Husband Speaks Out After Prison Visit
Today (March 26, 2011), the Free Bahareh Hedayat Facebook page announced a new awareness campaign launched to celebrate the upcoming birthday (April 5, 1981) of the detained women’s rights and student activist. The campaign aims to highlight Bahareh Hedayat’s plight to human rights organizations and international decision makers. The campaign announced in its Facebbok note, “It is our belief that Bahareh Hedayat has become a prisoner because of her outspoken and fearless objections to the human rights conditions in Iran. As such we call for her immediate release.”
The campaign is looking for help. People interested to get involved should contact the Bahareh Hedayat Birthday Campaign email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bahareh Hedayat Denied Prison Leave for Norouz
For the third consecutive year, Bahareh Hedayat was denied prison furlough and forced to be locked up behind bars for the Persian New Year (March 21st). Instead, on March 17th, after 320 days, her husband Amin Ahmadian was granted a supervised face-to-face visit with her that lasted a few minutes. Amin Ahmadian is a political activist and member of the Islamic Alumni Association. He spoke to the Kaleme website on the details of the visit (scroll down for the translation of the interview).
Bahareh Hedayat has been detained in Evin prison since her arrest on December 31, 2009. She is the former spokesperson of Tahkim Vahdat (Office for Strengthening Unity), an Iranian pro-democracy alumni student organization created in 1979.
December 2009 marked Bahareh Hedayat’s fifth arrest. On July 25, 2010, branch 54 of the Tehran Appeals Court upheld a nine and a half year prison sentence issued to her by branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. This is the the longest term given to a Tahkim Vahdat member. Since her incarceration, she was transferred several times to solitary confinement and interrogated while enduring heavy pressures. She is charged with, ”Propaganda against the regime”, “Insulting the Supreme Leader”, “Insulting the President”, “Colluding and assembling” and “Acting against national security”.
On December 21, 2010, after being denied their visitation rights, Bahareh Hedayat and Mahdieh Golroo, another detained student activist launched joint hunger strikes to protest the decision. A week into the hunger strike, the Kaleme website reported that Bahareh Hedayat’s physical condition had deteriorated.
Interview with Bahareh Hedayat’s husband, Amin Ahmadian:
Interview by Kaleme
*Bahareh Hedayat and Milad Asadi are both members of Tahkim Vahdat who are detained in Evin prison with heavy sentences.
March 19, 2011
Kaleme: Reports indicate that you were finally able to meet with your wife Bahareh Hedayat. Did you have a face-to-face meeting?
Amin Ahmadian: Yes. On Thursday afternoon, the admissions office at Evin court contacted me and asked me to go there immediately. Upon my arrival, I saw Bahareh sitting in the Prosecutor’s office. After speaking with the Deputy Prosecutor, we were allowed to visit each other for a few minutes while in the presence [of the officials].
Kaleme: Two days prior to this visit, you were supposed to have a cabin visit with your wife, but [then] they informed you that she was banned from all visitation. Why do you think they suddenly decided to grant you a face-to-face visit on Thursday?
Amin Ahmadian: We are not exactly sure of what happened. It was very unexpected. Visitation in the Evin prison women’s ward usually takes place on Tuesdays. As customary, on Tuesday we went to the women’s ward where my wife and her cell mate Mahdieh Golroo are held. We were told that they were both banned from visits. However, on Wednesday night, Mrs. Golroo’s husband was contacted in the exact way [I was]. Then, he was allowed to meet with his wife. The Prosecutor stated that he was displeased because the news about the banned visits was emphasized on different occasions. He stated that this type of news was not in the interest of the prisoners.
Kaleme: When was your last face to face visitation with your wife prior to this visit?
Amin Ahmadian: It has been 444 days since Bahareh [Hedayat's arrest]. The last face-to-face meeting we had (with the Prosecutor’s permission) was on May 3, 2010; in other words, 320 days ago. [Additionally], all telephone contact has been banned for the past five to six months. We were given permission to have weekly meetings from behind a cabin, but, for the past three months, these visits were banned for Bahareh and Mahdieh.
