Honesty is the best policy!
The author of this short story remains anonymous. She sent the text a few weeks after that the protests had started in September. Whether she is free or behind bars remains unknown to us.
The short story testifies to sophisticated methods of getting Iranian prisoners to confess.
Isn't the greatest degradation of a human being to make him an accomplice to the oppressive regime?
The day The Dog pushed me into the prison cell and screamed “Here’s a bride for you”, it was Amin who stood up for me and who would not let anyone touch me. He didn’t have a big and terrifying body and he was even shorter than me. I actually thought that he would get a serious whacking and end up flat on the floor, only after a second, if he got into a fight with these hooligans. But there was something in his voice or behaviour that made these tattooed bad boys to not want to put themselves at odds with him.
He was a journalist and had been sacked from his work at a newspaper after publishing a tweet, in which he was accused of having insulted the regime and the spiritual leader. He also took care of a webpage on which a couple of friends of his wrote and published articles under pen names.
Because of the fact that he had refused to reveal the friends’ names, he had been placed among criminals in the prison so that he would come to his senses and open his mouth.
I had also hidden away a couple of names in a secret place, in the deepest region of my mind, so that I would forget them. But in spite of me pleading and praying to God, the names kept flooding, sometimes obstinately so, from my brain-cells to my tongue.
When I with bruised eyes, split lips and a torn shirt collar, was brought back to the cell after the third round of interrogations, it was again Amin who jumped up and started to fight The Dog before the prison cell door was closed.
It was then I realised that I was wrong about Amin. He was no body-builder but his strong hands gripped The Dog’s throat so hard that the whites of his eyes became bloodshot. I wondered what would happen if Amin would be in the isolation cell? Then I would be alone among the riffraff.
I turned around. The smell of smoke and sweat hovered in the air. A man who passed by in the corridor pulled up his Kurdish pants. I mustered all my power, stood up on my toes and with my trembling body I slapped over the eyes of The Dog a couple of times.
Half an hour later both Amin and I were in separate isolation cells. I started to think about a film, the title of which I had forgotten. In the film, Gael García acted the role of an Iranian prisoner in an isolation cell. He entertained himself by dancing to Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love”, which he used to play in his head.
But when I tried to listen for my own head music, I found that my mind was empty of all sounds. There were only two names fastened deep down in my throat and which were hauled up by an invisible thread. At any moment, the vocal cords could vibrate forth the names.
I started pinching my body, hoping that the sound of my whining and moaning would fill my head. I even started to enumerate irrelevant things and went through the alphabet backwards. Then the names glided rearwards and sank down into the deep well of my throat and disappeared.
I wondered what Amin was thinking about in his own cell? Later when we were back in our cell he laughed and replied that he had not been thinking of anything special. He had just wanted to smoke and got pleasure out of the thought that he again one day would smack The Dog on the mouth.
When I shared my thoughts of that film with him, he thought that the director probably had been forced to blend reality and fantasy in a few sequences to make the suffering in prison endurable. Because otherwise, and against all expectations, if there would be a pimp-God, he would still not be able to find a hole to creep into that hell-pit to save me. And of course, neither would Leonard Cohen’s music in the head, nor any other romantic illusions, be of any help whatsoever.
I wished I could be as strong as Amin; that nothing in the whole world could break me down, but in the depth of my soul I knew that only my dead body would leave that diabolical room next time. I told him about my concerns; I had no one else and he had proved his good intentions.
I don’t know how, but Amin resembled an ambulatory health care centre and had almost anything in his possession. In silence he cut a piece of gauze bandage and folded it a couple of times until it got the form of a small square. Then he put it on the wound I had over the nose while moving a thin and wet match between his teeth.
I mentioned those two damned names that had succeeded in making their way to the tip of my tongue, no matter how much I tried to swallow them. I was afraid that I willingly, all by my own accord, would reveal everything next time in the interrogation hell, just to be released.
