Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: Local journalist Mahdieh Amiri speaks of the hardships of practicing journalism in the southern Iranian province of Bushehr. Amiri has been working as a journalist in Bushehr for years. Since 2007, she has been the editor-in-chief of a few local websites, biweekly and quarterly magazines. She is now the editor-in-chief of hamooniran.com website and Ava-ye Dashtestan biweekly.
Bahman Ahmadi Amoui’s Brothe
My Brother’s Life in Solitary Confinement designed for Death Row Inmates is in Danger1 July 2012
Khabarnegaran.info-Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, incarcerated journalist and political prisoner arrested on June 20th 2009, is currently serving his 5 year and four month sentence behind bars. On June 20th, 2012, in a sudden and unexpected move, Ahmadi Amoui was transferred in the middle of the night from Evin prison, where he had served the first two years of his sentence, to Rajai Shahr prison. On June 25th, it was reported that Ahmadi Amoui had been transferred to the solitary confinement cells at Rajai Shahr which are reserved for hardened criminals on death row. In response to Ahmadi Amoui’s transfer to solitary confinement, his brother Bahram says: "Since no one hears our cries of protest inside Iran, I hope that the international community reaches out to us with their support. I am hopeful that Mr. Ahmed Shahid [UN special rapporteur to Iran] will hear us when we say that Bahman’s life is in danger in Rajai Shahr’s solitary confinement cells."
The following is the full content of the interview Masih Ali Nejad conducted with Bahram Ahmadi, Bahman’s brother, after his brother’s transfer to solitary confinement at Rajai Shahr prison:
It has been reported that your brother Bahman Ahmadi Amoui has been put in solitary confinement after having been transferred from Evin to Rajai Shahr prison. His family is obviously worried about his wellbeing. Can you please provide an account of what exactly happened?
We initially heard that, on June 20th, the political prisoners at Evin’s section 350 (including my brother) held a memorial service in the prison yard for their former cell mate Hoda Saber who was martyred last year while on hunger strike. Halfway through the ceremony the special guards at the prison raided the ceremony and transferred a number of prisoners, including Bahman, to solitary confinement. That same night, at around 12:30am, Bahman was awoken, blindfolded and taken to Rajai Shahr prison, in Karaj, in his pyjamas and slippers.
Did they present a court order for his transfer?
From what my family has told me, they did not present a court order. They did not even tell my brother where they were taking him at that time of night; nor did they allow him to gather his belongings. God only knows what psychological pressure Bahman must have endured that night. Just try and imagine what it would feel like as a prisoner to be woken at midnight and transferred to another prison without any explanation whatsoever.
Following his transfer, it was reported that Bahman was sent to solitary confinement. Do you know why he was further punished? Did something happen after he was transferred to Rajai Shahr prison?
No. When they transferred him to Rajai Shahr prison, Bahman had done nothing. In other words, nothing in particular had occurred for them to transfer him to solitary confinement. I have asked my family members and his wife Jila and no one is aware why they transferred him to solitary confinement, which is normally reserved for dangerous inmates with long sentences.
Does your brother have a lawyer to follow up on his case while he is in solitary confinement?
Yes, my brother is being represented by a lawyer by the name of Farideh Gheyrat. Unfortunately no one at the Revolutionary Court or the prosecutor’s office listen to us. She has been unable to follow up on his case because they won’t even respond to her.
What is the latest status you have regarding Bahman’s condition in solitary confinement?
Bahman’s friends understand that he has been transferred to ward number one at Rajai Shahr prison. They say that ward one is reserved for prisoners on death row and is notorious for being one of the harshest solitary confinement wards at Rajai Shahr. They leave prisoners there for several days without checking on them. Anyone who has been transferred there has left with a myriad of physical and psychological ailments.
Is it common for political prisoners to be held in the solitary confinement ward?
The truth is I have no idea. It is unclear to me why a journalist, whose only crime was writing critical articles regarding the government’s policies, should be sent to such a location. Is it not true that based on the legal system in our country, prisoners should be segregated on the basis of the crime they have committed? Why then has a journalist been sent to a place reserved for inmates who have committed dangerous crimes?
Do you have any detailed information regarding the conditions at the solitary confinement ward at Rajai Shahr?
Bahman’s cellmates and former political prisoners at Rajai Shahr have informed my family that no one can tolerate solitary confinement at Rajai Shahr prison for more than a few days as the solitary confinement cells are filthy and infested with blood, dirt and germs. We must defend the human rights of all prisoners. Segregating prisoners based on the severity of their crime is the right of every prisoner. When they arrest someone and charge him with criticizing the government we demand that, as a minimum, he be detained with other journalists and not with individuals who have committed murder and are on death row. These inmates are very angry and are capable of anything. I believe that they send journalists like my brother to solitary confinement in such cells to cause them psychological harm or to break them down as a result of severe sickness and physical weakness.
Did Bahman’s sentence stipulate exile to Rajai Shahr prison?
No. Bahman’s sentence did not include anything regarding exile to RajaiShahr prison. They transferred him to Rajai Shahr prison, which is located in a province outside his area of residence and far from where his family lives; an act that is against the law. Bahman has endured so many injustices that our family has been unable to protest against every single one of them. The family requested that, like all other political prisoners, Bahman be granted temporary leave from prison after two years and instead he was transferred to Rajai Shahr prison. The family then requested that he be transferred back to Evin and instead we find out that he has been sent to solitary confinement. We don’t know what we should do next. Do we ask that they send Bahman back to where he was before (i.e. the general section at Rajai Shahr)?
