As human rights activists, many cases come across our desks and they are all equally important and horrifying. But once in a while we come face to face with someone’s story that haunts us beyond our waking hours into our dreams. For me, this is such a case.
My colleague Shiva Mahbobi, an internationally renowned and seasoned human rights activist and the spokesperson for Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran (CFPPI), sent me a case a few weeks ago. She wrote that she has been haunted by this story. Since reading this story, it has been etched into my mind unlike any other I have ever read. As a result, I have translated Shiva Mahbobi’s words from Farsi to English so that you too may bear witness.
Written by: Shiva Mahbobi
Translation by: Shadi Paveh
….I never saw a picture of him, I did not know how old he was or if he had any children…I did not know what he liked to do…..where he was born….what I do know that I have never been able to forget a few lines that I read about his fate and every time I think about him, my heart begins to ache and sorrow takes over my being.
Only a few people knew of him but no one really knew him. He was a political prisoner by the name of Daryoush Arjamand. I came to know about Daryoush thorough a letter from another political prisoner.
A few years ago I came across Daryoush’s case through a letter from a prisoner by the name of Behrooz Javid-Tehrani, who had written a letter to Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, from inside Rajai-Shahr ( Gohardasht) Prison in the city of Karaj; Section 1 Ward 1 on April 18, 2010 (Persian Calendar Farvardin 29, 1389). In an excerpt from the letter Mr. Javid-Tehrani wrote:
“…here the prisoners are degraded, mocked and insulted and the privilege of seeing a doctor is not available to just anyone. I know of a prisoner in Ward 2 by the name of Daryoush Arjamand who has been in solitary confinement now for 25 months. He is suffering from AIDS. It has been some time now that the prison doctors have discontinued his antibiotics hoping that he will die. They have even refused to give him ointments and bandages for the sores on his body that are caused by AIDS. People are afraid of opening his cell door and letting him out to use the toilet or the shower. Even the light bulb in his cell has been burnt out for a while now and no one will go in to replace it”.
Mr. Javid-Tehrani explained more about the heinous conditions inside the prison but my mind seemed locked on those few lines and I could not move on from them. I read those lines over and over again hoping to somehow get some more information from them. The scene played in mind like a film. I imagined his cell; cold and in total darkness with that burnt out light. I envisioned the expressionless face of the prison guards who had chosen to abandon Daryoush and pretend that he did not exist.
I could see Daryoush lying half dead on the floor of his cold cell in complete darkness, in pain and without any medications….slowly dying and being the only witness to his own death. I wondered how he managed to pass the time …what were his last wishes? And did his family know of the gruesome fate of their beloved child?
After Mr. Behrooz Javid-Tehrani was released from prison I asked him about Daryoush Arjamand. Behrooz told me that Daryoush had lost his life alone in his cell.
I tried to get more information on Daryoush and I managed to find some more information through a human rights website which stated:” the political Prisoner Daryoush Arjamand has been in solitary confinement for months on end at Gohardasht prison, Section 1 dubbed the “doghole” by prisoners. He is 40 years old and he was sentenced to 19 years in prison and he has been in solitary for the last 25 months in the “doghole”. His cell does not have any natural light and he is denied a light bulb in his cell. He is forced to use his cell as a bathroom to relieve himself… his cell is extremely small and does not have a toilet or sink. He has a lot of sores on his body but the authorities refuse to transfer him to a medical facility and they even deny him the necessary medications. They will not even dress his sores. He does not have enough clothes and the ones he has are ripped and in tatters. The other prisoners in the same ward are bothered and complain about the nauseating stench coming from Daryoush’s cell. The authorities give this prisoner very little food- just enough food to keep him barely alive. Daryoush has tried to commit suicide a few times. The last occasion when he tried to kill himself, the authorities ignored it and refused to intervene until the other prisoners protested and demanded his life be saved. One political prisoner managed to report the state of Daryoush’s cell to a prison inspector and asked that the cell be inspected so that he could see for himself the ghastly and repugnant manner the prisoner was being held. But the inspector refused to enter the cell for the fear of catching the AIDS virus.”
Just like you, I did not know Daryoush and I have never seen him. I only know a few lines of his suffering through a letter. But I have decided to write about him, however small just to introduce him to you as a person who lost his life as a political prisoner. It is the least I can do to write a little about him. I want to be his voice and I do not want to let him be forgotten.
The regime did not execute Daryoush. They denied him medical care and killed him in an excruciatingly slow manner, which is much worse than execution. His was a silent execution so that no one would count it as an execution. There are a large number of people in the same situation as Daryoush, and no one knows their names or their stories.