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Abstract:
Memoirs of five years in an Iranian prison. Includes Persian original. The author's full name is not known — and the last name could be Amu'i — and the translator's name is not certain.
Notes:
These documents were sent to me by friends in Iran. It is also online in a different format at scribd.com. See also the Persian original, amoui_prison_memoirs_persian.docx.

If you know the name of the author or the translator, or have any other information about this document, please contact me.

Written in English and Persian.

Prison Memories of Mr. Amoui (Feb. 1984 - March 1989)

by Amoui

translated by Payman Amoui.
1989
Blessing and peace, salutation and glory, rest upon Thy loved ones, whom the misdeeds of the people of the world have not deterred them from turning unto Thee, and who have given all their belongings, in the hope of obtaining that which is with Thee.

Thou art, in truth, the Ever Forgiving, the All-Bountiful.

How gratifying it is that the Creator of the worlds, according to the necessities of the times and for the safeguard and protection of His great Cause, stirs the storm of tests and difficulties and purifies the believers from the tarnish of materialism, teaching them the virtues of detachment and godliness.

It has been long overdue for me to briefly write about the events of the past few years. It is extremely difficult to put into words these emotional events because of the very spiritual nature of the connection (or bond) between an individual and his Creator. Nevertheless, it is my hope to write about that period as much as my memory permits.

At the time, the state of affairs in the sacred country of Iran, the cradle of the Cause of God, indicated that under the guise of the law a nationally organized, coordinated and unprecedented assault was being waged against the believers in the Cause of God.

From the very beginning of this blessed Faith, the clergy, conforming to the tradition of past ages and in opposition to the fascination and entry of the masses into the Faith as well as the devotion of the early believers, have reacted with the highest level of hostility and enmity toward this persecuted community. The believers have for more than a century withstood the oppression and wrongdoing of the clergy and rulers with the utmost level of patience and forbearance and again during the recent events, as prophesized in the writings, the oppressed Bahá’ís of Iran, who had no refuge but the hidden assistance of God, were attacked throughout the entire country, this time by the legal authorities of that nation. The Bahá’ís were subject to imprisonment, battery, torture, confiscation of their belongings and martyrdom in such a grueling and intense manner that one will not find such a parallel in the past and perhaps even future generations will not witness such colossal events.

“Great is the Cause and such is the opposition to it. How great, how very great is the Cause; how very fierce the onslaught of all the peoples and kindred’s of the earth!” (Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration)

The events that this unworthy servant was part of began around five years from the onset of the Iranian revolution. It began with one of the youth of our district who, not following the rules of wisdom and caution, was somehow imprisoned and after being identified as a Bahá’í was tortured. In the process he was asked the names of the active believers in the district. I was informed that my name had been mentioned by this youth and some of my fellow believers suggested that I go into hiding for awhile until things calmed down. Since I had no idea what the length of this hiding would be, and also because of concern over my family members being harassed, I did not consider it practical to heed their suggestion. On the night of February 14, 1984, a number of paramilitary groups attacked several houses that were chosen in advance. In the arrest warrant the name of the mentioned young man was written as the person who had identified me as an active Bahá’í. During the search of my house which lasted over 3 hours, they confiscated my Bahá’í writings and books. They put me in a car and I realized that I was being taken to a central station for interrogation. As soon as we got out of the car, they blindfolded me and we entered a building. From the voices around me I realized that I was not the only Bahá’í, but rather was in the company of several other Bahá’ís who were also apprehended from my district. We spent more than a week in that place of fear and horror. We were subject to a lot of mental and psychological torture in small solitary wooden rooms. During the preliminary interrogation, the person in charge of my questioning utilized a lot of violence in the first few days and was threatening me. He asked me how long I had been involved in Bahá'í activities and I responded that it had been 40 years. He asked me why I wasn't afraid to acknowledge that, as I was surely going to be put to death. I responded that it doesn't scare me as not everyone can be taken by the angel of death peacefully, and some have to be put to death by the Mullahs. This made him laugh and change his approach by allowing me to take off my blindfold and talk face to face in a friendly manner. Since I was responding to his questioning with absolute sincerity and honesty, he asked me “Aren’t you afraid of death that you dare to express yourself in such a manner?” I responded, “No, I have faith and certitude that this earthly world is nothing but hardship and difficulties and while the spirit is trapped in this earthly body, it has to go through hardship and difficulties. The day that my inner soul is released from this body and is freed from this limited earthly world, it will enter the world of eternity.” Later on I realized that this person who was questioning me was an honest, well-intentioned person who reported my testimony in the prison record truthfully.

