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.
Saeed Matinpour - political prisoner in Iran
My Husband is deprived of the most basic joys of life / Conversations with Saeed Matinpour’s wife9 August 2011
Translated by Azita Eraani
khabarnegaran. info-Maral Khatami:Saeed Matinpour, an Azerbaijani journalist and civil activist, known for his defense of the right to an education in his native Turkish language. He is sentenced to 8 years in prison. He was charged with “Propagating against the state” and “Foreign connections” by Judge Salevati who had reviewed most of the 108 cases of journalists and activists arrested in the aftermath of 2009 elections, and handed down heavy fines and long prison sentences, without due process. Matinpour is currently serving the 2nd year of his prison term most of which has been spent in solitary confinement, under torture and a resulting heart condition.
In an interview with Khabarnegaran Iran, Matinpour’s wife, Atieh Tahery wished that “the peaceful and patriotic young citizens of the country were not always treated as suspects,” while holding back her tears.
When was the last time you visited your husband and what condition was he in?
I saw him 15 days ago. He has been suffering from various ailments that untreated for so long, they have become chronic. His heart is failing. He has had several minor heart attacks so far. His spine and lower back are also troubling him.
Have you had any success with your demands for improvement of his conditions that are the root cause of his ailments?
Unfortunately no! About two months ago prison authorities said that he could go to the hospital providing that he remains cuffed and chained! He vehemently refused the condition. His repeat requests for a medical leave have so far been denied.
Has his lawyer been able to visit him yet?
The answer is no. That too has been denied.
Judge Salevati has convicted your husband to 7 years in prison for “Foreign connections” and an additional one year for “Propagating against the state”, while all documents and reports about him only mention his demands for Turkish language to be taught in schools. What in your opinion is the reason for such a vast disparity between his activity and his punishment? What else has he done?
Saeed has amply posted all his thoughts and demands in his weblog, as well as in published media, none of which have been illegal. It seems to me that the authorities are intentionally pressuring the people to the degree where objections can turn into violence, so that they can intensify their crackdown process. I fail to see the logic behind so much suspicion about peaceful and caring youth like Saeed and many other prisoners. Saeed’s only requests are cultural and social in nature. I think another motive behind their behavior is to instill fear in the public’s hearts, which is why they won’t tolerate even the most basic and rudimentary social demands. Interestingly enough, the first interrogator had told Saeed that “I’ll give you 8 years in prison, just to show you who you’re dealing with here!” which is what came to pass.
To visit your husband in prison, you have to travel a long distance from Zanjan to Tehran. What sort of problems has that issue been causing you?
Traveling this road is not only arduous and dangerous, but also a major waste of time and energy that is unjustly spent. Saeed is constantly worried for me, given the unsafe and dangerous roads and my own pressures. He is not even allowed telephone access for us to maintain contact. I come down every week to see him and his parents and brother visit him while I’m back in Zanjan.
According to the articles of prison laws, the officials are legally obligated to arrange for the convict to serve time in a prison facility closest to his/her place of residence. Have you taken any legal action to request the transfer of your husband closer to home?
No. Because political prisoners are not kept in Zanjan’s prison. Not that there is a legal mandate to this effect. In fact they would hold a political prisoner in the same cells as hardcore criminals which in itself can be another cause for concern. So, we prefer the long commute over that option, knowing that Saeed would be in a slightly safer condition.
What are the most troubling worries of a political prisoner’s wife?
Well, I’m always thinking that Saeed is deprived of his favorite activities. When I eat, when I take a walk, when I visit the library, when I go to the produce-market where he used to go to every other day for a stroll… I think of him every moment of every day, constantly saddened at the thought that Saeed is deprived of even the simplest joys of life - through no fault of his own…
You have spent two Norouz New Years so far without your husband. Certainly there’ve been other momentous occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, without him. How do you spend those days?
More than any other holiday, Saeed loves Chaharshanbeh Souri [Persian fire festival preceding the New Year]. My preference is to be left alone on that day and just spend the day with thoughts of him. But his family members stay with me so I wouldn’t be alone.
What is your request from Intelligence sources that could potentially influence your husband’s case?
I plead with them to please let go of their unwarranted suspicions of innocent Iranians. So many of our precious resources are locked up in prisons across the country, withering away... Please let go of your negative views, so that you can see that the likes of Saeed are simply demanding progress, prosperity and pride for all our citizens, and nothing else…
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.