[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]

 

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]

 

[Adapted from website:] Writings of Bahman Ahmadi Amouie

[Date:] 2 Bahman 1393 [22 January 2015]

 

The Over-Sixty-Years-Old Political Prisoners

These Elderly Prisoners of Rajaei-Shahr [Prison]

The sun is not hot enough in the early days of winter to warm the bones of the imprisoned elderly men. One has pulled his pants up to his knees and walks fast, from one corner of the yard where the sun shines, over to other part. Another one walks slowly with a cane; painstakingly putting his hand against the wall, he pulls himself under the sun. One has taken off his shirt with his back towards the sun. A few have sat on a metal bench and look at the mountain in front of them, which is visible from a distance. The days are getting shorter and the sun shines dimly. Two hours a day of walking outside the cell does not help much to use the fresh air and the dim sun in early winter.

Of the eighty-five prisoners of conscience and political prisoners in Hall 12 of Rajaei-Shahr Prison, thirteen are over sixty years old. These people make up 15% of the total prisoners and are between sixty and eighty-six years old. Two of them are from Iraq and the rest are Iranians.

Amongst the prisoners, one can see among the various political and ideological groups those accused of espionage. The journalists, human rights lawyers, sympathizers of the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization, and members of the Baha’i community in Iran make up the largest number of prisoners. Interestingly, the older these imprisoned elderly men are, the longer their sentences. Their sentences last for twenty years or they are life sentence. Some have been in prison for fifteen years, while others are in their fifth and sixth years.

… Riazollah Sobhani is one of the directors of the virtual university of the Baha’i community of Iran. He is a 63-year-old civil engineer. He walks with difficulty; when you pass by him, you are afraid that he may fall. Until a few months ago, his right leg was broken, and he had difficulty walking. In order to go out under the sun and warm himself, one or two people would hold his arms. He is thin and has a bony structure. He looks much older that his actual age. No one can believe that he is 63 years old. All his hair has gone grey. He talks fragmentarily. He can hardly breathe.

… Mahmoud Badavam is sixty years old, head of the physics department at Baha’i University in Iran, who will end his four-year prison term in Ordibehesht [April/May] next year. He had been imprisoned in the 1360s [1980s] too. At that time, he spent three years in prison for membership in the Baha’i community in Iran. In the same Rajaei-Shahr [prison] and the same cells that are now called rooms, he always has a smile on his face; however, sometimes he says that he is not feeling good and feels miserable―as we all were. He teaches English to several people. He enjoys the winter sun, by walking slowly. He says this with a laugh and adds, “I still do not know why we should be in prison. All I did was gather the children who could not go to university and educate them in the houses and rented places. I do not think this is a crime anywhere in the world”.

… Jamaloddin Khanjani has an interesting story. He says,In 1366 [1987/1988], we were awaiting execution in prison, but we were released.” He is the only survivor of the third generation of leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran after the revolution. All members of the two groups [who were] leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran were arrested in 1361 and 1362 [1982 and 1983], and there was never any news of their fate. He is the survivor of the third generation of these leaders. He is eighty-one years old and in 1386 [2007] was arrested with six other leaders of this community. Each was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and now they are in prison for the sixth year. Two of his grandchildren were also arrested in 1388 [2009]. Leva was imprisoned in the women’s prison for two years, and Foad spends his four-year sentence two rooms away from his grandfather. His son was also arrested four months ago and for a while several generations of the family were in prison―the grandfather, the son and the grandson. He has just returned from the hospital, after undergoing heart surgery. He looks healthy and does not appear to be 81 years old. He was in this prison when his wife died, and he was not allowed to attend her funeral.

… Behrouz Tavakkoli is a sixty-three-year-old professor of ethics and theology in the Baha’i community of Iran. He is from Mashhad, but he has travelled all over Iran. He also has good memories of Khuzestan. He is one of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran serving a 20-year prison sentence. He is also in his sixth year of prison. Tavakkoli is one of the people who make the most of two hours of daily fresh air. He walks and runs for about an hour. His constant companion, Farahmand Sanaie, is another Baha’i from Gorgan, with whom he spends most of his time; he is serving a 10-year sentence. He teaches Arabic to young people and has good religious knowledge, including of other religions. It has been a while since he started learning English and every morning you see him sitting in the hallway from eight o’clock, busy with it until a few hours later.

… Kamran Mortezaie, sixty-two years [old], is one of the first founders of the Baha’i community university of Iran. From 1367 [1988] until his arrest, three years ago, he was one of the directors of this university. This is a university that has already educated more than 4,000 students; one of its successes has been in providing opportunities for some of its best students to continue their studies at universities in countries such as Canada, Australia and Spain. He is serving a five-year sentence. He says he was one of the best chess players of the Aryamehr University, which is now called Sharif University. Even now he is a chess champion, and no one can compete with him. He teaches English to other prisoners and is keen to learn French. He walks and jogs for an hour every day in the rare sun of these days.

… When it gets cold, the only people you see in the icy and cold prison yard are these old men. All the younger ones are cowering in the corners or asleep.