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What I Went Through In Those Interrogation Rooms

Somayeh Tohidlou
Reformist blogger and journalist Somayeh Tohidlou was released recently after being arrested in the postelection crackdown. In this blog entry, she writes about her time in prison, including her interrogation by a university professor.

During the 70 days that I spent in prison, I was interrogated in Section 209 [of Evin prison where political prisoners are often held] for the first 40 days, and then in Section 240 for the remaining 30 days.

There were many interrogators -- or "experts," as they were referred to -- and their number kept increasing.

Their queries not only concerned the June 12 presidential election, but the previous 13 years of my life. ... I could write a comprehensive autobiography thrice over. ...

One of the most interesting points during my interrogation was when I saw copies of the complete contents of this blog. I felt bad for the poor soul who had spent all that time reading it with such concentration. Some of the parts were even marked in bold. I don't think I expended as much energy writing the content over all these years as that poor guy spent reading it all.

... Many books were available in the detention center to read (regarding the Supreme Leader, the objectives of the Guardians Council, and elaborations on the concepts of democracy and rationality). Once, when I had read one of these books, a quite well-known face from the other faction came to Building 240 for a debate. It went on for more than two hours. It was, in fact, a debate where none of the sides listened to what the other side was saying and weren't ready to accept the other's point of view.

The interrogation routine changed about 20 days before I was freed. One of the professors at the university started the case all over again. This time, the manner of the investigation changed. First, after 56 days of being banned from having any visitors, I was finally given a chance to see my family. I was granted the liberty of writing and reading, although the interminable interrogations didn't leave me any time to read in my cell.

I would have discussions with the university teacher as well, conveying most of my complaints regarding either the social and political conditions in Iran or regarding the prison and the interrogators.

At first, it was both fishy and strange for me -- his concentration while listening to what I had to say, the respect he showed, and his calmness during the interrogation. This state of astonishment remained with me until the very end. ...

The interrogation had its own environment. The prison itself was pressure, especially for people like me who had to go through 50 days of interrogations out of a 70-day total. One of the aspects of my interrogation was that I had to spend a lot of time in an individual cell in Building 240 or in the detention room, while only a short time was given to the actual questionings and taking notes.

My thoughts were a kind of torture sometimes. I had a Koran that stayed with me from the night that I left home till the very end. God was extremely merciful, as he granted me the opportunity to recite his verses during this time. Sometimes it felt so comforting, opening the Koran and reciting these verses, as if God himself were talking to me.

The rest of the time I used to write. It was hardly possible to write when in the room, and I was addicted to the habit of writing down the thoughts in my head. This led to writing a lot on the tissue paper that I had with me, which I was granted the permission to keep once I left.

I'll never forget how close God came to me in those various interrogation rooms -- the ones with numerous chairs, the empty ones, and the 2-by-3 individual cell containing one table and three chairs.

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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