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Nonfiction

Farshid

By Somayeh Noroozi
Translated from Persian by Poupeh Missaghi
Somayeh Noroozi reflects on the experience of visiting protest prisoners.
Woman Life Freedom, #mashaamini, and #iranrevolution written in chalk on pavement

(1) October 17, 2022

Those who are in the know agree that a phone call from this terrifying number has become our wish these days. And my wish was granted today.

Farshid called. He said he was fine. He said his nose which had been smashed was healing. He said he had been moved with others from Evin Prison to Fashafouyeh Prison. He said he was more comfortable there. He said they were given beds to sleep on, and he could perhaps keep calling. He asked, “How much money do you have? What did you do with the smashed door?” I said, “Fuck money and the door. I have been awake for forty hours straight waiting for your call. You know, enough about me. I miss you. Why do you ask about me? How are you doing? You?” He said he had lost weight, seven to eight kilograms. We both laughed. Because he had tried before and had not been able to lose the weight. But our laughter was bitter. He said, “I talk to you and Soren every night until I fall asleep.” He didn’t talk about his days. There was no time. These short phone calls during this horrible time don’t allow us to even make complete sentences. Besides, our conversation was interrupted every two sentences by an automated voice repeating, “You are currently in a conversation with the Great Tehran Penitentiary.”

After the last repetitive, meaningless, automated message, Farshid said, “I love you . . .”

It was, no doubt, the best “I love you” ever.

 

(2) October 26, 2022

Fashafouyeh has a perfectly awful road. When you leave the prison grounds and enter the road, for some ten to twenty kilometers you can drive with a speed over 200 kilometers, without the police or traffic cameras spotting you. The road is so remote that not even the police has bothered with it. So, it is great for driving with rage and sorrow, both of which are overflowing these days.

Since seven in the morning, you have been constantly told that today only prisoners who have been moved from Evin after the fire can be visited, and so, you have waited around for two hours, filled with hope. You have passed through the necessary steps one after the other, until that final monstrous step, and you have handed them your national registration card and waited for a visiting permit, only to hear, “You can’t have a visit today.”

“Why?”

“Today only prisoners who have been transferred here after the Evin Prison fire can have visitors.”

“Well, Farshid too was transferred from Evin after the fire.”

“We mean only those who are imprisoned for financial reasons.”

“Why didn’t you say so from the beginning?”

“Next person in line . . .”

I move to the desk accepting clothes deliveries. The last time Farshid and I talked, his throat was infected, and he could not talk. I wait there for two more hours, but no one responds to me.

I walk to the prison store. I tell them no one is accepting clothes from us. “Do you have warm clothes I can buy so you can give them to the prisoners?”

“For protest prisoners?”

“Yes.”

“Come back next Wednesday.”

“Sir, it’s gotten cold. He doesn’t have proper clothes to wear.”

“Wednesday.”

“He has a cold. They take him for roll call every day at seven in the morning.”

“Wednesday.”

My tears roll down my cheeks.

“Don’t cry, madam. I swear, it’s not in our hands.”

I clean up my tears and say, “I have tried not to cry all this time. But this is too much to bear. This is just simply against humanity. It is cold. He doesn’t have proper clothes. He has a cold. Do you understand?”

He says, “I swear I do. Please don’t cry. I will hand it to him. But Saturday.”

I tell him that’s fine, that Saturday is at least better than Wednesday.

I buy the clothes and write Farshid’s name on the package and leave. I can’t stop my tears. It is cold. I want to take off all my clothes, let the cold seep into my body. I want to feel the cold, sit down right there and then, do not leave, and let the wind blow inside me. I want to close my eyes, and don’t open them until the sun rises.

 

(3) November 3, 2022

I had never seen so many sad, kind people together in one place. People who are ready to guide you as soon as you ask them a question, who immediately ask back, “Your son too?” who hold back their tears to tell you about their sons. They have slept in their cars last night, worried they would miss their chance to get a visit.

“Where do you come from, dear mother?” “From Saqez, Kurdistan.” I look down.

Someone I know walks closer. We had talked a few times on the uphill street in front of Evin Court. “He is not yet released?” “No.” Their face is full of sadness. They look older than when I first met them in front of Evin. They are coming from a border region of Iran.

I see Pouria’s face at a distance. He waves to me. “Somayeh, I was sure you would come for Farshid. I already wrote down your name in the list so you could get an earlier visit.” “You are amazing.” He introduces me to his mother and aunt. Then he speaks of Farshid. Of the few weeks they were cellmates, of the two of them sitting all night long to talk. Pouria recounts a memory and laughs. I laugh too. The more he talks about Farshid, the more I love him.

The soldier in charge of the visitors’ list steps forward. The crowd that has multiplied since last week circles around him. When he calls out Farshid’s number, some people raise their hands to grab the visit slip and pass it on to me. I thank Pouria for helping me to be among the first group to go in.

Another acquaintance comes forward. “I also had written down Farshid’s name, but I could not remember his last name. I kept praying to God that you would not be here today, that he was already out.”

