Revolution#124, March 23,2008
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports, and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
Interview with Former Iranian Political Prisoner
“Still the Resistance Continued...”
In 1979 the Iranian people in their millions overthrew the Shah of Iran. The Shah had been put in power by a U.S.-led coup against the nationalist Mossadegh government in 1953, and this brutal government was one of the most important puppet regimes the U.S. imperialists had in the Middle East. The Shah’s CIA-trained secret police, SAVAK, was a bloodthirsty gang of murderers and torturers. In one day during the popular uprising that led to the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, his military and police murdered thousands of people. For a brief period after the overthrow of the Shah, Iran saw a flowering of revolutionary enthusiasm, creativity, debate, and hope. It was during this time that Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and exposed the role of the U.S. imperialists and their CIA in propping up the Shah’s regime from the beginning.
Soon after the overthrow of the Shah, Islamic fundamentalist forces, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, fought to gain power, and as they began to consolidate their power, people resisted. The Amol uprising in northern Iran, led by the Union of Iranian Communists (Sarbedaran), was the first attempt by Maoists to launch an armed revolutionary struggle in Iran. It was defeated, and it became the last serious resistance to the moves by the Islamic fundamentalist regime to consolidate their state power. A nationwide crackdown against revolutionary and other opposition forces was launched, and by the end of 1982 the Islamic fundamentalist regime was firmly in place. They slaughtered many thousands of revolutionaries, including much of the revolutionary leadership at that time. Many thousands more were arrested, tortured and imprisoned.
Anahita, a revolutionary who suffered horribly at the hands of the Khomeini regime, was tortured and spent eight years in prison. Today Ana is a courageous revolutionary opponent of both the Islamic fundamentalist regime and the U.S. imperialists. She was recently in Los Angeles with other women from Iran who participated in the International Women’s Day demonstration, in solidarity with the IWD march in Brussels organized by Karzar (see article on this page). The following excerpt is from an interview with Ana done by Revolution correspondent Li Onesto.
Li Onesto: Could you talk about your own personal story—what happened to you and your experiences being a part of the revolution in Iran and being imprisoned by the regime?
Ana: In 1979, my boyfriend was part of the people who organized an armed uprising in the North, in Amol. He was one of the political leaders. His name was Behroz. At that time I was working in a factory. During this time the Khomeni regime used all vicious and brutal means to crush the people’s revolutionary determination. Behroz was in the jungle fighting against the regime and I was underground, organizing in the factory. When Behroz came back to Tehran we reorganized the organization, the Union of Iranian Communists that had almost been dissolved. All the leaders had been killed, all the supporters had been arrested and killed, and all the people outside were pursued by the police. About 80% of the people in the movement were killed.
A hundred revolutionaries were in the jungle. From the people who took part in the uprising in the jungle, more than 70 of them were killed in Amol.
For reorganizing the party we moved to Kurdistan. Kurdistan was independent; the Islamic regime did not have a hold on Kurdistan then. Almost two months, we stayed there and we analyzed and tried to understand the reasons why the Amol uprising got defeated. Then we came back to Tehran and tried to organize ourselves again. It was in Tehran that me and Behroz, we got arrested together in the street.
Behroz was killed while he was being tortured by the regime because he kept all the secrets. After us nobody was arrested. So Behroz got tortured and killed but he didn’t give away any secrets. He was viciously and brutally tortured. I was also tortured brutally, but not as much as Behroz. I was also put under capital punishment, but my parents used friends and influence on the outside to get my sentence changed from capital punishment to life imprisonment.
In my own presence, they were punishing and torturing Behroz, like a football they were kicking him around between four to five people, kicking and pushing him—he was being kicked from one side to the other. I was blindfolded, but I could hear his shouting and I was also hearing the sound of punching and kicking. It is very difficult for me to remember this. Once they took me to the hospital and I saw Behroz bandaged all over because of his wounds and because of being tortured he was not able to talk properly, he couldn’t talk. Despite being brutally tortured, Behroz kept his revolutionary determination, and he was saying to the investigators, that you can kill me but you cannot defeat the whole revolution. I was there when they said to Behroz, that you are representing U.S. imperialism. And Behroz said to the investigators, history will prove who is the representative of U.S. imperialism, me or you. All the time, he was defending his ideology. He was defending it ideologically and he was defending it politically.
Revolution: What were you and Behroz charged with?
Ana: Just being members of an organization that had gotten involved with armed struggle was a crime by itself. One of the reasons that they made the decision to give me a death sentence was because I didn’t cooperate with them and didn’t give them information.
In prison there were a lot of things going on because the Khomeni regime wanted to defeat the revolutionary movement of the people, all the opposition parties, so they were arresting people from a wide range in society.
Revolution: Who were they arresting?
Ana: The Iranian people had been very much politicized so a large number of people were involved in a lot of different revolutionary organizations. So they were arresting all people who had been associated with revolutionary organizations.
Revolution: How many political prisoners were there at that time?
Ana: There were thousands and thousands of political prisoners. I was in one prison where they put about 50 people in one small, tiny room where we were not able to sleep and eat properly. The food was very bad, sanitation was very bad. We didn’t have proper food or access to newspapers or TV or anything. We didn’t have access to books. Every night they were at least killing about 100 political prisoners. And in the prison we were counting the sounds of the bullets to know how many people they killed each night. They wanted to push the revolution back because a huge number of people were involved in the revolution so they were killing thousands of people indiscriminately to enhance their rule over the country. At the same time, they were putting the names of the people they had killed in the newspapers, saying, we have killed all these many people. They were not hiding their deeds; they wanted the people to know how brutal the regime is, to cow down the people. Between 1979 and 1980 the regime didn’t use that much brutality, but the brutality and the viciousness got intense between 1981 and 1983. Then the regime stopped that kind of mass killing—then after that the killing got targeted, they were killing key leaders of the political parties, not the kind of indiscriminate killing that happened before
After eight years of being in prison, I got freed in 1991.
Revolution: How did the prisoners resist and keep their revolutionary spirit up?
Ana: We had very high revolutionary morals because we had come out of a revolution—we had defeated one government so we had the idea that if we could defeat one government we could defeat this one too.
In the prison they were also using brutal means, and crushing and beating us because we were reading books, because we were giving slogans, because we were reading revolutionary poems, so the regime was beating us because of our revolutionary activism inside the prison.
In 1988 the Khomeni regime killed all the political prisoners, hanged all of them during two months. They actually killed all the political prisoners, except among the leftist women, they did not kill all of them—they thought if they beat and tortured them they would eventually accept Islam and come back. But they killed all the men. There was another organization in Iran, an Islamic force—Mojahedin—the regime killed all their members, women and men, killed both.
Every day, three times, during the Islamic prayer times, they were beating the communist women, saying we had to pray. Every day, three times. Morning, noon, and night. This continued until some of the political women prisoners started committing suicide. They could not continue, it was very difficult. Some people who were tortured very much ended up in the hospital, but still the resistance continued. When the Islamic regime saw the women resisting, and that they were not being cowed down, the regime stopped that policy of beating the women. The regime changed their policy, saying we will free all political prisoners, but you should write down and denounce your ideology and political organization. If you denounce your politics, we will let you free. There was a small group of who did accept this policy, they did that and got free. But I was among those who didn’t denounce my politics. After three years, because the regime wanted to resolve the problem of political prisoners and also because of external and internal pressures, they were forced to let political prisoners free, and I was among those let free.
When I was released, I stepped into a big prison. Iran had become a big prison. There is much pressure and discrimination upon people, especially women. There is huge gap between poor and rich, so I continued to struggle.
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