Our next stop after the central station was Evin prison for all the prisoners, including 13 other Bahá'ís. We spent two days in a very difficult situation, spending our time blindfolded. The first 24 hours were spent in a hallway and the next night we were transferred to a dormitory. At night they asked us to undress, wearing only our underclothes. We were lined up and while blindfolded and holding each other’s hands were taken outside. Marching on the sloppy hills toward an unknown location, I was convinced that we were being taken to be slaughtered on that dark, cold, snowy night, but I soon realized they were taking us to solitary confinement. Early the next morning they lined us up again and in a brutal way threw us out of the prison and put us on a bus to be transferred to the Rajaii prison (Gohardast) near Karaj. This entire trip was a torture full of anxiety and horror. They had us on the bus blindfolded with the intent of not letting us know our destination. All this time, for almost a whole month, our families were not aware of our whereabouts. After over a month, I received a package from my family which had a blanket, some clothes and 300 tomans ($3). The only way my family knew I was alive, was the receipt of the package and my signature of being fine. .

During the 4 months we spent in this prison we had no communication with our families and were not permitted any visitors. Every 24 hours we were provided 3 meals by a guard who opened the door briefly just to put the portions in our cell. The food was usually not edible and almost in a rotting condition. I refused to eat the bread that was old and had mould on it and threw it in the trash. The person collecting the trash gave it back to me and said that I must eat it, as I would get nothing else. Every week we were allowed 15 minutes to take a quick shower. They used to lock us in the shower and telling us that they were going to be back in 15 minutes. Sometimes they would not be back for almost 2 hours. It was so hot and humid in the shower that occasionally I thought it would be better not to have showered at all.

This entire period of 4 months was spent in solitary confinement. My only contact with the world was the guards who came to my cell for taking my picture, fingerprinting or bringing my meals. Every time I tried to carry a conversation with any of the guards, I faced their protest and was reminded that I had already been sentenced to death and in the case I had no right to talk to anyone. In response, I used to tell them that I was still alive and once executed, would be silent. On one occasion, a guard got mad, came into my cell and proceeded to beat me badly. After 3 years when I was transferred back to this prison, I ran into this guard once again. I approached him and said, "Salaam Allekum Mamad Agha." He looked at me and responded to my salutation and further went on to apologize for his behavior. He said that he was sorry for beating me and it would be only just for me to beat him, because they were told incorrectly and did not know the Bahá'ís. Now, he considers the Faith highly respected and the Bahá'í prisoners are well behaved individuals who follow the teachings of the Faith in their everyday lives. I responded by saying that I considered him as my own brother and had no ill feeling towards him. In any case he asked for my forgiveness.

We were brought to this prison sometime in late winter and since I had lost count of the days, I had no idea when the fasting period would start. The only way was to inquire about when Naw-Ruz was and calculate 19 days back so I could fast. They would ask why I wanted to know this and when I responded that I wanted to know when to fast, they would say that Ramadan (the Muslim fasting time) is months away and I should not worry about it. In any case, I roughly calculated the onset of the fast and started fasting by saving my dinner for the dawn meal and my lunch to end my fast with. A few days before my calculation of the day of Naw Ruz (New Year), I asked a guard regarding the date of Naw Ruz and the guard replied that although he was aware that I had fasted during these days, he was not allowed to tell me when Naw-Ruz was. To my amazement and joy a few hours later an announcement was made that Naw-Ruz was the day after tomorrow. Another event that occurred during these 4 months was a visit from an inspector who was going around checking on the condition of the prisoners and their treatment. He asked me about my condition and the way I was treated. I said that I was not mistreated, but my only request was to have news of my daughter, who was to be engaged, and I had not heard from her since the time of my arrest. He promised me that he would look into the matter, but never did anything to follow up on it. Immediately after his visit, Mamad Agha, the guard who beat me, came and wanted to know whether I had said anything about that beating event to the inspector. He was relieved to know that I had no ill feelings towards him and had not said anything regarding the incident. Another event that occurred was during the month of Ramadan just after the call to Morning Prayer; I heard a commotion in the hallway, when suddenly several men entered the cells, including mine, and gave us a few forms to fill out. After I filled them out, they looked at the column where I had stated what I had been accused of; i.e., being a Bahá'í. They encouraged me to deny my faith as a Bahá'í and convert to Islam. In response I told them I fully acknowledged Islam as a religion from God and I am also a Bahá'í and the Bahá'í Faith does not refute the principles of Islam. We talked for a long time and as time passed, their insistence grew stronger. Towards the end, they asked me to at least deny my faith verbally in order to save my life. In response, I told them that lying is forbidden in all the religions and is the biggest of sins. They left my cell in anger saying that my belief is going to be the cause of my death. Outside my cell door, they continued to talk amongst themselves about my case.

