What It’s Like Being a Political Prisoner in Iran

Herein a veil will be lifted on the seldom-heard story of the treatment of political prisoners in Iran.

Solitary confinement is full of moments and minutes for a political prisoner in Iran, like the Berlin wall for East Germans 30 years ago. This is the story of those who spent many days and nights in cells since the February 1979 revolution. They spent many days and nights in solitary confinement and by their perseverance, they change history.

With their souls and bodies, political prisoners fight against the compressed walls of cells to endure small prison space or grave-like spaces.

The prisoner sits in a chair blindfolded against the wall. No sound is heard, silence is everywhere. Occasionally, the prisoner hears the sound of someone approaching him.

A man with a harsh voice interrogates him and tells him to fill out this form and then torture and psychological pressure begin. In this prison, the days turn into weeks and weeks into months.

Letter From a Political Prisoner in Iran

Here is the story of Mohammad Habibi

Mohammad Habibi, a political prisoner in Iran.
Mohammad Habibi, political prisoner in Iran.

“I am alone in a solitary confinement cell, at the notorious Evin prison on September 23, 2019, in the north of Tehran, Iran. I remember my classroom with students that I loved.

The bottom of my mind is a whisper of a half-empty class.

My eyes are closed. I am sitting on the chair. I raised my eyes and put my hand on my forehead. The sound of the investigator’s foot is heard. He asks: did you sleep? I will not answer. I should not go back.

I put the sheet on the table. After a few minutes, he returns the sheet. With the same, duplicate questions.

I said, “I answered that question Six times.”

“Write for the seventh time,” he says.

He knows too, I ask, “What are you looking for?”

“Look for the bottom of your mind,” he says.

When he goes out of the room, I close my eyes again. The class is crowded. I hear a noisy class. This is my second fall here. Five more falls yet. Now the nights are getting longer and the remaining 7 years will come. 2296 remaining days. I close my mind. No sound. It’s like an empty class.”

(Part of a letter from Mohammad Habibi written in Evin prison on September 23, 2019)

On 3 March 2018, when Mohammad Habibi was arrested in front of the school where he teaches, he was taken to his home where security agents ransacked his house. He spent the first two weeks of his detention in solitary confinement, before being transferred to a communal block of Evin prison. On 4 August 2018, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Mohammad Habibi to ten and a half years in prison. His sentence also included the prohibition of social and political activities for two years, a travel ban of two years, and 74 lashes.

Mohammad Habibi is a human rights defender and an active member of the board of directors of the Teacher’s Trade Union of Tehran, through which he organizes regular assemblies. He has been a teacher for eighteen years, employed by the Iranian Ministry of Education. He also runs a Telegram channel, through which he broadcasts messages to a large audience.

What They Did To Habibi

The International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI) warns that he is currently held in prison under unbearably harsh conditions. According to family members who visited him, Habibi is suffering from deep pains in his chest and sides, due to severe kicks and blows to his body. He also has a large visible bruise on his back, the result of undercover agents dragging him on the asphalt of the street. He needs an immediate scan of the injured areas, but public authorities have not moved him to hospital from prison.

Habibi’s treatment by prison officials “is nothing short of homicidal, criminal negligence,” the IASWI deplores, holding all officials involved in this case fully responsible for anything happening to him.

Education International (EI) joins the IASWI in calling on all progressive individuals, organizations, trade unions, and especially teachers’ organizations worldwide, to condemn Habibi’s treatment and demand his immediate and unconditional release.

False Hope

On 15 May 2018, Mohammad Habibi called his family to inform them that he would be released on bail. However, his application for bail was denied after his family came to the prison the following day. The human rights defender is being denied access to and communication with his legal counsel.

On 1 October 2019, an Amnesty International Urgent Action said: Imprisoned Iranian teacher and trade unionist Mohammad Habibi is in poor health and is being denied the urgent specialized medical care he needs. He is a prisoner of conscience, serving 10 and a half years in prison solely for exercising his human rights. He must be immediately and unconditionally released.

Please help get Mr. Habibi out of prison and receiving the medical treatment he needs.

Hassan Mahmoudi
Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate and Social Media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.