The following has been received from Rahim Bajoghli: firstname.lastname@example.org who is responsible for its accuracy
Open Letter from Faraj Sarkuhi
January 3, 1997
Today is the 14th of Dey. I, Farraj Sarkuhi, am writing this note in great haste in the hope that one day someone or some people will read it so that Iranian and international public opinion and especially my loved ones Farideh, Arash, and Bahar will learn of the terrifying experiences I have had. Perhaps this note will never reach anyone. But I am hopeful that someone will read it and after my arrest or death, will publish it so that there will be a document, a testament to the pain and suffering that I have experienced. I don't know how long I have. I await imminent arrest or an incident whereby I will be murdered and my death will be presented as a suicide. Torture, prison, and death await me. In this note, I will try only to write what has happened although I wish I could also explain my situation.
Perhaps people can somewhat understand my situation after reading this note. I fell victim to a plan that the Ministry of Information of Iran devised and executed and still is in the process of fulfilling. I don't know what will follow next. I will write about everything that has happened until now. I was arrested on the 13th of Aban in the Mehrabad Airport and held in one of the secret prisons of the Ministry of Information until the 30th of Azar. Gradually, it became apparent that preparations for this complicated plan had been made long before. Before my arrest on the 13th of Aban, some things had happened that everybody more or less has heard about .... the Armenian trip..., the attack on Mansour's Kushan's house on the evening when a few writers including myself signed the draft of the mandate of the writers association; the incident at the German cultural attache Gertz's dinner party ; and my two-day arrest and detainment in Shahrivar 1375 (two days after the Kushan house attack).
I will explain the last two incidents in more detail since as I found out later, they were the initial steps of a larger scenario and are directly related to my arrest o the 13th of Aban and my 47 day detainment. Gertz, the German cultural attache invited a few writers to dinner--six of us received a formal invitation from the German Embassy: Golshiri, Sepanlu, Behbahani, Mehrangiz Kar and Roshanak Dariush, and I attended this party. I did not know Gertz; I had never seen him before, and after that night, I never saw him again. The only time I saw him was on that night at his house. Manville the French cultural attache used to give parties for writers too, and I had attended a couple of them. Politics would not be discussed at these parties. I thought that the Iranian authorities would not be opposed to these parties since they provided an appearance of democracy; besides, they knew better than anyone else that nothing was really going on.
So, I attended the Gertz party . Our discussion with him revolved around the necessity of translating and publishing contemporary Persian literature in Germany. That night they attacked Gertz's house. They took a videotape of us at the dinner table. Then they arrested us and took us to one of the prisons of the Ministry of Information. There I saw Hashemi, an agent of the Ministry of Information, for the first time. He spoke to me, Golshiri and Sepanlu. He told us that the cultural division of the Ministry of Information had found out what had happened to us and had come to our rescue. The anti-espionage division had been responsible for the attack on Gertz' house--but since the Ministry of Information was well aware that we were not spies, they intervened on our behalf, and other such talk. That night was over. The news of the incident was published in Der Spiegel. Golshiri, Sepanlu and I believed Hashemi's explanation, unaware that this was just a prelude to a vast and complicated trap. A while later, when the Mykonos trial affair intensified, it occurred to me that their goal was to use myself and a few others as bargaining chips. I wrote a letter to Farideh and put it inside a magazine and mailed it to her. After my recent release I heard that the letter had been published abroad.
But their plans were more complicated than I could have imagined. The next incident was that two days after the attack on Mansour Kushan's house, they arrested me. It was on a Tuesday around five o'clock in the afternoon when I was returning home from the office of the journal. They arrested and blindfolded me and took me to a secret prison. They beat me. Late at night, an man introduced by Hashemi as an agent of high rank, came and told me, "We want to sacrifice you to frighten the others; so that the intellectuals will mind their own business. I believed him, but later I found out that this arrest was also a prelude to a more complex plan. They forced me to telephone some writers and to make street appointments with them for the next Wednesday . The calls were made; it seems that their goal was to discredit me.
On Wednesday, they took my car documents form my house. During this recent detention, I found out that on that same day they had changed the name on my car documents, so that it would appear that I was planning to escape, and that I had sold my car. On Wednesday afternoon, my friends did not show up for the meetings in the street...only Kashigar came. They went ahead and arrested Mansur Kushan and Mohammad Ali as well. That same hig h-ranking agent made a speech to us four , but this was all a scenario--their goal was to implement their more complicated plan . He said that government policies have changed, etc. Anyway, they freed the others, but they kept me until two o'clock on Thu rsday. The interrogated me on Thursday--two or three questions about the trip to Armenia, two or three questions about the Consultative Group (This refers to the group of writers chosen to work on the Writers Mandate tr.) At two o'clock, they let me g o. At the time of release, Mr. Hashemi told me that I would not have an exit permit , and that I would not be allowed to leave the country.