Just a few days before the end of the month of Ramadan, in the year 1363 (1984), one afternoon, they transferred me with my few belongings back to Tehran to the Evin prison. I was blindfolded and kept in the hallway with a few other groups of prisoners for two to three days, were we stayed, piled on top of each other. At meal time, they used to ask all the Bahá'ís to move aside and then feed the Muslims first. We were then given our food in the same dirty plates that had not been washed and also had to use the utensils that had been used by the group before us. The first night a guard warned us that he was going to call us for prayers at 1 a.m. Another guard took me to the bathroom at 10 p.m. and for the first time in 5 months I saw myself in a mirror. I did not recognize my self and at first thought that it was the reflection of the person next to me, but then realized that it was me, with a full grown beard and long stringy hair that had not been trimmed for a while. I started to wash my hands and face and also took the opportunity to say my ablutions for the obligatory prayer. The guards noticed this and questioned me about what I was doing. I told him about the ablutions and he asked me to repeat it for him. I repeated it for him and translated it to Persian from Arabic. He thanked me and brought me back to the hallway. I was moved to solitary confinement once again and a few days later a group of men started my interrogation regarding the accusations against me. On most days I was taken to the prison’s branch number 8 where they would ask me about my beliefs. The first thing the new interrogator told me was that I had done a good job in fooling the first interrogator and that I was not going to fool them. This made two matters clear to me, one, that the interrogator who questioned me at the beginning of my imprisonment had said good things about me and secondly, that the other prisoners had given them information regarding my involvement and responsibilities in the Faith. This led the authorities to try to get a heavier charge against me. In brief, my interrogation lasted for a month and a half. They used to escort me from my cell to branch number 8. Some days they used to interrogate me and other days I used to just sit and wait, blindfolded, subject to occasional kicks and punches from guards and people passing by. During the interrogations they asked me to identify other Bahá'ís as well as their administrative responsibilities in the community. This was impossible for me to do, as I could not bring myself to turn in my innocent friends. They also wanted to know more about the workings of the Bahá'í administration before and after the revolution. I assured them that everything I said about my responsibilities was prior to the revolution and now that the government has forbidden all Baha’i activities, as Bahá'ís, we are to obey the government’s orders, and to the best of my knowledge there aren't any activities. They also tried to accuse me of being a spy for Israel, as our funds used to go to the Universal House of Justice which resides in Israel. I tried to assure them that we, as Bahá'ís, are never involved in politics and have nothing to do with the state of Israel. The prophet founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, was exiled to Israel and is buried there and we support our religion, not the country. During the month and half of these interrogations I was tortured by flogging the soles of my feet 4 different times. Then they used to untie me and make me count backwards from 500 to l while moving my feet in a marching fashion at the same time. My feet were so swollen that they used to take me and show the other prisoners what would happen to them if they were not cooperative. To this day I have very little feeling in my right foot. During the last days of my interrogation, I was so weak and exhausted from the questioning and torture that I used to wish for death in order to be freed from this pain and suffering. Every morning I used to save some of my morning tea for when I returned from the interrogation to calm my nerves. Unfortunately, the guards used to throw away the tea, leaving me trying to go to sleep tense and full of anxiety. I used to raise my feet to calm the burning and pain and try to get some sleep. The nights were filled with constant pain and anxious feelings accompanied with my heart beating so fast that I had a problem counting the beats. Once in awhile, one of the guards who noticed my anguish and pain would get me some pain killers, letting me know that they care. The reason behind one of my flogging episodes was that during an interrogation I was so tired and worn out that I lost control and literally spoke my mind. I started protesting their treatment of me by asking why they are treating us in this manner and asking the same type of questions day after day. I told them there is nothing you can do to the Bahá'ís and the Bahá'í Faith, the worst you can do is to kill some of us, imprison others and even torture some of us; in the end, the result of these wrong actions will be your destruction, and instead the Bahá'ís, because of their patience and forbearance towards these difficulties and persecutions, will progress even more. At this time the interrogator with an angry disposition and in a hurried manner got out from behind his desk, left the room and came back with a huge man and took me to the flogging chamber. They closed the door of the room and laid me on a cot, tied my hands and feet, put a blanket on my face and proceeded to flog me. During this flogging the interrogator proceeded to play the mandolin which was among the many items confiscated from the homes of the people. I realized that he was doing so to drown out my screams. After almost 70 to 80 lashings, he got tired and left to take a break. As I was lying there barely alive, I noticed someone come into the room. I peeked under my blindfold and happened to see the interrogator. He noticed that I saw him and I think that was the reason they stopped beating me. I heard the interrogator talk to another person saying that, “This man has seen me and will describe me to his people and Israel, and I am sure to be killed.” After this they carried my half alive body and asked me to jump up and down 500 times and count backwards. They used to do this to avoid the blood clot in my feet and keep me alert.

