Sunday, August 1

“Today’s President of Iran was present when I was tortured while pregnant”


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Thousands of activists and supporters of the Iranian secular left, who fought alongside the Khomeini clerical Islamist movement to overthrow the Shah, were executed in the summer of 1988. The revolution devoured many of its own children very shortly after its triumph. In 1988, a ‘fatwa’ from the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, ordered the execution of all political prisoners. Among them was Faradeh Goudarzi, a sympathizer of the People’s Mujahideen, the main leftist organization. In 1982, when she was imprisoned, she was 20 years old and pregnant. Faradeh was one of the few prisoners who escaped the mass executions signed by four prosecutorial clerics. One of them was named Ebrahim Raisi. Last June, the former provincial prosecutor was elected president of Iran.

“What was your first reaction when you heard about Raisi’s choice?”

“Of infinite sadness.” Ebrahim Raisi was for years the executing arm of the repressive regime of the ayatollahs. His coming to power shows how corrupted the system has been.

“How did you meet him?”

—In July 1982, when I was 20 years old and with a late pregnancy, I was arrested for being a sympathizer of the Organization of the People’s Mujahideen and sent to Hamadan prison, where Ebrahim Raisi, then a young mullah, was practicing as a provincial prosecutor. I was tortured by several guards, while Raisi watched me. I still did not know him, but when I returned to the cell they told me that he was Raisi. Unfortunately I had the opportunity to see him many more times, during torture sessions with electric cables and exhausting interrogations.

“They weren’t considerate of her pregnancy?”

-Not. I gave birth to my son a week after being incarcerated, and spent several months in confinement with the baby, who I could not feed except with water and sugar. My greatest anguish was the atrocities that the guards committed with my son. In an interrogation, in which Ebrahim Raisi was present, the torture reached its climax.

“What happened that day?”

—It was at the end of the summer of 1982, my son was barely 30 days old. Several guards entered my cell and one of them picked up the baby and dropped him to the ground. I was terrified and in shock. At that moment another guardian undressed me. Prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi was at the door observing everything.

—You were arrested for belonging to a secular left-wing movement that helped Ayatollah Joemini overthrow the Shah in 1979. What happened so that in such a short time the ally became the ‘black beast’ of the new regime?

—I was 17 years old during the revolution and my knowledge of what was happening was very limited. But I know that neither the ayatollahs nor the mullahs were in the streets protesting against the Shah. Khomeini returned to the country when the revolution had triumphed and simply stole it from us. We and other secular groups had no leaders: the few who did exist were in jail. So the charisma of Ayatollah Khomeini prevailed, and with it his background of Shiite clerics, including Ebrahim Raisi, who was just 20 years old at the time and was beginning his brilliant career in the new Islamist judicial system. What could have been our Iranian Spring became Winter.

“What happened to your family when you were arrested?”

“My husband was arrested two days before me, and my brother the same day.” All three of us were accused of sympathizing with an anti-revolutionary movement. My husband could not bear the torture and lost his mind. However, he was executed in 1984 in the courtyard of the Hamadán prison, using the crane system: this is how the Khomeini regime hanged political prisoners at that time.

-And his brother?

“He was executed in the summer of 1988. Khomeini ordered the execution of political prisoners, and a commission of four clerics – including Ebahim Raisi – signed the sentences. Some 30,000 dissidents were executed with him throughout that year.

“How did you save your life?”

“I was on the death row, but I’m one of the few survivors from that year.” A delegation led by Ayatollah Montazeri visited Hamadan prison, and called for the sentence to be overturned. In fact, I was released shortly after.

—Your flight from Iran is relatively recent. How have you been able to survive all these years?

—Yes, after my release from prison I spent 28 very hard years, not only for myself but for all my compatriots. I tried several times to run away but did not succeed; Every two weeks I had to report to the police and a surveillance regime was maintained. When my son was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison, there was no longer the slightest doubt. Once we met again, we managed to escape into exile together.

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