Interview with winner of Human Rights Watch journalism award
By Fariba Amini
August 21, 2002
Does anyone know of that word which has left the heart of that sad bird, called,
faith? Why can't Islamic statesmen bring faith into hearts? Why do they think lashes
and violence is the answer to everything? -- Simin Behbehani
Roshanak Daryoush is this year's recipient of Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett
grant which is given every year to writers or journalists who are targets of political
persecution by a government.
She is also a member of the Iranian Writer's Association and a translator of many
texts from the German Language into Farsi. She is the wife of Khalil Rostamkhani,
presently in the Islamic Regime's jail, sentenced to 8 years imprisonment. She is
suffering from an inoperable brain tumor and undergoing chemotherapy. She currently
lives in Germany with her 13-year-old son.
Roshanak and her husband who have a long history of political activitism, ran
a translation agency (German and English languages) in Tehran for more than 15 years,
when in 1999 they were contacted by the Heinrich Boll Foundation for a planned conference
in Berlin in the year 2000. Roshanak acted as an interpreter and translator at the
Rostamkhani made the appointments for the meetings in Iran and sent faxes for
the guests at the event. He was not one of the organizers of the event as later charged.
The conference, whose speakers included prominent writers and intellectuals from
Iran, was not well received by the Iranian authorities. Most of the participants,
after returning to Iran, were arrested and charged with undermining national security.
Among them, Akbar Ganji, Mehrangiz Kar, Yousef Eshkevari, Rostamkhani and several
Rostamkhani's detention is not his first. Since 1979, he has been in and out of
prison, accused of belonging to a leftist organization. Rostamkhani was the co-founder
of the English publication, Akhbar Rouz and later worked with another magazine,
Iran Echo. On May 8, 2000, Khalil Rostamkhani was once again arrested. Roshanak
remained in Germany and was sentenced in absentia.
From an interview with Roshanak:
For over twenty years, I worked as a translator. For
some years I was the official translator of the Iran-German Chamber of Commerce and
Industries and for three years, I worked with the Man-Ghh-Iran Company.
Subsequently, working as an independent translator, I have translated innumerable
documents issued by courts of law and other governmental bodies. I am still the official
translator of the Iran-German Chamber of Commerce and Industries. In addition I have
translated several thousand pages of German literature into Persian.
Now the two of us have suffered a major blow because of our translation work for
the Heinrich Boll Institute. The officials of the 3rd branch of the Islamic Revolutionary
Court arrested Khalil on May 8, 2000. The arrest warrant had been issued for both
Khalil and I. The officers came to our house to take both of us. However, since I
was in Germany studying on a scholarship from PEN Center, I could not be detained.
Our computers, as well as discs, video cassettes and written materials were all
confiscated. My husband was allowed to inform my mother so that our son could be
taken to her house.
Officials form the Revolutionary Court called me in Germany to suggest that I
go back, accept some of the charges and lighten the burden on my husband. Of course,
I did not go back. In January 2001, my husband, Khail, was sentenced to nine years
in prison, 8 years of which would be spent in a prison in Bandar Abbas, in southern
On May 12, Kahyan, the hard-line, conservative
newspaper published an article about Mrs. Mehranguiz Kar, one of the speakers at
the Berlin Conference who was then in jail (she was later released on bail). Among
other things, the article said she had been in touch with foreign embassies in Iran
and foreign espionage agencies.
As evidence of this charge, the paper referred to her being invited to parties,
including one at the residence of the German Cultural Attaché in Tehran, which
she attended with Houshang Golshiri, Roshanak Daryoush, and other dissident intellectualsÖ
Kayhan published a more explicit article asking
who was behind the "counter revolutionary" conference in Berlin? The article
said the CIA, Iranian monarchists; former President Bani Sadr and Iranian leftists
were behind it.
On May 16, Kayhan ran a front-page story saying the famous translator Khalil
Rostamkhani was involved in the preparation of the conference and worked as an interpreter
and is now in jail.
My husband is in now in a prison in Saveh, a small city in Northeast of Tehran.
After the verdict of the Supreme Court, his prison term was reduced to 8 years and
from all charges against him, remained only those with which he had already been
sentenced twelve years ago.
Without any real evidence, he is condemned again and the courts claim that his
sentence is due to his opposition against the Islamic regime. He shares a jail with
murderers, robbers and drug offenses. He uses his time to translate, write poetry
I ask all human rights organizations to try their best
to help secure the release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran. But specifically
I want to give attention to my husband's plight who is in jail now for charges made
12 years ago for which he has already spent two years in prison.
I don't know what future he will face, but I hope as always that he will be free
very soon and he can join us so the three of us can be a family again. Especially
now that I am suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. At every cycle of the chemotherapy,
I am unable to care for myself for weeks and I need help. I hope it will not be too
late for us and that I would not have to leave my son alone in this world.
Recently, International PEN called for the release of writer Khalil Rostamkhani
on humanitarian grounds. Yet he and many other writers, intellectuals, students and
even their lawyers remain in captivity.