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Roozbeh Farahanipour. Photo courtesy of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce


New President of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce is Announced


Los Angeles, California: April, 2015; In March 2015, the Board of Directors elected Mr. Roozbeh Farahanipour as the new President of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Farahanipour is a local businessperson and very active community leader. The West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce continues to be the hub for businesses within the region. By creating opportunities for growth and commerce, the Chamber makes every effort to revitalize and provide support to the region.

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Marze Por Gohar

Roozbeh Farahanipour Memoirs of Tohid Prison

The following is a translation from Roozbeh Farahanipour’s notes and interviews. It is an attempt to expose the Human Rights violations in the Islamic Republic.

Towhid (1)

“I came to the realization that their purpose was to make us fear life without having the opportunity to die.”

Towhid is one of the principals of Islam, like mercy and justice. The Islamic Republic has reincarnated Towhid in the form of a horrific building on Sepah Ave. AKA Imam Khomeini Ave., behind the offices of the Foreign Ministry. It is the unofficial and secret prison of VEVAK. On duty are the core of the Revolutionary guards of the Islamic Republic. Nazmeddin Movahed a member of the INF leadership council who was in Towhid at the same time as Ali Ardalan, once said “ in this prison no one has ever heard of mercy and justice let alone God”.

The prison dates back to Reza Shah’s era. Initially it was a prison for women. Then it was used for “The mutual committee” (2) and later it was used by SAVAK (3). Most prisoners in IRI have spent some time in this prison because most of the major interrogations of VEVAK takes place here. The late Ali Ardalan, leader of National Front in Iran spent, on one occasion out of many, 700 days in this prison, 333 of which were in solitary confinement.

The Arrest:

We were arrested on the evening of July 14th, around 5pm. A group of about 20 Islamic militiamen broke into our house while shooting their machine guns. They arrested 12 members of our party, 6 men and 6 women, 2 Afghan guests who stopped by for a visit, my mother and I. One of the militiamen attacked one of the girls and kicked her repeatedly in the face as punishment for not wearing a veil at the time of the attack. They had run out of their supply of handcuffs, so they tied some of us with phone wires etc. They took 3 to 4 truckloads of evidence from my house. They took books, articles, pamphlets, household appliances and goods. I don’t exactly know what they took but I suppose once they are convinced of political intrigue lying within a coffee maker, they have to take it in for questioning.

We were all taken to Towhid. All prisoners enter and exit Towhid blind-folded because they’re not supposed to know where they are. Officially that prison doesn’t exist. Blindfolds are never taken off, not within the prison walls, not during interrogation, not even during torture. The only time you could take them off is when you are in the solitary. Whatever I know, I’ve learned through peeking from under the blindfold or using my other senses, like hearing. I remember certain things vividly as if they happened yesterday, other things I do not recollect clearly.

Upon arrival, the prisoners are taken through preliminary paper work and fingerprinting, then they are taken to a room in which the prisoners, male and female are stripped of all their clothes and personal belongings, in plain view of the guards. This was particularly difficult for women. They did cavity searches on some people, but not on me. Then the prisoners are given a set of “monotheist” prison clothes. Women are also given a paisley prayer veil. Then they are taken to their cells where they could finally take their blindfolds off.

General conditions:

This prison has two 5-story buildings. The prisoners are located in one of these buildings, the one on the left. The first level has an open space of about 15 meters (49’ 2”), by the staircase. A guard sits there. The women’s prison is located in the left wing of the first floor. Each level has a metal door, about 4 to 5 meters high (13’ 1” to 16’ 4”). The door is located on top of a metal plate about ½ meter (1’ 6”) tall. Behind the door is a large hall, which has 4 or 6 corridors; in each corridor or hallway there are 6 or 8 cells. Most of the cells are solitaries but there are a few group cells. I was kept in solitary confinement. At the end of the large hall there are two bathrooms located at either end. These toilets are made for single users. And in front of them there is a wooden partition-wall to prevent inmates from contacting each other. At the end of the partition there is a big water cooler. The water is very cold.

The size of the solitaries is about 1.7X2.5 meters (5’ 5” X 8’ 2”), with 3 meters high (9’ 8”) cement walls. There is a small window on top. But due to the thickness of the walls and few layers of protective shielding, daylight does not come in, only air does. The cells are lit with 4 fluorescent bulbs. Each cell has a metal door with a small slide door on top in the shape of a circle or square. In addition there is a small peephole for an unnoticed checkup on the prisoners. On this door, on white paper with an ugly script the rules of the prison are written:

“Salvation through Verity” (4)

· The prisoner does not have the right to yell out or speak under any circumstances.

