In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Nahid Kouhshekaf, the wife of journalist Ehsan Houshmand who has been in prison for more than two months, said that she has not had any visits with her husband since his arrest and that he has been subjected to physical abuse in prison. “He has asked to go to the infirmary several times, but he has received no attention,” Kouhshekaf told the Campaign.
Ehsan Houshmand, a journalist who covers social issues and a researcher in ethnic issues, is a political activist with the Nationalist-Religious group. He worked with Cheshmandaz and Goftogoo magazines, primarily non-political publications. He was arrested on the evening of 7 January 2012 at his home. His family has not had any visits with him since his arrest and has not been informed about his charges.
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: Have you had any contact with your husband since his arrest? How is he doing?
Nahid Kouhshekaf: During the first contact he made 22 days after his arrest, Ehsan was in poor psychological shape and it was quite clear that he was under a lot of pressure. His interrogator’s voice could be heard clearly and even when Ehsan said that he is inside [the Intelligence Ministry’s] Ward 209, it was emphasized to him that he was not supposed to talk about this subject. During the first two calls Ehsan did not say anything about the conditions of his detention. During his third call, the interrogator’s presence was very clear. [The interrogator’s] tone of voice was quite authoritative and he was dictating the sentences to him and he even changed some sentences. For example, when I asked him a question about his detention conditions and Ehsan wanted to answer me, he jumped in very quickly and several times he threatened that he would cut off the call. But in the last call I felt that Ehsan was under less pressure as compared to before and he was speaking more freely, though what he had to say really upset us.
Campaign: Has Ehsan Houshmand ever confirmed to you that he is being physically abused? Has he had any medical attention?
NK: During his fourth phone call, we realized that Ehsan seemed to have been physically abused. For example, he was complaining of a severe earache, and kept saying that there is an echo in his ear. In between my words, I asked him, ‘Were you slapped?’ and he answered, ‘Yes, I was.’ He also complained about aches in his legs and knees. Unfortunately, he has not been treated for these pains. He has asked to go to the infirmary several times, but he has received no attention. Because he is kept in solitary, he said that he has to walk around his cell for hours in order to maintain his conditionThis seems to have led to his aching legs.
Campaign: Why was your husband arrested? What were his charges?
NK: This is still ambiguous for us. I have asked the reason for his arrest several times, but I have not received any answers. They just say that my husband’s crime is ‘propagating against the state,’ but they don’t provide any details. Ehsan’s activities are completely public and legal. He has not done anything in secret or illegally. His area of work is cultural. Of course, Ehsan is a member of the Nationalist-Religious group. I don’t know, maybe this is the reason for his arrest. But Nationalist-Religious members have not had any activities recently and specifically none after Ezatollah Sahabi’s passing [on 31 May 2011].
Campaign: Have you been able to see Ehsan Houshmand since his arrest?
NK: We went to all authorities who could possibly help us. We wrote numerous letters, but, unfortunately, we only received negative replies. The only phrase they keep repeating is, ‘For security reasons, you are not allowed to visit with him for now,’ and they don’t give us any more information. After 64 days in solitary confinement, it is every prisoner and his family’s right to visit with each other. My daughter is seven years old and is very attached to her father. Ehsan’s parents are both old and sick and need to visit with their son.