Another way of torturing us was to give us a series of questions to answer. We had to answer with our eyes blindfolded. Sitting there it was common for the interrogator to pass by me, read my response, not like it and proceed to hit me in my face and head. In fact it was very common for anyone passing by, to hit me, considering striking a non-believer is a good deed in the presence of God. In short, after each of my interrogations, they informed me that based on my responses, my execution was inevitable. I used to respond to them by saying that I have been ready from the start and they were free to go ahead with my execution. They used to say that they were in no hurry to do so. One day they gave me a questionnaire that had 21 questions regarding my financial situation. I had already told them that I used to live with my wife in a house that belonged to her and have 3 small plots of land in the name of my children, besides which I own nothing else. This was to get an idea of a persons worth and also have a list of items they could confiscate after one’s execution. Another way of torturing us was by laying pictures and artwork of the greatest name, the pictures of Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian either on the seat of our chairs or by our feet and demanding that we sit or stand on them. They used to post the pictures of Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian on the doors of the toilet. At every opportunity they used to insult the pictures by referring to them in a foul manner. Once, one of them said that Bahá'u'lláh had referred to Bahá'ís as being the sheep of God and indeed he was right. I responded that these are analogies and just like Imam Ali was referred to as the Lion of God (Aasd-Allah), so are we the sheep of God. One evening after the court proceedings, they made us clean the room that housed a lot of papers and pictures they had confiscated from Bahá'í homes. They asked me and another person to sort and categorize them into piles and destroy those materials that were irrelevant and unnecessary for their case. Later that same evening, Mr. Toluii (the head of the interrogation branch number 8) came over and asked to talk to us in private. He told us to go have our dinner and return. Upon arriving at the dinning room, we were told that there was no food remaining and the only food left was the scraps that were on the tablecloth. We managed to get a few pieces of bread and return to the interrogation room. We were placed two per each interrogation room and Mr. Toluii started talking to us in a kindly manner pretending to be looking after us. He told us that our interrogator was not acquainted with how to proceed with the interrogation, so now he was going to ask us a few more questions and this way he can watch over us in court. Later I came to find out that several years before the revolution Mr. Toluii had actually become a Bahá'í to spy on the Bahá'ís by attending their functions and having access to information. He gave us a questionnaire with many questions and after reading the questions I realized that his real intention was to make our charges even more serious. It was past midnight and I was so tired that I proceeded to answer the questions as fast as I could, but my companion was very cautious in responding. My companion asked Mr. Toluii to do all he can to reduce the charges and rescue us. As my companion was discussing his case, I told Mr. Toluii to please consider my response completed and that I was ready for any fate. I was ready to take a glass of poison for what I believed in and that he should then allow me to walk outside into the wilderness and wherever I happen to fall down and die, that is where he should put some dirt over me as I did not want my burial to be a burden on them. After this he stayed put, dumbfounded for a few minutes, and then continued to talk about other matters.