In the small autumn courtyard of the prison, people are both happy and sad to see each other. The visiting hall doors open. I run all the way toward them. I arrive at the glass barrier and stand, staring at the door on the other side through which the prisoners enter. Families crane their necks to see their loved ones even if it is one second sooner. The guard closes the half-open door. Twenty or so families curse him. When their curses find their way to the other side of the glass, the door opens. The prisoners enter, anxious but smiling. I look at each and every face and smile at all of them. I wish I were their mothers or sisters waiting there for them. Pouria’s brother comes in, followed by Farshid.

Farshid looks around to find me. I don’t wave so that he keeps looking for me. I have missed every little gesture of his, the way he stands, the way he ponders, the way he worries, the sparkle in his eyes when he sees me. He picks up the phone and says a few sentences nonstop. I just look at him. His long hair and beard have made his pale face beautiful.

“You look good with a long beard.”

We both laugh. 

 

(4) November 5, 2022

Fashafouyeh has lots of dogs, as many as you wish for, especially in the unpaved gray, dusty, isolated parking lot of the prison which is full of sadness. It’s impossible to get off the car and not be welcomed by a limping or blind, drooling dog.

The first time I saw them I was terrified. I waited a bit for it to leave. It didn’t. It looked into my eyes. I looked back and took a step closer. It didn’t move. I moved closer. It still didn’t move. I was anxious for the visit and wanted to hand in some clothes for Farshid. I asked the dog, “Can you please let me go?” It did. Exactly like a person, it moved a bit to the side and opened a path for me. And then, he followed me with his eyes as long as it could.

The second time I went to Fashafouyeh, I was not shocked. I noticed the dogs behaved like this around all the visitors. The moment a new car arrived, they would come close to welcome it, waiting there for the visitor to get off, for the two of them to chat for a bit, and then they would follow the visitors as they got going.

The third time when I had to wait there for around eight hours to hand in some books, clothes, and a power of attorney, I noticed how the dogs wandered around the people, watched them, got sad with their tears, and wagged their tales with their laughter. It’s as if they, too, were anxious. Sometimes, they even walked alongside the visitors on the 200-to-300-meter-long queue for handing in the clothes. They even got angry when the soldiers shouted, “Those arrested during the protests are allowed visits only every other week.”

I guess the Fashafouyeh dogs are pets to us, the sorrowful humans. The dogs are carrying our burdens on their shoulders and have limped here to sympathize with the prisoners’ families. You might not believe this, but in that little autumn prison courtyard, the dogs and humans are grieving together, wishing for freedom together.


©
Somayeh Noroozi. Translation © November 2022 by Poupeh Missaghi. All rights reserved.

English

(1) October 17, 2022

Those who are in the know agree that a phone call from this terrifying number has become our wish these days. And my wish was granted today.

Farshid called. He said he was fine. He said his nose which had been smashed was healing. He said he had been moved with others from Evin Prison to Fashafouyeh Prison. He said he was more comfortable there. He said they were given beds to sleep on, and he could perhaps keep calling. He asked, “How much money do you have? What did you do with the smashed door?” I said, “Fuck money and the door. I have been awake for forty hours straight waiting for your call. You know, enough about me. I miss you. Why do you ask about me? How are you doing? You?” He said he had lost weight, seven to eight kilograms. We both laughed. Because he had tried before and had not been able to lose the weight. But our laughter was bitter. He said, “I talk to you and Soren every night until I fall asleep.” He didn’t talk about his days. There was no time. These short phone calls during this horrible time don’t allow us to even make complete sentences. Besides, our conversation was interrupted every two sentences by an automated voice repeating, “You are currently in a conversation with the Great Tehran Penitentiary.”

After the last repetitive, meaningless, automated message, Farshid said, “I love you . . .”

It was, no doubt, the best “I love you” ever.

 

(2) October 26, 2022

Fashafouyeh has a perfectly awful road. When you leave the prison grounds and enter the road, for some ten to twenty kilometers you can drive with a speed over 200 kilometers, without the police or traffic cameras spotting you. The road is so remote that not even the police has bothered with it. So, it is great for driving with rage and sorrow, both of which are overflowing these days.

Since seven in the morning, you have been constantly told that today only prisoners who have been moved from Evin after the fire can be visited, and so, you have waited around for two hours, filled with hope. You have passed through the necessary steps one after the other, until that final monstrous step, and you have handed them your national registration card and waited for a visiting permit, only to hear, “You can’t have a visit today.”

“Why?”

“Today only prisoners who have been transferred here after the Evin Prison fire can have visitors.”

“Well, Farshid too was transferred from Evin after the fire.”

“We mean only those who are imprisoned for financial reasons.”

“Why didn’t you say so from the beginning?”

“Next person in line . . .”

I move to the desk accepting clothes deliveries. The last time Farshid and I talked, his throat was infected, and he could not talk. I wait there for two more hours, but no one responds to me.

I walk to the prison store. I tell them no one is accepting clothes from us. “Do you have warm clothes I can buy so you can give them to the prisoners?”

