Witness Testimony of Shahla Molavi

Name and Surname: Shahla Molavi

Date and Place of Birth: 1960, Ahvaz, Iran.

Date of Arrest: July 27, 1981

Accusation: Collaborating with Peykar Organization

Date of Release: August 11, 1985

My husband was arrested on July 25, 1981. I was arrested on July 27 of that year. I was imprisoned for four years between 1981 and 1985 and released on August 11, 1985. At the time of the arrest I was 21 and a university student.

My husband was Javad Baharian Sharghi, a student at Tehran’s Poly Technique. He was executed on August 12, 1981, exactly 18 days after he was arrested. He worked at the student branch of PeykarOrganization as a university/high school student promoter.

In fact, during my years of arrest, no one exposed anything politically about me but I wasn’t merely a suspicious person of interest either. They didn’t really know a lot about me. I was arrested with the accusation of [collaboration with] Peykar. I was studying physics as Tehran University, entry of 1978.

Javad left the house on the eve of Saturday, July 25, 19811. When he was leaving the house, I had a weird feeling that I will never see him again. I remember very well that I looked him over from head to toe. There was this feeling inside me; a strange feeling! He left the house at 6 pm on Saturday and never returned. I waited for two days. After two days…we had two homes. At the time and due to the closure of the universities, I was working in a factory and was a laborer. I wasn’t identified [as a Peykar member] there. For this reason, we had two homes in Tehran. One was in the north of Tehran and was in fact the dormitory for married Poly Technique students on Keshavarz Boulevard. I couldn’t go to work from there because from a security stand point it was unfavorable so I would go to Azadi square and take a shuttle from there. On the other hand I was told that I had to rent a house in the southern parts of Tehran, in Hashemi neighborhood or surrounding. For this reason, we had another home in Baba’iyan Street. So I thought to myself that is it best for me to leave that place because Javad had gone to a rendezvous from there and gotten arrested.

Since one of our friends who was a fellow party member lived in the same dorms, I decided to go to the dormitory. At that time all our communication was cut off with the guys, the ones who were in charge of us. Our communications was completely cut! Neither of us had any information about the other.  At that time, in July of 1981, all the contacts had been severed. Only Javad was still going on rendezvous. That evening when he left the house he went to Foziyeh Square to meet someone and never returned. I never found out if the person he was supposed to meet was also arrested or not.

Javad did not return! Two days after it I returned to the dorms. Psychologically I was a wreck. I didn’t know where I was going or coming or what I was doing. I was completely alone in Tehran. I had no contacts with anyone and had even severed ties with my only brother who lived in Tehran. I am from Ahvaz so the rest of my family were either in the south or had relocated as war torn civilians to Isfahan. But my father still worked in the National Iranian Oil Company at the time. He was still going to work. But my mother and sister had gone to Isfahan and my father was living in the south alone. When they were attacking Ahvaz with five simultaneous rockets, he was in a terrible condition because he still worked at the time of the war.

So July 27, 1981 arrived and I went to the dorms we were living at. When I entered the dormitories, someone behind me called me by my husband’s name. I turned around and saw that it was Mehrdad Kokabi. He was a member of the Student Following Imam’s Path. He, Mehrdad Kokabi, was going to Poly Technique and lived on the first floor of the dormitory with his wife. Later on I heard in the BBC that he was arrested in London during an anti-Salman Rushdie demonstration.[1]

When we were in Iran he was a serious regime collaborator. Basically he was the person who arrested me, along with his wife. They called me and took me inside of their home. Firs the husband called me then the wife came to the door and started talking to me. Then I saw the husband coming out with a Z-3 and they used that Z-3 to take me inside. First they asked me, “Where is Mr. Baharian?” I said, “I don’t know! I know just as much as you know. I have no information about him.” Not a minute had passed with me there—meanwhile I was thinking of a way to escape or what I should be doing—when he took out the gun. They pulled the Z-3 and took me inside the building, in their apartment. They patted me down and searched my handbag. I had some stuff in my bag, like my phone book. They sat me behind a privatePeykan and told me to lie flat so I won’t be seen and they took me uptown from [Keshavarz] Boulevard.

Those who arrested me were members of Student Following Imam’s Path. At that time, they had started the American Embassy situation. This was one of their activities. Also, Javad was pretty well known and exposed in his university because he was the master of ceremony in most of the programs organized by the Peykar Organization. He was usually the one behind the speaker, in Fanni University [University of Tehran’s Faculty of Engineering], in Sanati University [Sharif University of Technology], in Elm va Sanat University [Iran’s University of Science and Technology], everywhere! Wherever there was [a program] Arzhang and Javad were the ones speaking. For this reason he was a known face. Based on a message he sent to me inside prison that said, “I was arrested on suspicious grounds” so I think they had recognized his face.

When the car moved I felt that it was going up, towards uptown.

The driver was one of them. Either it was Mehrdad Kokabi or someone else, I don’t recall now. Later their numbers increased. Once we were in front of the dormitory, their numbers increased. It was around 10 or 10:30 am. All I could tell was that the car was driving up the whole way. After around an hour we arrived and they took me inside a house that I could tell was a very fancy residence. It was clear from the large courtyard and its trees that it was one of those houses that were confiscated. It was very clear that the place was a house and not a prison. But first they took me to a room in the upper floor. The person in charge of me or guarding me was sitting in the room opposite the one I was in. A window was open and I was internally arguing whether or not I should get up and jump out of the window. My hands were cuffed but my feet were not. They had cuffed my hands in the front. I was going back and forth on the issue but didn’t dare jump. I thought that if I get up and the man in the other room is armed he will shoot me. He was in the opposite room and if he would hear a movement he would get up. In truth I didn’t dare do the deed. The window was high up too and I had to be able to climb it not using my hands. I realized that it was impossible. Frankly, maybe if I was a bit braver I would have done it but I wasn’t so I didn’t do the act.