· Contact with other prisoners is prohibited. Those who disobey will be dealt with according to the rules and regulations.

· Each prisoner can only leave his cell 4 times a day, for using the bathroom or a drink of water.

· Once outside the cell, the Prisoner must keep his blindfolds on at all times.

· The prisoner can not have pen and paper without the permission of the guard.

· In case of emergency, the prisoner must throw the designated card outside the cell door.

· Those who break these rules will be punished severely.

Of course verity is what VEVAK verifies it to be and nothing else.

The general conditions of the prison are bad. The lack of sanitation is horrible. The condemned receives one metal bowl, one used plastic cup and a spoon only during meal time. These are not allowed to remain in the cell, they are left outside. The floor of the cell is covered with an old, tattered rug. Looking at it could sicken anyone, let alone living on it. Each prisoner had the luxury of one blanket, which even the fleas occupied it with reluctance.

The 4 times that a prisoner could use the bathroom or drink water were at 10am or at the hour of the Islamic prayer not when the prisoner needed it. The utensils, our face and hands were washed in the same bathroom sink in which the toilet water was emptied and the toilet brush and the floor-wipe were washed. This was also the sink, which we had to brush our teeth over. Baths are located in another part of the prison. All of the prisoners have to bathe once a week. Each prisoner gets two minutes in the shower. However this is a privilege they can take away. For the first twenty days or so they prohibited me from bathing, washing, changing my clothes or brushing my teeth.

Once a week they take the prisoners out for some fresh air. The “fresh air” section of the prison happens to be one of the most unsettling. On the roof of the building they erected small cage setting rooms with high walls, metal doors and bars covering the top. They send prisoners into these rooms, at noon in 45C weather (113F) for sun-bathing. The constant fear of threat from above and extreme heat was part of their calculated mental torture imposed on the prisoners.

The prison food was generally unidentifiable. For most parts I didn’t hesitate eating, If I hesitated I wouldn’t have eaten it. But I stayed away from zucchinis and what was rumored to be a Hamburger. These were not eatable. My mother however could not tolerate the food and did not eat for three days. She is apolitical yet she was kept in solitary confinement for 8 days. Mrs. Amirentezam was held there in the same period. I think they confined them in order to keep them quiet. Luckily my mother wasn’t tortured. I don’t know about Mrs. Amirentazam though. She and her husband have been warned not to speak to the media, grant interviews or appear in print anywhere.

It seems that everybody we knew personally or remotely, was in that prison at the time. Most of them received suspended sentences due to overcrowding of prisons. During this time they were and are closely watched and barred from work.

Interrogation and Torture:

I was located in a cell, in which I could hear the faint sounds of bells coming from a church located in Ghavamolsaltaneh AKA Tir 30th Ave. They chimed from 8am to 8pm, once every hour. I’m told you couldn’t hear them in other parts of the prison. Though we weren’t supposed to know our location, I at least, guessed what neighborhood we were in. The only other sound heard within the prison was the sound of the Islamic prayers coming from the loudspeakers, hung high in every corridor. The prayers were incredibly loud and were broadcast 4 or 5 times a day. I think they meant it as a form of torture in itself. I especially hated the morning prayers. After spending the night and the early morning hours in the torture chamber, I just wanted to be taken back to my cell and rest my aching body, but then between 4 and 5 am, at dawn, the morning prayers would strike with vengeance. Covering my head with the blanket didn’t help. I kept wishing for a pillow. Other than these two sounds, the place was dead silent. It was a sinister sort or silence. It covered us like a pall and beneath it we sat waiting and wondering. Waiting for them to come and take us and wondering what kind of torment they had prepared for us. We were just waiting for death.

The fluorescent lights illuminating the cells were kept on 24 hours a day. The lighting was very harsh and if we wanted to get some sleep we had to put our blindfolds back on. I never knew what time or what day it was or how long I had been there. On the day of my release I was told that I had spent 36 days there.

Every prisoner received a daily ration of beatings, in the cell, in the hallways, in the bathrooms or during interrogations. My first interrogation was on the evening of my arrest. Sometime between 9:00 and 11:00 pm, they took me, blindfolded, from room #607, down three floors, out of one building and into the next; few floors up and then they sat me on a wooden chair in the corner of a small room, still blindfolded. The wooden chair was the type used in schools, with the little table attached to the armrest. On route I heard one of them say “my, my, my this one is a goner, he’s turned into a Zoroastrian, is in contact with Zionists Jews, has indecent relations with the opposite sex, works with Afghans, even the Armenian saboteurs love him.” I thought I was about to be executed.

