Call for Help inside Iran’s Evin Prison
Shared below is a letter that managed to get out of Iran’s infamous Evin Prison from journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi. She is detained on charges of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system.” According to reports she has also been charged with “insulting officers while being transferred to a hospital” because of her health. Narges Mohammadi is former vice president and spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights (DHRC) which represents prisoners of conscience. She is also involved in a campaign against the death penalty in Iran.
On May 17 the verdict in her case was handed down. Narges Mohammadi was sentenced to five years in prison for “meeting and conspiring against the Islamic Republic,” one year for “spreading propaganda against the system” and ten years for her work advocating against the death penalty. Under Iranian penal code, a person with several jail terms must serve the most severe so she must serve ten years, although sentenced to 16 years total.
Dear members of International PEN,
I’ m writing this letter to you from the Evin Prison. I am in a section with 25 other female political prisoners, with different intellectual and political point of view. Until now 23 of us, have been sentenced to a total of 177 years in prison (2 others have not been sentenced yet). We are all charged due to our political and religious tendency and none of us are terrorists.
The reason to write these lines is, to tell you that the pain and suffering in the Evin Prison is beyond tolerance. Opposite other prisons in Iran, there is no access to telephone in Evin Prison. Except for a weekly visit, we have no contact to the outside. All visits takes place behind double glass and only connected through a phone. We are allowed to have a visit from our family members only once a month.
But it is the solitary confinement, which is beyond any kind of acceptable imprisonment. We – 25 women – have detained in total more than 12 years in solitary confinement. Political prisoners who are considered dangerous terrorists are held in solitary confinement indefinitely. Retention in solitary confinement can vary from a day up to several years.
However, according to regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, holding prisoners in solitary confinement is illegal. Unfortunately until now, the solitary confinement, as a psychological torture, has had many victims in Iran.
During 14 years long activity of the Center for Human Rights Defenders, the Center have published and held many protests against the use of this kind of punishment. But unfortunately the solitary confinement is still used against many of Iran’s political prisoners. The solitary confinement is used to get forced and false confessions out of the defendants. These false and faked confessions are used against the defendants during the trials. Many of the detainees in the solitary confinement are suffering from mental and physical health problems and the injuries will remain with them for the rest of their life. As a matter of a fact, the solitary confinement is nothing but a closed and dark room. A dimly confined space, deprived of all sounds and all light that can give the inmates a sense of humanity. Personally, I have been in solitary confinement three times since 2001. Once during my interrogation in 2010, I suffered a panic neurotic attacks, which I had never experienced before.
As a defender of human Right, who has experienced and have had dialogues with many people detained in solitary confinement, I emphasize that this kind of punishment is inhuman and can be considered psychological torture.
As a humble member of this prestigious organization, I urge all of you, as writers and defenders of the principles of free thought and freedom of speech and expression, to combat the use of solitary confinement as torture, with your pen, speech and all other means. Maybe one day we will be able to close the doors behind us to solitary confinement and no one will be sentenced to prison for criticizing and demanding reforms. I hope that day will come soon.
Greetings and Regards
Prison Evin, May 2016
For more information on Narges Mohammadi and suggested action, you can link to PEN International.
Thank you for sharing this. Please keep me alerted to actions I as an individual can do to influence a change so that solitary confinement is not used in Iran.
Times like this I especially wish I was in Congress. Narges Mohammadi public stands and life in prison should talked about continually. What a very brave woman.
Thank you for expanding our sense of caring about our world and looking its injustices square in the face. You can’t read Narges’ letter without an aching heart and the welling up of a sense of the injustice and cruelty of a political system that wants to control people’s thoughts.
Her letter also makes you ask yourself: would you put your life on the line for the principle of free speech? How long would you survive in the conditions she describes. What are you DOING to show your support for the Narges’ of the world?
Thank you, as always, for yet another thought-provoking, heart-stirring blog.