[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:] Alborz News

[Date:] 10 Mordad 1392 [1 August 2013]


Heshmat Tabarzadi

In 1379 [2000], after spending about five months in solitary confinement in sections 240 and 209, we were transferred to section 350 and Kachooei in Karaj, and then to Rajaei-Shahr [prison]. Although it was very bitter and accompanied by white torture, its memory is sweet! When we were transferred to Rajaei-Shahr [prison], several of us were first settled in Husayniiyyih, Hall 8, Ward 3. After the seven to eight months that we were there, they transferred everyone to the next ward, i.e. Hall 12, ward 4. We moved in the middle of winter and the hall was extremely dirty, cold and lifeless. But the good thing was that we were all political prisoners together, and in fact the foundation of the Rajaei-Shahr [prison] political hall was laid from here.

The Green Movement that we were, the Kurds, the Mujahidin, the Baha’is, and the new and old independent people came together and formed a completely pluralistic society.

Living in this hall, and with this multiplicity of opposing beliefs, tendencies, and morals, was indeed a very, very good practical lesson for anyone who wanted to practice democracy and respect the opposition, and even people with special mental problems.

We did not have a telephone, we did not have face-to-face meeting, the hall was closed, we were completely quarantined; those who were in such places know what we suffered and they are still suffering. These last three years of my imprisonment were all about such bitter and sweet experiences, which of course hold sweet memories. Now I do not want to write my memoirs or deal with these matters. I just want to mention one or two points from these memories and life in Hall 12.

… But apart from my fellow diners, I had a special friendship with some inmates. For example, Isa Saharkhiz, Reza Rafeie and [Mansour] Osanlou were in this category. In addition to these cellmates and fellow diners, we were very involved with a few other people. One of them was Afif Naimi, one of the Baha’i leaders; we were very friendly, and our moral values were well-matched. Another was Engineer [Kamran] Mortezaie, one of the Baha’i professors who worked on our English language for more than a year with friends such as Isa, Ahmad Zeidabadi and Majid Tavakkoli and me, to whom I will be grateful for the rest of my life. I also had close friendship with Khanjani, Tavakkoli, Tizfahm and Rezaie, and other Baha’i leaders. Prior to my transfer, I was in section 209; I was alone in the cell 123, and these friends were in cell 124.

I do not have anything to do with their belief and the beliefs of anyone else, but in all fairness, they are people with good morals―dignified and sorely wronged.

My mother is an old woman with a traditional Shia religion and the mother of two who died in the war, but whenever she came to visit me, she would ask about these oppressed Baha’is. She would ask, is there anything that can be done for them? She still asks and is very worried about them. Naimi once told me, “When your mother comes, I want to talk to her.” I passed the phone to my mother and he said, “Hello mother, I want to say thanks [Persian idiom][1].” He [Afif Naimi] loved me very much and even now my heart is with them. There was a special friendship among the families in the meeting hall, among the Green Movement, the Mujahidin, the Baha’is, the Kurds, the Communists. My wife, who is not political in the conventional sense, used to tell me that all these people are truly being mixed together. She was referring to Baha’is, Muslims, etc. And they truly were mixed to the point of scaring some people. Indeed, in the 21st century, who are the ones who claim to be fatherly to the people of all walks of life and talk about religion, spirituality and humanity, and ask people to be enemies with each other, illogically, unintentionally and only because of differences of opinion!?

I do not know, for example, what crime Iqan Shahidi, a Baha’i student, committed that he should be imprisoned. He would take the [food serving] trolley of the hall and shout, “Friends, come and get your dinner or lunch!” and scream “We have pottage, pottage, we have pottage!”

Inside me, I would struggle with a complex of dramatic, humorous, incomprehensible and painful feelings. I would say to myself that this man with the humorous scream, “We have pottage, we have pottage,” should be in class now. For heaven’s sake, why should he be in Rajaei-Shahr [prison]? I have asked myself this question maybe a thousand times.

For example, Khanjani, the 80-year-old man, or Naimi, who has a physical problem, or Tavakkoli, who is so lovable―why!? What have they done? That is, propagating a belief, to the extent that [they would have to suffer the bastinado with a cable… happy are those who are not among the perverse sects and are among the guided sects! So far, we have become friends with [members of] these misguided and perverse sects, having the same fate. Indeed, how do these perverse sects educate such people with high morality, but these guided sects ...

…This mother of mine does not leave me alone…as if her own son is in such a good condition that she keeps asking, can you not do anything for them? I do not know what hand is at work in uniting so many people of all religions and races. Undoubtedly, if you ask my wife, my mother or Afif Naimi and Khanjani, they will say “God’s”. By saying similar words, we go to prison. Do you not think we have performed an impossible task? I almost forgot Sobhani, the old man… they are not just one or two! We jokingly told our Baha’i friends that they had become the majority for the first time. There are more than 30 of them in Rajaei-Shahr [prison].


[1] [The original text is: “بر ان شیری که دادی به این فرزندت”]