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Sepideh Gholian's Prison Diaries, Chapter One: This Darkness Will Not End

July 18, 2020
Sepideh Gholian
4 min read
Sepideh Gholian's Prison Diaries, Chapter One: This Darkness Will Not End

Sepideh Gholian is a 25-year-old civil rights activist and journalist who was arrested during the labor protests of Haft Tappeh workers and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Her book, Tilapia Sucks the Blood of Hur al-Azim, tells the story of her detention at the Dezful Intelligence Detention Center and Sepidar Women's Prison in Ahvaz.

In these 19 stories, Gholian paints a meticulous picture of her horrific experience. On one hand, we directly encounter the face of oppression. On the other, we engage with the fates of others whose names, lives and imprisonment might otherwise be doomed to be forgotten and denied.

IranWire has previously published Gholian’s book in its original Persian and is now serialising the collection in English, while its author has been returned to Iran’s notorious Evin Prison. The stories are translated by Zahra H. Moravjev.

I fear that I will not survive.

To say I am horrified does not convey my feelings. I feel something hot running out of my body. I am entirely mute. I cannot so much as groan when they beat me. I am sure that they will kill Esmail, and that this darkness will never end.

We go uphill and then the car stops. From the voices around me I understand that they are dragging Esmail to the ground. Is he dead? Am I dead?

All of a sudden they ambush me and beat me again. They shout at me: “You stained the car with your fucking blood."

Then they give me a piece of cardboard and take me into another corner. I am blindfolded and cannot see the way. I only know that they are taking me to a small room, down a hill. I am shivering. I beg to see a female guard but they shout: "Why a woman? You will die here." I am surrounded by male voices, and that makes me shiver all the more.

They take me somewhere. I don’t know where. They give me a set of clothes: "Go inside and change.” It’s a filthy, dark blue, oversized uniform, and so big that I have to keep my trousers hoisted up by hand. I’m bleeding too much. Since this morning they have called me “bitch”. I am afraid to ask them for sanitary pads. I am afraid to be called “bitch” and beaten again.

Holding a piece of carboard, the prison guard pushes me forward. They call the cardboard a "stick". I don’t know why, but I have always been afraid of it. They take me to the corner: "Stay here until the cell is ready. And don’t speak to the women in here!"

Oh, my God! Will I see a woman at last? I go in. My body is covered with bruises. I walk heavily and they close the cell door.

I raise my blindfold and see a woman in the same uniform, and a scarf, who has also lifted her blindfold. There is a blanket over her feet. When I see her there, after 10 hours of torture and fear, I feel as though everything is over. I hug her, and without asking any questions, we sob in each other's arms.

She asks my name. I answer, "Gholi... No. Sepideh." We cry again. I say, "They killed Esmail."

She doesn’t ask who Esmail is, but caresses my head and says, "They’re killing my whole family.”

I ask her name. She replies, "Makieh. Makieh Nissi. I have been here for 21 days."

Makieh understands that my head and neck are in pain. She massages my neck and asks me, "Why are you here?"

“Because I was at the labor protest. Why are you here?”

“You won't be scared if I tell you?”

“No. Tell me.”

 “They accuse us of being members of ISIS. Aren't you scared?”

“Why should I be scared? Today I saw ISIS. They’re ISIS, not you.“

Suddenly the guard opens the door again and we both stand up. Before I put on the blindfolds I realise that the blanket at Makieh’s feet is full of her own blood. She tells me, "I got this way, but we can’t ask men for pads."

I approach the guard and I take hold of the stick. The guard takes me to the neighboring cell. Before closing the door on me, he says: "I will inform your interrogator that ISIS has recruited you."

Sepideh Gholian's Prison Diaries, Chapter One: This Darkness Will Not End


Tilapia is a kind of fish.

The Hawizeh Marshes are a complex of marshes that straddle the Iran-Iraq border.

Esmail [Bakhshi] is a trade unionist, and a founding member and spokesman for the independent Workers Union of Haft Tappeh. He was also imprisoned and tortured for his part in industrial action at the sugar factory.

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