“I Was A Political Prisoner in Iran”

The Independent (UK) has published an account by Farzad Madadzadeh, a former political prisoner in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  It begins with an account of how he was trapped by the regime that underlines the regime’s treatment of women.  Madadzadeh received a phone call in which he was told his sister had been arrested for not veiling herself properly, and that as a male relative he needed to come and take custody of her.  Her subordination both to the regime and to her male relatives made so much sense to him that he went without question to collect her.

When he arrived, it turned out that it was he himself who was to be collected.  Men with guns who refused to identify themselves or explain what legal authority they had surrounded him outside the station.  He was dragged into a car and “disappeared” right off the city streets.

For five years he was subjected to physical tortures, as well as the constant threat of execution and the hardship of solitary confinement.  The threats of execution were not merely a psychological weapon.  Several of the other prisoners with whom he was held were actually put to death during his period of confinement.

He writes now on the eve of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Europe, to remind European officials of Iran’s wicked regime and to urge them to use their power to force Iran to reform.  Hassan Rouhani is often presented as a political moderate within the context of Iran.  Nevertheless, more than two thousand people have been executed by Rouhani, many of them political dissidents.  Rouhani himself described these executions as “God’s commandment.”  The executed include many children, as Iran is rare among modern states in prescribing the death penalty for juveniles.

Women held in Iran’s prisons are subject to special dangers.  Maryam Akbari-Monfared, a political prisoner in the notorious Evan prison, was recently denied medical treatment in spite of her illness.  They are subject to special humiliations to remind them of the subordinate status of women in Iran.  Rape is often used against women in Iran’s prisons.  Even an American servicemember, a female sailor taken in Iran’s most recent provocation against the United States, was forced to violate military uniform regulations and her private conscience by covering her hair while in Iranian custody.  These humiliations, both major and minor, are a regular feature of Iran’s suppression of women.  Atena Farghadani, an Iranian female cartoonist aged 29, was sentenced to twelve years ostensibly for shaking her lawyer’s hand — a crime since he is male and not her relative.  In fact, it was probably her cartoons drawing attention to the routine abuses and humiliations women suffer in Evan prison that lay behind her harsh sentence by the court.

Iran’s abuse and judicial murder of its political enemies is a part of a generalized system of oppression that the regime has not even begun to dissolve.  Outside of Iran, where they can do so freely, Iranian immigrants and refugees have rallied by the thousands against these abuses.  They have come together to urge Congress to hold Iran to the standard of human rights before weakening the sanctions regime against these tyrants.  Some in Europe have begun to listen, as the Italian government took note of a three-decade sustained campaign of abuses against Iranian citizens by their own government.  Nevertheless, as we approach the end of nuclear-related sanctions on a regime that continues to provoke its neighbors and oppress its citizens, more must be done to hold Iran to account.