When he was finished with my nose, he said that our last asset was resistance and that we should not give in to the interrogators’ dirty games. If I revealed the names, they would probably fulfil their promise and release me soon. But in that case, the release would be so intimately associated with abasement that I would not savour the freedom. I would like to turn back time and to be in the same hellish interrogation room, to the moment when I had not yet revealed the names. Then his chin started trembling and his eyes filled with tears, but his tears put up a resistance and refused to leave the eye sockets to run down his cheeks.
”Do you think it’s easy for me?” he asked before he fastened the gauze bandage on my nose with a wide white tape. Then he rested his broad forehead on mine and got me to give him the promise to be patient and to not give up whatever happened.
From that day I became more and more proud of how strong I was. I didn’t care about the sexual innuendos of the riffraff when Amin was not around. It didn’t matter if they called me a bride, a puppy or some other derogative name. It didn’t matter if they went past my cell, laughed and threateningly waved a condom around. The most important thing was that I had become so strong that they could not make me reveal the two names, no matter how much I would be exposed to torture.
Amin never asked any questions because of the fear of possible informers in the prison. But I must confess that I was becoming insane by keeping the secret inside me. One evening when the lights were put out at bedtime, I at last started telling Amin everything. When I started talking he hushed me and indicated that I should speak in a low voice. In the dark I could for the first time see the unease in his eyes.
I lowered the voice and told him that the two masked guys who attacked a police from behind, wrenched the baton out of his hand and the gun out of his holster, beat him and threw his motorcycle into the ditch, were named Saeed and Yaser. I told him that we were a team and that I fully understood that they had no choice but to run away. I had never hurt a fly and the only crime I had committed was that I had written a few slogans with a bottle of spray paint. I was just unlucky. I ran back to get my mobile phone. The police who earlier had forced me to give away my phone was still on the ground after the three of us had given him a beating. But just as I was there by him a police car turned up and blocked my way. Four policemen jumped out of the car and came running towards me. Saeed and Yaser threw themselves on the motorcycle in the other end of the alley and drove away while I had to kneel on the cold ground with my hands behind the neck.
When I had told him everything I could feel that the letters of Saeed’s and Yaser’s names dissolved under my tongue. I became calmer.
”Don’t have any doubts for a single moment, never open your mouth to those cowards”, Amin said encouragingly. “If you have to say something, just say that you don’t know any activist, full stop”.
Amin who otherwise was short-spoken paused before he went on:
“If you keep silent they will realise after a while that they cannot get anything out of you. They get tired and let you go”.
Then he suggested that I should recite some verse out of the Quran to calm my mind and sleep peacefully. I started looking for some verse in my memory but Amin apparently succeeded faster than me. His whispering and singing voice in the dark created a peculiar feeling of safety in the stuffy atmosphere of the cell.
I wondered what the prison had done with that slightly crazy and diligent journalist who openly insulted God, who according to him didn’t exist anyway? Why did he try to calm both me and himself down with prayers he didn’t believe in? Amin was truly a strange combination, and the God, who existed or not, must love me so much that he had placed a guardian angel like him in my way. I also started to whisper a few verses and fell asleep.
The next day I was more calm than ever during the interrogation. My body didn’t tremble and I was far from crying and begging for mercy. I felt light. The names were hidden away in my head and were as good as forgotten. I was in the same semi-dark room as usual, but I was told to sit on a chair opposite the door, and not with the face towards the wall where I could only see the interrogator’s shadow.
After a while the door was opened and The Dog—with his body two meters long—came in. He dumped a heap of stationary on the table in front of me, looked at the blindfold around my neck and begun to laugh. One could still discern a bluish bruise under his left eye. Before he opened his mouth the door squeaked again. The Dog bowed to the semi-big shadow that had come in and immediately left the room.
The shadow came up, put a tape recorder on the table and then started to fiddle with his shirt buttons. He undid the last button under the neck, smiled and pushed the play button on the tape recorder: “I was just unlucky. I ran back to get my mobile phone…”.