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.
Jila Baniyaghoub’s letter from Evin Prison: Who believes our meeting is against national security?17 December 2012
Khabarnegaran.info-Imprisoned journalists, Jila Baniyaghoub, who has been in Tehran’s Evin prison since September to complete her one-year jail sentence has not yet been able to meet her spouse, Bahman Ahmadi-Amouee, another imprisoned journalist who is in Rajaie-shahr prison in Karaj, near Tehran.
In addition one-year in prison, Jila Baniyaghoub has been sentenced to a thirty-year ban from journalism. Bahman Ahmadi-Amouee is now in his fourth year in prison, serving a four-year and five-month sentence. The couple have been imprisoned and banned from professional activity simply because of writing critical articles.
What follows is the full text of Jila’s letter which has been made available to the Kalameh news agency:
When a prison guard reads the names of Mahsa Amrabadi, Faran Hessami and Lava Khanjani who were to have visitors (spouse or a brother), almost all the prisoners in women’s ward were expect to hear my name too. “Don’t wait around,” the prison guard says, “Those were all the names.” However, repeated questions from my friends seem to have created some empathy in the guard, who says: “I’m going to call the authorities right now. Maybe Jila Baniyaghoub’s name has been left out by mistake.”
But I have kept completely silent. I do not ask any question. I do not protest to the prison guard and do not ask for a follow up. I know very well that my name and Bahman’s have not been left out of the list of prisoners with visitors by mistake. I know that my name and Bahman’s were included in the list the prison officials prepare for meetings between prisoners and their imprisoned family members. I know that some people crossed out our names not by mistake, but deliberately so we would be deprived of meeting each other for the fifth month.
Mahsa, Faran and Lava are very excited as they prepare to meet their spouse or brother. I miss Bahman more than ever.
Most of the girls have gathered around me. Everyone tries to express her unhappiness with this turn of events in the kindest possible words for me for Bahman and repeats it several times.
Shabnam Madadzadeh, whose brother is in Rajaie-shahr prison and whose name has been crossed out of the list like mine, puts her hand on my shoulder, with her usual energy and high morale, saying: “Be strong. The day is not far away when you will see Bahman and I will see Farzad.”
Mahvash Shahriari quickly writes a poem for me on a blank piece of paper and gives it to me:
You have reached the extreme edge of yourself when
You have managed to stretch pain to its extreme edge
And have tasted all the bitterness
You have reached the extreme edge of yourself
For difficult moments, dear Jila
“It must have been the prosecutor who has disagreed with Jila and Bahman meeting each other, ” says someone. Another person replies: “These meetings cannot take place without the approval of the Ministry of Intelligence. It must be the interrogators who have vetoed it.” And yet another person says: “Maybe ...”
I don’t hear the rest. It’s as if dozens of names and titles merge into one in my ears. The Judiciary, the Ministry of Intelligence, the Prosecutor’s Office, ... To me, all these are the names of a single system. All the names of the system that imprisons me, my spouse, and dozens of other journalists for having written critical articles about it and does not allow a jailed couple to meet for half an hour after five months in prison.
It is nearly five months that I’ve been deprived of meeting Bahman. During this time, I’ve gone through the prison statute book several times, but have not seen a single article or note that bans the meeting of an imprisoned couple. Every time I ask myself where in this system, who has decided that Bahman and I meeting each other would damage national security? What argument has led them to conclude that I do not even have the right to sit in front of my spouse for half an hour and hold his hands for a few minutes and tell him: “I love you more than ever”?
My friends have prepared themselves for their meetings and are heading for the Prosecutor’s Office at Evin Prison where they will embrace their loved ones. I want to send a letter or a short note for Bahman with them, but I know that in this system, such things are strictly prohibited. I think of something different and pick up a small pack of mint chewing gums I bought at the prison shop and write on it: “My dear Bahman, I love you.”
Bahman likes mint chewing gums and I know that the shop at Rajaie-shahr prison is too poor to have them.
I still don’t know if the little pack of mint chewing gums has gone through the barrier of the Evin prison guards and then through the Rajaie-shahr guards and reach Bahman’s hand. Neither do I know if the sentence “My dear Bahman, I love you” has been censored by the prison guards. Maybe the guards have crossed it out. But, then again, maybe the sentence’s magic has worked on a kind guard’s kind heart and eventually found its way to Bahman.
8 December 2012
Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: How is life for Iranian journalists after prison? Does their attitude toward their journalism – the profession that put them in jail – change? Are they more conservative than before? Or bolder?
Khabarnegaran – Niki Azad: He has been put in jail three times for his journalist writing, though he says that jail has not made him feel disappointed with the profession of journalism.