks down the corridors… It is horrible, because of the curtain that separates the women’s section from the rest of the building, an engendered curtain that separates space and people, an image that is carved in my mind.

It is a dreadful place because of the moment that you see them take away your friend covered in navy blue Chador and your heart ties up in knots when you quietly ask her how many times she has been down this path, she whispers this is the third…

It is an atrocious place for the moment that your eyes get fixed on a friend who covered in Navy blue Chador, searches inside your cell for a familiar face, and you can do nothing but to throw her a kiss inconspicuously and swallow your tears.

The prison is a horrifying place for the nights that you spend shivering under a dirty old blanket worrying about your friend’s health, wishing her a good night sleep.

It is a regrettable place for the nightly cough attacks that break your patients and push you to cry out of frustration for how your coughs are keeping everyone awake at night.

It is an unbearable place for the times that you fall silent when you think of your friends and then ask your cell-mates to play a word game with you – to say the first thing that comes to your mind- and then the words rush out of your mind, from hope to disparity and from disparity to resistance and as you swallow your tears you repeat the cycle over and over again…

It is an inhumane place for the cold room and the lonely chair that reminds you of your school years, only this chair is out of place – not in any class room – still you are sitting on this chair for hours at a time only able to see from under your blindfold the black shoes that come and go and circle around you and your heart races in anxiety of what fate awaits you…

It is a repulsive place for the nights you stay up answering the same questions you have answered a million times before, biting your lips to stay awake, griping your fists so to remember your inner power, keeping them on your lap so to hide the shaking of your hands…

Prison is foul, for the room that is filled with screams, humiliation, insults, threats and … It is a disgraceful place for the moment that you are released and you throw yourself in the arms of your beloved family and friends and cry your heart out, without knowing how to explain why, and because you know how much pain your incarceration has inflicted upon them…

Yes, prison is bad. I have experienced it at age 25, and many of my friends at ages of 20 or 21. If they ask a girl of our age in European countries to spend a week in prison, what would be her response? I know how my young friends in Evin responded, by a somber sneer.

We were introduced to prison, interrogation and the interrogators and the fear of them far too early in our lives.

I have learned the way to imprisonment early in my life. They taught me about getting locked up. I ask myself, what do I have to lose? I have learned a lot by being behind bars and now I want to know what I have on this side of the prison walls. I want to know what is worth holding on to, what is it that I might lose, when I am accused of endangering the national security because of my cry for equality. Equality is the end that I remain faithful to and may be thrown in jail for it.

Yes, I have my family and friends to think about, but I also have faith in my objectives. I know what it means to be faithful and what I am capable of enduring because of my faith. But I ask of you gentlemen, the judges, the interrogators and their colleagues, how about you? You are so quick to accuse us of our faith do you have faith in what you do?

Persian Version

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