"It is the other prisoners who should be upset that they are housed with your father." — Iranian judge, speaking of political prisoner Pourshajari.Excerpts from a January 20, 2014 interview with Mitra Pourshajari, courtesy of Reza Parchizade.
Right then and there, right in front of me, he sentenced some people to death.
Sadly many who call themselves human rights advocates, who should be defending every innocent person, regardless of his beliefs, only defend those with similar beliefs; they think my father's situation, and others like him, are not their business.
After I did not hear from my father, Mohammad-Reza Pourshajari, for a few days, the police broke the lock and entered his house. The place was ransacked; there was no sign of my father.
It did not look like a robbery; the only items missing were books, my father's writings, his computer, our family albums and the satellite receiver. They had taken these things in such an aggressive way that they had left their footprints all over the furniture. Yet this happened so quietly that none of the neighbors heard anything-- or maybe they did and were just too afraid to speak up.
A week later a ,person -- I have never found out who -- told me that my father was in the prison ward under the control of the Sepah, and that he was being tortured for hours every day. They asked me to go and introduce myself to the Department of Intelligence, to the their headquarters in Mashhad. I asked them to request my presence in writing, but they said that if I did not show up, I would never see my father again. I went to the intelligence services twice a week for interrogation, but the only purpose was to ensure my absolute silence regarding my father's arrest. They said I was not to report it to the media.
They told me that I could not untie the ropes that they had bound my father with. They said that as I lived inside Iran, there was nothing the international media or organizations could really do for me. They said that they wanted me to see him, and ask him to request a pardon from the Supreme Leader and ask for his forgiveness. They said if he does that, then he can go back to his life with me. I did not believe them. After about nine months, they took my father to appear in Revolutionary Court. Both his hands and feet were shackled; I had difficulty recognizing him. This courtroom had no lawyer or jury. After four or five hours, the court decided to postpone my father's trial for six months. Then he was sentenced to four years in prison.
After they saw my father's file they started treating me as if my father had committed the worse type of huge crime. They would throw me out of the room, call us "filth" and say that my father and I disgusted them. They said they had no idea how I could expect my father to have the same rights as the other prisoners.
After my father was transferred to Ghazahassr prison, I went to see the judge and asked him to explain why he was enforcing my father's sentence in the manner he was; why was my father was being housed in Ward 7 of the central prison, which houses the most dangerous and violent criminals, when my father was in fact a political prisoner, when there is a regulation that prisoners must be housed together according to their crime.
The judge said: "It is the other prisoners who should be upset that they are housed with your father; not your father. Because those other prisoners are human; they committed crimes because of poverty and lack of knowledge, but your father wrote what he did and insulted the Leader using his education and with knowledge." Then he added: "You should go and thank God that you and your father's fate were not in my hands or you would both be dead." When I asked him what his reason was for wanting to kill us, he said because I was a Baha'i. I informed him that I was not a Baha'i because the Baha'i faith has Islamic roots and I disagreed with Islam. Right then and there, right in front of me, he sentenced some people to death.
Inside prison, my father was denied a lawyer as well as his medications. When I took clothes for my father, they would not allow it. The prisoners who are "reformists" or of the Green Movement, according to my father, do not have these problems. They are even put in charge of some wards, allowed more visitations and have better access to health care and medication.
I had been giving the media information about my father's case, but the number of people who worked on it was so small that the news was lost among all other news. The news inside Iran has always been full of news about insignificant and daily issues about the reformist political prisoners. News of political prisoners like my father, who do not belong to the "reformist" or Green Movement, is lost, even though the number of prisoners like my father is by no means small.
In the end, the authorities threatened me so much that I decided to leave Iran. I was afraid of being arrested, and wanted to be free and escape the repressive place where my voice is not heard. I thought I could help my father and others like him better from outside Iran. I wanted to be the voice of all those who are in pain. We do not even know the names of one tenth of the victims because so many people choose not to go against the strong, oppressive, regime.
My father is suffering in prison just for writing his personal opinions about the government; he blogged about the situation inside Iran under the alias Siavash Mehr. There have been many great people who have helped me, but then there are other people, organizations and media outlets that have shown absolutely zero interest in even asking.
The BBC, for example, never wanted to speak about my father even once, and individuals such as Shirin Ebadi have never agreed to work with me. Now Mr. Abdolkarim Lahiji, head of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), wrote in an e-mail that, "It will harm your father if we deal with this publicly, but I will help him non-publicly." This was very interesting to me. I left my country so that I could scream this injustice out loud to the world, and now, while my father deteriorates in prison from lack of medication and medical attention, Mr. Larhiji is going to help my father "non-publicly." How can going public possibly hurt my father any further? The last time I spoke to my father, he told me that at times the authorities take him out of prison, pretending that they are taking him to a medical facility, but he is never taken for medical care. He said all he gets when he returns from these outings is the sores from the chains they use to shackle him.
Surprisingly, many political activists advise me to remain silent. For example, Mr. Mohammad Norzade told me that my father was involved in some dangerous issues and that it would not be a good idea to take his case to the media, and he asked me to remain silent. Sadly, many who call themselves human rights advocates, who should be defending every innocent person regardless of their beliefs, only defend those with similar beliefs; they think my father's situation, and others like him, are not their business.