by Alireza Rashidi

It is in the middle of the night on January 24th, 1982. Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence takes my mother to prison for the ‘crime’ of supporting the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). I was only 10 or 11 y ears old. I ask them where are you taking my mother? They answer: She will be back very quickly. We are only going to ask her a question … My eyes were fixed on her. Will I ever see her again? I was still in my childish little world. I knew that my mother’s emotions were stronger to ever forget me. However, brutality knows no emotions. I keep on following her from the corner of my eye.

Five years passed from that very harsh day. I was only allowed to see her once a week from behind thick window glasses and hear her voice through a telephone. I couldn’t even embrace and kiss my own mother! Those are difficult days to remember, let alone live through as a child. In the cold winter and scorching summer, in the snow or in the rain, under any conditions I had to reach Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison to see her one more time. My mother was finally released after enduring 5 long years behind bars. We started a new life together along with my only sister and mother.

However, it appeared as if this separation just would not come to an end. Later on destiny placed me in the grounds of Ashraf (a camp in Iraq, home to around 4,000 Iranian dissidents struggling against the ayatollahs). My mother had come to see me many times in Ashraf. (At the time US forces in Iraq were responsible for our protection in Ashraf).

When I saw her for the first time after so many years, she said I still clean your room… I have kept your books, your handwriting is still on the wall, and by looking at them it reminds me of you. When will I see you victorious in the path that you have chosen for your life?

I had no answer for her…

The last time that she returned to Iran from Ashraf they arrested her for this very ‘crime’ of visiting me. The ayatollahs sentenced her to 5 years in prison. Another five years in the dungeons. During this period she lost vision in her right eye due to the inadequate prison conditions. And I could do nothing.

The irony in all this is that on one hand the Ministry of Intelligence used to dispatch its agents to the gates of Ashraf under the guise of family reunions, while actually harassing and psychologically pressuring us; on the other hand, those mothers and fathers who returned from Ashraf were arrested and imprisoned for the ‘crime’ of visiting their loved ones.

Many years passed until the US government in 2009 transferred the protection of Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government, and this was the beginning of painstaking measures in Ashraf. This included numerous bloody and horrific attacks where I saw with my own eyes dozens of my friends being gunned down and murdered, while many others were severely injured. These attacks were staged at the behest of Iran’s ayatollahs, who just cannot tolerate any opposition even outside of its borders. However, the ayatollahs and Maliki’s government in Iraq sought to legitimize their crimes by stationing a number of agents as our families by MOIs front-associations such as Nejat, Habilian and others … while their only objective was to impose psychological torture against us.

Finally, the US government and UN promised to protect all Ashraf residents and transferred them to Camp Liberty, a deserted US military camp in Iraq adjacent to Baghdad International Airport. I soon realized this was a devious plot placed me here. They are seeking to repeat all their plots they carried out back in Ashraf now in Liberty. Once again Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence is sending its agents to Liberty’s gates under the guise of our family members.

Simultaneously, Iraqi forces – as ordered by Iran – have turned Liberty into a killing field. Is Camp Liberty the end for me? Will I ever see my mother again? Will I ever hear her voice again, and will I ever be able to take my mother into my arms once more? The answer I give to myself is yes; there is hope for freedom and a reunion with my country; a country where little children will never be forced to visit their mothers behind bars and weep for their love. This is my motivation to continue this struggle. The dignity of standing firm in the path for freedom and not succumbing to the crackdown of dictators is the only gift that I once again present to mother when I see her after so many years. Once again the question of my childhood years comes to mind? Will I ever see my mother again in Iran?