Witness Testimony of Seideh Siabi

 Date and Place of Birth: July 11, 1960, Ardebil, Iran

Date of Arrest: December 22, 1982

Accusation: Collaboration with Toufan Marxist-Leninist Organization

Date of Release: March 1985

I was born in Ardebil. The way my family was, it can be said they were political. I became familiar with politics through my older brother. My father also played a large role in clarifying political issues for me. I was very curious. My inquisitive spirit would not allow me to sit calm and still in one place for too long. I was born in an underprivileged family and have fully tasted poverty and prostitution.    In 1980, after my marriage, because a large branch of Toufan had been established in Tabriz—prior to that although Ardebil had a branch, Tabriz did not—my husband and I relocated there to start our activities. We were both arrested December 22, 1982. We had an organizational wedding. In Tabriz, we established a committee for the party. After a few months, I got pregnant and the child was born and was 3.5-4 months old when we were arrested.

We were arrested in our house in Tabriz. My husband’s name was Towfigh Adib.[1] It was 4 am and I had woken up to breast feed my child when I noticed that we were surrounded. It was five am when they took us to Tabriz’s Sepah office. We were exposed by one of the Organization’s members. They took my son and I to a solitary cell. First it was a very small cell that only had room for standing. It was previously a stall and was made of metal and very cold. The cold weather of Azerbaijan’s winter is famous, particularly in Tabriz and Ardebil. Interrogation and tortured started right there. Later they took me to a normal cell that belonged to Sepah; it was all in the same building. First we went there and after a few basic questions about my name and surname, which had all been told to them from before, they took us inside Sepah’s prison and there was a cell there. This cell was one meter by one and half or two meters. I was with my son.

When they separated me from my husband, he turned to me and said, “If I have done you any wrong so far, I hope that you forgive me.” This was very hard for me to hear so I said, “No, they have said that that they only have a question! We will go back.” He said, “No! Please be more clever and smarter than this! We have a lot of work ahead of us. Be careful!” I paid more attention and realized that there will be no return. So I defended my stance fiercely. So far as it related to another person, I denied and said that I didn’t know them but where it was about me and my ideology, I insisted and stood my ground. I didn’t say anything that was not necessary to say but about matters that needed to be said I made decisions wisely and strongly and answered strongly. This caused them to torture me more. Tortures were back to back and they would not even allow a moment or breather. They realized from the first moment that I am not someone to give in so easily.

Insults were very frequent and started from the first moment and with my name. My name is Seideh [Sa’ideh]. As soon as I introduced myself—which was unnecessary because they knew me—he said, you are not Seideh [Sa’ideh] but saliteh—shrew.” It was the first time that I heard that term. I said, “Yes, I am saliteh which is a derivative of the term tasalot—dominance; I have dominance over everything within my surroundings. Thank you for giving me such a name.” The interrogators and pasdars realized that I was not joking around! The least insult they called me by was prostitute and whore in Azeri Turkish.

In Azeri, when they curse they say—excuse my expression—“I fuck it.” Hundreds of thousands times they would repeat this word comfortably. They would say it about my whole body, my parents, my creed, religion and belief and my personality and even the smallest part of my body. The tortures began there. In the first stage they told me that apparently I want to be beaten. They used vulgar terminology; “we will teach you, make a human out of you. You will finally see the results of this rudeness.” I have never heard anyone use the term “whore-like” but it is an expression in Azeri. This meant that the person in discussion is no longer a human and was used as a rag for all men because she was found in a team house.

All of our household items, including cameras and such things that were very expensive at the time were taken by them and later confiscated when we were at the Police Prison. They said that we are faithless and owning such items is haram so they confiscated them. It was haram, but they used all those items in the prison mosque!!

