Witness Testimony of Marina Moradi Bakht (Nemat)


Name and Surname: Marina Moradi Bakht (Nemat)

Date and Place of Birth: 1965, Tehran

Date of Arrest: January 1981

Accusation: Collaboration with Leftist Groups

Date of Release: Middle of 1984

 Current Situation: Married with one child residing in Canada. She published her memoir in English in a book titled “Prisoner of Tehran.” Her memoirs were criticized and brought under suspicion by come of the witnesses we spoke to for this report.[1]

I was 16 years old when I was arrested. Although many of my friend and classmates and schoolmates were arrested, I always told myself, “What can they do to me even if they arrest me? I am nobody? I have done nothing! This is in spite of the fact that I had spoken against the government a lot at school, had participated in most demonstrations and stuck my nose in all the stuff that were not my concern. But I didn’t really have activities in the forms that others had.

It was 9:30- 10 pm. I was in the shower when they rang the doorbell. When my mother called for me, because normally no one visited our house at 9:30-10 pm I immediately realized that it had to be in connection with arresting me. When I opened the bathroom door, two pasdars, both armed, were standing there. When I saw them I felt like I was in a dream. It was a feeling like I was having an out of body experience. I think this was because I was shocked. I lost all abilities logically think and felt nothing. My parents were crying and I was looking at them bewildered wondering why they were crying!

Then they took me to Evin but it took a while before I was interrogated. I sat in the hallway for a while. I don’t remember how long it took. I had a chance to think about the things that had happened. One thing that always bothered me in the beginning was why they were stuck on me?

When I was arrested they told me to wear a Chador. I said, “I don’t have a chador because I am Christian.” It was very interesting for them. They said, “What? You are Christian?… ok that is fine, wear a head scarf and follow us.” At Evin prison I was the only girl sitting there in the hallway who didn’t have a chador. I didn’t see anyone else without a chador. It was like I had a bull’s eye on my forehead. I was thinking to myself, “Many of those here must be leftists! How is it that they all have chadors and I am the only one who doesn’t?!”

It was very silent in the hallways. We were sitting and waiting for the interrogation. There was a girl sitting next to me who was crying and it really upset me. I turned to her and asked, “Why are you crying?” she said, “I am afraid! They will kill us.” I said, “No, they won’t. You shouldn’t cry like this and make so much noise.” She eventually calmed down.

Then they called me for interrogation. I don’t remember at all if there were specific sounds around me. It was very quiet. The interrogation was very polite, even strangely so. [My interrogator was named Ali.] As soon as he started asking me questions, from that very beginning, my problem was that I had a blindfold and couldn’t see him. So hence what really bothered me was not the questions he was asking. His questions and manner of speech was very polite and calm. It was like I was sitting in a café and speaking to a person. What bothered me was that I couldn’t see him; didn’t know whether he was sitting, standing, or what. Didn’t know who he was, what he looked like. This bothered me a lot. Then he started to read from the Koran to me. It must have been 3-4 am.

I was tortured once. Hamed lashed me. Although Ali didn’t directly lash the soles of my feet but he was standing there. I couldn’t understand how a person with any level of humanity in him could stand and watch a 16 year old girl be lashed on the soles of her feet and then tell her, “I love you; you should marry me!”

After Hamed lashed me, he left the room. Ali came and untied my hands and feet, held my hand and told me to sit down. I said, “I want to go to the bathroom.” I couldn’t get up so he helped me get up. I took a few steps and before I left the room he let go of me and told me I have to place my blindfolds on. He placed the blindfold on my head and gave me something to hold on to. I don’t know if it was a pen or a piece of wood or what. He gave me one end of it and led me the rest of the way with what he had given me to hold. When I was in the bathroom I felt sick and passed out. When I came to I was in the same room and Ali was sitting next to me. This was not the only time but there were many other times when he would hold my arms up or get close to me. Every person has a private sphere and reacts to another person entering it. Many times when I was alone with Ali, before the marriage situation comes about, he would enter my private sphere and I would react and pull myself back. However, he never acted such when we were in the hallways or going places and others were around us. He would always keep his distance during those moments.

