Iranian authorities have cracked down on widespread protests that have rocked Iran since September of last year, demanding more freedoms and women’s rights, prompted by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
Security forces have killed more than 520 people, including dozens of children, and detained over 19,000, activists say. Following unlawful detentions and biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences to protesters.
This is the story of one protester – as told to IranWire.
It was the first time I had been arrested. But I had heard countless stories of solitary confinement before – although the reality was something else. You cannot understand it without experiencing it.
Have you heard that solitary confinement is torture? In solitary, even not having a mirror becomes annoying, not being able to see your own face for days.
Think of the sound of a closing door, which does not have a handle from the inside, but despite this, they lock it every time it closes.
I had heard about the arrest and interrogation process, but I didn't know about the "school" before being moved to Ward 209 of Evin Prison.
In a part of Ward 209 of Evin prison, somewhere at the back, interrogation sessions were held in groups. They named this the “school”.
There was a room at the school, similar to a classroom, where the benches were arranged. An interrogator stood at each table and a soldier stood in the middle of the room.
Interrogations at the school involved people implicated in the same case, or whose cases were related in some way, being pushed to confess against each other. This was worse than a physical beating. The accused were brothers, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, forced to confess against each other.
When you are arrested, you no longer have a name, and interrogator call the detainees "sheep."
I was summoned to the prosecutor's office. The office was so busy that they could not find an empty room for the preliminary interrogations of the arrested protesters.
After my interrogation, they placed a charge sheet before me, without the presence of the investigator or access to a lawyer. Twenty minutes later, I was on my way to Ward 209, in handcuffs.
I went up the stairs. They recorded my details and gave me three blankets and a small hand and face towel.
No matter how much I insisted, they did not give me toothpaste or a toothbrush, and it stayed that way until the day of release.
The other detainees had toothpaste and toothbrushes. But it seems the prison guards did not want me, specifically, to be able to brush my teeth.
After a medical examination, I was taken to a small solitary cells in Ward 209. But I was not alone in the cell: someone else was there. This made it difficult for us to sleep. We had to fold our legs so that we could both fit on the floor of the cell.
I was sentenced to a month in prison. I knew that Evin and its guards were so busy that they might not have time to come for me; but still, it was difficult. And then the new interrogations at least began.
I was questioned several times – sometimes three interrogators were questioning me at the same time.
Another difficulty of our small cell was the bathroom. We had to ring a bell and wait for the guard to come and take us to the restroom. We would ring the bell – but they would not come. We often had to wait for a long time before a prison guard came for us. In the public ward, at least, one could freely go to the bathroom. But in solitary we had to be accompanied and were only allowed to take a shower once a week.
One guard, who was called Seyed, had a problem with me for some reason. He did not treat the other prisoners as harshly as me. He did not give me enough tea and food. He would even almost refuse to take me to the bathroom.