Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, the head of Tehran’s infamous Evin prison told Tadbir news agency that Ward 350 of the prison was quiet and peaceful. But since then, the families of prisoners of the ward have relentlessly screamed of the violence perpetrated in the ward and their voices have been heard throughout the world. After the expose, the warden said he had identified the course of the “fake” news.
For a long time now when we want to write about law and due process, we think we have lost our mind and that after 35 years of the life of the Islamic republic we have not yet understood that laws in the Islamic republic are merely tools that have no life and are merely jokes. Some have been trained to pass them while another group, with much less intelligence, has been taught to not allow the law to be implemented. What is the rationale behind this policy? I mean the policy of writing the law for the purpose of deriving monetary benefits from it.
It is actually not surprising by now that the brutal regime that has imposed itself on Iran, takes the law for a joke. But it is surprising that it actually takes time to pass laws in the first place. One of these laws that was written and legislated was the law on prisons and the regulations on administering prisons passed in 2005. What is taking place in Iran’s prisons is completely irrelevant to what the law provides. Those who have been trained to negate the law, which they do very well, received a windfall when Ismaili was appointed to head Evin Prison. After all, he already had accomplished the task of proclaiming, “There is not a single gram of drugs bought and sold in the prisons of the country.”
Now that Ismaili has clearly demonstrated to the inmates of Evin Prison that the rules governing the prisons in the country are merely for beautification purposes, is laying the groundwork so that the concept of “justice seeking” is never pursued. He does not seem to realize that the very blade that he has ordered to be used dryly to cut the beards of prisoners will soon be used against himself.
When my teachers talked about law, they did not imagine that one day the law would befall such a fate. They were hopeful that the law would be respectful and honored by the likes of us whom they trained. They believed that knife fighters would never be able to stop the implementation of law and that they would never succeed in replacing the law with the baton. But these dreams and hopes have been lost by now. Love for the law however has not, even as people like Ismaili have shut the hopes of implementing the laws that this very regime has passed.
Ward 350 of Evin Prison is a historic cornerstone. Its jolts are signals of the earthquake that is on its way. Because of what has been happening in the cells of this ward - and in the wards of other prison cells around the country - national conciliation is an illusion. A regime that treats its elite the way this regime has treated them, never honestly thinks of national conciliation. While the Apartheid system believed in itself, this regime mocks its own laws and rules.
The law on administering prisons in the Islamic republic speaks of prisoner citizen’s rights. It lists them. It defines its scope. It requires that lawyers be present in all places of the prison organization. Nowhere does it provide that if a man belonging to the Islamic republic came to office and tried to even slightly to rescue it from its precipice - bearing such names as Khatami or Rouhani - the notion of presumed innocence would be negated. This law makes all kinds of provisions for possible violations of a prisoner’s rights and there are specific rules for disciplining order. It provides for a council to categorize prisoners and a council for disciplining prisoners. If these two councils alone had not been turned into a joke by people like Ismaili, Ward 350 of Evin Prison would have really been a quiet place. And if the principle of innocence until proven guilty specified in article 37 of the Constitution was not turned into a tool for the judiciary, these prisoners who are today hurt and injured would have been active members of their society in academic and professional fields. They would have worked to reduce the rate of crimes committed in their communities.
But now that our fate has fallen into the hands of knife bristling criminals who battle us every time one of their rivals takes the upper hand in the ongoing power struggle, we must press on these very laws to fight for our rights. We must use their own laws to hold them accountable.
Ward 350 of Evin Prison welcomed regime reformers between 1997 and 2006. After the 2009 presidential elections it became the home of reformers and now it is where human rights activists reside. It has always been a yardstick by which freedom of thought and expression were judged. Today, the attacks and violence against people are manifestations of fear of Ms Ashton and of the protests against the human rights declaration issued by the European Parliament regarding human conditions in Iran. This is more serious than ever before. The new fear is over the confidence of the prisoner who is equipped with reason and knowledge. The new prisoner is knowledgeable in law and knows that the resolution and declaration on paper alone can uproot the regime. These documents provide a base for the prisoner who has nothing in his own country. They provide him with confidence and hope. This confidence is like a death order for the torture network. On one hand it creates the feeling that the world is watching them. It works even if this is merely an illusion. And as skillful as they seem in creating crises, they are equally narrow minded and cannot see beyond their nose.
So out of fear of losing power, they have now focused on Ward 350 of Evin. But they shall come out empty handed. The sick and untreated economy whose nature wants war is something they cannot rid themselves of.
This is the time when all Iranians, inside and outside, should file complaints against the regime. All Iranians will then be recognized as prisoners of Ward 350 of Evin Prison. Iranians can take steps to use this in the country’s national interest which is nothing other than the defense of the dignity of the human being. The legal tools for this are available even within the laws passed by the Islamic republic. Until Iranians fail to introduce themselves to belong to the family of all political prisoners no progress will be made and human rights declarations and the European Union will not be effective.
The laws for administering prisons in Iran is a good tool to be used for wide actions by Iranians for the purpose of defending their national interests. This law specifies the violations that may be committed by prisoners. Had the provisions of this law been honored, the current crisis would not have taken place.
Iranians of all walks can protest the cruel and meaningless policies pursued by the regime in Iran at the international and global level. They can expose the crimes.
To Mr. Rouhani I say that if he does not defend even these rights that his administration has identified in the citizenship rights, then he will be relegated to the position of being a mere “coordinator among agencies ” - as president Khatami famously declared - much sooner than he suspects. And voters will then ask what happened to the man we voted to president and how come he has turned out to be a mere coordinator? Mr. Rouhani, do not succumb to pressure and insist on the law and the rights of citizens. People still have hope in you and you can use that. They will destroy you sooner than you imagine if you don’t. Do not commit suicide, time is short.
About the author:
Mehrangiz Kar is a prominent Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and author of the book Crossing the Red Line: The Struggle for Human Rights in Iran, as well as many articles.
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