It was been two days since I have been outside the tall barred walls. Two days ago at this time I was in a long narrow hallway on the second floor of 209 (Evin Prison), wearing a prison chador and blindfolds, sitting and waiting for someone to come take me outside and after 12 days tell me: take off your blindfolds!
And this is the meaning of freedom, which in all those days did not reveal its azure face; on all those days, which I paced back and forth in my cell with thoughts of Darya; a girl, who like all the children in the world, had not chosen her mother. On all those days, in the morning, noon and night I would tell myself, you have chosen your own career but she has not chosen to have a mother who is active in the women’s movement, a mother who runs from day until night and at night falls asleep while still in front of the computer. She has not chosen for her mother, for the second time, to end up in 209, a place that you neither have control over going to nor control over leaving, a purgatorial place filled with the crippling sense of paralysis.
Being a prisoner, in a place like 209 is a predicament that when combined with the state of motherhood changes your experience of pain; a change that is difficult to explain and contingent on the moods in each solitary moment of imprisonment. In one moment you tell yourself, wasn’t it for Darya’s that I started to work on women’s issues? Wasn’t it for this that I promised I would build her a better future? What now? Didn’t you know from day one that you are threading on a rocky path? . . . The next moment, when the confining walls, the blinding light in the cell which was forever alight, and the July heat in Tehran unhindered by any cooling agents would press down on you, you would remember that it has been many nights that you were unable to sleep, an anger surfaces and take over your entire being, all this injustice! And you ask yourself: Why should my daughter be subject to so much injustice.
But at times the guilt of motherhood sometimes when I am confronted with Parvaneh in the public cell who after 15 years of hardship and violence, with broken teeth and a broken nose, was able to divorce her husband who was her cousin and in doing so had to leave her 9 and 13 year old daughters with their father who has all the money, a house and a job, while she is left with no job and no education to return to her father’s house, a house crowded with 6 people. Parvaneh was arrested on the streets, and like me she was accused of acting against national security by encouraging people to protest in violation of the police. It had been weeks that she had not seen her daughters, not because she had been imprisoned but because her ex-husband was granted custody of the children and he had taken them to a far off village to his mother.
For days and days, I am trapped in the deadly head of the cell devoid of a cooler except for the monotonous and bothersome sounds that pass through its air ducts circulating through all the wards until they finally arrive at each prison cell. I think about Darya, and all the daughters and mothers that are deprived from seeing each other and being with each other. But there are also thoughts and memories of others who in the words of Nima Yooshij: “Keep me Alive,” those who are near and unreachable, and those who are far and unreachable.
Those closest to me, somewhere in an adjacent cell, or in the barred cells in behind, lying on the carpet or military issue-blankets, those who without a pen or paper, through scratches made by their nails, mark the days of their imprisonment on the walls. Shiva Nazar Ahari, one of my clients whom I could not even help when I was outside of jail due to the lack of communication from the revolutionary government’s prosecutor’s office; Jila Bani Yahghoub, a journalist who suffers from Thyroid disease and is in danger if she drinks water from the faucet; Mahsa Amrabadi, whom I don’t know, but I have heard is pregnant, and I know how damaging the anxiety of interrogation and the uncertainly that comes with having no access to news which consumes the space in 209 can be for a pregnant women; and many other whom I know or whose letters I have read in newspapers.
The memory of my far-away dear ones, those who are on the other side of the walls, and suffer my pains, and breath-in the seconds of anxiety, keep me alive. My family, who I know have fallen-away from sleep, food, work and life, whom I know toil aimlessly each day from Evin prison to the Revolutionary Court. My lawyers, who instead of pursuing profitable cases that can bring home the bread spend their time tirelessly suffer the burden of hearing self-righteous answers from authorities; my friends in Iran and all over the world, who through their minutely news reports shared in my pain and the pain of all prisoners; this unity which is based on solidarity amongst people; people whose kindness was like a shield protecting me in those difficult moments; a unity which ultimately led to my freedom.
Now it is exactly two days since the doors of 209 have been closed behind me. They took back my blindfold and I returned my prison chador at the door of Evin prison, where I was not greeted by anyone; a place, however, where many were standing in wait. Waiting for their sons, daughters and spouses who were suppose to be freed. A place where everyone asks you: Have you seen our loved one?! And again and again I recounted the rule of blindfolds, the rule of silence and the rule of censorship. When I climbed down the steps, I knew that I owed these stairs, the shade of the bridge in front of Evin, and the taxi that I was riding to many people; many people whose remembrance will light the way for my today as well as my tomorrow; all those who kept my memory and the memory of all political prisoners alive.