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The Difference Between Jailed Journalists And Their Interrogator

Evin prison

Evin prison

Blogger, journalist, and human rights activist Zhila Baniyaghoob was arrested along with her husband, Bahman Amouyi, in the postelection crackdown. She was released on bail; her husband remains in prison.

Baniyaghoob wrote the following post to mark the anniversary of their arrest:

A year ago, on a night like, this they rang the bell of our neighbors and said: "We are the relatives of the unit next to you. Their bell is out of order. Please open the door for us." Our neighbor opened the door for them without knowing that they'd come to arrest us. It's always like this! They always arrest people in similar fashion.

When I was released from prison, our neighbor was too ashamed to say hello for a long time because she had opened the door to those who took Bahman and I to prison. Why was she ashamed?! I told her those who lied to you and fooled you should be ashamed.

It was on a night like this when Bahman, who had been beaten up by batons and was exhausted, had come home before me and gone to bed. When I came home, he told me, "Zhila, bring me a cup of hot tea and please also give me the hot-water bottle so that I put it on my bruises."

He hadn't drunk his tea yet when we heard the doorbell to our apartment complex. Bahman jumped, despite his state of tiredness. Those nights and days we journalists knew that they're behind the doors. They had come with their mass-arrest orders.

They were three of them. One of them was polite. The other two felt they were attacking the house of their enemies. They didn't know us at all, but they thought they knew us very well. They called us foreign mercenaries.

One of them told me: "You who are a so-called journalist. Why don't you write about the misery of the people in Afghanistan and Iraq? Why don't you write about Gaza?"

I didn't want to reply. I knew talking to him was pointless. He had issued my arrest order even before talking to me, and he was calling me a foreign servant. I don't know why, but I couldn't remain patient and said: "Please don't voice your opinion about someone you don't know. I've written about the misery of our own people and also about the misery of the people in Afghanistan and Iraq. I've traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan several times and have reported from there."

He and his colleague mocked me and said: "You? Aren't you a supporter of the United States?"

I was about to ask them how they had reached the conclusion that I was a supporter of the U.S. when Bahman said: "Zhila, please! Don't argue [with them]."

It was on such a night when they turned our house upside down so that they might find a document showing our ties with foreigners. They took away dozens of CDs for learning English! They took away books and magazines that are freely available in Iran. They took away family photos. They took away our computer. And finally, they took away Bahman and me.

One of them was searching the kitchen. Bahman was standing next to him and was, with his usual patience, helping him. I said: "Dear Bahman, will you bring me a cup of tea?"

He brought me a cup of tea.

A month later, the chief interrogator told me in one of his interrogation sessions: "Yesterday, I saw colleagues from the operation unit and got very upset. They told me how you humiliated Bahman in their presence."

"Me? How?" I asked with surprise.

He said, "Is it true that you told Bahman to bring you a cup of tea?"

"Yes," I said.

He said: "You humiliated Bahman so easily in front of others?"

At that moment, I understood the difference between us and you, Mr. Interrogator!

I said: "Does it mean you never bring tea for your wife?"

"No! My wife respects me too much," he said.

"Sometimes Bahman pours me tea; sometimes I pour tea for him, Mr. Interrogator!" I said. "Maybe this is the difference between us, Mr. Interrogator! Maybe this is why you and I cannot understand each other."

One year ago on such a night, Intelligence Ministry agents took us to Evin prison in a car, and I didn't think that night that I would be writing about it a year later while my dear Bahman is still in Evin.

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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