They brought somebody into the room; he sat on the little table of my chair and didn’t say anything. 10 to 15 minutes passed. Then he spoke: ”Mr. Roozbeh, this is the VEVAK of IRI. So you wanted to overthrow the Islamic Republic!... big mistake. Do you think after 20 years of holding on to power, we will let it go?...wrong, very wrong. Yes, we can milk roosters here, bears lay eggs here, you?!....You’re just a human being. In the course of one hour we can make a bear confess to being a rabbit.” Then the first question he asked me was in regards to Abdollah Nouri’s speech. He asked why I disrupted his speech in the University during the uprising. When I answered his question, his response to me was that if you’re not on good terms with Abdollah Nouri, it means you’re not a reformist and if you’re not a reformist then you want to overthrow the regime. I received my first intermittent beating then. During the questioning I heard the voice of one of the girls in our Party, shouting: “it was Roozbeh’s fault, we had nothing to do with it....”. I don’t know how long or until what time they questioned me, must have been until the early hours of the next morning. Then I went on to have my first encounter with the morning prayers.

They claimed to have complete evidence of my guilt. They had recorded my private conversations both on the phone and off. They had plenty of film footage and pictures of me during the uprising. Furthermore they arrested 12 of my friends along with me and in fact there was no need to question me. What they wanted was a signed confession. They were particularly interested in my relationship with Mr. Kheyltash. In prison he was known by his first name “Shahram”. They had prepared a separate file for him. They wanted me to sign a confession to the effect that Shahram and I were trying to organize and unify the Melli youth of different organizations in order to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Pure fabrication, they wanted to make something out of nothing. They had enough information on the subject. Apparently all of us had been under surveillance for months and had placed informants within each and every group. But they needed a confession to justify their barbarity and oppression. Plus apparently it made good TV.

They continuously beat up my Afghan guests, trying to extract a confession to the effect that they were going to provide the Marze Por Gohar movement with armed forces to help overthrow the government.

A couple of days after my arrest, during my arraignment in the revolutionary court located at Towhid, they read the charges brought against me: jeopardizing the national security and insulting the leader. They showed me a picture taken of Khameneii, and me in front of “Roozbeh Publishing” booth, during his visit to the annual publishing exhibition. They used it as an excuse to give me another beating. I thought to myself, I deserve this one. I should’ve never taken a picture with that man.

The tortures began the day after my arrest. They usually came around noon. If I had a particularly rough night, they would postpone the torture session until the afternoon. First they would take us through interrogations, interludes of beating and questioning. Most of the time we were facing the wall and the interrogators would stand behind us. I didn’t know who was in the room or how many of them. Then it was off to the torture chamber. The only question they ask then is “Are you ready to confess”. They would continue their work until we lost consciousness or until they needed a break. Then they would take us back and throw us in our cells. They seemed to have a special hatred for my hands. They struck them frequently. I think it was because of my profession, being a writer and a journalist. Up to two months after my release, my hands were still swollen and bruised.

At first I was defiant. I thought they were going to kill me and I wanted to die with honor. The guards enraged me; I talked back and sang the National Anthem “O’Iran” in my cell and in the hallway. Others accompanied me from their cells. Needless to say that we got a thrashing for it, every time. But gradually I came to the realization that their purpose was to make us fear life without having the opportunity to die. Eventually they even stole my anger from me.

There is a room on the first floor known as the blanket room. Within this room there is a small doorway leading to another room, the torture room. In that room they teach the real meaning of Islam, religion and Monotheism.

Upon entrance into the torture room, the first thing you see is a metal bed, which is covered with wooden floor covering (like parquet). They would lay us on this bed, face down, tie our feet to the bottom and cuff our hands to the top and proceed to strike with a multi-stranded lash (wire cable), a symbol of Ali’s Justice no doubt. They sometimes braided the strands together to make a thicker lash. Sometimes they would torture, leaving our clothes on and sometimes they would strip us bare. Sometimes we bled, sometimes we didn’t. I think the light in that room was red. It might have been the effect of my blindfold, but I don’t recall a white light, I’m certain it was red.

“Chicken-kabob” is a method where they cuff your ankles together, tie your hands, put your wrists over your ankles, pass a thick metal bar between the elbows and the back of the knees, lift the bar, rest the two ends on something and hang you upside down in an almost fetal position. Then they begin to strike.

