Following is a translation of an interview conducted by Masih Allinejad with Ardeshir Arkan, father of Arash Arkan who was arrested during the street protest of November 4, 2009.
Father of Arash Arkan, a protester who was arrested during street protest on November 4, 2009 breaks his silence one year after the death of his son. He says, “If they had provided proper medical treatment for my son, perhaps he would have not died.”
Ardeshir Arkan explains that his son Arash Arkan, was arrested during the street protest of November 4, 2009. The arrest happened when Arash saw a teenager being attacked by regime forces for video taping the protest and tried to help the teen. As a result, he was involved in a scuffle with one of the security forces and was arrested.
26 years old Arash Arkan was among the political prisoners, that even after his arrest, his name was not published in the media.
This young man was suffering from kidney disease and when, during his incarceration, his illness became worse, was given few days of medical furlough but according to his family the short furlough was not long enough for his treatment and he was returned to prison before completing the treatment.
According to his family, returning him to prison before his medical treatment was finished, and lack of attention by prison authorities to Arash’s dire health condition, caused him to die only three days after he was taken to Bahiyehallah hospital.
Arash Arkan died in the hospital on February 29, 2010 after enduring a year and a half of imprisonment.
There have been many reports published about the sad fate and death of prisoners of conscience in the Islamic Republic’s prisons. According to the victim’s families, their lawyers and the public’s opinion, none of these cases have been resolved.
As witnessed by his cell mates, Hoda Saber was the last political prisoner who died during incarceration from not having receiving proper medical treatment for beatings by prison personnel.
In his first report, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran also mentioned Hoda Saber’s name. There are number of other prisoners that lost their lives during incarceration due to lack of proper medical treatment.
Ardeshir Arkan, father of Arash and a friend of Arash’s who witnessed his arrest on November 4, 2009, explain the reason Arash’s name has not become public as a political prisoner:
My son lost his life due to lack of proper attention to his disease
Ardeshir Akan, confirming that his son was arrested during the street protests of November 4, 2009, says, “We did our best to get Arash out of prison, whatever it took, like not publicizing his case, and pursuing his freedom through a lawyer, but we were not successful in obtaining his release and he died in prison on February 29, 2010.
In reply to the question that, considering his son’s bad kidney disease, did they try to obtain treatment for him outside of prison, he said, “Two weeks before my son died he was granted medical furlough which was very short and not enough time for proper treatment.
During this time, he was in low spirits, because as he had hoped that he would be released soon, but during his short furlough he was informed of his 10 months prison sentence.
After they returned him to prison, they didn’t provide him with proper medical treatment and his illness became worse. Only three days prior to his death,they transferred him to a hospital , but it was already too late.
In reply to the question that, was he able to see him during his son’s stay at the hospital , he said, “We were only able to see him on his last day in the hospital. We found out about him being in the hospital but they would not allow us to see him. We were only able to see him on the last day using some connections we had in the hospital and with the help of his lawyer.
Regarding whether they encountered any problems holding funeral services he said, “Until the 7th day memorial services of my son, I felt I was not even in this world. I could not believe how easily and simply I lost my son. I still don’t believe it, I still think and hope that one day our son will return….but is this possible? Is it possible for such thing to happen here and for them to leave us alone? To let us be? If they did, we would have not asked for anything more.”
Arash lost his life because he was asking for his rights
About the day Arash was arrested, he said, “I was not personally there the day he was arrested, but I have heard that a teenager was taking pictures of the people who were arrested. As the security forces started chasing the teen, Arash chased the security forces and got into an scuffle with one of them.
My son’s case became so complicated because of this scuffle. Otherwise his trial should have taken place much earlier. The security agent involved would not cooperate with us and would not agree to drop the charges. I don’t understand his hostility towards us, but I hope he can live with his conscience.”
Mr. Arkan stresses that Arash was not a political activist and he did not have any political activity in his university. He said, “Arash and everyone else who were at the protest site were only asking for their rights, they felt they had been humiliated. I want to stress that he was not a political activist.”
Regarding the follow up of this case with the Judiciary, Mr. Arkan said, “I have no faith in the judicial system in Iran, and I believe that they will not do anything for us even if the murderer of my son is identified. Even if they take into account the negligence that occurred in Arash’s case, I still believe that justice won’t be done.
I just want that guy to just think that, how he would have if this had happened to his own child. What would he have said to his son and to himself. I don’t want any answers from him, I just want him to be accountable to his own conscience.”
After Arash’s arrest no news about his illness and his incarceration became public. I asked Mr. Arkan if he thinks making his arrest public might have helped his situation? He said, “This is one thing that will not leave me for the rest of my life. Perhaps the sorrow and the guilt that it brings is as enormous as loosing Arash. I truly regret what we did, why we made such big mistake. Well, there is nothing blacker than black, unfortunately, under those circumstances, we made such decision, and we were wrong…..Perhaps if we had made his case public, he would have still been in prison, maybe under harsh circumstances, but he would have been alive and not lost his life so easily and pointlessly.”