After the interrogations, they took us out one night to a place in Evin. I don’t know where it was. They took our blindfolds off. There were a group of pasdars standing there with guns. Then Ali came and pulled me out of the line of people, placed me in his car and returned me to the building where the interrogations were done. There he told me that I had received an execution order but he reduced it. He said that he believed me and had turned my sentence into life imprisonment. So he sent me inside the ward. I was new to Evin and had no idea how the court system was. There were no specific laws or systems in Evin either. Still, although he had said all of those things to me, the entire 5-6 months that I was in Evin, I kept thinking that I had done nothing. What basis did they have for giving me an execution order and then a life sentence? I thought to myself that it was all nonsense. This was my hope. I spoke to the girls in the ward and many of them didn’t even have a sentence. Many said that there were no checks and balances and that even if what [Ali had said] was true, they may change their minds later. In fact my hope was that even if they had said to me that I have an execution sentence, or life imprisonment sentence, or whatever, since there are no checks and balances, it can change. Therefore, when they called me for interrogation five months later, the possibility that they want to execute me didn’t even enter my mind.

After they interrogated me and all the stories later, they sent me upstairs to ward 246 and, as I recall, to room 6. I was there for 5-6 months and they never called me for interrogation. The whole time I was in the ward I had no knowledge of anything other than from what the girls said when they would leave and return. I would ask them what was going on and how things were. Many people were in an utterly uncertain situation. Also, when they called for interrogation it was unclear what they would then do to you!

Finally they called me one day and took me for interrogation. If I remember correctly, it was in the afternoon. They announced a few names and my name was among them. They put blindfold on me and took me to the interrogation building. There I sat on the ground close to a door in a hallway, as usual. Then they called my name and I guessed that the voice was that of Ali’s but I wasn’t sure. There was a room right next to me and I entered it. As I recall he closed the door. I sat. There were no torture devices in the room. I noticed that he was limping. Then he sat and said, “I haven’t seen you in a while. I have been gone for a while. How are you?” I said, “I am fine thank you. How are you?” he said that he was fine. “I had gone to the war front for a while to fight but I was shot at and as you can see I am limping.” I said that I had noticed he was limping. He said that he had returned to his job at Evin.

Then he paused and started talking again. He said, “Listen! Pay attention because I want to tell you something important so pay attention to what I am trying to say.” I told myself, “Fine!” He said, “Look, I have thought a lot about this issue and have lost a lot of sleep over it. While I was at war I thought a lot about it and now I am sure that I want to do this and want you to think about it. I want and have decided to take you as my wife.”

For a moment I thought he is joking but then I immediately realized that no one joked with another at Evin prison. Therefore, the matter was not a joke. He really was saying he wanted me to be his wife because he wanted me to marry him! Since I was a 17 year old girl at the time and after 5-6 months at Evin still had not understood the issues well, I said to him, “But how can that be? How can this happen? I don’t love you.” He said, “It has nothing to do with love. I am saying that I want you to marry me. If you create trouble or reject me, you parents and boyfriend Andre will be arrested.” I was stunned that he knew the name of my boyfriend because so far that I could recall I had never mentioned his name. Unless someone else had spoken his name or they had gotten the news from somewhere else. Anyway he said that if I cause trouble he will arrest my parents and my boyfriend Andre. I was baffled as to what to say. In fact I think my mouth was hung open. Then he said, “You have three days to think about this and tell me if your answer is yes or not. But remember what the consequences are if you say no.” Then he got up and said, “Let’s go.” I was still shocked and frozen when he said for me to go. As I recall I was standing in place staring at him. He put the blindfold on me. I repeated again, “But I don’t love you. I am from a Christian family; these don’t mesh together!” he said, “Yes, I know all of these and have thought about them. I like you and think that this is a proper, good and appropriate decision. That is all. You have three days to think about the matter. Go and think and don’t forget the consequences.” Then he guided me out of the room.

Three days later they called my name again: “Marina Moradi, Come for interrogation.” They took me again to the same place, even the same room. I don’t recall anymore. Ali was there. He said, “Did you think about what I said? What is your answer?” I said, “I have thought and my answer is that I will marry you. There is no problem. I’ll do whatever you ask of me but don’t bother my parents and boyfriend. I’ll do what you want from me and won’t argue with you, no problems.” He said, “I promise you that I will be a good husband for you and protect you” and said a bunch of other things that I wasn’t really listening to. That was it. He sent me to the ward and told me that he will come after me in a few days.

I was arrested in January 1982. This situation happened in the summer of 1982, probably around June of 1982. There was a ceremony at Ali’s parents’ house. It was very short, maybe 15 minutes. I don’t really remember because I was very nervous. Prior to this event I had never been to a Muslim wedding and had gone only to one Christian wedding which was that of my brother.

