By Staff Writer, Iran Probe
Saturday, 21 May 2016
Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist, is currently held in the women’s ward of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. She was serving her initial 5-year prison, only to be informed of being sentenced to 16 years behind bars. Mohammadi has written an open letter to the "PEN International" protesting the detention of political and civil activists, and prisoners of conscience, in solitary confinement of prisons across Iran.
She has in her letter mentioned the consequences and illnesses resulting from solitary confinement, describing the ordeal as “white torture.”
The text of Narges Mohammadi’s letter:
Honorable Board members of the PEN International,
Greetings and with respects,
I am writing this letter from the women’s ward of Evin Prison. Amongst the 25 imprisoned women, all writers and intellectuals from various political and academic backgrounds, there are no terrorist or criminal women, and all the allegations raised against us are due to our political, civil, doctrinal and intellectual activities and mentalities. We have all been sentenced to long prison terms. We are 23 women condemned to a total number of 177 years behind bars (two of us have yet to receive their sentences).
However, what made me write this letter to you writers and intellectuals across the globe is to explain the intolerable pains and sufferings of prison. A jail in which, in contrast to all such facilities in Iran, there are no telephones. Visits are conducted behind double-layered glasses and through headphones. Only once are we allowed in-person meetings with our first kin. Other than weekly visits, we have no telephone communication with the outside world and between the visits we are left in silence and complete blackout.
However, the pain and suffering more difficult than prison is enduring solitary confinement in the security wards. We are 25 women who have endured a total of 150 months (over 12 years) behind bars in security wards, and this is much heavier than any prison punishment. Unfortunately, the defendants are forced to endure this treatment prior to their court hearings and actually ever being prosecuted in court, during a period named initial investigations. This period can be from 1 day to a few years. The issue is that political, civil and doctrinal prisoners, whose activities have been through writings and various remarks, such as a dangerous terrorist in solitary confinement of security wards, and kept in such conditions for unknown periods; whereas according to Iran’s laws and regulations, holding defendants in solitary confinement is considered illegal. Solitary confinement is tantamount to psychological and mental torture, which unfortunately has resulted in many victims through the years.
During my 14 years of activities in the Center of Human Rights Activists, I conducted investigations, research, interviews and published statements through the Center of Human Rights Activists and National Peace Council. We have also protested the use of this violent method against political, civil and doctrinal defendants. But unfortunately, the solitary confinement section in security wards continue to host critical men and women, along with political and civil advocates. One of the uses of solitary confinement is to get confessions and baseless remarks against the defendants themselves. Based on these confessions judges are seen to issue heavy sentences. However, this is not the whole story, and the pain doesn’t stop here. Many of those detained in solitary confinement lost their physical health, and worse, their mental health, and at times this haunts them with pains for the rest of their lives. In this detention, being very similar to a closed box, an individual is placed in a vacuum and left to be in a dark and enigmatic atmosphere, deprived of any feeling and sense of being a human being, and the need to maintain their identity. Deprived of air, sounds, lights and … as natural spurs, to news, writing, reading and … as mental spurs.
I am proud to be a humble member of this renowned international organization, as an individual who has experienced solitary confinement three times from 2001 to this day. In 2010 I suffered a nervous breakdown while under interrogation in solitary confinement, whereas prior to that I had never suffered from such an illness. As a human rights advocate, whom based on the duty we had in the Center of Human Rights Advocates, I have spoken with many people who have experienced solitary confinement, and I have conducted research. Currently, along with 25 other women, we are confined to solitary confinement in Evin Prison. I emphasize that solitary confinement is a means of psychological, mental and inhumane torture. . I am asking you, writers, intellectuals and those who are committed to humanitarian standards and freedom of speech advocates, to use your pens, voices and any other means to confront the use of solitary confinement as a tool to impose white torture, so that maybe we will witness a day where the doors of solitary confinement are closed to human beings whose only “crime” was thinking, criticizing and seeking reform. I hope for that day.
Evin Prison – May 2016