Kaleme: Was your wife expecting the [face-to-face] visit?
Amin Ahmadian: Yes, I think she was waiting for me. I am sure you can imagine how it felt to hold my wife’s hand after 320 days; to be able to see her in person and tell her, that I love her [and] will stay by her side for however long it takes. It was an amazing feeling. Imagine what it must feel like when your rights are reduced to merely holding your spouse’s hands, and that becomes your biggest wish; particularly when you know that it may be months before you are given the right to transfer the warmth of life outside prison to your loved one.
Kaleme: Had your wife changed during this time?
Amin Ahmadian: It is only natural that she would change. After all, she is in prison and under the pressures associated with it. Bahareh has lost weight. Her face has lost its previous glow and youthfulness. She looked slightly broken, but, overall, she is fine.
Kaleme: How was her physical and mental condition?
Amin Ahmadian: In the past few years, Bahareh has been under a lot of pressure. She had been threatened and summoned on numerous occasions. She was fired from her job and arrested on five different occasions. This last arrest led to a very heavy sentence. All this happened to a young woman who is barely 30 years old. Like many young women her age, she too wanted to continue her education. Her desire was to live life, to experience motherhood. Perhaps, these days she wishes she could lay out the haft-sin and celebrate the [Persian] New Year at home, but, alas, she will be spending Norouz behind bars for the third consecutive year. Her hopes and dreams [have been] shattered. Her freedom, youth, and motherhood have been deprived, [as she serves a] heavy sentence rendered by the courts. It is only natural for any individual to cave under such conditions, [but] not Bahareh. Fortunately, her spirit remains strong and she continues to speak with a patient and hopeful voice. [Knowing] all this helps surpass the difficulties.
Kaleme: Where is Bahareh currently held and who is her cellmate?
Amin Ahmadian: Approximately five months ago, Bahareh was transferred to the quarantined methadone ward in Evin prison. As far as I am aware, she and 23 other prisoners are being held there. Some of them are students, civil activists, bloggers, women’s rights activists, religious minorities, including Baha’i's, and a number of prisoners accused of having connections with the Mujahedin.
Kaleme: Tahkim Vahdat has had [frictions] with the Mujahedin in the past. Has the fact that she was a spokesperson for Tahkim Vahdat resulted in any problems for her during her incarceration?
Amin Ahmadian: It is clear that someone who has been an active member of Tahkim Vahdat has no affiliation or sympathy with the Mujahedin. There are obvious and serious differences of philosophy between these two political groups. It is only natural that in prison, at times, these differences of opinions and philosophies lead to friction. As far as I am aware, these differences have led to a number of serious discussions and arguments. It goes without saying that prison is like a small colony: incarcerated people are forced to co-exist. It is best if they try to co-exist without getting into political and ideological discussions. It looks as though that this is what they are striving to achieve.
Kaleme: Do you think they will grant your wife furlough for the New Year (Norooz)?
Amin Ahmadian: No, because when I inquired about furlough yesterday, I was explicitly told not to expect it anytime soon.
[editor's note: Bahareh Hedayat was not permitted prison furlough]
Kaleme: How did you feel when you heard the bell indicating that your visitation had ended?
Amin Ahmadian: Although visitation is the only manner in which a prisoner becomes aware of what is going on in the outside world and their only means of communication with their family, it goes without saying that visiting with innocent loved ones behind bars is a bitter experience for all families. The [bitter] feeling occurs every time. After each visitation, the wounds of separation are once again reopened. It is a very bitter experience, but we must endure it for the sake of our incarcerated loved ones. Each time we approach the last moments together, I become silent. Each time our last moment approaches, I am filled with thoughts and promises meant to keep her hopeful. Each time, I feel helpless. I cannot do anything for her but remain patient. I cannot do anything but respect her decision. I am left with nothing, but I trust in God that these problems will one day be resolved.
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