At that time I had heard from my fellow organization members that they take the people they arrest inside their safe houses and rape them. In those days, I feared nothing! I didn’t fear lashing but I was afraid that they would rape me. I was constantly thinking what was there that I could do to appeal to their sense of compassion, or another feeling, so that they couldn’t bring themselves to touch me. When I was working in the factory, at times I felt like half of my body was numb, like my hands and feet were numb and I couldn’t do anything. At that moment I decided to tell them that the shock inflicted upon me has rendered me paralyzed and that I couldn’t walk. I dropped myself on the ground and said: I can’t walk anymore. They kept beating me and telling me to get up and walk. I said that I couldn’t. They brought a military blanket and dropped me on it. Someone held one end and another person held the other and in that manner they took me to the basement.

After about half an hour to an hour, they wrapped me in a blanket and took me to the basement. There they interrogated me. They asked about everyone, from family to friends and acquaintances and husband and all. It was lunchtime, maybe around 12 or 1 pm. They brought me soup. Since Javad had disappeared for two days and I was under a lot of pressure, I hadn’t really eaten much so I quickly swallowed the soup down. I wasn’t even thinking about anything when I ate the soup. Then they took me to the next room. I could hear the sound of children playing from the courtyard adjacent to that room. I could hear the sound of a ball hitting the walls in that courtyard. There was no one in the courtyard of the house I was inside of. It was empty. But children were playing in the courtyard of the house adjacent to the room I was inside of. They were banging the balls on the wall. I had eaten the food quickly so when they placed me in that location to sit or rest or whatever, I fell asleep. Next thing I knew it was 12 midnight and I was waking up. They had mixed something in that soup. That part of my life disappeared. I have no recollection of what transpired from 12 noon to 12 midnight. So I got up and noticed that it was dark everywhere. Actually, they woke me up by telling me to get up. They blindfolded me and placed me in a big car and took me. Well, I was without a blindfold initially but they gave me a blindfold when we got near Evin. When they put me inside the car, it was 12 midnight and there was no one anywhere in sight. The streets of the city were deserted. When we got to Evin’s gate was when I realized they had taken me there.

They took me to Evin but didn’t have room to place me inside a cell. They were fully occupied. Above the stairs there was a metal table somewhere and they handcuffed me to that metal bar. I remember that my right hand was cuffed to the table and my left hand was free. For two full nights I was cuffed to that table. The next day, I started bleeding heavily.

The next morning, I asked a lady pasdar, Mrs. Mohammadi—who later became in charge of our ward—to bring me a sanitary pad because I was bleeding. She brought me a pad. Later I remembered that all these occurrences were strange. At that moment I was so shocked that I didn’t pay any attention but later I thought that they could have done anything to me in those hours when I was out cold. When they first took me to Evin I didn’t even think about it. Later, maybe some time later, I thought that such a matter could have taken place for me. Well I was asleep! They can do whatever they want to a person. Especially that I was out for so long, till 12 midnight!

[When I think about it,] there were no other prisoners there; I didn’t hear anything. I keep wondering why they didn’t take me to Evin straight! That is the issued.

There were large trees in the middle of the courtyard. The house and its veranda were square-shaped. The house was clearly that of an affluent family, the affluent families of Shah’s time, uptown. I think even now, if they show me the house I’ll recognize it. They didn’t interrogate me at all in that house [about the organization and such]. In fact they didn’t interrogate me at all until a year and 2-3 months passed. [I mean even at Evin I wasn’t interrogated.] For a year and 2-3 months I was constantly waiting for them to take me for interrogation but they didn’t. I remember when they called me for interrogation. I was in a room and there were two interrogators speaking in that room. They were saying, “This is the person whose husband we executed a year and some time ago in a mass trial but her case file is missing.” I realized they are talking about me. I had been informed of Javad’s execution through newspaper. It was on August 15 of that same year!

After two days, they took me to the breather area. The breather area was a space between the cells the dimensions of which were 2.5 meters by 2.5 meters. There was metal scaffolding above it. The area was in shape of a square. There I was in the same cell with a bunch of others. On its walls I read a sentence that has stuck with me all these years. [It said,] “Tahereh was executed while 8 months pregnant.” Later I found out that Tahereh was a Peykar member.

After a year and 2-3 months, they called me and took me to Detention Center 3000, former Police-SAVAK. They had arrested a bunch of Peykar members and it was only then when they called me for interrogation. There they kept me blindfolded for three months. In the hallway! I had the blindfold on morning, noon, and night. This was a torture that really had negative psychological effects on me. I felt that I had become a stranger to myself. The effects on me were very negative.

I had never spoken to anyone about the safe house they took me to and that I was unconscious there for 12 hours and then bled heavily the next day and that there was no reason for them to take me there. But a few years ago, I spoke to a radio station in Sweden through one of my former cellmates who lives there now and to whom I had confided the story at the time of out confinement.

[1] In an interview published on Fars News Agency, Mohsen Mirdamadi also states that Mehrdad Kokabi was one of the students active in occupying the American Embassy. Mirdamadi further affirms the fact that Kokabi travelled to England to continue his education and was arrested and imprisoned and later deported in the Salman Rushdie debacle. Based on the same story, he is now teaching at the Tarbiyat Modarress University. See Formation of Office for Strengthening Unity Was for the Purpose of Combating the Anti-Revolutionary Groups, Fars News Agency, December 6, 2008, available athttp://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8709150830. For further information about Mehrdad Kokabi visit his profile page at Tarbiyat Modarress University, available athttp://www.modares.ac.ir/Schools/eng/academic-staff/~mehrir.