There were no chairs or tables in the room at his parents’ house. There was a white table cloth on the ground and some sweets and a Koran and candles and a bunch of other similar things were there on the ground. Then they brought me in the room. Before going there they gave me white manteau, white pants, white socks and a white chador and other things to wear. I wore them and put the chador on and they told me to sit somewhere. Finally, there was me, Ali, his parents, his sisters and her husband and the religious magistrate. Everyone was standing but Ali and I were sitting. The magistrate sat over there; they told me his name but I absolutely have no recollection of it because it was not a famous name or someone that I would later recall. He said a few words. Then he spoke to me, he said, “Miss Marina Moradi, are you willing to take this man as your husband?” and I said yes the first time he asked. I had no idea that you are not supposed to respond the first time. Apparently they all were very surprised but, it did not matter anyway. I said yes and they gave me something to sign and I signed it without reading it. I don’t even know what it was. They put a paper in front of me and said sign here and I signed; that was it, over!

The first time we had marital relations was in the house he had bought that I was staying at. I was a 17 year old girl and such talks had never taken place in our house so I had no idea what the situation [sexual relations] was like. During the first sexual relation we had in that house, I screamed the whole time. Then he placed his hand on my mouth and said, “Don’t scream or you’ll see much worse. Be quiet. If you don’t resist, if you don’t bother, you won’t hurt as much. So don’t scream.” So I slowly learned to not scream or resist and not cause a raucous because maybe it would really be better for me. As a result, although I resisted the first few times, I later realized that resistance was truly futile. After that, he returned me to prison to ward 209. There I knew I had neighbors in the other cells and if I wanted to scream, what effect would it have on them? So I decided to close my mouth and let him do his business so that I can be left alone. No matter how long it took, ten minutes, fifteen or twenty minutes or even half an hour, it would eventually end and be done with. Either he would fall asleep or he would leave. So I slowly learned to bear those conditions that were very painful every time; I mean there never was a time when I wasn’t in pain. I bore it and then learned that he was correct, the less noise I made, the less trouble there was for me.

We were at Ali’s house for a few days and then he returned me to Evin. I requested to be sent to 209. I couldn’t bear the girls in the ward asking me where I was or guess from my face that there was something I didn’t want to talk about. So I said that I wanted to go to 209 solitary cells directly. He agreed and said that if I wanted to go to 209, I will be going to 209. Then they placed me in the cell. Before that, during my interrogation period, I was kept at 209. At that time, I was there for a night or two. The cell I was in was much worse than the cell they placed me in this time. The other cell I was in at 209 was cold and I was shaking all night long. They had only given me one blanket too. So far as I remember there also wasn’t a toilet in the cell. Later they put me in a cell that was very small. If I was a bit taller when I would stand in the middle of the cell and open my arms out they would hit the walls. But it was clean. There was a carpet on the floor that wasn’t terrible. They gave me 3-4 blankets. Ali even brought me a pillow. Aside from the pillows and blankets, there was a toilet and a sink in the cell. There was no bed or anything. Everything was on the ground. Whenever Ali would come, he usually brought food with him. He had told me not to drink the tea they served in prison and that he would bring me good tea himself. The tea served in prison smelled badly; they put camphor in it. He brought me the tea that they drank which was just normal tea. He would come; whenever he could he would show up. Sometimes he would come at 10 am, sometimes at 3 pm, sometimes at 10 pm and even some times he would come at 2 am. It really was not predictable when he would show up. Whenever Ali would come, he would sit down and give me the food he had brought and have me eat it or drink the tea he had brought. Then he would take his clothes off and it was obvious what he expected of me. I usually slept the rest of the times. In general, when I get depressed, I sleep a lot. I have the ability to sleep 24 hours or 48 or even 72 hours and only wake up to go to the bathroom and then go back to sleep again. I can sleep without food or ever a drink of water! And I was asleep most of the time during those days.

