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In February, Sepideh Gholian sent a letter to the world from her cell in the women’s ward of Evin Prison. Currently her life hangs by a thread in an Evin Prison quarantine ward (see letter from her family.) See the latest IEC update on Sepideh.

The Farsi news site Akhbar-Rooz published the full text of her letter. Following is a translation by the IEC.

Sepideh Gholian

By way of introduction:

Torture, court corridors, solitary confinement and long journeys of deportation from one prison to another is the story of my life in recent years. The most painful moments, though, are the ones that caused despair and hopelessness for my loved ones and fellow prisoners. The suffering in Bushehr [a prison outside Tehran] suffering was so blatant that I could not see and live in this suffering without speaking out about it; Bari negotiated with the prison guard and Bari published a report on the “woman” situation in Bushehr Central Prison.

But I apologize for adding more pressure on my fellow prisoners in Bushehr prison, because I underwent the deceptive camera {{interview}} of the prison's organization and that inflicted more pain and disseminated more disappointment. I hope that the catastrophic conditions in Bushehr Prison will never again be inflicted on in any human being.

A prison deportee’s body fractures — and mine is now scattered from Tehran to Ahvaz and Bushehr, fragments of my existence left, there and there.

In Sepidar [a prison in Ahvaz, Iran –ed.], I saw an Arab woman whose young son was killed by officers, denied her right to attend the funeral. Now, I only remember her scream: "God, you are not our God!" A cry unheeded in Sepidar, that at any moment can be heard from anyone else's mouth.

My mother, on our last visitation at Sepidar, brought bottles of milk and some other items for the unborn child of Elahe Dervishi. My mom said: "Sepideh! When she delivers her baby, it should be for you as if Tahora and Mehra [Sepideh’s brother and sister] were born." Becoming a mother means the birth of the new and a sign of hope, but becoming a mother in Sepidar is an exile to a desert full of despair at the end of the world. I stroked the belly of a goddess grown tired of slander and humiliation, filled with pain. [Devishi is the name of a goddess of Persian folklore –ed] She still did not know why, at the age of 18, such huge torment had been befallen her. I had yet to see Elahe’s son, who would be born Arabic-speaking, accused and convicted from the moment of birth.

But then my exile certificate arrived and I had to gather the pieces of my heart and and go to Bushehr carrying a world of heartache. I had to say goodbye to Mekieh, who was like my blood sister, Mekieh who had to repeat to interrogators the details of sexual intercourse with her husband. I later heard that she had been killed. When I left Sepidar, I became an exiled woman and remained in exile to this moment.

The days in exile were much longer. In exile, my bones were broken. They never allowed me to return to my homeland, Sepidar. They never let me be one with Sepidar.

I have put Haft Tapeh [where Sepideh was arrested covering the strike of sugar cane workers –ed.] in my eyes, the Arab people and Khuzestan in my heart in my heart. When I was deported to Bushehr, I saw a woman named Mahin Boland Krami. Mahin was a Kurd; she was like the mountains of her homeland, forgotten, sad and with many wounds on her body. Her head was rested on my legs and she was in pain till she died. She was killed simply because her tongue had spoken the truth.

Silence was no longer permissible nor possible. From childhood, I have spoken about the oppression I have seen. But the ongoing suffering in Bushehr prison was hard to believe, even for me who witnessed it. A woman called out from the crowd that it was time to find each other and hold each other’s hands. She was right. Standing on the edge of the abyss, I came back to life. You believed what I had witnessed. You stayed with us. We stayed together and you did not believe the cameras and the lies [referring to the interview the jailers forced her to give, which she recanted –ed].

The reasoning and evidence in the case was so obvious that even in the same courts of repression and blood, I was acquitted of the charge of spreading lies about Bushehr. A better way to put it is that each of us, who had found each other and held each other's hands, were acquitted.

From Evin:

Now I am a woman in love; very much in love. In addition to the fragrance of wood chips, the fragrance of sweets, I fall in love with the resistance of my beloved fellow prisoners. In the midst of the sufferings, a young and loving woman is doomed to pack again. Exile! The torture of going from one prison to another.

Today, I am again in love. Passion, dance and freedom have taken over my whole being, So I want to write to you about the sufferings of several other women, in hopes that you will remember not me, but these women, will speak of them and spread their names from one mouth to another, in hopes that one day, with their lovers, they may tell the story of their romances in their native languages, in neighborhoods that belong to them. Hope that we are happy at last. Let's dance and stand up in the four corners of Iran.

I. Maryam Haji Hosseini has been in prison for more than two years. Maryam is one of those who preferred the thirst of staying in her homeland to the temptation of leaving, hoping to have a part in development. She has told the officials that she is dissatisfied with the country's role in the world, so she stayed to do something about it. But the answer to this vision was to arrest Maryam and accuse her of spying for Israel. She was charged with “corruption on earth” and convicted and sentenced to execution.

