Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Note: Reyhaneh Jabbari is a 26-year-old woman who was convicted of murdering a man named Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi in Iran, and who has been in prison for the last seven years and is now awaiting imminent execution by hanging. Jabbari penned this letter to the mayor of Tehran several days before the Persian New Year Nowruz (March 20th). Jabbari still has no news about when the death sentence is to be carried out.
There are wounds in life than can eat away at a person like leprosy and one cannot display them. This is the house of regrets, in the Shahr'eh Ray area of Tehran. Rather, I should describe it as a mass grave. To offer treatment to the prisoners, City Hall set out to create a psychiatric area, large halls that are called Hijaria Mental Health Consultation and Psychotherapy.

They have built a wall in the middle of the main hall and they separate the cases who need therapy from the ones that do not. All the prison facilities they claim are meant to be for training -- such as clubs, libraries, cultural activities, amphitheater, co-op and a vocational training office (which adorns the logo of the department of prisons) -- are on the other side of the wall. These are only offered to people who are chosen for therapy and consulting, even if they do not really care for it. The number of people on this side of the wall fills two entire other halls. Now the social gap -- uptown vs. downtown -- is quite easily felt in prison. Uptown is pretty, green, clean and filled with places to enjoy oneself; downtown is barren, there is not even the most basic amenities. There is no space, no air, no order, no calm... no life.

Two hundred and thirty seven people are crammed in a ten meter by nineteen meter hovel. They sleep, eat and just endure there. Forget about the fact that the regulations of the department of prisons, whose article thirteen, item one clearly states that each person must have at the very least a seven square meter "roofed" physical space.

On the other side of the wall, the uptown side of the prison, three hundred people live in six huge halls, so why are those who are not in therapy not being moved to that section, when there is such overpopulation in this one?

Mr. Mayor, we have not seen many beautiful parts of Tehran designed with the a clean and proper atmosphere in mind. We urge you not to deprive the 'downtown' prisoners of culture, work and life. According to regulations, all prisoners should be permitted to use those facilities. As this is your concept, your word and your budget, we ask you at least to listen to us.

Mr. Mayor, you send eulogists to this facility for the observance of religious ceremonies, to familiarize us with the issues of chastity and religious purification and so that we can structure our lives for the future (if there is a future) on those canons so that we do not sin and do not commit any crime -- to have better lives. But are you aware that on this side of the wall, those who wish to pray in the mornings have no room to do so? Do you not consider this important for Muslims?

Mr. Mayor, you who are so enthusiastic, artistic and have the financial means, why don't you think about these conditions and solutions for everyone? Isn't it better to build a library, a well-equipped workroom, a gym or properly supplied infirmary? Although I am sure you are thinking to yourself that the person writing this letter thinks she is living in a luxury hotel, you should know that prison is our permanent home, that God has given all his creatures great or small the right to live in decent conditions, and that and no one has the right to trample on that.

I offer you greetings for Nowruz and the arrival of the New Year and hope for your change of mind with regard.
Rayhaneh Jabbari
March 2014


Reyhaneh Jabbari, an interior designer, was in a coffee shop speaking on the phone about her work, a conversation which was coincidentally overheard by Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, who approached her for professional advice about renovating his office. They then set a date to meet at his office in order to see and discuss Sarbandi's renovation project.

On the day of the meeting, Sarbandi picked up Jabbari in his car. On the way to his office, Sarbandi stopped at a pharmacy, purchased an item (while Jabbari waited in the car), got into the car again and drove to his office. After arriving at their destination, Jabbari realized that the place did not look like a work place at all as it was a rundown house. Inside the house, Jabbari saw two drinks on the table, Morteza went inside and quickly locked the door from inside, put his arms around Jabbari's waist and told her that "she had no way of escaping". A struggle soon ensued. Jabbari trying to defend herself stabbed Sarbandi in the shoulder and escaped. Sarbandi died from bleeding.

Lab analysis showed the drinks Jabbari intended to serve to Jabbari contained sedatives. Regardless, Jabbari was arrested. There she was told by the authorities that the murder had been set up [by them] and was "politically motivated". Nevertheless, Jabbari was tortured until she confessed to the murder, after she was given the death penalty which was upheld by the Supreme Court. As a result she is to be executed at any moment. The Campaign to Save Reyhaneh asks that all individuals and organizations help support us in any way possible to save Jabbari. If you have any contacts or connections with media, human rights organizations, women's rights advocates or government agencies, please support Jabbari's campaign by writing to them.

Please help us save her life by signing this petition.
Nazanin Afshin-Jam
Shabnam Assadollahi
Shadi Paveh
Mina Ahadi

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