Then they took me to 246. They started calling me again. Usually, not always, they would call me at night but sometimes it was in the afternoon or morning. While I was in 246 it was usually at night but not too late, like around 8 pm. Most of the time, I was alone. There were times when they would call me along with others but then afterwards they would call me alone: Marina Moradi, come for interrogation. I would go, put blindfolds on, and if I was alone someone would come and take me. There were times when Ali was there and he would come and take me. At times I was taken with a group to the interrogation building. Then, Ali would come and call my name and tell me, “Get up! Let’s go.” I would follow him and we would go to 209. 2-3 or 4 times a week, they would call me at 10 pm and return me at 6 am. In fact, the times when he was supposed to go home and sleep there, prior to going, he was in the cell [with me]. I had to spend all night with Ali in the cell and each time, the physical pain was unbearable. If I had to choose between being lashed and that situation, I would pick lashing although it is much more painful. When someone lashes you, you maintain your dignity; you are a political prisoner! But when you are in a cell with your interrogator and then such matters take place, there is nothing left! The psychological pain aside, the physical pain was terrible for me too! Ali noticed and was constantly telling me to not be upset and that I am in pain because I resist. “Don’t resist and you won’t be in pain.” But I couldn’t help it. It never happened for him to come to me without any expectations.

The whole time I was in prison under such conditions, I believed that no one was aware of it. Maybe I was protecting myself and was being so defensive because I didn’t want anyone to find out and so I started believing that no one knew about it. This was because it is very difficult for a person to look straight in the eyes of her friends and say, I am my interrogator’s wife. How can it be! It is terrible! I only poured my heart out to one person during those days. I spoke to one person about this which was more like a confessional for me. She was a young mother from Gilan who was brought to my cell in 209 for 2-3 days.  She was a very nice woman, very calm, very kind and very good spirited. She had a baby too. One night Ali came to our door and called me and took me away. When I returned in the morning, she asked me, “Where were you last night?” I said, “Interrogation.” She said, “Marina, don’t lie. Where were you last night?” then I told her the story and said that I was his wife. She said, “By god! How is this possible? He threw his own wife in prison?” I said, “No! I wants always his wife,” and then told her the whole story. The poor soul was very shocked in the beginning. She couldn’t comprehend how this was possible at all. Then when she saw how upset I was and that I was crying heavily, she said, “Why are you upset? This is not your fault! You are not to blame here! You are the victim of this man. Why are you torturing yourself like this?” Then she asked me if I have told anyone. I said that I hadn’t and if fact, what was I going to tell them anyway! She said, “You are looking at yourself like you are to blame here when you are not at fault.” I said, “All this talks aside, if they take you to the ward, don’t tell anyone!” She asked why she shouldn’t do that. I swore her to god to promise me not to tell anyone. She said, “Fine, I promise.” Later they took her. When I went inside the ward I realized that no one knew so she had stuck to her promise.

In the ward, I was so consumed with my internal thoughts and defenses that I never paid any attention to what people were doing. I was caught in my own problems and tried to control the situation to the extent possible. I slept a great deal of the day. I could sleep in the raucous and noises of the goings and comings for 7 hours or so. Sometimes the girls would try and wake me up, for food or whatever else, and they had trouble in getting me up. They really had to shake me to be able to get me up. After that situation I had psychological problems and was not paying any attention to my surroundings.

Another thing that is significant in my opinions is that after I was released from prison, I lost all ability to enjoy sexual relations with my own husband, whom I love and married of my own choosing. I mean that basically I don’t have the ability to enjoy sexual relation. This feeling does not exist for me. My husband is a man who I married when I was released from prison[2] and I was and still am truly in love with him. So I really loved him but this [sexual] relation has become a form of duty for me.

Torture can take different forms. Can forcing insomnia on someone for a week be torture or not? If you throw a 16 year old girl in a cell and then bring a religious magistrate who declares that you are now married and can do your business and then you rape her, is this torture or not? What is the goal of torture? Is the goal of torture extracting information or destroying a person? I don’t know what Ali’s goal was. I think that he really believed but in the process of his belief, or whatever it was, what he was doing to me was in my opinion torture. Its effects are still on me. Those who were tortured, those who were lashed, many of them were my friends. I was tortured too. I was lashed too. But if one of those people were taken inside a room, a religious magistrate would come and read the marriage verses and then that girl was raped, could she still look at [torture] the same way? Taking pleasure from a condemned person is the sickest joke a person can think of!

[1] See Imaginary Evin in “Prisoner of Tehran,” Monireh Baradaran, simple truth website, available at http://monireh-baradaran.blogspot.com/2007/07/blog-post_1809.html; and Prisoner of Tehran, devaluing prison memoirs, Iraj Mesdaghi, Neither Alive Nor Dead, available athttp://www.irajmesdaghi.com/page1.php?id=113.

[2] According to Marina, interrogator Ali was killed in a street fight some time after their marriage.