A week after I was released, Farideh called and told me on the phone that there were rumors that you have done an "interview" (meaning public confession--tr.). I did not take this very seriously, because I thought that they were spreading these rumors to ruin my reputation. Later, I found out that I was mistaken, and that this rumor, like my arrest and other incidents were parts of a bigger plan.
In the beginning of Aban, Mr. Hashemi called me and told me on the phone that I would now be able to obtain an exit visa and leave the country. I missed my wife and children; I was very anxious to see them. I thought that maybe the regime had concluded that banning me from travel had no advantage for them. I did not doubt Mr. Hashemi's words. Here I have to add a point to explain my own wrong mind set and wrong interpretations that allowed me to become a mere pawn-- and this would apply to those like me as well. First, we thought that there were two factions in this regime, and that the Ministry of Information was dominated by the faction which did not back the policy of putting a lot of pressure on intellectuals. Secondly, I had not participated in covert political activities; my work was cultural and overt. I was the editor of Adineh, and wrote literary articles. I also participated in the Consultative Group--these were all out in the open. I was sure of my own innocence. This sense of security had led me to be optimistically unsuspecting. I knew I hadn't done anything, so I naively assumed they wouldn't do anything to me. These mistaken presuppositions set me up to believe what they told me.
I did not doubt Mr. Hashemi's statements. I bought a ticket. I was planning to go to Germany on the 13th of Aban, and spend two or three weeks with my wife and children. I bought them presents and prepared for the trip. On Saturday the 12th of Aban at around 10 or 11 o'clock, Mr. Hashemi called me and said that he had to see me before my departure. The flight was at 8 a.m.on the next morning. He told me to meet him at 4 a.m. in front of the exchange booth , which is outside the main hall. This phone call disturbed and worried me. I thought that at worst, he would prevent me from leaving, or that they would arrest me at the airport or that they would want to threaten me not to criticize them abroad. Anyway, I had no choice, because they could have arrested me at home if they wanted. I had no other way or solution, and I certainly could not have foreseen their elaborate plan.
I went to the airport with Parvin Ardalan. She was going to wait for me in the lounge in case I needed money for excess baggage. I waited in front of the exchange booth. One of the officials showed up and told me to go with him. They took me to one of the rooms inside the airport. Mr. Hashemi gave me the exit forms to fill out, which I did. Then he took my passport and exit tax. Fifteen minutes later, he arrested me. They blindfolded me and took me by car to one of the secret prisons of the Ministry of Information. I remained there until the end the main phase of their plan had begun.
Based on the documents they showed me during the interrogations and things they were saying among themselves, I found out that on that day, they had changed the photograph on my passport, and put someone else's photo in place of mine. That person got my foreign currency allowance, did some shopping at the airport, and then went to Hamburg with my passport and my name, since my passport now has the Hamburg airport entry stamp. Later I found out that they had sent someone to Parvin to tell her that my flight had been delayed, and that I was now going to leave with Lufthansa, and that she should call Germany to tell my family not to meet me at the airport as planned. Parvin's message had been received too late--and some people had come to meet me at the airport. By now, things were proceeding well, according to their plan.
On the 13th of Aban, they took me to prison. My interrogations and torture began. From the very first or second day, they told me that I had been proclaimed "disappeared": " It has been officially announced that you have left Iran, and your entry in to Germany has been documented at Hamburg airport. You will remain in solitary confinement for a while. After the interrogations, interviews and other inquiries, we will kill you and bury you secretly--or we'll dump your body in Germany." On the third o r fourth day, they played me a recorded telephone conversation between my brother Esmail and my wife Farideh in which Esmail was telling Farideh that Mehrabad airport had officially declared my departure from Iran. They made me hear it so that I would know they were serious.
The pressure began to intensify. No one can understand my emotional and psychological state--I was condemned to death...I had no hope. I wasn't an official prisoner...I had "disappeared" without a trace...my situation was different from any other prisoner's, even the ones who were convicted to die. A prisoner, even on death row can hope for amnesty, can write a letter or draft a will. A regular prisoner can entertain hopes to be relieved from solitary confinement; but for me, imminent death was certain. I was formally announced to have left the country.....Torture, pain , it felt as if I was buried alive....The physical and psychological pressure crushed me, destroyed me...I was ruined....