Before going to prison I had educated myself and read the book “Djamila Boupacha” [by Simon de Beauvoir] so about matters relating to such things I could make certain guesses. However, such matters had been archived by my mind and I had thought that because they were Muslims and were behaving in accordance to Islam, [rape] would not happen here. I never even imagined!  I never imagined it; only believed it possible for other countries. I was personally ready to be beaten and other such matters. I recall that I used to always tell my brothers to beat and fight with me in a way that would prepare me for torture under pressure. That way I’d be strong. I practiced these at home myself but I didn’t think that sexual torture could occur. Tortures began first by beatings. They beat with cables and whips and particularly beat on the soles of the feet and the waste. It was surprising that in all their procedural levels, they respected religious teachings. Before men would come for beating, female pasdars would arrive and strip us naked and then cover us with a sheet, tie our hands and feet and then wrap our hair—this was very important because men could not see our hair.

They tied the scarf in a manner that would not be tied in the back of the neck. Everyone had hadd and our hadd was [to be lashed] from the top vertebrate in the neck to the bottom most one. They would not beat any lower than that. They would beat us until the sheet would be buried within our skin. Our bodies would be cut open and the sheet would be embedded inside the cuts. When they beat the soles of the feet, they would tie the feet up and beat the soles. They would count: “today only thirty lashes; sixty lashes. It is your hadd.” When they would perform the hadd they would immediately brought us down and force us to walk. They said that we had to walk. Naturally since our feet had swollen to a size of a pillow and were black and bloody, it was impossible to walk but they would step on our feet with their boots. Later I realized that they did it so that blood doesn’t cloth under the skin in the soles of the feet. So they would step with their boots on our feet and the feet would get numb. My baby was with me throughout the entire torture sessions. He was four months old at the time. He was very impatient and crying and begging continuously. I only remember once when they gave him to the cell next door. Otherwise, he was always with me through it all.

They raped me in two rounds; one was in my cell and another in the torture chamber.

In the round of rape that was in the torture chamber their numbers were very high. The first time I was having my period. The female pasdar asked me if I was having my period and I said “yes, I am” because I thought she is going to give me a pad. After they tortured me in the chamber, they raped me. I passed out. When I came to I realized that I was bleeding but thought that it was the period blood but then noticed I was raped because my backside was hurting. So I noticed that I was raped anally because I was having my period. I will never forget those moments. I always think that my son remembers them. I don’t know why I feel that way. When my son was older and was in 4th or 5th grade, one day he came home and was upset and crying and throwing things around. He said, “What is this situation you have placed us in? I am destitute.” I asked what the problem was. He said with tears, “I was fighting with one of the boys and he turned to me and said, “Go and collect your mother from under the pasdars!”” this was very painful for him and he could not understand it due to his age. The way he explained it, he had seen himself as helpless. Because he had not been able to defend himself, the situation had really bothered him. This is while I had shown no reaction to what happened to me in prison after I was released until I came to Canada and exposed everything. Prior to that, no one knew and for that reason, I think that he had realized some of the stuff that happened.

When they tortured us they would tie us face down. We would lie facing the ground because they would beat our back and soles of our feet. But when the plan was different they would lie us down on out waist.  Once torture was over but he pain was still too much, they would start the raping. I would not pass out completely; it was an unusual feeling that I can’t describe. Frustration took over because I could not do anything. The frustration was so much particularly that I had so much hatred towards them; at times I thought my brain purposefully shut itself off for a moment. There were moments when everything would shut off. When I pushed and forced myself later, I would remember. I don’t think that this behavior is normal. It appears rare.

Without a doubt there was more than one of them when they tortured me. When one would get tired he would hand the cable to another one and would tell him, “Ajrakum Indallah—your reward is with god.” The new guy would tell the tired one that his reward is with god. [Reward] from the blows you caused. I could hear that well. The other one would curse and this one would respond the curse.

Because my eyes were blindfolded I can’t give you any names. One of the big shot torturers whom everyone knew was a man named Abulfazl. He was one of the famous people is Tabriz Prison who delivered the coup de grâce [to those executed] and tortured people. I don’t know what his real name was but he was known as Abulfazl.

In a vulgar manner, they would tell me, “Pity for such a beautiful body, such a tight … (excuse me!) Why don’t we have the permission to benefit from them?” Although [the rape] was conducted in silence, they said these things when they were alone with me, I think. Or maybe others were there too. At some point everything became personal and the feeling that there are others in the room was always weighing on me. I am positive, a hundred percent sure, that there was more than one person.