Can you tell us what government entity issued the order for Bahman’s transfer to Rajai Shahr prison and his subsequent move to solitary confinement?
According to our friends and family members in Iran, the order was issued by Evin prison’s security courthouse. I don’t know why they treat my brother, who is a journalist, in such an inhumane manner.
Bahman Ahmadi Amoui’s reputation precedes him. He is known as a calm and patient journalist. Why do you suppose they are treating him this way?
Yes. Amongst his friends, family and colleagues, Bahman is viewed as an outstanding journalist, renowned for his kindness, compassion, humanity, the love of people and patriotism. He does not belong in prison, let alone a dangerous prison with such unhygienic conditions. I realize that the authorities seek to break Bahman’s resolve and destroy his spirit. Individuals with a broken spirit can no longer serve their country so why do they insist on destroying people both physically and psychologically?
As an Iranian citizen living abroad and far from your family for many years, how do you view the long term incarceration of journalists such as Bahman who are in prison as a result of writing a few articles critical of the government and participating in protests?
I left Iran more than fifteen years ago. It saddens me to see the freedom of expression enjoyed by journalists on this side of the border when compared it to the injustices endured by my brother and other journalists in Iran. The country where I now live respects the rights of every citizen. Journalists are allowed to express highly critical views regarding the authorities in this country both on television, on the radio and in newspapers. Their activities are never categorized as rogue or propaganda against the regime. In my opinion, this interpretation however is only made by the authoritarian regime in Iran and no one ever makes such statements outside of Iran. In fact such statements are often considered humorous. I believe that criticism of governments in the West by journalists force the governments to behave in a proper manner. However, in Iran where there is not such criticism, the government actions are not under scutiny.
When you speak to your family in Iran, how do they view these differences? What is their opinion regarding the differences when it comes to journalism inside Iran and abroad? Bahman’s wife for example, also a journalist by trade has been banned from practicing her profession.
Yes, following her release from prison, my brother’s wife Jila explained to me that her interrogator had informed her that he will do everything in his power to ensure that she receives a heavy sentence. He tried very hard to convert her into a true criminal. Jila always says she wishes they would put as much effort into building people’s characters as they do in destroying their name; individuals that not only they could be proud of but would also be the pride of our nation and the world at large. I find it unfathomable that it brings those in power joy when the number of outsiders and those rejected by the regime increases. Why should the authorities associated with the intelligence and security apparatus in a country get pleasure out of their citizens becoming criminals, receiving heavy sentences and spending their lives behind bars? When did such events become a source of pride? Is it an honour to be ranked first in the world when it comes to the highest number of journalists behind bars? I am disappointed and surprised that a government would insist on proving that the number of opponents of the regime is rising by the day, pretending that all segments of our society from journalists to students, teachers and laborers are all intent on overthrowing the regime. I am at a loss for words why the security authorities are so keen on creating such heavy criminal cases against so many citizens.
Given that the family has yet to be provided with a reason for such a punishment, do you believe that writing a letter to the authorities might be effective? What avenues does the family have to present their demand and grievances to the authorities?
I expect the authorities in my country to stop treating an established journalist in such a manner. What danger does Bahman pose to society? Why is it that, despite international laws and as per the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the authorities continue to refuse to release Bahman, even though he has served half of his sentence? My brother was seven or eight years old at the time of the Islamic Revolution. He is an offspring of this nation and the revolution and grew up under the same system of government. You don’t treat your own children in this manner. I want to tell the authorities in my country that the methods they have chosen will not pay off. This type of punishments will not force people into silence, but rather will lead to further anger and hatred. Do not allow the likes of Bahman, who love their country and have expressed their criticism out of their concern and loyalty towards the revolution, to become filled with hatred and bitterness.
As an individual whose brother has been behind bars for three years only because he criticized the government, has not been granted leave for two years and has now been transferred to solitary confinement at Rajai Shahr prison, have you ever had any expectations of Bahman’s colleagues or other journalists that are not behind bars?
I completely understand the predicament of Bahman’s colleagues inside Iran. It is only natural that my heart would ache for innocent individuals such as Bahman that have been wronged. Sometimes I ask myself if what happened to Bahman were to happen somewhere else in the world, would the journalists in that country rise and protest to such a degree that the government would never again dare to treat an individual so harshly merely because they criticized their policies? Why does this type of thing happen in Iran while we quietly sit and patiently watch when their family is being destroyed with pain? Why are we not capable of doing anything about it? I don’t know what to say. Maybe Bahman would prefer that I not speak of our sorrow and pain. I ask his colleagues from the bottom of my heart to not leave Bahman alone. Bahman was never the type of person to have high expectations of anyone. He is a strong individual, but prison life is not easy and it breaks and destroys a person. Now that Bahman has been transferred to solitary confinement, I ask his colleagues to do something. I fully understand the circumstances of journalists in Iran, but I still hope that they do something. This is not defending Bahman but rather coming to the defense of independent journalism and freedom of the press, now considered a crime in Iran, leading to arrests, detention and solitary confinement behind bars. My brother’s life is in danger. They want to drive him crazy. Don’t remain silent! Please be his voice.
Source: Kaleme http://www.kaleme.com/1391/04/06/kl...
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