Among them he mentioned that whenever the Bahá'ís set into motion an international response against their acts, in response, they would execute a couple of the Bahá'ís in prison as they have just executed three Bahá'ís recently. Another point he made was that human rights visitors from the international agencies who come to inspect our jails were not taken everywhere, but rather to a few chosen areas as selected by them. It was a few hours after midnight that he let us go and they took us to a filthy broken down room located in the hallway. At this time they removed our blindfolds and it was for the first time after almost five months of imprisonment that I had the opportunity to meet other Bahá'í friends without a blindfold and discuss what had befallen each of us. Although we were all extremely tired we talked a couple of hours before falling asleep.

It was after three or four days that they took us to the court. The judge's name was Hojatul Islam Nazemzadeh and we were asked to enter the courtroom one by one. Sitting next to the judge, Mr. Tuloii was constantly interjecting, trying to incriminate us further. On the other side of the judge the interrogator who had questioned me all along was sitting. This was the first time that I saw these two without a blindfold. The first thing the judge said was that we were there because we were asked not to take part in Bahá'í institutions and we had disobeyed that directive. I responded that the Bahá'í institutions were non-existent and that it was necessary sometimes to get together to take care of some community matters. Another issue that caught the judge's eye was the large number of reports (90) I had claimed to have written to the Spiritual Assembly of Tehran. The interrogator was visibly happy that for sure I was going to get the death sentence. The judge asked me regarding the nature of the reports and I said they were minutes and transcripts of the meetings and functions that I would forward to the Spiritual Assembly of Tehran. Another question he asked was the number of people I had taught the Faith to and they became Bahá'ís. I answered that I really did not know the number, as I did not know how effective my words were, but in any case I proclaim the Faith to anyone I know. He insisted that I give him a number and so finally I said that I don't think all my talks have been in vain and hopefully one or two people have accepted the Faith. This angered him and he kept on repeating to himself "just one or two." Another issue he wanted me to address was my opinion on Israel. I answered that they are an ancient ethnic group that have been around for many centuries. He insisted that I comment on their future and what we should do with them. As much as I tried to evade the question, he kept on insisting for an answer. Finally, I replied that they will gradually change with new teachings. The judge got upset and angrily replied, “you mean they will become Bahá'ís someday?” He then handed me the summary of our discussion and asked me to read and sign it. I replied that there was no need for me to read it and I was willing to sign it. There were a few revolutionary guards in charge of protecting the judge and they also insisted that I read it before signing it, but I replied that it is not necessary for me to read it because my destiny is in the hands of God and whatever is meant to happen will happen. I then signed it and left the room.

After the passing of a few days, in mid July 1984, they took four of us, including Mr. Shayegh and Colonel Sairollah Vahdat (who were later martyred), as well as Mr. Lameh, to room number 75 where we came across 13 other Bahá'ís who were going through their interrogation stage. This was a room that only housed prisoners who were to be executed. It was after more than five months that we found ourselves in a group of Bahá'ís, which was a very exciting and joyful occasion for us. It is very difficult for my tongue and pen to describe my emotions on that day. These were a group of people who were the essence of detachment and steadfastness personified in the human form. Indeed they were angels residing on this earthly world. We were in a closed room, where only four times a day they would let us out to use the bathroom, which would be the only time we saw any outside light. In addition, we were allowed one hour in the prison yard. During this time my only contact with my family was a five line letter that they allowed me to write per month and also a ten minute visit with them by telephone behind a glass. This was a time when I would be able to get 300 tomans ($3). This was a time of spiritual upliftment and we were enjoying each other’s company until we eventually discovered why they had separated us from the other Bahá'ís in this room. In the meantime it was around mid August 1984, after more than six months, that I met my family and I was delighted, by knowing about everyone’s well being, specially for my youngest son who was not home at the time of my arrest, and I was worried about him, and my daughter and son who were studying in U.S. and France.