She spent 412 days, that is, a year and a few months, in solitary confinement at a secret prison at the foot of the mountains. In an unknown place. Far away, with no word of her son Alireza. She has asked herself a thousand times why she hoped for the prosperity of a country that is so committed to the destruction of its sympathizers. After 412 days, she was transferred to the women's ward of Evin Prison on charges of corruption with a death sentence marked on her forehead.

Now, whenever any official arrives at the women's ward of Evin Prison, she requests for the thousandth time: “If there is a single shred of evidence proving my espionage, please execute me as soon as possible; I can no longer stand this scandal, please execute me.”

II. Niloufar Bayani has been in prison since she was 30 years old on charges of spying for the Mossad, the CIA, and any other institution that comes to mind of the Sepah [Army unit, in charge of these kinds of matters—ed]. She was a United Nations employee and a student at Columbia University. She has been held in solitary confinement for more than two years and is serving her fifth year in prison. During this time she was sometimes taken to the parking lot of empty apartments around the city, sometimes to a villa in Lavasan. The interrogator took Niloufar in these parking lots and empty villas to get her to confess to spying. She endured more than two years in solitary confinement and all kinds of tortures and psychological pressures.

When you think about it, the four pillars of your body tremble, everything starts to die and die and die, what you did and did not do and what you said and did not say become run together until you cannot tell what you are saying, whether it's a confession of espionage, or a confession to the murder of a supposedly living interrogator who is registering your confession to his own murder!

Niloufar, who has spent all her time and life loving nature, is now here and can only greet the fishes from a distance.

III. Nahid Taghavi, a dual citizen, came to Iran from Germany. She is a communist and longs for justice and freedom. But she was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison. Her child waits for her mother outside Iran. The mother does not have a visit, visitation rights, but does not raise an eyebrow. When she returns from her phone calls, she is so happy to have talked with her girl. Her daughter is worried about the prisoners. Worried about her mother's fellow prisoners. It seems that she also lives here in Evin Prison.

Her mother turns to me, her eyes bright with tears and excitement, and tells me that Maryam is no longer the same old Maryam. Now, her heart is in Evin. Her heart is with the people of Iran. Her heart beats for the freedom of Iran. Nahid was interrogated and tortured for months. She was given a medical furlough but that was taken away, which is itself is a case of torture. The reality of Nahid hugging her daughter, Maryam, is at the mercy of Iran-Germany relations! Nahid got Corona virus and was one of the few who did not receive medical leave. Nahid never cries unless a cellmate cries.

IV. Zohreh Sarv, a monarchist prisoner sentenced to seven years in prison. Zohreh was imprisoned in Qarchak for two whole years. Her release did not last more than two months, and she was re-arrested. A resilient and very sympathetic and kind woman. Zoher’s sick mother has no one but her and is waiting for her child to be released.

V. Shohreh (Leila) Gholikhani, a royalist/monarchist prisoner who has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison in absolute solitude. She has been presumed to be so lonely and helpless that they have seized all her assets, namely 21 million tomans of her mortgage equity have been taken away. God knows how much this woman mourned the loss of this money, her entire lifesavings. Only God knows.

VI. Glareh Abbasi has not spoken for a long time. She just screams, screams and in pain. Glareh has both rheumatism and osteoarthritis, suffers from spinal canal stenosis, and has five protruding lumbar discs. Add to this the pain of sciatica and heart failure, see what she has left but pain?

VII. Zahra Zehtabachi is the oldest female prisoner in Evin Prison. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison, of which 9 years have passed. Only once during this time has she been sent on leave due to coronavirus. Mina, her daughter, was 11 years old when Zahra was arrested. Zahra was interrogated in solitary confinement for more than a year after her arrest. During this time, her husband and older daughter, Narges, were also arrested and harassed. Zahra's father is one of the victims of the bloody massacre of political prisoners in the 1980s.

VIII. Sepideh Kashani has been sentenced to six years in prison. Like Niloufar, she has been accused of espionage and has been held in solitary confinement for more than two years under the most severe psychological pressure and torture. Sepideh and Hooman were classmates, companions, colleagues, in conversations, spouses, companions, fellow travelers, sympathizers, in the same groups, consonants, coordinators, like-minded people, and companions. Because of the hum caused by some people's illusion of "complicity," they are both caged and bound. But as long as the source of the flow of their vast cycle of "togetherness" is the source of life and nature, these illusions will be transient.

Sepideh Gholian

February 2022, Evin Prison Women's Ward

Read more on Sepideh.