Dr. Mehdi Khazali, an Ophthalmologist, author and regime critic is the son of the hard-line member of the Assembly of Experts Ayatollah Khazali.
Ayatollah Khazali has publicly denounced and distanced himself from his son’s positions criticizing the regime.
Dr. Khazali has been arrested six times before his latest arrest on October 30, 2012 during the raid of the meeting of the Writers Association.
During his last incarceration Dr. Khazali launched a hunger strike that lasted more than 70 days and ended with his release on bail on March 19, 2012.
Following is translation of an interview conducted by the Kalameh site with Dr. Khazali’s son, Mohamad Saleh Khazali, about his father’s condition.
It’s been 40 days since Dr. Khazali’s arrest, what is the latest news you have from him?
We’ve had no news from my father during this time. Even with a letter from the investigator in the case, they denied us a visit. They had cut off all the means of communications until today (Dec 8), when my father contacted us.
Tell us about Dr. Khazali contacting you today and what is his condition?
In the short conversation we had, my father was more worried abut his family. He said he is in a cell that is 2 meters long and 1 meter wide, which he called a “Toilet”. There is a commode in the middle of the room and the floor is damp. He puts an extra blanket on the floor so the wet floor doesn’t bother him as much, the room is filled with sewage stench.
My father said he launched a dry hunger strike from day one of his arrest, and he had set the release of all those arrested with him as the condition of halting his hunger strike.
And when did he break his hunger strike?
Apparently, on the 12th day of his detention, when the interrogators promised to meet his demands, he agreed to halt his hunger strike. They had told my father that there are no new charges filed against him, that all the people arrested with him had been released, and that he will also be released soon.
Are any of the other detainees still in detention?
Yes, Mr. Pezhman Zafarmand is still in detention, despite the promise they had made to release him.
What was Dr. Khazali’s reaction after the interrogators did not keep their promise?
He told us he will start a hunger strike as of today(Dec 8) and will remain on it until he is released.
Is he still being interrogated?
No, apparently they are finished with his interrogations, he has not been interrogated for a while. Of course, the phone call was very short and during the call the agent’s voice could constantly be heard saying, “Finish it, it’s enough”. Therefore, we weren’t even able to say goodbye, and the agent disconnected the call.
What do you think his emotional state of mind was?
He was in high spirits, strong, and as usual, steadfast.
In your follow up with the Judiciary, what reasons have they given for his arrest and detainment in solitary confinement?
So far, no one has spoken to us, even to allow us to ask questions. The investigator in Branch Six won’t even allow anyone in his office, and we have not been able to meet with him.
We went to his office once to request a meeting, but were not able to see him, and his office manager gave us a letter for visitation (approving the family visiting Dr. Khazali) but he didn’t know anything about this case.
News reports have indicated that your family is under pressure, can you please explain?
Yes, they pressure us to not give press interviews, but when they deny us visits, even with an approval letter from the investigator, what else is there for us to do?
Have you been summoned also?
No, not me, but my mother, sister and uncle were all summoned.
What was the summons reason?
The were questioned about the 13 Aban call for protest, and the reason given was that their names were among the signatories.
What was the result? Were charges pressed?
It was a simple question and answer session, and, thank God, it all ended without any problems.
Has you family on your father’s side followed up with the judiciary on this case? What is their opinion about your father’s hunger strike?
I believe that parents are always worried about their children, but I am not aware of any initiatives of my grandparents in following up on my father’s case. I prefer not to speak about this; indeed I don’t even know what to say.
Despite my mother’s worries for my father, she has always strived to be the nucleus of our family and provide us with as much care and love as she can so we feel my father’s absence less.
In the last two years you have been under the same emotional stress several times when your father launched a hunger strike. Did you have any conversations with him after his previous releases about this? What is your opinion about this very difficult form of protest that your father chooses while imprisoned?
In the last two or three years, my father has been arrested numerous times and was on a hunger strike several times. We, as his family, stand behind him and always support him.
But I, as an individual, have had many discussions with my father about these events and we have varying view points.
Though in some of our discussions we reached agreement on some view point, in some matters we disagree and were not able to change each others opinions. However, we keep our father and son relationship and I do, and will, obey him as my father, and will always support him.
Most probably you are now worried for your father. Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
I sometimes joke with my friends that call me Aghazadeh (son of an important man, mostly refers to children of high positioned and high powered clergy), I tell them the only thing that I have gained from being an Aghazadeh is Evin prison.
Being the son of a political prisoner always leaves one in a state of worry and concern, you are constantly worried that you will hear a bad news. You are always ready for something bad, or good, to happen. If, God forbid, you leave your cell phone behind, or run out of battery, your family becomes extremely worried as to what terrible thing might have happened to their son that he is not answering his cell. Was he arrested? Are they harassing him? Where is he? Is he OK?
And your last words?
I will never forget my father’s smile when he was being arrested at the Writers Association meeting, and how he said, with a loud voice, “Which 209 cell are you taking me to (Evin Ward 209 is under the control of the Intelligence Ministry)? I will start a dry hunger strike as of right now, and no food or water will touch my lips”, and he left the room with that same smile on his face.