It is with great sorrow and total grief that I am writing these few lines. Ever since I heard the news of Akbar Mohammadi’s untimely death in prison, on July 30th, I have only cried at the thought of how a young man’s life has been taken so tragically; how he will be missed by his mother and father and his sisters and brother; how his prison mates will miss him. He was innocent and only drawn into a life that he had not anticipated. He was a student at Tehran University who became caught up in the Events of 18 Tir; He was arrested and imprisoned, interrogated and tortured. He lost the best years of his life during which he, like many fellow students, still had dreams for a future, his own and that of his country.
The men who tortured him took away his life, his youth and his future. They were men who are clinging to power out of greed and for self preservation, who have appropriated everything for themselves while leaving nothing for others. Akbar Mohammadi lost his life because he believed in freedom and the struggle for the preservation of what is noble and sacred to all of us: the freedom of humankind, love for others and the belief that all human beings are created equal.
I had the privilege of translating his prison memoirs recently. As I read through the one hundred or so pages, I came to know a young man who was innocent, pure of heart, someone from a small town in Mazandaran who became active in the political scene because he saw the injustice of his society and wanted to make a difference. For six long years, Akbar Mohammadi endured harsh interrogation and unbearable torture at the hands of those who have made Iran into a vast prison for all its citizens.
My name is Akbar Mohammadi. I am sure you have heard of my name either on the radio or on television, and/or have read about me in newspapers, of my continuing struggle against the Islamic Republic; I am not sure, though, if you have any idea what happened to me in the prisons of the regime.
For this very reason, I want to write my story and let all my compatriots know what took place. By writing this memoir, I intend to document everything in the archives of history which will one day expose the true nature of Iran’s present rulers.
I was born into a middle class family in Amol, in the luscious greenery of the beautiful province of Mazandaran, in the land of Maziar, adjacent to the land of Babak Khoramdin.
In 1994, after finishing high school, I came to Tehran. After passing the entrance exam for the university, I was admitted to the school of Health and Human Resources at Tehran University, to study to become a social worker.
As a freedom loving student, I saw the injustice and the lack of freedom prevailing in society; thus I began my political activities. What changed me was the tragic death of the Forouhars in 1998, the exposure of these murders in the newspaper Salaam, and the paper’s subsequent closing. This tragic event had an enormous impact on many of us.
My older brother Manouchehr Mohammadi and I were arrested during a peaceful student demonstration, which began in the universities on 18 Tir/8 July 1999, starting in Tehran and subsequently spreading to many other cities, and which was broken up by the regime’s security guards.
It is ironic that I was kicked out of the University on the 27th of Khordad 1382 (June 2003) because of my long absence (I was in prison!!). What you will read in the following pages are the events that led to my arrest (after 5 days) by the security forces and all that happened to me while in custody. I must add that all the pain and suffering which I endured are not all spelled in this memoir as I have tried to forget most of it…
The Basij militia had come from other parts of Iran to Tehran to suppress the dissent. They were youngsters, who had become pawns. They acted from pure conviction and most were from the rural areas and poor families. They had told them that the folks in Tehran and university students were anti-religious and anti-Islam.
They were brainwashed thinking that we wanted to do away with Islam. They were told that we wanted to spread prostitution and corruption throughout Iran. Since most of these young people loved guns and wanted to see the capital city, they had come to Tehran, where they were given guns to suppress the students, many of whom had also come from the same rural areas where the students had come from.
His final words were:
This is a token of what happened to me in the last few years in the horrific prisons of the Islamic Republic; I can’t recall everything. I just hope that one day, the dark shadow that is taken over our country, the dark shadow of dictatorship, injustice and oppression will be replaced by the light of democracy, freedom on the plateau of Iran. I hope we will never see a single political prisoner, the reign of terror, torture, oppression and fear.
Until that day… I say,
Long live freedom, End to tyranny, Long live Iran. — Akbar Mohammadi, Ideas and lashes: The prison diary of Akbar Mohammadi