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Sepideh Gholian's Prison Diaries, Chapter Nine: Makieh, Farhan, the Interrogator, and Ameneh Zabihpour

July 18, 2020
Sepideh Gholian
5 min read
Sepideh Gholian's Prison Diaries, Chapter Nine: Makieh, Farhan, the Interrogator, and Ameneh Zabihpour

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 Moravvej.


Here is the upper part of Dezful's intelligence detention center. There are four interrogation rooms. The third room doesn't have any CCTV and it is, most especially, the torture room.  The women's toilet and bathroom are in the same room. The other rooms are the same; there is a hook and chain in the middle and the only difference is the camera. Although one can be viciously tortured in every corner of this fucking graveyard, the cruelty in this third room is beyond imagination. Describing the details of Makieh Nisi's sex life and different ways her husband could be brought to orgasm could only take place and be reviewed in that room. The distress this imposed on an Arab woman was unbearable. A 30-something-year-old Arab woman, who has never so much as experienced being out of the house alone.

This room has a small window that opens onto cell numbers 22,23 and 24. When they torture Makieh I am in cell 22 and her brother Farhan is in room 23. We both listen to her voice and know that they will keep torturing her until she says what they want her to say.

Borges writes: We argue with the strange logic that if we predict an event in detail, we can stop it from happening. What bullshit! We both hear Makieh crying, saying: “Lately, Arif was pounding me so hard that my uterus still hurts. Because he comes late, he says I have to come fast.”

With this, it is as though the torturers have heard what they wanted. The mental torment of this Arab woman and her brother, the details of her sex life and uterus, and his manhood, result in Makieh being determined a “member of ISIS." Arif was coming home late and anxious, sleeping with Makieh and then leaving. Consequently, she must have known that there was something fishy going on.

They don’t torture just Makieh, but also her brother, who bangs on the door and shouts in Arabic: “She’s my sister! She’s my honor.” They are torturing him in cell number 23. Makieh tells me that they keep him there deliberately.

I am being tortured too, since I know that she is considered an honor for Farhan, Arif, the torturers, Iran, and a thousand other fucking things.

In this detention center, every room is tailored for a specific type of torture. But they all have one thing in common: the torture of Arab activists.

The doors of these rooms are left open so everyone can hear the sounds of the interrogation. The voices, oh, the voices! One can hear the voice of the outsized blue slippers of a girl, and the sound of a Kurdish soldier’s eardrum being torn, just because he prayed with his hands closed.

The sounds blend together and draw closer to create an image. This image is an exact blueprint of the interrogation rooms at Ahwaz’s torture center.

Room number three is the place they bring Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour to extract confessions from us. Esmail is interrogated in the first room. On the 10th day of our detention the interrogator took me there to talk to him and be reassured he was alive.

The first and second rooms are so cold, as though you are standing on frost. As though you walk barefoot with Shirin Alam Holi on the snowy mountainside. When they want to take you somewhere where One’s ears shall ring, one’s feet shall frost over and one’s will shall be forgotten, they take you there. Then you’ll cry: “I am freezing! I eat shit!”

Interrogation room number three.

The torture room, the strangulation room, the room of pain.

The room without the CCTV camera, the faceless room.

The room that when you go there...

The torture room for Hasan, Makieh, and Esmail the Arab.

The room of redundant questions.

The room of repletion, repetition, and resumption of cables, cables, and cables; the room of being electrocuted and the women's toilet and bathroom.

The room that after THAT interrogation they don’t let Makieh call her family or go to the yard. They pressure her so intensely that not being tortured in that room tortures her more.

They knew what will happen. They predict future events as Trotsky did. As Gramsci explained: Trotsky’s prophecies are like those of a mother who predicts her four-year-old daughter will be a mother one day.

Makieh returns, kissed her torturer's feet, and asks him: “Please take me to that room. I will confess to anything. Beat me with cables, but don't keep me here without being interrogated!"



Ameneh Sadat Zabehpour is an “interrogator journalist” in Iran. Many political prisoners have reported that professional journalists such as she were enlisted to extract confessions from them and televise them, while producing fake news justifying the case. Many are graduates of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and have links to the security apparatus. Zabihpour was also involved in Sepideh Gholian’s interrogation and prepared text for her to read in front of a camera.

Shirin Alam Holi was a Kurdish political prisoner who was hanged in Iran in 2010.


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