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.
A love between two journalists Mightier than a repressive regime22 July 2011
Translated by Azita Eraani
An article appeared recently in the French publication Rue-87, entitled: “Love between 2 journalists - Mightier than repression”. It is an article about the Iranian journalist, Jila Bani Yaghoub and her imprisoned husband Bahman Ahmadi Amouee.
Two years have passed since the second and controversial election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president on June 12, 2009. The presidential elections that sparked much tension and widespread protests which ultimately tore apart a great number of families; among them, a prominent couple whose love, sincerity and commitment remained strong despite the enormous pressures endured.
In her blog, the Iranian journalist Jila Bani Yaghough demonstrates her love for her husband and her partner who was kept at Evin prison.
“My darling Bahman, Why did they release me and not you? I feel a great sense of guilt. I ask myself if I made mistakes in my answers during the interrogations. Maybe I showed weakness! Perhaps, I displayed signs of remorse for the actions I had committed prior to my arrest… But, you are strong and tolerant. I am proud of all these characters traits of yours…”
Jila was arrested as a result of her writings in the aftermath of June 2009 elections in Iran, mainly because her writings are clearly worrisome for the Iranian regime.
THIRTY years ban from practicing journalism
Jila was released after two months in a Tehran prison. She received a one-year prison sentence and 30 years ban from practicing her career as a journalist; a sentence intended to permanently silence her.
Jila however, refused to remain silent. During the last one and half years, she has been publishing her love letters to her husband Bahman in her web log.
About her meeting with her husband, she wrote on November 5, 2009:
“I asked him: My darling Bahman, how do you feel when it’s raining outside your cell?”
“He responded: The other prisoners and I sit and silently listen to the sound of rain through that window right below the ceiling… A silence that can convey sorrow… I think about you… I wonder where you are now … in the rain!”
The author of the “Green Revolution”, Ahmad Salamatian writes:
“Jila Bani Yaghoub is an extraordinary woman who is bravely publishing her love letters. Also in her career as a journalist, Jila has consistently maintained journalistic honesty. She is an exemplary role model for her generation … someone who always looks at reality with open eyes.”
During pre-election years, Jila Bani Yaghoub worked at the “Kanoon Zanan” [Women’s Association] as Editor-in-Chief of a website for women’s issues. And prior to that, she had worked for several newspapers which were eventually shut down, one after the other.
For her journalistic work in the war torn neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, Jila received the IWMF (International Women’s Media Foundation) Courage in Journalism Award in 2009. An award created in 2002 in honor of the Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya,
Bahman was working for reformist newspapers such as “Sarmayeh” which was closed a few months before the elections.
Ahmad Salamatian writes:
“Despite heavy censorship and waves of arrests, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee continued reporting what was happening in Iran, with his eyes wide open.”
“He is a symbol of a generation grown in the Islamic Republic. In fact, a generation that has challenged the power of “Authority”, more than any other generation preceding it.”
Bahman steadfastly criticized the economic policies of Ahmadinejad’s administration. His articles eventually led to a 5-year prison sentence as he was charged with propaganda against the regime.
Jila and Bahman however, are not the only journalists facing such troubles. According to Reporters Without Borders, more than 200 journalists and bloggers have been arrested in Iran, since June 2009, with 40 of them still imprisoned. Hundreds of other reporters have been forced to leave the country and 1000’s of other journalists are unemployed and jobless.
Bahman has been an outspoken reporter on women’s conditions
Jila says: For Bahman, expressing the “Truth” for the people, is vitally important. He would never stop telling the truth, even at a heavy personal cost. The sentence given to him is utterly unjust, as he is paying the price for his sense of responsibility and his criticisms. I am deeply committed to his way of thinking and this is what sustains me.”
Jila speaks of all this, as she may soon have to return to prison to begin her one year jail term.
After his arrest in 2008, for attending a Women’s Equal Rights Protests, Bahman has been arrested multiple times for his advocacy of women’s rights. This may defy the society’s conventional tradition. His physical stature certainly doesn’t exactly portray an advocate of Equality for Women! His tall and robust body makes him and Jila an attractive couple.
Jila says that Bahman is deeply committed to the condition of women in Iran and he constantly encourages the women in his family to join he women’s equality movement.
Ever since Bahman was imprisoned, Jila has been writing in her blog about the splendor of their love…
On February 22, 2010 she wrote:
“When I came to visit you, you gave me the pineapple … that you had bought for me as a gift. You knew it is my favorite. From experience, I know that the prison grocery store is much more expensive than other stores. But you wanted me to eat it while I was with you, but your sacrifices make my heart ache…” “Bahman and those in his company are waiting for the day that freedom arrives.”
Today Jila writes: “Bahman will never surrender. He will resist till the end. “
Lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Shirin Ebadi who is an advocate of freedom for journalists, writes about Bahman:
“This brave journalist is in prison, solely because of his writings. He has gone on a hunger strike, several times demanding improvements in the prison conditions. Bahman and his colleagues are hoping and waiting for the day when no citizen may be arrested for his/her writings.”
This is while inside the walls of Evin, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee is deprived of even telephone contacts with his family. His 80 year-old mother who lives at a 1000-kilometer distance from Tehran, is ill and frail and unable to make the trip to see him.
Jila says: “For one entire year Bahman has been deprived of speaking with his mother on the phone. I have repeatedly requested from the judiciary officials and the Prosecutor of Tehran to grant him the chance to hear his mother’s voice. And they keep denying my requests.”
Never show weakness in front of authority
Jila makes a weekly trip to the prison hoping to see her husband. But more often than not, the prison staff doesn’t allow her to visit him. But Jila feels a little closer to her husband, sitting by the walls of the prison… “For months they wouldn’t let me see him. I wasn’t even allowed a cabin visit him. “Says Jila.
In her last posting in her blog, on May 23, 2011, Jila writes: “Bahman had a lump in his throat and tears welled up in his eyes… I kept repeating to him: We have promised to each other to never display weakness … remember?”
For Bahman’s birthday in May, Jila has repeatedly pleaded with the prison officials to allow them a live visit. She blogs: “I lowered my head, looking down; I said to him, I had made these requests to see you because I miss you terribly. He said: “I have told you, this is exactly what they want. They are anxiously waiting for watching you and me in pain.” I answered: “Well, if they see our love as an expression of weakness, then let this be our strength. Our pain only proves that justice is on our side.”
Ahmad Salamatian portrays them as iconic Symbols of Resistance for all of us. “Together, they fight. And theirs is a fight for freedom and for change in the landscape that holds our women in the society. These two are mavericks in a movement that is struggling to change a society bound by ancient tradition.”
Original Article in Farsi
Original Article in Ferench:
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.