Sometimes I felt that it took hours, even years. Because it appeared so long to me. I would struggle with myself to not make any sounds because I was thinking of my baby who was crying there. There was much pain in my body, on my back, the soles of my feet. My back had been tortured recently and it was impossible to sleep on my back; I would pass out from pain! Hours seemed like weeks to me. It was more painful that the time seemed endless.

When they would leave a woman would come and open the coverings. She pulled the sheet from our bodies that were torn underneath the sheet and the meat and body had become one with the sheet. They would pull clothes over us and throw us in the cell.

After the first time, when I came to I felt the pain all over my body. I hated myself. I hated myself more than ever. I hated my body parts. I was crying in my own solitude and hoping for death. It was always hard on me because my son was there.

Another matter that was very painful for me was that my husband was in the men’s section of the prison. The issue had not been resolved for me when I was in prison at that moment but I can talk about it right now. My husband had written a letter and spoke of me to be as pure as the ocean. Although I knew that and knew that he is sure of my purity, and he kept repeating it every opportunity he got, I was sure that he could hear my voice when I was being tortured. The torture chamber was so that I could hear his voice too. However, although I had pain in the beginning, I controlled myself and made no sounds later on.

At times, I am reminded of when I was making sounds, even when it was muffled. Even that bothered me and I was trying not to make any sounds. When I think about it, I realize that I was willing to be tortured a hundred times more but not hear the sound of my husband’s torture. Because the sound of his tortures, towards the end, turned into something similar to howling because he was in so much pain.

Once, one of the pasdar’s entered my cell with prior planning. He had emptied the cells adjacent to my cell. I didn’t know what his plan was. Apparently he was one of the people who had raped me before. [I don’t know] because they took us to the torture chambers blindfolded… when they interrogated us we were blindfolded. Apparently he had seen and liked me there, according to himself. After he raped me in my cell, he promised to bring my baby some milk, diapers and other equipments. I never saw him after that and he didn’t do anything for me either. From the manner of his attitude and his actions, I think he was one of the rapists in the [torture chamber]. If I see that person right now, I will certainly recognize him because I didn’t have a blindfold in the cell.

He had emptied all the cells. The way I counted, it appears to me that there were six cells. They were empty that night and I was alone. Each night they changed the guards on the roof top, whether they were pasdars or guards. This time it was different. He came and opened the opening and looked at me. I feared and got myself together. He had the key and everything. The night watch was supposed to be a man and he wasn’t there. Every two nights, there was a male guard. Two nights there were female guards and one night there was a male guard. That night, there was a middle aged man and it was clear that he knew nothing of prison and being a warden and only did the work because of the shari’a edicts. His attitude was so that it seemed he was trying to do everything in an Islamic manner but he didn’t. [The rapist] came inside and opened the door. First he told me that he was coming in. I said that he couldn’t and that I would scream but then he said that I could scream but there was no one there to hear me and that he had planned everything from before.

From his manner of speech, while he was raping me, from his manner of raping, I could tell that he was present each time [I was raped]. He was certainly amongst the interrogators. I could tell from his voice. From his mannerism I can tell that he was present each time. He talked about my body while doing the deed, using obscene terminology. For example, he said, “That stupid man, how come he didn’t recognize your value? He doesn’t deserve you. They are sluggish people who didn’t value you. It is a pity!” and such words. He used certain terminology in an obscene fashion, “Similar things have happened to you time and time again in team houses so it is not a big deal. This is my turn. This is my share. You are only a rag, a whore.”

All these problems on one side, I also had to be alert because they asked tactical questions and repeated questions in different ways, and the problems with having a baby and no equipment on the other, pain of torture for myself and having my husband tortured, personal problems of how I felt after I was raped, how I could walk with injured feet, hoping my child would fall asleep and that I could walk a few steps [were all things I dealt with].

