Be the voice of political prisoners in Iran
Shiva Mahbobi’s speech at the International Conference on Human Rights in Iran- Mainz- Germany 15 October 2011
Shiva Mahbobi an Iranian former political prisoner. Prior to her arrest she was active in student movement in Iran against the Islamic regime of Iran. She was arrested when she was 16 and spent three and a half years in prison. Shiva left Iran for Turkey in 1992; she was a refugee rights campaigner in Turkey. She then went to Canada where she was the coordinator of the Action Committee in Defence of Women’s Right in Iran- Canada. She has campaigned for women’s right, abolition of stoning and the death penalty, refugees’ rights all her life. She is currently spokesperson of Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran (CFPPI). firstname.lastname@example.org
Be the voice of political prisoners in Iran
There are numerous evidences showing widespread crimes committed by the Islamic Regime in Iran and I’m sure other speakers will touch on those points as well. In my speech, I will briefly talk about crimes committed by the regime in Iran, and the effect of imprisonments, tortures and executions on the families of those in jail. But the main emphasize of my talk today would be on the significance of the political prisoners in the society, and also the struggle that is currently going on to free all those innocent girls and boys, men and women, who have spent many years in captivity for merely willing to exercise their freedom of expression and expressing their discontent with the Islamic regime in Iran. But, first, let me start with my own personal experience:
I was only 15 years old when my best friend Vahideh was executed in 1983; we studied in the same school; she was part of the student movement at the time. She was arrested and was executed among other political prisoners.
I went to her memorial to see her mother. As soon as I I walked into the room her mother hugged me, held me tight and kissed me all over and said that I am reminding her of her daughter Vahideh. At that moment my own sorrow of losing my best friend was overshadowed by the grief of Vahideh’s mother: my hands were frozen, and I wasn’t able to move. I couldn’t even cry.
Many years have passed since Vahideh’s execution and my encounter with her mother, but every time I think of that moment I remember the immense sadness that I witness in her eyes. The sadness of a mother who loved her daughter and did everything to provide the best upbringing for Vahideh, she had so much hope for her future, but was denied even to hug her dear daughter before her execution. She has to live with that longing for rest of her life. She’s not alone.
Vahideh’s mother was not the only mother who lost her daughter to injustice, thousands of other parents spend days and nights regretting that they aren’t able to see and hug their loved ones anymore. Thousands of people, like me, have lost their best friends. Thousands of children will not see their parents ever again, they have been executed by the Islamic Regime; some of these children hope to see their parents again, but they can’t, because they’ve been put in prison by the Islamic Regime.
We shouldn’t forget that the imprisonment, torture and execution aren’t the only types of crime the regime in Iran has committed. There are constant pressures, emotionally and psychologically, exerted on the families and children of the political prisoners. In many instance, the family and loved ones of the political prisoners are thrown in jail to put more pressure on the prisoners. In other instances the regime and their thugs have arrested, threatened, harassed, hurt and ill-treated the families and children of the political prisoners to prevent them from speaking to the media and publicizing their cases. The impact of torture and execution of the parents on the emotional development of their children is an extensive discourse which unfortunately has not been fully discussed in meetings and conferences and I’m unable to go over them in details in this short speech, but I hope there will be opportunities in future to discuss this important matter. I would like to just give you one example:
Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, a worker’s and children’s rights activist, was arrested in 2010 and when I spoke with his 12 years old son at the time, he mentioned that he hasn’t seen his father for 70 days, and was pleading for his release from prison. I thought to myself, a child needs the attention and the affection of his parents every day, but instead, Behnam’s son knows that his dad is in prison, he is unable to see him, and he has to spend days and nights wishing that his father comes home. Instead of attention from father, Behna’s son is witnesses his mother’s crying every day. At the age of 12, he doesn’t know when, and if, he would be able to see his father ever again, and he knows that he has to live with that feeling for an uncertain future. At the age of 12, he’s only allowed to see his father from behind bars, once in a while and when the authorities allow Behnam to have a visitor. Just imagine your son, imagine any other 12 years old boy or girl, born in Germany, Canada, England or any other cities in Europe or North America, who is forced to live in the same situation, and think of the daily and devastating psychological effects that this boy has to go through every day.
The parents of the political prisoners can never forget or forgive what has happened to their loved ones. My sorrow is not only for Vahideh and her parents; my sorrow is for all other parents who have lost their children. Do you know why when there is a memorial for an executed prisoner hundreds of people will show up? To sympathise with that family, because they’ve gone through the same experience, but more importantly, is a show of force, and with their presence, they’re trying to show the authorities that this family is not alone and there are hundreds of other families who support them.