From the end of September 1984, starting with the martyrdom of Mr. Markazi, I witnessed the martyrdom of several of my fellow Bahá'ís friends. In a period of less than three months, ten of my dearest friends, who were my cell mates, reached the lofty station of martyrdom either individually or collectively in a group. Indeed it is impossible for my tongue or my pen to describe the spiritual atmosphere of these occurrences. In order to understand the power of God one can only experience it by being there and seeing it with one’s own eyes. The moment my beloved companions were called on, it felt as if the lover had reached his beloved, like a spirit which was released from this world of dust moving towards the kingdom of God, bringing to mind the verses of Bahá'u'lláh from the Hidden Words:

38. O SON OF SPIRIT! Burst thy cage asunder and even as the phoenix of love soar into the firmament of holiness. Renounce thyself and, filled with the spirit of mercy, abide in the realm of celestial sanctity.”

Mr. Markazi's death sentence was issued several months before and the sentence was shown to him by Mr. Toluii himself. Thus, he had prepared himself to shortly meet the Blessed Beauty and in fact had asked Mr. Toluii to carry out the execution order as soon as possible, but was brushed off and told that he was still needed. The reason for his haste to be martyred was that since his original interrogation many other Bahá'í friends had been arrested and he was worried that in order to get some more information about these friends the guards may further torture him or even as it had happened once before, threaten to rape his wife who was also in prison. This weighed heavy on his mind and he did not have anymore patience with the threats and torture. With his spiritual knowledge and state of his soul he saw the eternal world in this world and this world in the next, making him content with whatever Bahá'u'lláh had destined for him. This brought to my mind another verses of the Hidden Words by Bahá'u'lláh:

73. O MY FRIEND! Thou art the daystar of the heavens of My holiness, let not the defilement of the world eclipse thy splendour. Rend asunder the veil of heedlessness, that from behind the clouds thou mayest emerge resplendent and array all things with the apparel of life.”

Frequently he would sit by himself in a corner in silence cut off from this world, shedding tears and conversing with His beloved in a way that he was not in this material world anymore, and at other times he would try to raise our sprits, making us laugh and lighten the situation. One day he was summoned by the guards and we thought that it was time for his martyrdom, but he returned a few days later and told us that they had taken him to several cities to identify Bahá'ís. In order to intimidate him, one night they took him to Evin prison and told him that they were going to execute him the next morning. One of the friends said that on that night he must not have had a good nights rest and he replied with words full of love and faith that he never had such a good sleep. It was in the afternoon of 21 September 1984, while he was taking a nap, they called him, and when we woke him up, he got up and faced the Qiblih, and raising his hands thanked Bahá'u'lláh three times. He then picked up his few belongings, said goodbye to everyone and left us towards his martyrdom. We knew of his execution because a few days prior they would take the prisoner several times for questioning, and usually when one was called on a Tuesday afternoon, we knew the execution was imminent. A few days later they called Colonel Vahdat and when he returned we asked him why they had asked for him. He said that Mr. Toluii wanted to know how the news of Mr. Markazi's execution had leaked out of the prison. He had tried, to no avail, to make him understand that here we are prisoners, locked in a room and we have no contact with the outside world. Mr. Toluii insisted that there must be a way the prisoners got this information out. Colonel Vahdat had replied that maybe some Bahá'ís had had a dream regarding the martyrdom, which angered Mr. Toluii who felt that he had been insulted and insisted on an answer. To this Colonel Vahdat replied that maybe the prison guards had leaked the information, which Mr. Toluii did not accept and then Colonel Vahdat said that he had no other explanation. Eventually Colonel Vahdat asked Mr. Toluii why is he so upset, to which he replied that the next day after the execution the media outside Iran were broadcasting the news. Indeed one's inevitable fate is preordained. I knew Mr. Markazi from his being a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran and from our younger days. He was a pioneer in Bahrain along with Hand of the Cause Mr. Faizi. After he got married, his wife could not continue living in Bahrain and they returned to Iran. He asked Mr. Faizi to pray for him so he could return to Bahrain and continue his service. Mr. Faizi had once commented that he was surprised that his prayers for Mr. Markezi to return to Bahrain had not been answered. Little did one know that Bahá'u'lláh had destined for this great man another plan and this brings to mind another verses of Hidden Word from Bahá'u'lláh.

