Translation by Iran Press Watch
HRANA News Agency – Negin Ghadimian, a Baha’i detained in Evin Prison who was imprisoned for five years on December 18th 2017, has written an open letter about her deprivations and bitter memories as a Baha’i in Iran since she was 18 years old.
According to the HRANA, the news arm of Human Rights Activists in Iran, Negin Ghadimian is an Iranian Baha’i who has been detained in the women’s ward of Evin Prison since December 18th 2017.
While she is currently serving a 5-year sentence, she has been denied access to proper medical treatment at Evin Prison. Despite a dental gum infection and severe pain in the jaw area and toothache, Ms. Ghadimian has been denied specialized medical treatment. Although this prisoner’s permission to be sent to the clinic has been issued, the head of the medical department has disapproved her visit.
This Baha’i citizen has written in an open letter of the limitations and bitter memories she has faced as a Baha’i since the age of 18.
Read the full text of this letter as provided by HRANA:
“Hope, Smile, Beginning”
First: Revolution Square next to the University fence
It is the year 2001, and I am eighteen years old. I beg my mom to come with me. I know what the trend is: I’ve heard things from my older friends. But my path takes a different direction. I receive the exam entrance card and go to the problematic cases area. I declare to them that on the religion field of my card Islam is written, though I had left this field blank. The gentleman in charge, who was overwhelmed by the noise, asked in a hurry, “So what’s wrong with that?” I say I’m a Baha’i. His face changes. Maybe it becomes kinder: I don’t know! It’s as if he too is ready for this scenario, like me. He takes the card from me. It seems to me as though it became silent for a moment. Absolute silence. I’m waiting for an answer. He lowers his voice, and in a fatherly tone says: “My daughter: be wise. Take this card and take your exam. Don’t allow your future to be ruined. Now what’s the difference?” For a moment I imagine myself with my backpack in tow and smiling friends, walking to college, or going from store to store along Enghelab Street, looking for our textbooks. The wonderful feeling of being a student. The noise and the crowd brings me back to the present. I tell the kind gentleman that this card does not match my profile. I am a Baha’i. If I go to take the exam with this card, I would feel as if I were cheating. He looks at me with glances which mean “You will never learn, will you?” I also look at him, and respond with glances that look as though I am telling him “I wish you knew and could understand how I feel!” He tore up the card and said he was sorry. But he was not. He quickly turned to his next task. I look at the card torn in half on the table and lose myself in the ruckus and commotion of Enghelab Square. I touch the green fence of the University. My mom looks at me with pride. She too has experienced this pain. I know this well. I know she loved her job. She loved her field of nursing and I’m sure she would have loved to continue. But her path was also blocked. On the way, I promise myself that I will do my best to prevent anyone else from feeling that way ever again. Feel the way my mom and I felt: wanting to study, to get an education, but not able to do so.
The story of the entrance exam was repeated 6 more times for me, and each time with the same result. Meanwhile, I studied at the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education in Iran. After graduating, I started teaching at the same place.
Second: In Class, July 2011
One can read the worry and concern on the faces of every single one of the students in the literature class. They know that in June 1990, I too had been one of those people who had been interrogated and had their houses inspected. To begin with this lesson, it is necessary to transform the class atmosphere first. This much anxiety does not allow any useful teaching work. I tell them what happened on May 22, 1990. I tell them about interrogation at the house. I tell them how we had some construction in the house and even I could not find anything in all that mess, let alone the [interrogating] gentlemen! Also, that the house and my room were filmed in that condition too. I tell them about a man with a mask who quietly stood in the corner, and the other one who every minute asked me: “Why don’t you go abroad?” and my repetitive answer: “Why should I go?”, and how he paid no attention to my question. The students are now laughing.
I tried my best to convey the sentiment that they should not worry about anything. I said: “What have we done that would cause worry? We are only trying to study and learn because we were deprived of the education that had been our dream. The fact that we want to learn more is not a crime.” I told them that I had a good feeling in my heart that all this would have a happy ending.
I miss those days. I miss every single one of them. I still dream about the classes, and the waves of enthusiasm in their eyes. Their passion for knowledge and playful mischief, characteristic of young students. I know that all those students, the ones that I saw and the ones that I did not see, were all eager for knowledge. Eager to learn. Teaching for me is keeping my promise to myself. For me, teaching is an attempt to improve the situation even if only a little bit. Teaching is not a crime in my eyes.
Third: Tabriz Airport, November 2017
There is a backpack on my back and Pouya’s hand in my hand, we have checked our luggage, and have come to embrace our parents for one last time. The shadow of 5 years in jail hangs over our heads ‒ this time closer than ever. The stress of worry and anxiety has incapacitated my decision-making. A dear one has invited us to Switzerland, and all the preparations have came together faster than we thought. For the moment our decision is to take the trip and then think in a calm environment about what exactly we are to do.
At the last gate, they separated me from the rest of the passengers in the line. Pouya looks at me. We both know what that means. I have been banned from leaving the country, and of course will be arrested. Pouya is holding onto my hand really tightly. We both know how short our time together is. He looks at me. His eyes are confident. My lips are smiling. I say we’ve come to the end of one adventure and the start of a new adventure. He puts his hand on my shoulders and says, “You know I’m in, to the end.” I look at him and say I’m sure you are. And this is how our 5-year joint project begins.
Negin Ghadimian / Evin Prison / December 16, 2018
Regarding the author of the letter: Negin Ghadimian was arrested on December 16, 2017, when she was arrested at the airport as she was preparing to take a trip. Two days later, she was transferred to the women’s ward of Evin Prison to serve her five-year sentence.
This Baha’i citizen was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment in absentia without being summoned to the court, by Judge Moghiseh in March 2013 on charges of acting against national security through membership in an illegal Baha’i institution.
Negin Ghadimian had previously been arrested by security forces on May 24, 2011, and was later released on bail of 50 million tomans (about $455 at the time) until the end of the legal process.
She is currently serving the eleventh month of her 5-year conviction in the women’s ward of Evin Prison.