Every time a political prisoner is executed, the regime is fearful of the memorial gatherings and tries to disassemble the crowd. This fear is real, because the regime knows that for people in Iran, torturing and executing one prisoner will not go down as an isolated incident, and is not only the families of the executed prisoner that has been effected, rather the effect of torturing and executing one prisoners has a far reaching implications and the wound will penetrates, and hurts into the hearts of millions of people. This hatred of the people in Iran towards the Islamic Regime will grow every day, and consequently, will make them more and more adamant in their fight against the regime. This fight will continue ceaselessly until the regime is toppled and freedom is returned to Iran.
Let’s focus on ‘Free all political prisoners in Iran’ and examine the position this slogan has in the struggles of Iranian people, because it has been widely used in almost all mass demonstrations inside and outside of Iran. This slogan emphasizes on the fight back of political prisoners for freedom in Iran, is the framework of the fight for freedom in Iran and demonstrates the advancement of the movement against the Islamic regime in Iran. The struggle in Iran is not a classical struggle, in essence, of people who lived in a dictatorship societies, where one could have been thrown in jail for being a member of an opposition political party. In Iran today, the struggle for freedom is not limited to members of political parties, or political activists only. One doesn’t need to be affiliated to any opposition movement, or a political party to be arrested, tortured and even executed. The Islamic Regime has an absolute zero tolerance for any signs of dissent or opposition, and will arrest, torture and execute all members of the society who show or shout any signs of disagreement with its establishment, and yet, despite all these, the regime clearly knows that even these draconian measures are not enough, and will not silence people any longer. The Islamic Regime is caught in an unwinnable battle, and all these acts of misdemeanours will only extend its life a little longer, but not for long. The people in Iran will defeat the Islamic Regime, and the question is not if, but when.
– Women who protested against the religious dress code, and demanded to be treated equally, they are been thrown to prison and were rape. There are thousands of examples to back this claim.
– Youth, Boys and girls, who demanded to have a better life, better education and better living standards, free of all these draconian and oppressive system, they’re been thrown to prison and were raped and tortured.
– Mothers of the political prisoners who demanded to know the whereabouts of their loved one, are thrown to prison
– Women and men who follow the Baha’i faith are thrown in prison solely because they’re Baha’i
– Homosexuals are thrown to prison, tortured, executed or even stoned to death for their homosexuality
– Workers who demand their back pay, their right to organise, their right to strike, or want to organise the May Day are being thrown to prison and their families are constantly harassed.
Anyone who protests against the brutal and tyrannical system and regulations of the Islamic Regime will be subjected to imprisonment, torture, and execution.
The definition of a political prisoner in Iran has changed from its classical meaning. I believe when we speak of our struggle to free political prisoners we need to have a very broad and comprehensive definition of political prisoner. Currently there are different classifications of political prisoners: Civil right prisoners, prisoners of conscious, reformist prisoners and etc. But who are all these people? Aren’t these people fighting against the Islamic Regime with their belief, faith, gender, sexual orientation, behaviours in public, or even the kinds of clothes they wear in public?
A mother who has never been a member of a political party, or has never been involved in any political activities is being thrown to prison and even being tortured just for demanding to see her son or daughter who is in prison, or for going to her loved one’s grave to cry and remember them. What definition applies to her?
I believe anyone who has been thrown into prison for the sake of being involved in protest and activities against the oppressive system and policies of the Islamic Regime should be called a political prisoner. Having a broad and accurate definition is very important, because it accurately illustrates the magnitude of the crimes committed by the Islamic Regime in Iran. The regime in Iran, in order to prolong its existence, and to push back the resistance, represses any sign opposition and opposition activates, and our role is to widely expose this repressive system and its heads of state in an international level and show all levels of crimes that have been committed by this regime.
Let us look at the bigger picture. The struggle to free political prisoners in Iran is not just to free few political prisoners; this symbolized the struggle of people in Iran against the totality of the Islamic Regime. Throughout the past 32 year’s lifetime of the Islamic Regime, many families have had their children spend most of their lives in prison, being tortured and executed. As the repression by the regime was intensified, the number of political prisoner was increased. At the same time, when the people’s struggle for freedom intensified, the regime was forced to retreat temporarily. The escalation of the struggle in Iran sometimes shatters the regime’s means of suppression, even for a brief period, and changes the balance of the struggle towards people. This imposes on the regime, a period of relative openness in some aspects of the society. The regime is alarmed, terrified and worried about the struggle of people for change, clearly know that if it allows the resistance to escalate, there will be no Islamic regime anymore, and that’s why crushes any sign of uprising and revolt.