He continues, “All of our efforts were to lessen the pressure on Arash. All of our efforts were to prove that Arash was not a political activist , that he merely was trying to help a teenager and had no intention of
acting against the regime. We wanted to obtain his freedom from prison, but we made a mistake. It was wrong of us to think that we could do this, perhaps if we had made his case public, we would have not lost him so easily.”
Arash was not regretful
Arash’s father, in reply to the question whether Arash, in his last days in prison, made any notable statements, said, “My son was not regretful at all that he had tried to help a teenager. In fact he was happy about it, and I think he is still happy about it.
When he was out on furlough, I and his friends asked him if this situation came up again would he have done the same thing, and Arash firmly said that he would not have changed anything and would have done the same. I am happy and proud to have such a son.”
Mr. Arkan says that he sees all those who lost their lives in the events of the post-presidential election as his own children. They were all full of dignity and decency, and his son was one of them, a noble and gentle soul.
An eyewitness account of Arash’s arrest:
26 year old Arash Arkan, with a Masters degree in Industrial Management from Azad University. Arash and number of his friends had participated in the mass street protests of November 4, 2009. One of his close friends who witnessed his arrest, said, “November 4th was one of the mass street protests that we participated in. When we reached Villa street, we saw a pre-fabricated building that was being used for holding the people they arrested. The building had clear walls and you could see through it.
We then noticed a 16-17 year old boy taking pictures of the area. Soon we heard voices saying “Arrest him, arrest him”. People started running, and Arash and I did the same. Three people wearing law enforcement vests were chasing the boy, and Arash was chasing them.
Arash, in trying to stop the agent from chasing the boy, tripped the guy’s leg. Both he and the agent fell down. They seemed to have left the boy alone as he ran away, because they now had another victim right in front of them.
Three agents were just beating up Arash. They were beating him hard, like they had just found a murderer. They were beating him hard and with a lot of anger.
One of the agents tore the necklace off Arash’shis neck and started beating his head and face with it while screaming.
This eyewitness said, “Arash was taken to prison on that same day that he was arrested. In the beginning he was banned from visits. He was only allowed to contact his family a few times, after months of being in prison.
It’s pointless to repeat that Arash was not a political activist; none of us were. However, politics became involved in our lives.”
In regards to Arash’s trial and conviction he said, “He was tried on charges of interfering with the work of police and on charges of beating a security agent. They said the people who tried to arrest that teenaged boy who was taking pictures were considered law enforcement agents because they were wearing law enforcement vests.
All the time that Arash was innocently in prison, all of our efforts and his lawyer’s efforts were to prove that he was not a political activist.
We later realized what mistake we made. They convicted and sentenced Arash to nine months in prison, while he had already been in prison for a year.
In reply to the question of whether there were any bruises or signs of being beaten on Arash’s body, he said, “There were bruises and signs of being beaten on his back and his legs, but his spirits were so low that he didn’t want to talk about it.
My opinion is that the psychological pressure that they inflicted on him was very severe, much worse than the physical torture. He had become very quite. After being in prison for a year, they tried him and issued a sentence for him immediately.”
This witness explains about Arash’s medical problems, he said, “Arash had lost one of his kidneys at childhood due to an infection, and naturally because of his condition he required special care in prison.
The prison physicians had said, because of his condition and because he only had one kidney, they were not able to provide him with proper care in prison. It is for sure that if Arash had received proper medical care in prison this tragedy would have not happened. Because Arash did not suffer from an incurable illness, he only needed proper care to manage his condition. But, this care was not provided to him…..may be we should have done more, but we didn’t.
We kept our silence so he would not encounter more problems. We had hoped that the judge would give him a less than nine months in prison so fines could have been paid in lieu of prison time.
The Judge should have considered and taken into account Arash’s one year time already spent in prison, even if he considered him guilty.”
In response to the question that whether medical furlough was requested, he said, “About two to three weeks after his return to prison, his health deteriorated and became worse. They gave him few days of furlough, but it wasn’t long enough for his treatment and they returned him to prison while he was still in poor health.
About ten days after his return to prison I found out through his lawyer that he was taken to Baghiyeh Allah hospital.”
No one realized that Arash lost his life trying to help a fellow citizen
In response to the question that if Arash ever mentioned or said anything regarding his interrogations or torture, he said, “Arash did not speak about this at all. All I know is that Arash never expresses any remorse for helping a fellow citizen. No one ever found out how much he suffered in prison, and during the best years of his life he remained in prison, in a dire health situation until he lost his life, there was nothing left of Arash.”
Arash’s friend told us about visiting him in the hospital, “I only saw him for a few minutes, he was skin and bones, his condition was unbelievable. We realized after one year of his prison stay what had happened to him. The last ten days of his life was really unbelievable. There was really nothing left of Arash.
After we left the hospital and when we got to Vanak square, I received a phone call informing me that Arash had passed. This is how fast and easy we lost him.”
At the conclusion of the interview he said, “There are many untold things that remain. What was not told is the pain that we suffered and still suffer and carry with us. The times and moments that we wish for their return.
What remains untold are the hopes and aspirations of Arash that were buried with him. The hopes that were so cruelly taken from us without us being able to do anything about them.
Many questions remain unanswered. We all want to know what that agent told himself after hearing the news of Arash’s death.”