REYHANEH JABBARI ’ S LET TERS FROM DEATH ROW
Here are excerpts from four undated letters (translated from Farsi) that Jabbari wrote during her last year in prison as well as an excerpt from the final voice-mail message she left for her mother.
The male interrogator does not know what it means to strike a woman in her breasts with a knee during her monthly cycle.
ONE DAY, ONE OF THE GUARDS GAVE ME A CARD AND
told me the card was equivalent to having money. By then, my injuries had healed and I could take showers. That same day an old woman came to clean my cell. This was the custom at Evin [a prison where she was held prior to being transferred to Shahr-e Ray prison]: Women who were lonely and had no visitors had to work to earn telephone rights and by selling their phone time to other prisoners would earn a living.
Her name was Nessa. She was full of regret and disappointment. I gave her my card and asked her to buy me a pen and take as much money as she wanted from the card. She brought me the pen together with a cookie with a golden stem. I was experiencing a new taste that reminded me of home and happier days. Now I had a pen!
Shamloo [one of Jabbari’s interrogators] had prohibited me from reading newspapers, having visitors, reading books, getting any news or reading the Quran. But I had a pen which was complemented by some papers I took from the trash cans when I took walks outside. I would put them in my pockets and bring them back to my cell. I started writing on little pieces of white paper. I expressed my anger, complained, got angry, cursed... and gave Shamloo a nickname... the Old Lizard.
THE MERE TASK OF GETTING UP AND ANSWERING
questions is agony. The male interrogator does not know what it means to strike a woman in her breasts with a knee during her monthly cycle. I do not know why when women give birth to boys, they do not tell h
I could never see the outside light to know whether it was day or night. I only realized it was daytime when workers and guards were busy walking about. The world did not love us. It did not want my fate. And now I am giving in to it and embracing death.
their sons how they feel, so that when their little son grows up and becomes an interrogator, he would know how to knee-strike an accused in the stomach. An accused who turns out to be a woman and happens to be spending the most difficult days of her life.
A FLUORESCENT LIGHT WAS ALWAYS ON IN MY
solitary cell. I could never see the outside light to know whether it was day or night. I only realized it was daytime when workers and guards were busy walking about. And in the nighttime silence, I learned to hear things by putting my ear on the cold metal door and having conversations with the inmates in my neighbouring cells through the little food doors. I learned to stay up at nighttime. On one of those sleepless nights, I got to know Akram and Parvaneh. Akram was the wife of a clergy and I never understood why she was in prison.
But Parvaneh had a different story. She had been in prison in the 1980s but had miraculously been saved from execution. Now she was in prison for supporting a man I didn’t know but she told me about. His name was Osanloo and was apparently the head of the bus company’s labour union. I could not understand why a person should be imprisoned for such a thing. I told Parvaneh my injuries were getting healed, and she constantly told me about the importance of resisting forced confessions. Sadly, she came to my life too late, when I had already confessed everything—to participating in politics, which I never understood, and to all kinds of relationships.
I , REYHANEH JABBARI, WHO HAD NEVER BEEN
arrested before and had never done anything to even get a warning from the university’s security office, confessed to [illicit] relationships with many people. And it was the Old Lizard who said any contact between a man and a woman who are not related—even a phone conversation—is a relationship. And I, who stayed away from even talking to people that I didn’t know, confessed to what he wanted me to.
DEAR SHOLEH, TODAY I LEARNED THAT IT IS NOW
my turn to face Qisas [the Iranian regime’s law of retribution]. I am hurt as to why you did not let me know yourself that I have reached the last page in the book of my life.... The world did not love us. It did not want my fate. And now I am giving in to it and embracing death.... In the other world, it is you and me who are the accusers and others who are the accused. Let’s see what God wants. I wanted to embrace you until I die. I love you. n