They began the interrogations. They forced me to write the Shahrivar date---the date of my earlier two-day detention-- on the interrogation forms. They got enough interrogation material to fill a thick book--and still they had me write the Sharivar d ate on all the forms. The interrogations began on the 13th of Aban and they continued until the last day. Part of the interrogation concerned cultural matters, and I could write my opinion. Some questions concerned biographical information about me, so me about the history and background of the consultative group, and the group of 134 and the text of the 134...(refers to the proclamation of the 134--tr.)These questions were not too difficult to answer, since nothing about our work was secret or covert. All our (writers) activities had been out in the open. Another part of the interrogations involved my personal, emotional and sexual relationships--including my relationship with Parvin Ardalan. They forced me to write whatever they wanted about this matter. It was torture...they forced me to write whatever they desired.
I subsequently discovered that their main objective was not so much to conduct interrogations but to stage manage "interviews" . With the "interviews", their primary plans now became obvious. First they crushed and destroyed me, then by exerting intense pressure, they forced me to memorize and "recite" the texts they had prepared in a staged TV interview which they were taping with a video camera(still supposedly in Shahrivar). They taped these forced, false and fabricated interviews in that same prison. The "interviews" included a discussion about other writers; they had provided the text.. and most of it was lies.... However, the major portion of the interviews was devoted to espionage. They made me "confess" that I spied for Manville the French cultural attache, and for Gertz the German one and that I was being paid by them. They made me "confess" that the German government was giving money to my wife in Germany.....that Manville and Gertz gave me and our journal Adindeh ideological directions to promote; in other words, they determined what subjects we focused on, and other talk which I don't remember. They made up these lies and forced me to speak them...To make it appear that these "interviews were genuine, they would write details about Gertz or Manville's lives, force me to memorize them and recite them in front of the camera. For example, that Gertz is rich.... that he has a big house and he loves antiques, and he likes so and so, and doesn't like so and so.. and talk like that. They repeatedly beat me into performing this interview credibly. They repeated the interviews several times, and each time, they would tell me to plead for forgiveness and clemency . Then they forced me to say that I had sexual relations with several women. In truth, I had not even met some of these women in my entire life...... Then they forced me to speak about the sexual relations of other writers with each others' wives.
But the main point was espionage...... and the important point was that they repeatedly insisted that I mention the date ..Shahrivar. They made several tapes, and in all the tapes, the date of my two day Shahrivar arrest are stated throughout. The reality is that this "interview" is a complete lie. I have never been a spy. The "interview" was conducted while I was in prison in Aban and Azar, not Shahrivar. This is the truth, but they want to implement their plan ...I shall write about the goals of their plan.
You might ask why I gave in to such humiliation, why I allowed myself to give in to their demands, to do what ever they asked. I don't want to justify my actions, but I underwent enormous physical and emotional pressure, and I was completely ruined and destroyed. I just wanted to end it all quickly and to be killed. People who do forced interviews in prison may harbor hopes of diminished sentences, amnesty or promises of freedom, but my situation was not like that. I was condemned to death and buried alive with no hope of amnesty or freedom. These "interviews" with me which were a part of their plan would result in my murder, my death. After each interview, I felt a little closer to death. The physical and psychological pressure was overwhelming. I was shattered and I wanted them to finish up what they were doing quickly and kill me so that I would be relieved from the constant torture and madness. On many occasions, I wrote letters to them on the interrogation papers, begging them to kill me or to give me something so that I could take my own life.
Anyway, the forced interviews with their prepared texts were taped. Everything that is said in these interviews is completely untrue. They wrote the texts, they made me memorize them, and then they taped it. The important point is that they insisted on the Shahrivar date. The phrase "Presently in the month of shahrivar..." or "Presently in the sixth month" is repeated over and over in the interviews. After the interviews, I began to understand more and more of their plan. In between the utter loneliness, the physical and emotional pain of the continuing interrogations, the sense of being on the brink of madness and distress, there were moments that I could think. Based on what was happening around me, what they were forcing me to do, I began to make sense of what their goals were. Now I am writing to explain why they sacrificed me--later I will continue describing the events.