As I mentioned before, lots of parents lost their children to imprisonment and executions, that means, in the past 32 years, the regime has been mounting its crime in Iran, and based on the undeniable existing evidences, no one, except the regime and its leaders, are able to cover up and deny these vast crimes carried out by the this regime. When there is a talk about these crimes, some segment of the so-called opposition and reformist groups, likes of Musavi and Kahrubi purposefully try to conceal a big portion of these crimes, and only speak of the regime’s brutalities from 2009 and onwards, but not before that. You know why? They have had a decisive role on the pre 2009 crimes, because they have been in power up until then, and have been an influential and instrumental in carrying forward the suppressive and killing machine of the regime against the people in Iran.
I, as an ex-political prisoner have all the rights to ask these groups and their leaders why my imprisonment and torture which happened right under the eyes of statesmen like Musavi and Kahrubi, should not be included, and be the focus of the investigations into the totality of the crimes committed by this regime? Under Mir-Hussain Musavi’s prime ministerial thousands of young boys and girls, women and men were arrested, tortured, and executed. If you haven’t lived in Iran you can check the Iran Tribunal website and see some of the evidences being documented, or have a look at the 148 pages of the extensive current report compiled by Judge Jeffery Robertson on our website: http://www.iranpoliticalprisoners.com
When I try to speak of the continuous crimes and viciousness of the whole of the regime, activists of Musavi’s campaign try to silence us with the excuse that ‘past is past’. They speak as if the regime in Iran all of a sudden, and only from 2009, changed to be brutal and started executing innocent people. They think that if they keep silent about pre 2009 crimes of the regime, it will go away, but they’re wrong, and they clearly know that their hands are as dirty as others, and blood spills from their hands as much as the hands of other leaders, prime minister, judges, secret service personnel’s, police, Revolutionary guards, Basij militia members and other thugs.
When investigated Pinochet and his regime in Chile, the prosecutors investigated the totality of his crime and started from beginning to the end; they didn’t start half way try to let some perpetrators walk free without paying for their crime. If this was true for the likes of Pinochet and Hitler, why should it be different for all of the heads of the state of the Islamic Regime?
I’m not saying people can’t change, they do, and they can realise their mistakes in the past, and I hope that elements within the regime will join the people and help them in their revolution and denounce the regime and its crime, and also talk about their role in those misdemeanours. But in here, we’re not talking about simple mistakes; we’re talking about intentionally and decisively arresting, torturing and executing innocent people for the benefit of a regime. This is far from committing a simple mistake and asking for forgiveness. Otherwise why the instrumental personnel in Hitler and Pinochet regime who were decision makers, didn’t walk free, and every single one of them, who were caught, were trialled for their crimes?
This is why it’s very important that all the heads of the state within the Islamic regime, from the beginning up until the last day should be brought to justice. The families of the political prisoner and innocent people who have been executed in the past 32 years need to witness some sort of justice being done, and this will not be accomplished until all the statesmen within the Islamic Regime are trialled for their crimes.
They expect me to forget the years of my physical and mental tortures I endured in prison when I was 16; they expect me to forget that the best time of my life was spent behind bars for being a political activist. They expect me to forget that my best friends were ordered to be executed.
My answer is that crimes committed don’t expire with the passing of time. Crime committed is a felony and you have to be brought to stand in trial for crime against humanity. My answer is, I am and I will be the voice of my friends who were executed; I will raise this voice until judgment is prevailed.
I and thousands like me in Iran, and around the globe will not let these crimes to go unpunished. We shouldn’t be a bystander in the face of crimes in this magnitude committed by the Islamic Regime in Iran. We shouldn’t be silence, and we shouldn’t let others to silence us. Every one of us should be the voice of political prisoners in Iran, and their families. This needs to be and should be a global voice demanding justice for thousands of innocent people.
for more information on the conference see the link below:
Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran(CFPPI)
+47 (0) 4133 3268
BM Box 6754, London WC1N 3XX, U.K.
Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran(CFPPI)
+47 (0) 4133 3268
BM Box 6754, London WC1N 3XX, U.K.