Female Journalist, Sentenced to Ten Years, Beaten in Iran Prison
Mother of Afarin Chitsaz’s Describes Brutality Aimed at Forcing a “Confession”
The mother of imprisoned newspaper columnist Afarin Chitsaz will make a judicial complaint to protest the beating of her daughter in prison. Maryam Azadpour, who recently broken her silence on Chitsaz’s case, described her daughter’s ordeal in an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“They blindfolded my daughter and beat her with a water bottle to get a confession out of her,” Azadpour told the Campaign. “The abuse was not carried out by the main interrogator, who was very respectful towards her. But in any case, we will pursue this matter with the case judge.”
Political prisoners in Iran are often subjected to isolation, threats, and intense psychological and physical pressure, in order to be forced into making false confessions, which are the frequently broadcast by Iranian state TV to defame individuals and used in court as evidence to convict them.
Arrested on November 2, 2015 by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization, Afarin Chitsaz, a columnist who wrote for the official daily newspaper of the Rouhani administration, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “collaboration with foreign governments” and “assembly and collusion against national security” in April 2016.
She was sentenced to prison along with two other journalists, Ehsan Mazandarani and Ehsan (Saman) Safarzaei, as well as marketing manager Davoud Assadi, the brother of the Paris-based dissident journalist, Houshang Assadi.
“We’re shocked by the sentence. Afarin told me she wished she were dead. My daughter is very sick and depressed. We still don’t know why she was arrested,” Azadpour told the Campaign. “What’s their evidence to accuse her of acting against national security or collaborating with foreigners? Afarin has rejected the sentence.”
Azadpour added that her daughter was transferred from solitary confinement in the Revolutionary Guards-controlled Ward 2-A in Evin Prison to the Women’s Ward.
“For six months Afarin was held in a solitary 2-meter by 1.75-meter cell. She was allowed fresh air only twice a day for half an hour in the ward’s courtyard surrounded by walls. In the entire six months she wore the same clothes in which she was arrested. They wouldn’t allow us to give her fresh clothes. Now she’s in a general ward, which is much better than her situation before, but she’s suffering from psychological shock, kidney pain and severe heart palpitations. She has gone to the prison infirmary a few times but they only gave her painkillers,” said Azadpour.
Azadpour, who did not publicly speak about her daughter’s case until the sentence was issued, told the Campaign what happened on the day Afarin was arrested.
“I had a dental appointment with my daughter in the afternoon but she didn’t show up. I contacted her several times but she didn’t answer the phone. Then I went to her house with Mohammad Nouri, the editor-in-chief of Iran newspaper [where Afarin Chitsaz was a columnist]. We broke the door and went inside. Thank God, I didn’t see what I had feared, but the house had been turned upside down. That is when we thought she had probably been arrested. Mr. Nouri called every official he knew but got no information. By morning I had no choice but to return home to my sick husband,” said Azadpour.
“At 10 in the morning I got a call from Evin Prison’s intelligence and security office informing me that my daughter was desperate to talk to me. They told me we could only talk for two minutes. All I could [get from that phone call was to] hear her voice and after that I heard nothing until a month later when we were able to visit her,” continued Azadpour.
“We visited her a few times before she was transferred to the public ward. The visits were always in the presence of an interrogator. During these visits I learned that eight agents had raided the house to arrest my young daughter,” she added.
Azadpour insisted that her daughter was not a political activist.
“Afarin loves Iran. She likes the Islamic Republic and Mr. Rouhani. They have accused her of assembly and collusion against national security, but my question is: Who did Afarin collude with?” she said.
“They have made the ridiculous charge of collaboration with foreign governments against her and yet she had no need for such activities. Yes, Afarin traveled abroad several times and her family had the means to easily leave Iran if she wanted to. But she loves Iran and wanted to stay. Afarin was a journalist. She painted and sometimes made documentaries. That’s all,” explained Azadpour.
The trial of Issa Saharkhiz, a prominent reformist journalist who was arrested at the same time as Chitsaz on November 2, 2015, has been postponed for medical reasons while he receives hospital treatment for high blood pressure as well as kidney and heart diseases.
Less than a month after the four journalists and Davoud Assadi were arrested, Ahmad Khatami, the Friday Prayer leader of Tehran and a hardline member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, claimed on November 30, 2015 that their confessions would soon be aired on state TV. So far that has not happened.
“Recently some journalists were arrested for collaborating with the U.S. They confessed that some individuals gave them money in return for articles. The articles were revised and then offered to American newspapers,” claimed Khatami.