Monday, 26 July 2010

Shiva Nazar Ahari's Story

Translation of:

Shiva Nazar Ahari - in her Mother's Words
Shiva has spent more than 7 months in Evin prison in the past year. Her mother, Sharzad Kariman, sat down with International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran for an extensive interview to tell her daughter’s story because, in her own words,"for choosing the right path, she will be spending all of the 26th year of her life in prison." Shiva was fist arrested the day after the election results were announced, on June 14th, 2009 and again in March 2010. Following this second arrest Shiva has been in prison four months. Mrs. Karimi says that her arrest warrant was dated a week before the day she was arrested. She stresses repeatedly that her daughter has not done anything illegal, and her activity to improve human rights conditions in Iran is approved of by both herself and by Shiva’s father.

Her mother says, "at 2am on the day after the announcement of the election results, intelligence agents came to our home looking for her, and since she was not home, they visited her workplace and the arrest warrant that they showed was dated a week earlier. Shiva was arrested on June 14th, while her warrant was dated June 6th, and her name was added subsequently.

Many of those who have been imprisoned for political activities, journalism, defending human rights, or activities surrounding the equality of women and men are in their early 20s or 30s. Shiva Nazar Ahari was born on June 10th, 1984. Her first arrest took place on Sharivar 20th , 1381 when she was only 18 years old. Twentieth of Sharivar corresponds to September 11th, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the USA. Shiva‘s mother tells the Campaign,"I always told her interrogators that if she started to engage in political activities, the path was laid down for her by the interrogators."

September 11th Anniversary, and Shiva’s First Arrest
Sharzad Kariman describes the circumstances of Shiva’s first arrest:"Back then I did almost everything for my kids, for example, buying stationary and other things. On September 11th, 2002 since I was involved in a car accident and was recovering from surgery, I could not go to the university and buy Shiva’s books. She had just registered for the entrance exam for the universities and was taking classes to prepare for the exam. For the first time she went to buy her books at the university alone, and was arrested."

The search for Shiva took hours without any signs of her, and nobody was responding until, after contacting Police Station 110, the family discovered that she had been arrested:"In a telephone conversation a man told me that I should not be worried, and that I did not hear it from him, but Shiva had been arrested, and they will contact me.

For 20 days we did not have any news about her and we searched everywhere we could think of. During this time we could only be cheerful about what the man at station 110 had told us, that she had been arrested. After 20 days a man visited us for an investigation. They asked why she had gone to the university. I told them that she had gone to buy books. I still had bandages on my face and told them about my situation, and that was the reason that she had gone by herself. After two or three days, they told us that she was in section 209 of Evin prison and the bail is set at $40,000."

Shiva never talked to her family about her days in prison."I overheard her talking to her friends that her cell was so small, that if she extended her legs or hands, they would touch the walls, and that the food was terrible. In court, she was fined $200. I asked why she was given a fine, and they said that they had found two candles in her purse. I told them that the candles did not belong to her as she has testified herself, but she was carrying them for someone that did not have a purse." 

Shiva adamantly refused to pay the fine and said she would rather serve time in prison. Her mother continues:"Shiva said that her father is retired and why should he be forced to pay the fine. Anyway, we paid the fine."

In the same year, 2002, Shiva passed the entrance examination and was accepted to Omran Engineering School. During these times, Shiva’s activities were related to human rights issues, and as a member of the Student Committee, to defend political prisoners, children, and women rights. According to her mother,"It didn’t matter who the prisoner was, who the prisoner associated with or to which organization the prisoner belonged." She even protested, while the military was implementing the plan to confront "hooligans" with unprecedented naked brutality to punish them, the behavior towards those arrested.

Her mother says, "Shiva would often talk to the prisoners and their mothers. Her friends would tell her not to work for them; they are hooligans. She responded that she did not care, are they human or not? Their legitimate rights should prevent such behaviors towards them." Shahrzad Kariman believes, "If anyone would have listened to Shiva, in Kahrizak the like of Roohallah Amini or Mohammad Kamrani, flowers of Iran, would not have perished there."

Amidst these activities, Shiva was arrested again on July 8th, 2004 on Keshavarz Boulevard. This time, she was accompanied by her mother."We went to offices to track her. We were there till 4am and afterwards they drove us home." In 2004, in a gathering in front of the UN offices, to sympathize with political prisoners, Shiva’s mother, always supporting her activities, was with her. Shiva’s mother says that they arrested everyone,"I was released after a week, but Shiva was in prison for one month. She was again released with a $40,000 bail. In court, she was given a one-year prison term suspended for 5 years."