“Merry-go-round” is a method where they tie you up to a Y-shaped bed, facing up. This bed however is a rotating bed. They begin spinning you and striking you with lashes from all sides, not caring where the blows land. They used to sing a song while doing this, it was something like “Go round and round, faster and faster, Merry-go-round, spin faster and faster” and they increased the speed of the rotations as they sang. Because of all that spinning, sometimes I had to taste that disgusting prison food again. Choking on my own vomit was not the way I wanted to die.

In another corner, they hang the prisoners from the ceiling. They tie your hands and pull you up with a rope or chain, until you were suspended in mid air, then they proceed to strike or they just leave you hanging for hours. Mr. Mehran Meerabdolbaghi was put through this torture with weights hanging from his testicles. This caused severe damage to his legs and testicles.

Sometimes they hang you from your feet and whip the bottom of the feet. After this treatment, it is almost impossible to walk, but I was not going to give them the satisfaction of seeing me cower. So despite the pain, I walked erect trying to keep the last remains of my human dignity.

Another method is to pull one arm from the front, above your shoulder and the other arm from the back, above the waist, tie them together and hang in that position. I think it was during this method that my left shoulder blade broke and the muscles in my shoulder tore. I didn’t know it was broken at the time. As a matter of fact I didn’t know it was broken for quite some time after my release. I thought it was just sore like the rest of my body, but it didn’t get better. So I finally went to a doctor. It is difficult for me to tell which torture caused what. I was always in pain.

To call the guards and the torturers of that prison fascists, would be an understatement. They are jovial to the point of being grotesque. They sing songs, crack jokes and laugh out loud, carry conversations about mundane things, who they saw, what they bought while tearing a human being apart. They relish what they do. They are Sadists. And these Sadists are running the country.

Once when I was taken to the torture room, from under my blindfold I saw, Dr. Bahiyeh Jaylani lying there covered with a cloth bag. This defiant lady has visited that room more than any other woman in the prison. I swear to the land of my forefathers, the worst torture they could inflict on me was seeing this lady on the “lashing bed”. At that point I lost my balance and collapsed. They were forced to return me to my cell.

Later, one of the female prisoners told me that they took her and Dr. Jaylani “sun-bathing” once and put them in adjacent rooms. She said Ms. Jaylani lost her composure, she began to hit her fists against the walls and throwing her body against the metal door, trying to break it down, while screaming “They want to kill me here, somebody save me, get me out of here, they’re going to kill me, somebody help me, please help me”. Her screams grew into a whimper and then she didn’t see her again.

They tried to dehumanize us in any way they could. The younger guards were brutes and louts. They used curse words I had never heard before. They used to wake me before the morning prayers, around 4am, shouting “Mr. leader of the party, go wash the toilets...hop to it boy”. I could barely hold on to the brush with my hands and I didn’t like turning my back to the door. It gave them an opportunity to kick or push me against the opposite wall. To say nothing of the stench.

They used to telephone the families of the prisoners and tell them “Your son has been condemned. He will be executed tomorrow morning. Be here at 6am to claim the body” They called my mother quite a number of times. One of the prisoners, by the name of MohammadReza Kassraii, is an only child like myself. When they called his house, his father picked up the phone and had a heart attack on the spot. He never recovered and passed away two months later, without seeing his son again.

After my release Tabarzadi told me that he could hear moaning and screaming next door, they told him “It’s Roozbeh being tortured”. I don’t know whether it was play-acting or a recording, but it wasn’t me. He said it devastated him psychologically. For Mr. Seif it was the sounds of his son being tortured. I among many others chose to sing the National Anthem “O’Iran” under torture instead of screaming. It made the guards angrier and they struck harder, which resulted in singing louder.

Most of the paperwork in prison was basically a formality. Except VEVAK’s “Odd Page”. This was used for “extorting information” as they called it. They would write basic information about a person on top of a single page, then they would ask you to fill in the rest. The first few times they wouldn’t believe anything you wrote and would give you a beating for lack of “verity”. I exposed this “odd page” in an article I wrote and published in Iran. I suspect they extorted some information from my mother in this way, since they knew all about an essay I wrote in school when I was 13.

In the first few days they took us to the interrogation room, when television crews were present. They wanted a group or organization, to confess on camera, they didn’t care which one. They kept promising us baths, clean clothes and a shave. They even promised us suits and ties, as if that would have clinched the deal.

