Uncertain future

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 conference.

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 others.

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 Iran.

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 intellectuals�

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 and articles.

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.

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