Civil rights activist Sepideh Gholian was arrested during protests organized by workers for the Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Factory, along with labor activist Esmail Bakhshi. Following their first arrest in November 2018, Iranian state TV aired their confessions in January 2019. Both activists retracted their confessions after their release and accused the intelligence ministry of using torture to extract them. They were arrested again and remain incarcerated. Both are reportedly under pressure to deny the accusations they made while they were free.
Shortly before Norooz, the start of the Iranian new year, Gholian wrote a letter from Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan province, and sent it out, attached to a drawing she had done. Below is the text of her letter to the world outside of the prison where she is currently being held.
Torches of light have set my heart aglow
They carved my number on walls
And the walls turned to green meadows
I feel that I have taken a wrap off my heart. Today, the sun shone straight down into my eyes and suddenly all went dark. I have come from the world of voices to Sepidar Prison.
I hear the click-click of slippers and the sound of the cell door opening and somebody saying: “Hey, don’t let your Coleman [water jug] go. Wash it every few days...”
Now all sounds have been replaced with images. I am homesick, but in no way grieving. Of course, not that I am joyous. More than anything else, I am fearful. A fear that is grabbing me like a demon, the fear that I would think of myself as somebody special because of things like charges against me, the fear that I would draw a line separating me from my locked-up sisters in the ward. I do everything I can to share their pain and that is why I neither think about bail, nor it is important to me any longer.
I have no time to cry. I do my best to stand up. Not that I have been sitting all this time, but I expect more from myself. Now I have no doubt that life does not go on inside my home or at the university. Life is this dinner with these three defendants and it is not important to any of us on what charges we are spending day and night in Sepidar Prison. Life is really going on in the corridor of this prison where a woman with a bulging belly is crossing it with a smile, and gingerly (so that she will not slip). Suddenly she bursts into laughter and whispers: “It is kicking...”
In the heart of life, in a ward called Narges [Narcissus flower], I read a poem by Mahmoud Darvish for my cellmates. Then I sing a lullaby to a baby that was born right here a few months ago.
O the best color in this unbroken darkness! I write these so you would know that I am not feeling bad. Soon spring shall arrive. I entrust you all to nature and to tulips and to viola flowers.
Sepideh from Sepidar
March 10, 2019 - Narcissus Flower Ward
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Iranian TV Airs Forced Confessions of Labor Activists, January 23, 2019
Rouhani Government to Sue Labor Leader for Torture Claims, January 9, 2019
Activist Challenges Intelligence Minister to TV Debate, January 4, 2019