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Opinions

Sepideh Gholian's Prison Diaries, Chapter Six: Hit Me! Hit Me Harder!

July 18, 2020
Sepideh Gholian
5 min read
Sepideh Gholian's Prison Diaries, Chapter Six: Hit Me! Hit Me Harder!

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.

 

It is February 10. There is no TV or radio in the cells. Here is a graveyard, full of death and annihilation. Here, eyes are more useful than eyes. I feel as though I have never used my eyes before. So I wear the blindfold, even inside the cell.

I have successfully decrypted the relationship between the sound of cars and the sound of the torture room being opened up for use. If there is the sound of a car and a guard runs to open the doors of the cells after mine, it means they have arrested an Arab man, which means he is going to be tortured until morning. They will ask him about the connection between his Arab clothing and ISIS and bombs. At times like this, we have to say “Thank God I am not an Arab”.

Since morning the revolutionary songs have been playing at full blast. “From the tears of orphans and blood of the martyrs will grow hundreds of tulips”.

My cell has four walls and I call the left one “Zaniar Moradi”. Sometimes I sit in front of him and we talk together. At the end of our chat, he goes into hospital wearing a light blue outfit, and I turn to the next wall. Today I ask Zaniar, ”Are you going to be a tulip? Tomorrow it will be spring in the mountains.”

They mute the radio and a guard shouts, “Have the blindfolds on, it’s time for ablution.” I fix my blindfold, lean on Zaniar and wait for the door to be opened.

He opens cell number 25 first. I know a little about my next-door neighbor. Firstly, that he has gone for a week without being interrogated. He is “banned from calling” and was placed in the front cell two days ago, but he suffered from convulsions, so was transferred to this one. The new guy has a bassy voice. I haven’t clearly heard him speak yet, but once he asked a guard for some bread, who replied, “You think this is a bakery?” and we all laughed. That was the first group conversation between myself, the guard and neighbor.

I am constantly looking for signs from strangers. Once I shout out, “Listen, we are all one family.”

When they open my neighbor’s door to take him for ablution, I freeze as he starts talking. His Lori accent is exactly like mine; it is only our tribe that speaks with this unique accent due to our relocation from Aligodarz to Dezful. He says to the guard, “Shire maret velam ko, namaz nakhonam” (For your mother’s sake, let go of me, I don’t pray).

He talks like my brother Mehdi. His voice is like his too. I change his name internally from “The Boy Next Door” to “Our Mehdi”.

Suddenly a group of people set upon him in his cell and start beating him. “You don’t pray, you infidel?”

And he answers, between laughing and crying: “Yeah, hit me, hit me harder, I’m shocked!”

They drag him along the ground. At my door, another one attacks him, telling him: “I’ll make you eat shit, you faithless pagan.”

But he replies: “When I’m free, I’ll file a complaint against you, like that other man and woman who are here in detention.”

“He knows me and Esmail!” I shout.

They drag him to the toilet. He, with his accent that reminds me of Mehdi and is killing me, says: ”Hit me harder.”

“He has a sharp tongue,” says one of the guards. “He needs to be disciplined. Bring me the electric razor.”

The bring the razor and shave his head. He shouts out and I reply to him with a scream, “Mehdi! Mehdi! Calm down, Mehdi! Tahora and Mahra are waiting for you.”

He yells in response and they throw him back into his cell. I think to myself, he must be a relative. Also, he knows Esmail and I. I must read a poem for him overnight. And as well as that, I must inform his family. But how?

A few days later comes my second and final family visitation day. I whisper in Mehdi’s ear: “Go and look for someone who left home and never returned. Our like-accent is being tortured here. He has a bassy voice and his cell number is 25. Some days ago they shaved him so savagely that his head was injured.”

 

Footnotes

February 10 marks the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Zaniar Moradi (1987 – 8 September 2018) was a Kurdish political prisoner from Marivan, Iran who was detained in 2009 along with his cousin Loghman. Both were both executed on September 8, 2018 after a grossly unfair trial in which they stood accused of killing the son of the Friday Imam for Marivan.

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Opinions

Sepideh Gholian's Prison Diaries, Chapter Five: I Believe in Ibrahim's God

July 18, 2020
Sepideh Gholian
3 min read
Sepideh Gholian's Prison Diaries, Chapter Five: I Believe in Ibrahim's God