How can you order someone walking ever so patiently to stop?

By: Nikzad Zangeneh

Monday 8 June 2009

Translated by: Roja Bandari

Vozara Detention Center:

Short of space and short of breath, I haven’t been able to sleep all night. The small opening in the cell’s iron door is the only pathway for light and air. My eyelids are heavy and I go in and out of sleep. Someone calls me from far away and I jump up, startled. The pathway of light and air is now framing a familiar face. She smiles and looks at me. Her presence here is so sudden and unthinkable that I’m left dumbfounded for a few minutes. They open the door and she walks in. She tells me about the vague and sketchy search warrant that was used to search her home; about the pile of belongings confiscated from her residence; the stairs on which she was violently dragged barefoot; the light switch that had stayed on; She talks about the anxious look in Kaveh’s eyes and about her mom shouting behind the closed doors of Vozara detention center at midnight, objecting to her arrest. I look at her in shock. She hasn’t slept a wink tonight; when she finally falls asleep quiet in the dark corner of the cell I feel an impulse to stroke her hair.

Evin Prison:

Her hands are more accustomed to giving than receiving. The dimples on her cheeks are where laughter congregates. She sits in a corner patiently and solves sudoku puzzles, deep in her thoughts. She doesn’t make a fuss, she doesn’t complain, and she doesn’t act homesick, but the brown of her eye is too honest to hide the turmoil within. She is friends with most of the inmates* and knows their pain and problems more than the prison counselors or staff. She endures a lot of pressure during her interrogations. She objects to the way she was arrested and how she was informed of her charges. She is heartbroken and sorrowful but keeps smiling and giving everyone energy. She deals with the long and gray days of prison with utmost patience. When the list** of 35 people who can post bail is announced on Saturday, she smiles with dignity and gives me a big hug -her name is the only one not included. The knot in my throat breaks open and tears stream down my face; it is not for the long interrogations, not for the degradation, nor our incarceration, nor the heartache we endured, but because I’m being a "half-way friend", leaving her to stay there for the rest of the way. I weep without holding back.

This side of the bars:

It’s been 15 days since I saw her last. Her arbitrary detention has lasted a whole month now and the struggle for her release continues. And though my heart is burning with hope for her release, my eyes shed tears time and again when I think about the long and miserable days of prison and her loneliness, her worries, and her quiet angst. I only wish someone could say this to her prosecutor: "the thought of this young woman, who has disturbed your delusional siesta of phony security, remains bright and alive in our hearts, just like the light of her invaded home."

This article was written by Nikzad Zanganeh, a student and member of the One Million Signatures Campaign who was arrested on May 1st for her participation in a workers’ day gathering. Jelveh Javaheri’s spouse, Kaveh, was arrested in the same event and authorities arrested Jelveh in their home while searching their residence without a suitable warrant. The women were taken to Vozara Detention center first and then transferred to Evin prison. Nikzad shared a cell with Jelveh. Authorities continues to visit Jelveh and Kaveh’s empty home even days after their arrest.

* Jelveh had been arrested on other occasions due to her writings and work in a women’s rights website called Zanestan. She spent a month in Evin prison and was one of the Campaign members who shed light on the condition of female inmates. Maryam Hosseinkhah was another woman who wrote about this extensively.

** 35 women who were arrested on May 1st were permitted to post bail and be released. Jelveh’s name was the only one missing from this list.


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