“For protest prisoners?”

“Yes.”

“Come back next Wednesday.”

“Sir, it’s gotten cold. He doesn’t have proper clothes to wear.”

“Wednesday.”

“He has a cold. They take him for roll call every day at seven in the morning.”

“Wednesday.”

My tears roll down my cheeks.

“Don’t cry, madam. I swear, it’s not in our hands.”

I clean up my tears and say, “I have tried not to cry all this time. But this is too much to bear. This is just simply against humanity. It is cold. He doesn’t have proper clothes. He has a cold. Do you understand?”

He says, “I swear I do. Please don’t cry. I will hand it to him. But Saturday.”

I tell him that’s fine, that Saturday is at least better than Wednesday.

I buy the clothes and write Farshid’s name on the package and leave. I can’t stop my tears. It is cold. I want to take off all my clothes, let the cold seep into my body. I want to feel the cold, sit down right there and then, do not leave, and let the wind blow inside me. I want to close my eyes, and don’t open them until the sun rises.

 

(3) November 3, 2022

I had never seen so many sad, kind people together in one place. People who are ready to guide you as soon as you ask them a question, who immediately ask back, “Your son too?” who hold back their tears to tell you about their sons. They have slept in their cars last night, worried they would miss their chance to get a visit.

“Where do you come from, dear mother?” “From Saqez, Kurdistan.” I look down.

Someone I know walks closer. We had talked a few times on the uphill street in front of Evin Court. “He is not yet released?” “No.” Their face is full of sadness. They look older than when I first met them in front of Evin. They are coming from a border region of Iran.

I see Pouria’s face at a distance. He waves to me. “Somayeh, I was sure you would come for Farshid. I already wrote down your name in the list so you could get an earlier visit.” “You are amazing.” He introduces me to his mother and aunt. Then he speaks of Farshid. Of the few weeks they were cellmates, of the two of them sitting all night long to talk. Pouria recounts a memory and laughs. I laugh too. The more he talks about Farshid, the more I love him.

The soldier in charge of the visitors’ list steps forward. The crowd that has multiplied since last week circles around him. When he calls out Farshid’s number, some people raise their hands to grab the visit slip and pass it on to me. I thank Pouria for helping me to be among the first group to go in.

Another acquaintance comes forward. “I also had written down Farshid’s name, but I could not remember his last name. I kept praying to God that you would not be here today, that he was already out.”

In the small autumn courtyard of the prison, people are both happy and sad to see each other. The visiting hall doors open. I run all the way toward them. I arrive at the glass barrier and stand, staring at the door on the other side through which the prisoners enter. Families crane their necks to see their loved ones even if it is one second sooner. The guard closes the half-open door. Twenty or so families curse him. When their curses find their way to the other side of the glass, the door opens. The prisoners enter, anxious but smiling. I look at each and every face and smile at all of them. I wish I were their mothers or sisters waiting there for them. Pouria’s brother comes in, followed by Farshid.

Farshid looks around to find me. I don’t wave so that he keeps looking for me. I have missed every little gesture of his, the way he stands, the way he ponders, the way he worries, the sparkle in his eyes when he sees me. He picks up the phone and says a few sentences nonstop. I just look at him. His long hair and beard have made his pale face beautiful.

“You look good with a long beard.”

We both laugh. 

 

(4) November 5, 2022

Fashafouyeh has lots of dogs, as many as you wish for, especially in the unpaved gray, dusty, isolated parking lot of the prison which is full of sadness. It’s impossible to get off the car and not be welcomed by a limping or blind, drooling dog.

The first time I saw them I was terrified. I waited a bit for it to leave. It didn’t. It looked into my eyes. I looked back and took a step closer. It didn’t move. I moved closer. It still didn’t move. I was anxious for the visit and wanted to hand in some clothes for Farshid. I asked the dog, “Can you please let me go?” It did. Exactly like a person, it moved a bit to the side and opened a path for me. And then, he followed me with his eyes as long as it could.

The second time I went to Fashafouyeh, I was not shocked. I noticed the dogs behaved like this around all the visitors. The moment a new car arrived, they would come close to welcome it, waiting there for the visitor to get off, for the two of them to chat for a bit, and then they would follow the visitors as they got going.

The third time when I had to wait there for around eight hours to hand in some books, clothes, and a power of attorney, I noticed how the dogs wandered around the people, watched them, got sad with their tears, and wagged their tales with their laughter. It’s as if they, too, were anxious. Sometimes, they even walked alongside the visitors on the 200-to-300-meter-long queue for handing in the clothes. They even got angry when the soldiers shouted, “Those arrested during the protests are allowed visits only every other week.”

I guess the Fashafouyeh dogs are pets to us, the sorrowful humans. The dogs are carrying our burdens on their shoulders and have limped here to sympathize with the prisoners’ families. You might not believe this, but in that little autumn prison courtyard, the dogs and humans are grieving together, wishing for freedom together.


©
Somayeh Noroozi. Translation © November 2022 by Poupeh Missaghi. All rights reserved.

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