The Sorrowful Tales of Women at Evin Prison
Saturday 5 January 2008
By Jelve Javaheri
Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi
This is Evin’s female ward, it holds a thousand and one tales, which wind together in the corners of these endless cells, only to be repeated again and again. These are true stories of the lives of women, whose beings ache with sympathy when they learn that you have been arrested for writing and talking about women’s rights. Here in the female ward of Evin prison, we don’t need to provide examples when we talk about our demands. Torn to pieces, the lives of these prisoners, are testament enough to our objection to unjust laws, and serve as valid examples of which we speak. Many of these women have landed in prison, simply because they did not have the right to divorce. Yes, the blame for many of the cases where these women have resorted to the killing of their husbands, can be found in laws which prevent women from obtaining a divorce.
A tired woman takes me to the see the prison social worker, and in this short distance she wails at the fact that she is now imprisoned because she murdered her husband. "Fereshteh" was her husband’s fourth wife—a man who beat her tirelessly. "I had grown tired of my predicament and so I requested a divorce," she explains. But in response her husband punched and kicked her more furiously than before and the physical struggle that ensued finally led to his death. Now Fereshteh is condemned to live in the corridors of stories and tales that make up this place. With the help of her daughters and son Zahra murdered her husband. Together they were taken to prison. Zahra and her daughters believe prison to be a better place than their home. The hell that was their home had in reality an unknown and unpredictable future. Zahra explains that now she can have a moment’s peace and calm and even be hopeful about her own future and that of her children. She explains that even if they had decided to run away, her husband would have found them, and would have killed them one by one. They had tried all possible paths, but without any options in the midst of laws that provided them with no solutions, and the depths of hopelessness, they had arrived at the only solution—the death of her husband. Only his death could provide them with refuge.
Parvin values honesty above all else. With insistence she marries a man who is honest and wants desperately to make her happy. Instead she becomes a prisoner of the four walls that make up her home and the desires of a man who wanted to make her happy. The honest man becomes an addict and during arguments punches and kicks his wife, and every night he leaves to pursue another woman. Their son gets wind of his father’s affairs and reprimands his mother. The next time that Parvin is beaten by her husband, she decides to go to court to so that perhaps with a doctor’s confirmation she can file for divorce. The judge though explains that "your husband has to beat you three times, and every time you need to go to the coroner’s office to get a doctor’s confirmation that you have actually been beaten, then you can file for and be granted a divorce." Parvin explains that her husband is an addict. The judge explains that if "you commit your husband for treatment three times, and he still does not manage to overcome his addiction, then you can file for and be granted a divorce." Parvin explains that they have irreconcilable differences. The Judge explains that "if seven months pass and…" And Parvin is overwhelmed by the "ifs" and "buts" presented to her, until finally she surrenders her will to another man who wants to make her happy. The man, with Parvin’s consent, murders her husband, and in the end her story becomes one of many tales in the winding corridors of the Female ward of Evin prison.
Sepideh who cannot secure a divorce from her drug dealer husband, heads for the prison that her husband has built for her. Sepideh who does not have the power to make decisions in her own home, is now in prison, on charges of sale of illegal drugs and collaboration with her husband, who was arrested a year and half ago. Despite having repeatedly sought a divorce from her husband, Sepideh is now condemned to serve a prison term for his crimes.
In every corner of the female ward of Evin prison, you hear stories of women who with the help of the law and by force of their fathers have married at a young age and who by force of their husbands, have sold drugs, and the law has failed to adequately support them.
In every corner of this prison, you see women who as a result of the violence and beatings bestowed upon them by their husbands, have resorted to criminal acts. These women could not escape the tightly knit protective hold of their families binding them to their violent circumstance. But now in prison they have no callers and there is no sign of their "loving" families. They have been forgotten by the families of their fathers and husbands, who have played a part in their road to prison.
We are journalists and women’s rights activists who have come here, but who will be released in a matter of months or perhaps even years. Nevertheless, we will eventually be released. Each of us benefit from a modicum of support, whether from our families or from our friends and no matter how long we have to stay imprisoned, when we are finally released we will benefit from that support on the outside. But these other female prisoners, who are in Evin because of crimes that in many instances they committed due to lack of options, enjoy no support and have no one waiting for them outside these walls. They have little knowledge of the law and if they are lucky enough to be released from prison, they imagine that they will receive no support and have through circumstance and experience come to view their connections as non-existent and destroyed.
The stories that are told behind the walls of this prison seem insignificant and perhaps outside of this place they are not news worthy as they will not move or affect anyone. No one will take it upon themselves to share the stories of these women. But each of these stories is testament to the lives of women lost and sacrificed.