The complicated plan which is still being implemented has several goals. The first goal is to stand up to the Germans regarding the Mykonos affair. They want to get some concessions from the German government. Of course, my interviews were only for internal consumption--the Germans are not about to give concessions for this or any other Iranian individual. But the Ministry of Information wanted to set a trap for the Germans, to implicate them ( in espionage..tr.)This is their first goal. The second goal is to provide propaganda to counter the negative implications of Mykonos affair at home. The third goal is to discredit and vilify intellectuals, myself included, in the eyes of the public. And then there is the goal of frightening the intellectuals into silence. In short, to corner the Germans, to provide propaganda to counter Mykonos, to discredit intellectuals inside Iran, to frighten writers, to destroy me physically and morally--all of these were their goals. Through my forced " interviews", they could attain the second, third and fourth goals, but the first goal--implicating the Germans and forcing concessions out of them--has still eluded them. They are still in pursuit of that goal. From one stage to the next, I am gradually becoming more aware of their goals.
The scenario of the first stage of the plan was as follows: Faraj Sarkuhi intends to travel to Germany on the 13th of Aban. Sarkuhi is arrested in Mehrabad airport and is imprisoned. Then by exchanging his passport photo with the photo of an agent, t he agent goes to Hamburg instead. The passport gets the exit stamp from Iran, and the entry stamp in Hamburg. Sarkuhi doe not reach his destination, while the "alternate"goes to Germany. Farideh and others protest; and a wave of other protests follow. The Iranian government keeps silent except for the announcement that Sarkuhi has left Iran through Mehrabad airport and is in Germany. Finally Farideh or someone else make inquiries form Hamburg airport officials. They respond that Sarkuhi has entered Germany (my alternate went to Germany with my passport and it was stamped). Then, once the Germans have announced that they have a record of Sarkuhi's entry into Germany, the Iranian government broadcasts my "interviews".
Meanwhile the real Sarkuhi is in prison. The interviews are shown with the Shahrivar date. The Iranian government announces that Sarkuhi was arrested in Shahrivar--and has voluntarily (or based on fake documents, I don't know which tactic they will use) confessed to being a spy for Germany. Why is he released after confessing to espionage? Because he has vowed to cooperate with the Ministry of Information. However, once he goes to Germany, the German government arranges for him to go into hiding. The Iranian government makes an official request to the German government for the extradition of the fugitive spy. The Iranian government has two important pieces of evidence for these claims. First the "interviews", supposedly conducted in Shahrivar, before the trip (and maybe other fabricated documents); and second, more importantly the official announcement of Hamburg airport authorities concerning the entry stamp on Sarkuhi's passport. The German government will be trapped. The real Sarkuhi will be killed in prison after the forced, fabricated interviews. The Iranian government will keep insisting on his extradition and the Germans end up in a bind, because they themselves have announced the evidence of Sarkuhi's entry. Thus the main Iranian goal of putting the Germans in enough of a troublesome situation to cede concessions, will have been met. The broadcast "interviews" would publicize German interference in the internal affairs of Iran; intellectuals would be discredited, vilified and silenced; Sarkuhi would be killed in prison and no one would find out the truth.........
My arrest in Shahrivar, the rumors of my interviews after that, the exit permit, the wrong date on the interrogations and interviews (Shahrivar), sending the alternate to Germany, changing the passport photo, etc. were all stages in this complex plan, t he primary goal of which was to set a trap for the German government. Why did they pick me for this plan? First, they were on very bad terms with me, since they considered me to be an active and intelligent force in the consultative group. I had been involved in politics in the past. With my wife and children residing in Germany, I was alone in Teheran. I had nothing to do with my family's application for political asylum in Germany; Farideh's problems and reasons for requesting asylum were unknown to me. But these are details: the main issue was and is that I became a victim of the clash between Iran and Germany over the Mykonos affair---an affair that does not have anything to do with me.
I was in prison, buried alive, awaiting death. I had spent eight years in the Shah's prisons; I had been arrested and imprisoned several times during his reign. But all of those eight years together could not compare in pain and distress with a mere five minutes out of these forty seven days. I know that it is difficult for anyone to imagine my wretched state of pain and humiliation. Such was the plan of the Ministry of Information, and eventually they will implement it fully. There may have been snags here and there that compelled them to make changes, not in their goals, but in the actual implementation of the plan.
