By Javad Olian, former political prisoner in Iran
Former physics major in Oklahoma University, U.S.
Currently in Camp Liberty, Iraq
Terrified of being overthrown Iran had in the 1980s resorted to executing dozens of people on a daily basis. However, despite all this the prisoners were able to maintain their high spirits. In the winter of 1981 and 1982, in Vakil Abad Prison of Mashhad, the second largest city of Iran located in the northeast part of the country, this high spirit was actually spreading. The only measures the regime could have resorted to were a series of attacks targeting political prisoners and group executions on a daily basis.
Each day we would wake up and start exercising in the courtyard. Prison authorities even banned our daily exercise and punished some of the prisoners by not letting them take on any such activities.
The wave of executions in 1981 began in Mashhad from the middle of the summer, and continued literally non-stop. The Iranian regime’s method of selecting its victims, and cementing a climate of fear and surrender amongst the prisoners was quite cruel. Each night after dinner the prison loudspeakers would announce a number of names. These were the names of those who would be executed the next morning. The whole ward would become active and those scheduled to be executed the next morning had to quickly gather their personal items and prepare any last words fortheir family and friends, all in a very short period of time available.
Despite the high spirit seen in those that were summoned for execution, a heavy cloud was felt over the entire ward, knowing friends were being lost. Just imagine yourself in their shows, not knowing your fate until your name is read out from loudspeakers!! The Iranian regime used such methods aimed at breaking the spirits of the remaining prisoners, leaving them pondering who will be next. However, again because of their high spirits they never allowed the execution of their friends and colleagues place a deep impact, knowing this would be to the Iranian regime’s delight. In fact, when faced with their friends those who had been summoned for execution actually attempted to lift the others’ spirits…
As far as I can remember ward 1, known as the ward of political prisoners back then, had three or four floors. Each floor had a number of cells, with each cell having three beds.
When prisoners were leaving the ward to be executed everyone would accompany them to the end of their ward, handing them over to the next floor. Each floor had a significantly large porch at the metal stairs where the last words were exchanged. The prisoner to be executed would then take his small bag and go down the stairs, passing through all the wards. During this entire process all of us would with our eyes follow that particular prisoner. We would all return to our cells as he was lost from our sight. For a while we would sing various folkloric and patriotic songs in memory of those who had left us to be executed the next morning.
This was repeated each day of the week. A continuous war pitting the political prisoners against the mullahs’ regime in Iran.