Home Political Prisoners Imprisoned Iranian protesters share a bond forged in hell
Imprisoned Iranian protesters share a bond forged in hell Print E-mail

Former inmates describe the horrors they endured during five days in Kahrizak prison in Tehran after their arrests during postelection unrest.


February 14, 2010|By Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghi

Reporting from Tehran and Beirut — "What is this place?" the guard shouted. "The end of the world!" the prisoners replied. "Are you happy with the food?" he demanded.

"Yes, sir!" they answered.

"Have you been tamed?" he asked. "Yes, sir!"

As ordered, they answered as one. And over the next five hellish days, they forged a bond that would remain even when they were freed. Cut off from the world, the 147 Iranian protesters rounded up during a July 9 demonstration in Tehran and stuffed into the notorious Kahrizak prison found they could rely only on themselves.

At first some of the prisoners hogged the space in their cramped cell or stretched their legs out. But as hours turned into days, they all began to cooperate.

"As our stay in Kahrizak lingered, a trust grew among us, and the selfish inmates were outnumbered by the unselfish ones," recalled Hatef, 22, who asked that his last name not be used out of fear for his safety.

He was among several former detainees, their lawyers and relatives who provided a rare inside account of a prisoner abuse scandal that continues to serve as a rallying point.

Some of the protesters had been horribly beaten even before they arrived at Kahrizak, and the prisoners banded together to care for the most seriously wounded: the aspiring filmmaker, the nephew of one of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's security chiefs, the son of a conservative politician.

On Thursday nights, the evening Iranians devote to the souls of the dead, some of the former detainees contact one another via coded text messages.

And they meet at the cemetery to honor the dead of Kahrizak.

Thrown together

It began in a police station courtyard.

Their legs lashed together with electrical cables, the demonstrators -- part of the protest movement that sprang up after June's disputed presidential election -- were lined up while a judge read out the charges: acting against national security, arson, damaging public property, clashing with law enforcement and colluding with foreign news media.

"All of you will stay in jail at Kahrizak and by the end of summer you will be tried in court," said the judge, identified -- by two of the former detainees and an attorney pursuing legal action -- as Sohrab Heydarifard, deputy to Saeed Mortazavi, the notorious former Tehran prosecutor general.



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