Imprisoned student activist Shabnam Madadzadeh has written a letter from Evin prison, expressing concern over the recent transfer of two female political prisoners to the notorious Gharchak prison in Varamin, known for its sub-standards and extremely poor conditions.
Shabnam Madadzadeh, who herself was incarcerated in Gharchak prison for a short time, but was transferred back to Evin after a widespread protest against appalling conditions of Gharchak prison, describes the deplorable conditions of this prison in her letter.
Reports indicate that, after the recent transfer of two prisoners, Evin prison authorities plan to move all of the female political prisoners to Gharchak prison over a period of time.
Shabnam Madadzadeh, the vice secretary of Tehran’s Tahkim Vahdat (student alumni organization), was arrested on February 19, 2009 and has been incarcerated since.
Shabnam was tried, convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison on charges of acting against the national security and “enmity against God” at Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Moghiseh.
The full text of the letter by Shabnam is as follows:
In the name of God
We are not speaking of the withering of a single leaf; Alas, they are turning a forest into a desert.
To friends and companions that know the pain, to all the hearts beating for human beings and for humanity, and for values beyond geographical borders:
I am speaking as a witness; a witness to the terrible days of a city, where death had hung the weight of it’s cloak on the wall, in a place where you could breathe no more.
Dark dungeons, with high ceilings, without windows or natural light, with two hundred people in each cell, crowded and noisy, and the distressed and agitated inmates, the fights and the bad news….
I witnessed with my own eyes; “The slaughtering of humanity, I witnessed with my own eyes.”
I am speaking as a witness; witness to the uncertain moments, the confounded look of death pouring out the eyes of the prisoners, and the batons of the special units guards used to calm them down.
I speak as a witness, a witness to fights for snatching food and bread in a place they called the lunch hall. All the play acting, and the fake appearance and decorations did not accomplish anything. What they served the prisoners as their food ration was so small that the hungry prisoners collected any left over in plates. And before long, fights would break out over the left over food.
Food trays and chairs were thrown around. And the dirty slippery floor caused some to slip and fall.
A place called the lunch hall, but was called by the prisoners the “beating hall”.
I am speaking as a witness; I witnessed their great efforts to show the visiting families the reverse of the deplorable conditions. The hall that we passed through it’s ruins and sinkholes to reach the visiting room, had on the other side of it’s walls, from the entrance door, flower gardens filled with flowers – (I noticed it the day I was transferred to Evin) – so the families, in the midst of that reedbed feel happy by seeing a few flowers, and forget about their own flowers withering inside. Alas!
The presence of the country’s Prosecutor General in Gharchak, the day we were being transferred back to Evin, for the purpose of denying all those reports in the domestic and foreign news media about Gharchak’s condition, was in itself proof enough of the deplorable conditions of this prison.
There was something there they wanted to deny. The same lunch hall that, for the sake of the cameras they had cleaned and polished it’s floor, had visible blood stains on the floor tiles the day before.
And the days after our transfer back to Evin, what I heard from the guards and people who went back and forth between Evin and Gharchak was: That place is nothing but a hell hole. This according to the jailers themselves. What else is there to deny?
Yes! I am speaking as a witness, a witness to a wasteland called a prison of a city, without any indication of life, where even plants stop growing.
A place that from the time I was transferred there, I called it’s condition deplorable and inhumane, not only for myself but for all the women incarcerated there, regardless of what they were convicted of.
It is a death camp not a prison. A place for gradual death. And I still can hear the sound of the human dignity being crushed to death.
A year and a half have passed since those days, but now I have again recounted those moments.
With the illegal transfer of Kobra Banazadeh Amirkhizi, a 60 year old woman, and Sadigheh Moradi, to Gharchak prison on Wednesday July 11th, I once again felt myself being among those women, under the same circumstances.
My heart aches, but my hands are tied, I could not do anything. At my age, and my physical condition, that place was extremely difficult to endure, much less for these two women with their pre-existing illnesses.
The walls are becoming taller and the metal bars are closing in. I can feel the warmth of my breath on my face. A feeling that I can not put into words. Believe me, I am not able to put into words my indescribable feeling.
Again, I am speaking as a witness, as someone who met Mrs. Banazadeh more than two years ago in Gohardasht prison (Rejaei Shahr), and met Sedigheh Moradi in Evin prison more then eight months ago.
During this period I witnessed their deteriorating health in this awful place, besieged behind the metal bars, under inhumane conditions.
From the unsuccessful eye surgery of Mrs. Banazadeh, which caused the loss of vision due to the irresponsibility of the officials, to arthritis in her neck and back and her osteoporosis.
It was just two weeks ago that Banazadeh was hospitalized for a cardiac angiogram. On Wednesday she was expecting to be sent for a heart echogram, not being sent to Gharchak. To Sedighe Moradi’s back problem, arthritis in her neck and spine and her heart condition.
For me, who launched a mission for liberation, on my travel through this path full of injustice, my body bears the wounds of persecution, exile, banishment and limitations have become a part of my life.
While I firmly believe that we must, like water in a river, flow through the river bed, however hard and difficult, removing all the obstacles, thrusting and surging our way to the sea. I believe we must stop tyranny, we must stand firm.
What I witnessed on Wednesday, was shamelessness in cruelty, that they are not even satisfied with the ruling of their own unfair and unjust courts. That, when ever they please, they ignore the court’s ruling and issue a new decree themselves.
At that moment, I felt with my entire being, that if instead of facing a release order for a fellow inmate, we faced their death sentence; there is nothing that we can do.
My companions and friends sharing the same grief! I started my letter without a preamble, for the pen and my mind did not have the strength to arrange the words.
Once again, my tied hands are reaching out to you, so just as in the past, you become my hands in removing the veils and exposing these puppeteer games of so called honor and dignity for women!!!!
Once again I cry out the pain to you, so that you may, like a mountain, echo my voice. In a place where one cannot breathe, you cry out your clamorous wrath.
I ask all the human rights organizations, and of those who even for one moment, had any concern for humanity, wherever in the world they maybe, to not spare any efforts for returning these two women from that dark place.
July 14, 20112