On another occasion when I was being taken into interrogations, I caught a glimpse of Mr. Namazi, rubbing his leg while waiting outside the room. When I went in, I saw a cleric’s robe and when he spoke I recognized his voice. I had heard his speeches before. It was Yunessi, minister of VEVAK. He asked me “What organization do you belong to boy?” One of the guards informed him that I had a party of my own, to which he replied, “So this is Farahanipour? Why is he still walking?” Then he asked me why I wouldn’t confess. I told him because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to lift my head in public, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. “Live?!” he exclaimed “Do you expect to live? You’re not going to live. You’re going to die here. That’s a promise.” I told him my death would be detrimental to the Islamic Republic. Dead men don’t confess and even if they do, nobody believes them. He was not amused. In a way I was relieved when Manouchehr Mohammadi and Malous Radnia broke down. It meant they wouldn’t try to take us in front of TV cameras anymore, however the tortures continued.

One day they told me that my bail had been posted. I didn’t know by whom, I didn’t have 50 million Rials. I found out it was paid by Mr. Abdolhossein Nowrouzi, an old family acquaintance of ours. A dear old man, a blue collar worker who had worked, scraped and saved for 45 years to buy a house and now he was surrendering the deed to release me. He quite possibly saved my life. On my way out I mocked one of the guards “You always claim that you protect the interests of the impoverished. We poor people watch out for each other see? We don’t need you, so why don’t you go away.” He was not amused either, but I was.

The atmosphere outside was even more dangerous than inside the prison. Being in that prison motivated me even more to expose the crimes of this government against the people. I was threatened with death many times.

One morning we woke to find our house had been burglarized. We called the Police. They came in and investigated. This was not an ordinary burglary. They hadn’t taken anything of value, except some cash from my pant pocket, which was beside my bed. The other things they took were not valuable at all but seem to have a symbolic meaning. For example they took a clock, which was on a wall above my mothers head and a butcher’s knife from the kitchen. The Police told us not to pursue the case; they said this was VEVAK sending me a message. They could come in anytime and cut my throat in my sleep and time was running out.

On another occasion, a member of Ansare-hezbollah had knocked on my friend’s door and had given him a message for me: tell Roozbeh if he tries to publish the names of the 57 victims of the serial murders again, he is going to be #58. And yet on another occasion, when we printed and circulated a special edition paper, eulogy for the late Ali Ardalan, a member of the Islamic guards approached my mother and told her that the next eulogy I publish will be my own.

It was just a matter of time before I became the next unsolved murder or worse, one of the disappeared. I decided to leave.

After my escape Mr. Nowrouzi went to the revolutionary court to pay off the 50 million somehow and get his deed back. They told him that it was 50 million then, it is 100 million now. Three families lived in that house. Mr. Nowrouzi and his wife, his two children and their families. His house is a small house in a working class area of town; it isn’t worth the government’s attention. They just wanted to punish Mr. Nowrouzi for helping me and make an example out of him. Later they consented to allow him to pay this amount in four monthly installments of two and a half million. My mother has paid the first installment by selling the remainder of the household items that were left to us.

The women in our party suffered further after their release. They were beaten up by their family, fathers or brothers, confined to their rooms or married off immediately. These were conditions set by VEVAK in order to release them to their families. They were told that any future political involvement by their daughters would result in execution upon arrest.

Today, almost a year after my release, I still have constant pain in my shoulder and spine. Sometimes the pain doesn’t let me sleep. They nights that I do manage to sleep, I wake in anxiety in the middle of the night, thinking they’re coming for me. Towhid is an ugliness that hides in the dark corners of your mind and just when you think you’ve forgotten for a moment, it whispers, I’m still here.

The Islamic Republic itself should’ve realized by now, that despite what they put people through, they can not break their spirit, they can not break the bonds that bind people together, they can not destroy their solidarity. They can kill the idealists but they can not kill his ideas. They ideas of Freedom, Democracy and Social Justice will grow and flourish. They should know by now that you can trample on a flower and crush it under your boots but you can never kill it’s perfume. It is already in the air.

1- Monotheism

2- Shah’s anti-terrorism and anti-sabotage organization

3- Acronym, the Monarchal “Office of Information and National Security” reporting directly to the Palace. Under the Islamic Republic this office has been relegated to a Ministry, VEVAK, reporting directly to the President.

4- Salvation through verity is VEVAK’s motto, in Arabic. it is a part of VEVAK’s letterhead on all official documents.

02/08/2005
Me

Me

Roozbeh Farahanipour

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