I shall now continue recounting the events....I wrote that I was arrested and imprisoned on the 13th of Aban . They interrogated me under conditions of extraordinary psychological and physical pressure; they forced me to participate in fabricated inter views; they wrote the texts of the interviews themselves and they forced me to memorize what they wrote. They changed the dates of the interrogations and interviews to Shahrivar and kept announcing that date. I began to understand their motives and goals after each stage; I was a mere plaything in their hands...buried alive and wretched. Their main problem was now to get the German government to confirm the entry stamp on my passport. I think they have achieved practically everything about their plan ---such as the interviews-- and perhaps other things I don't know about--the only thing left is the confirmation of the stamp. To get that confirmation, they had to publicly show that stamp on my passport , so they proceeded to the next stage of the pl an.
They told me that they would release me for a while with the condition that I say and do exactly as they say. I accepted. Anything --- even death or rearrest which will undoubtedly occur within a few days--seemed preferable to the situation that I was in. They told me that they planned to let me reappear in Mehrabad airport and have an interview with journalists. Of course, I did not believe any of this. They obtained documents about my having been to Turkemenistan. They told me what to say and h ow to respond to questions in the interview. I did the interview in Mehrabad airport, and it was published. I also had an interview with the BBC and French Radio, telling everyone what I had been ordered to say. On the 30th of Azar, after the airport interview, I was ostensibly released, but I am under constant surveillance. I told everyone the version that I said at the airport and no one, not even my brother knows the true version of events. I haven't told anyone. There is absolutely nothing I can do. I don't know if anyone will ever see this letter. I know that they will eventually recapture and imprison me or kill me, but I don't know what I can do about that. I don't even know what to do with this letter--maybe I will tear it up. I know that this letter will never reach anyone, but my hope is that Farideh and my children will read it and discover how their husband and father has suffered, and be assured that he was never a spy.
On the 30th of Azar, I was ostensibly freed, but I am under complete surveillance. They turned up and told me that I have to become legally married to Parvin Ardalan. And that I have to participate in another interview with journalists to demonstrate the Hamburg stamp and the Turkemenistan documents. I don't know their motive for making me get married. Kayhan Havai announced in an article that I have two wives. In the next issue, an article said that Sarkuhi intends to marry a woman. Mr. Hashemi said that I must marry. He brought an identity card for me that did not contain the names of my wife and children, so that it would be legally possible to marry Parvin. They put Parvin and myself under a lot of pressure and said that if we didn't get married, they would publicize our illicit relations. He took us by force to a marriage registry, but the official there got scared and did not issue a marriage license. My guess is that they will issue a false marriage certificate. I don't know why they need such a marriage certificate in the first place. Who do they want to show it to? Maybe they want to use it as my alleged motive for having returned to Iran.
Regarding their primary goal which is to put pressure on Germany, they are probably still continuing their efforts. They could not officially publicize the Hamburg entry stamp before the 30th of Azar (date of F.S.'s release--tr. ) and demand an explanation from the Germans. But now they can, and they will say that Sarkuhi himself gave us this evidence. Maybe as I am writing this, they have done it already. Maybe they will do it in a press conference...I don't know how they will do it. Maybe they will publish it in the newspapers and demand an official explanation form the Germans through official channels. In any case, their plan is still in motion.
There is an article in Kayhan Havai which accuses me of espionage and states that the German government has consciously and deliberately kept the evidence of my entry a secret. I feel that they are pursuing their original plan with the same goals, but I don't know what their next step will be. In any case, they will definitely arrest me again. They will either kill me and mask it as a suicide, or they will force me into other interviews, or other things I cannot even guess about, then kill me and mask it as suicide. Their main problem for now is to get the Hamburg stamp confirmed. Maybe it is already confirmed. When it is, they will say that Sarkuhi was lying about his family problems. He is really a spy. I am a broken man. I am absolutely desolate and hopeless. It is difficult for any one to understand my pain and suffering. The end is near, and I am about to die, accused of a crime that is in complete contradiction with my whole life's effort.
I know that with all the possibilities at their disposal, with the help of their agents among activists and intellectuals, with their fabricated interviews full of lies, with the confirmation of the Hamburg entry stamp, the truth will be trampled. George Orwell's 1984 seems tame compared to my story. I don't know what else to write. The end is near. Will anyone ever get this letter? Will anyone ever find out the truth about the victim? Should this letter come into anyone's possession, please make sure that it reaches my wife within three days after my arrest or one day after my death, so that she can get it published. If no one finds this, I will be dead anyway. In reality, I died on the 13th of Aban. I love my wife and children with all my heart. #
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