Rayhaneh’s letter from prison
There are wounds in life than can eat away at a person like leprosy…
This letter was penned several days before Norooz (March 20th) and she still has no news about whether the sentence has been handed down, to be carried out.
Translated by Banafsheh Pour-Zand
There are wounds in life than can eat away at a person like leprosy and one cannot display them; it’s like going to a doctor, having to show a taboo part of yourself. In order to be free of the pain, you force yourself to seek a cure for it, but your habits, temperament, past, culture, do’s and don’t, are embarrassing issues within the depths of your soul that prevents you from expressing your agony. You spend days, weeks and months grappling with it and nursing yourself, so that your nearest and dearest do not suffer; but that moment when you have reached its breaking point, you let it out and that is is when the amount of that pain astounds everyone. And now the wound on my soul sits exposed.
This is the house of regrets, in the Shahr’eh Ray area of Tehran; rather, I should describe it as a mass grave. In order to offer treatment to the prisoners, City Hall set out to create a psychiatric area, in large halls which are called Hijaria Mental Health Consultation and Psychotherapy. Though this was a decent enough plan, in actual fact, there are only people who suffer from serious anxiety and psychological conditions.
They have built a wall in the middle of the main hall and they separate the cases who need therapy vs. the ones who do not. All the prison facilities that they claim are meant to be for training, such as clubs, libraries, cultural activities, amphitheater, co-op and a vocational training office (which adorns the logo of the department of prisons and claims to want to accomplish), are on the other side of the wall. These are only offered to people who are chosen for therapy and consulting, though they don’t really care for it. And the number of people on this side of the wall fills two entire other halls. Now the social gap – uptown vs. downtown – is quite easily felt in prison even. Uptown is pretty, green, clean and filled with places to enjoy oneself; downtown however is barren, there’s nothing of the most basic amenities. There’s no space, no air, no order, no calm…there’s simply no life.
Two hundred and thirty seven people are crammed in a ten meter by nineteen meter hovel. They actually live there. They sleep, eat and just endure there. Forget about the fact that the regulations of the department of prisons, whose article thirteen, item one clearly states that each person must have at the very least a seven square meter ‘roofed’ physical space.
On the other side of the wall, or I should say that uptown side of the prison, three hundred people live in six huge halls. Wouldn’t it have been better to first try this plan, experimentally and then expanded had it met with the proper support? Doesn’t this forbidding other prisoner from using the amenities appear to be discriminatory? The therapy section with all its amenities is not lacking for anything; so why are those who are not in therapy, not being moved to that section, when there’s such overpopulation in this one?
Mr. Mayor, we have not seen many beautiful parts of Tehran which were designed with the a clean and proper atmosphere in mind. We urge you not to deprive the ‘downtown’ prisoners of culture, work and life. According to regulations, all prisoners should be permitted to use those facilities but since this is your concept, your word and your budget, we ask you to listen to us and assist us in this matter.
Mr. Mayor, you send eulogists to this facility for the observance of religious ceremonies, in order to familiarize us with the issues of chastity and religious purification and so that we can structure our lives for the future (if there is a future) on those canons so that we do not sin and we do not commit any crime, and to have better lives. But are you aware of the fact that on this side of the wall, due to the overcrowding and crammed spaces, those who wish to pray in the mornings, have no room to do so? Don’t you consider this important for Muslims?
Mr. Mayor, you who are so enthusiastic, artistic and have the financial means, why don’t you think about these conditions and solutions for everyone? Isn’t it better to build a library, a well-equipped workroom, a gym or properly supplied infirmary? Though I’m sure you are thinking to yourself that the person writing this letter thinks she’s living in a luxury hotel, you should know that prison is our permanent home and God has given all his creatures great or small the right to live in decent conditions and no one has the right to trample on that.
I offer you greetings for Norooz and the arrival of the New Year and hope for your change of mind with regard.
Campaign to save Rayhaneh Jabbari from execution
Week of unity to save Rayhaneh
Rayhaneh Jabbari is a 26 six year old woman who was convicted of murdering a man named Morteza in Iran who has been in prison for the last 7 years and is awaiting imminent execution[ by hanging].
Rayhaneh, an interior designer, was speaking on the phone about her work in a coffee shop, a conversation which was coincidentally overheard by Morteza who approached her for professional advice about renovating his office. They then set a date to meet at his office in order to see and discuss Morteza’s renovation project.
On the day of the meeting, Morteza picked up Rayhaneh in his car. On the way to his office, Morteza stopped at a pharmacy, purchased an item (while Rayhaneh waited in the car), got into the car again and drove to his office. After arriving at their destination, Rayhaneh realized that the place did not look like a work place at all as it was a rundown house. Inside the house, Rayhaneh saw two drinks on the table, Morteza went inside and quickly locked the door from inside, put his arms around Rayhaneh’s waist and told her that “she had no way of escaping”. A struggle soon ensued. Rayhaneh trying to defend herself stabbed Morteza in the shoulder and escaped. Morteza died from bleeding.
Lab analysis showed the drinks Morteza intended to serve to Rayhaneh contained sedatives. Regardless, Rayhaneh was arrested. There she was told by the authorities that the murder had been set up [by them] and was “politically motivated”. Nevertheless, Rayhaneh was tortured until she confessed to the murder, after she was given the death penalty which was upheld by the Supreme Court. As a result she is to be executed at any moment.
The Campaign to Save Rayhaneh, asks that all individuals and organizations help support us in any way possible to save Rayhaneh. If you have any contacts or connections with media, human rights organizations, women’s rights advocates or government agencies, please support Rayhaneh’s campaign by writing to them.
We declare the week of March 21 to March 28 the week of unity to save Rayhaneh. On March 28, 2014 there we will be holding meetings and protests for Rayhaneh in various cities.
Please help us save her life by first signing this petition.