By Nemat Firouzi, Camp Liberty
I’ll never forget the day I was released from prison. The inmates had lined up in the political prisoners row (where I had served) to bid me farewell. This was where prisoners of conscience and opposition members were being incarcerated. As we said our partings, each of them whispered a wish in my ear. One particular sentence that etched itself into my mind belonged to schoolteacher Mohammad Hassan Namkian. He said, “Fear is the asset of tyrants, and its response is courage. Muster as much of it as you can to continue your struggle.”
He had chosen to fight illiteracy and ignorance, and he would travel long stretches to teach to the children of clandestine and forgotten villages. But he had also chosen to help in the struggle to establish freedom and justice and to rid the society of fear, and had become an active member of the Teachers Association.
Upon his arrest, he was sentenced to ten years in prison by a mullah who hadn’t even studied law. Like in all dictatorships, he was charged with the dubious crime of “infringing national security” because he had taken part in a demonstration in defense of freedom.
Two years after my release, while he had served seven of his ten years, he was “tried” again. It was a trial that lasted no longer than two minutes and consisted of a simple question: Do you still support the Mojahedin? His answer, obviously, was “yes.” That simple answer sealed his fate and he was sentenced to death.
It was thus that he was executed along with 30 thousand political prisoners who were massacred across Iran in the summer of 1988. The sentence was carried out in secret – as was the burial. I never got to see him again.
While the era of thought and intellect has aged well over two centuries, and many old and archaic beliefs have become history; and while the right to life and human rights have become the emblems of humanity and the international community; while the abolition of cruel sentences, namely the death penalty, are being debated in the domain of law and jurisprudence; and while many states have altogether revoked the use of death sentence or have taken great strides toward banishing it from law; while the international day against execution celebrated its tenth anniversary this year; and while score of countries, more than 80 NGOs, associations, law firms and independent institutions support this cause; the leaders of the mullahs regime ruling my country Iran are moving in the reverse direction and on the day for the abolition of the death sentence, their report card was published: During the first year of the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, the supposedly “moderate” president of the Iranian regime, more than 1,000 executions have been carried out. The ruling mullahs’ thirst for execution is insatiable and during 35 years of iron-fisted rule, they’ve used torture, death and repression as a tool for preserving their corrupt reign. They use 20th century technology like front-loaders and cranes, devices used for construction, to deal death and destroy lives by hanging people in public, especially opposition members. Indeed, in Iran, even technology is in the service of barbarity and savagery.
I think about the one-year report card: 1,000 executions. This is the legacy of the mullahs in the third millennium of human civilization. The message that the ruling mullahs send through their brutal actions is one of fear and terror. They see their survival in the death of others, and their death in others’ prosperity. They justify their evil deeds in the name of god, and hypocritically pose themselves as representatives of god.
It is only fair to say that in Iran execution isn’t a penalty or punishment for a specific crime – it is the government’s tool to control a restless and unsatisfied society that has manifested its rage in different uprisings throughout the years.
The latest instance is the execution of 26-year-old Rayhaneh Jabbari, whose dossier had become a political one according to many international organizations. This reactionary and outdated system has driven thousands and millions of Iranians away from the country.
The mullahs’ regime accepts no form of opposition, and that is why it hysterically tries to destroy the residents of Camp Liberty, like myself, who are survivors of the regime’s prisons, and have lost thousands of friends to the mullahs’ barbarity in the past 35 years.
That is why the Iranian regime has ordered its agents in the government of Iraq to impose an all-out logistical and medical blockade against the residents of the camp, which has so far claimed the lives of 22 people.
While the mullahs cannot carry out executions in Liberty, they’ve resorted to missile attacks and a medical blockade and are pursuing the same goal: to spread terror and fear among the residents of Camp Liberty.
Today, more than ever, I come to understand the meaning of my friend Mohammad Hassan’s words: Fear is the asset of tyrants, and its response is courage. Muster as much as you can to continue your struggle.
Nemat Firouzi is a former political prisoner who spent several years in the dungeons of the Iranian regime.