I grew up in very limiting conditions. I had no boyfriends and no knowledge of sexual matters. The first time I had sexual relations with my own husband whom I loved very much, was scary for the both of us. This issued, the issue of sex was unimaginable for me. I didn’t know anything. Completely virgin! It was how I was under those conditions with my personality. I was so serious and rough with the boys that I knew, people I used to go hiking with, that those who later told me that they had loved me never dared express it to me. This spirit was very normal amongst the girls in the 80’s.

Later when I went to the Police prison, the taboo that still exists amongst prisoners reigned supreme. When I asked other prisoners if they did to them what they had done to me they would all shake their heads. Then I would say, “They are so wild! What does this mean? It’s like Iraj Mirza’s poem; they do everything with you but under the cover of hijab.” Then they would give the same reactions. I have so far never seen people talk about it in that manner; they empathized with me. For this reason, I think that they were most likely in the same boat.

I always wanted to escape this fact and not think about it. But I finally broke the taboo within myself and realize that I have to pay attention because the problem would not solve itself by me trying to forget it. In fact, it would get much worse. Thankfully, I got to this realization. I told myself that I have to break the taboo, find myself once again and recognize how things were and what they were like. I was using all my brain power for this and when I told others in the cell and ward, they would mostly respond with silence.

This was painful for me that many people would not believe me or asked me not to talk about it. It particularly became much more painful later. Because they considered the problem to be very vulgar and ugly. Of course, it is very vulgar and ugly. I was placed in conditions under which I was raped in the worst possible manner. I could not scream. I could not avenge myself. I could not make a move and show my hatred. Eyes blindfolded and mouth shut and my baby in the corner of the torture chamber! Later I researched a lot on this topic. This is why I say that although my child was a baby, he witnessed it all. I don’t know why but this is a feeling that I continue to have until today.

When they realized that their actions did not break my spirit, they started torturing and harassing me through my son.

One of their tortures was that they told me that I was a faithless mother and a Muslim mother must [raise] the child. “This baby belongs to god and Islam. You don’t deserve it. We will take him from you and give him to foster care. You should not be subject to this blessing handed by god.” Then they sent a female pasdar—we could see female pasdars—I kicked her in her stomach and she left. The male pasdar came. I was squeezing the child in my arms. He first tried to open my arms by force. When he couldn’t do that he pulled my son from his shoulders. He pulled the child to get him out of my arms and I resisted the maximum that I could. At that moment I heard a sound of cracking from my son’s spine and thought that my baby is being cut in half so subconsciously, my arms opened and he pulled my son out of my arms.

After the first day or better said, on that first day, my milk dried up. It was so bad that when my child was suckling my breast blood would gush out. I don’t know if it was from stress or torture. My child was hungry for days. Finally I realized that I have no option. When they brought us food, potato or Ghormeh Sabzi—if you can call it that because the food quality was terrible—or backed beans, I would skin then and chew them in my mouth and then place it in my baby’s mouth. My four month old baby was being fed with legumes and heavy foods. After a while, the amount of food they gave us was so little that my child cried of hunger. There were times when because I had not given any information, they reduced the amount of food and it wasn’t even enough for me to eat. When I saw that my baby was so hungry, I would chew on my fingers and let them bleed and have him suck it. When I think about that time, I can never forgive myself. Even to this day I can look straight at my son’s eyes. I always feel that I steal my eyes from my son’s. But I had no recourses. Whenever he cried and got frustrated from hunger, what other option was I presented with?

Three days before Nawruz of the next year they executed my husband. It was 1984. He was under torture for the entire one year and three months he was detained for. On Nawruz when his mother and sister went to visit him, they told them to remain for a while and did not accept the fruits they had brought. The family thought that maybe since it was Nawruz, they wanted to grant them visitation in person but then they were handed the will [my husband had written]. I came to know of my husband’s execution after 2.5 months. I was later released around a year after his execution, in March 1985.

[1] For more information about the life and death of Towfigh Adib, look at “Remembering Comrade Towfigh Adib, Symbol of Resistance Who Joined the Eternal History of the Revolutionary Toilers of Iran,” Toufan, available at http://toufan.org/Maghalat%20jadid/Tofigh%20Adib.htm.