Shiva Nazar Ahari started her child advocacy activities with the NGO"Child Labor". She would tutor children at the Nematabad Station until she graduated from college and entered the work force. However, she would continue to tutor the children attending the school at Nematabad Station in southern Tehran one or twice a week. According to Shiva’s mother, she was arrested 3 or 4 times during 2002-2004.

Helping others started for Shiva at home, where her devotion to her parents and family fuelled her activities."Since Shiva’s academic results were excellent, she would always help her sisters. When she started work, she wanted to help her father, since he had worked hard to provide for her education. Shiva said that as her father was retired she would try her best to reciprocate our kindness. Accordingly, she would behave the same way in the streets and towards her friends working with the collective.

Her friends tell us that their central committee is very concerned for Shiva and they constantly ask about her, and the children too would ask where Aunty Shiva was, didn’t she like them anymore? They didn’t know what the answer was…Shiva did not want anything for herself. Anytime she got paid, she would fulfill her friends’ needs first. She was so popular at work, that when she returned after three months in prison last year, she was gladly accepted back. Even now that she has been away from work for seven months since her last arrest, engineers and managers from the company call and ask about her, they tell me that they would never replace Shiva, such a good and reliable colleague."

Her mother continues:"Shiva’s relationship with us and everyone else is good. There is no member of our family that has ever been upset with Shiva, and this goes for her friends too. No matter how she was treated, she would never show any negative reaction. She was kind and compassionate towards us. She is still in solitary, however, her released friends would tell me that she had made markings on the wall, such as the date of her younger sister’s university entrance examination. She was anxious and hoped that Nazanin would do well. When she called next, Shiva asked how Nazanin had done in the entrance examination. I would ask her to talk about herself and why she bothered about her sister’s examination.  She said that she was continuously worried for her sister.
 
Shahrzad Kariman is quite certain about Shiva’s activities and admires her. Her mother says,"I accepted the path she took, because it was not a wrong path. Is defending human rights a crime? It is burdensome to hear instead that it is an act contrary to national security. If a person takes up arms and acts, then it would be contrary to national security. Shiva would not harm an ant where she was walking, and all she did was help other people, yet she was charged with acting against national security."
 
Shiva Nazar Ahari and her Dreams
 
Shiva’s mother tells us about her imprisoned daughter’s dreams:"Shiva always said that she hoped for discrimination to end, she did not want see children begging in the streets to tell fortunes, or someone taking issue with defending human rights. She said she would do her best so that the current situation would end. She didn’t like the fact that those who were better off financially would participate in her activities, but those were not did not or could not.
 
Once when she came home she was carrying many fortune-telling cards. I asked her why she bought so many, and she replied that the child had told her that if all the cards were not sold when returning home, they would get a beating. When she was at the Central Offices, she would ask a child about the bruises over half of his/her face, and learn that the child’s father had given them a beating because they did not raise the desired amount of money. She hoped for a future where children did not have to work or be executed. She hoped that children would not be forced to live in a situation where their growth was impeded."
 
"I accept her path…Is defending human rights a crime?"
 
Shahrzad Kariman is quite certain about Shiva’s activities and admires her. Her mother says, "I accepted the path she took, because it was not a wrong path. Is defending human rights a crime? It is burdensome to hear instead that it is an act contrary to national security. If a person takes up arms and act, then it would be contrary to the national security. Shiva would not harm an ant where she was walking, and all she did was helping other people, yet she was charged with acting against national security."
 
In criticism of the charges against Shiva, and pointing to her months of detention, Shiva’s mother says, "Whose security has Shiva endangered? All her activities are within the limits allowed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and she is not acting against the government, only helping human beings. Her father, the people of Iran, and I, accept her path. If Shiva and the likes of her are asked about their activities, everyone would understand, not only that her path is not wrong, but it is the right thing to do and that she has been imprisoned wrongly. What has Shiva done to deserve spending her 25th year of life and celebrating her 26th birthday behind bars? No matter how much I think about this, I cannot accept for Shiva to be in prison."
 
Shiva’s mother has repeatedly discussed these points with her interrogators:"I told her handler that it is impossible for Shiva to do the wrong thing, and my last word to him was that Shiva and others like her should be spared from spending time in prison. Prison is a place for those who violate other people’s dignity or commit murder. But these young people have done nothing wrong and they should not be spending the best years in their lives behind bars. I will only say that may God keep them safe and I hope that God will not hesitate to protect their well-being in these very difficult times away from their family, so that they can endure.
 
The last words of Shiva’s mother, whose voice is heard with such enthusiasm whenever she mentions Shiva:"I hope very soon the doors of these prisons are opened so that these flowers can be embraced again by their families."
 
Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Translation: @MrZand

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