“O MY FRIENDS! Have ye forgotten that true and radiant morn, when in those hallowed and blessed surroundings ye were all gathered in my presence beneath the shade of the tree of life, which is planted in the all-glorious paradise? Awe struck ye listened as I gave utterance to these three most holy words: O friends! Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach me not with lifeless hearts, filled with worldly desires and cravings. Would ye but sanctify your souls, ye would at this present hour recall that place and those surroundings, and the truth of My utterance should be made evident unto all of you.”

It was during this time that we got the news that one of the friends amongst us, Mr. Naim Badi’ie was given a sentence of life imprisonment. Although a member of the Spiritual Assembly of Karaj, he was not to be executed because of the fact that authorities usually identified assembly members through the picture taken at the beginning of each year and he was absent from that picture as at the time he was cooking for the gatherings. This was unexpected for us and was welcome news, because our room was reserved for people who were to be executed. This conferred upon him by delegation the role of being the one who was supposed to commit to memory and write the events of our days in prison for future generations.

The next group of martyrs who were taken away from our cell included Mr. Ahmad Bashiri, who was a member of the Spiritual Assembly of Tehran, and Mr. Yunis Nawruzi, a member of the Spiritual Assembly of Karaj. Mr. Bashiri was an elderly man in his seventies with a long white beard, who was an educator and had served for over half a century. Among his students was the Prime Minister of Iran at the time. We asked him to ask the Prime Minister for his freedom, but Mr. Bashiri said that he was sure that the Prime Minister would ask him to recant his faith and that was something he was not willing to do. He was a mountain of courage and forbearance, which was evident from the few minutes we had during our daily walk in the prison yard when he would resort to exercising. In response to the younger friends teasing him he would reply that he was exercising at this advanced age because when the executioners aimed the guns at him he would be able to stick out his chest and stand tall. When these two precious souls were called by the guards to their martyrdom, Mr. Bashiri marched in front of almost 500 other prisoners reciting loudly this poem from Hafiz.

The lover whose heart is alive with the power of love never dies.
Whose forbearance will be mentioned in the books of the world for eternity.

A few days later it was Dr. Farhad Asdaghi's turn. He was only 33 years old and a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran. He was imprisoned only a year after he was married and was the father of a baby boy. For us he was the reflection of the power of Bahá'u'lláh on earth. He had no fear and would answer all the questions with courage and honesty and hence was not tortured much. He used to believe that a Bahá'í should be honest and sincere and at the moment of martyrdom he should not display any fear and look forward to that honor. During the final moments as I was saying goodbye to him, I told him "My dear Farhad, be firm and strong." He replied that he had no fear whatsoever and it was of no concern for him. He used to believe that his captors were ignorant or naïve for killing us in such a simple and quick manner and they were doing a service by giving us a quick death. If they really wanted to torture us they could cut off a limb one day at a time or even put burning candles in us like how they tortured Solaiman Khan (an early believer of the Faith). He used to tell us that they haven't brought us here as guests but rather for martyrdom and since we all believe in the Blessed Beauty and are His servants, we must prepare ourselves for this fate. If we are fortunate enough to attain that high station, it would be a blessing, otherwise we have to go through a gradual natural death. He, along with another Baha’i friend, Dr. Ruhollah Ta'Leem, who was a member of the Spiritual Assembly of Kirmanshah, showed us how to lessen our pain during our execution by making sure the noose was tight around our neck. Mr. Toluii was heard several times to say that he really liked Dr. Asdaghi very much because of his honesty and sincerity and hence ordered his execution at the earliest possible time. After the news of his martyrdom reached his wife, who was herself the daughter of a martyr, she sent Mr. Toluii a large bouquet of flowers, which enraged him so much that he put her in prison for a time. Later he asked Colonel Vahdat as to the meaning of this gesture and he replied that she really wanted to thank you for what you did for her husband.

We were still mourning the loss of our loved ones when they called five of our brothers who were the members of the Spiritual Assembly of Karaj. These heroic souls like our brothers who were called before them hastened towards martyrdom with great courage. Two of these chosen souls were Mr. Jamshid Poorostadkar and Mr. Jamal Kashani, both of whom were in their early thirties. Jamshid was known to have written to his wife not to worry about him, he would bring her honor. Jamal had a nine year old daughter who was writing him regularly saying, "Dear father, we don't want your freedom, we want your honor." The other three were Mr. Haghighi, Mr. Athari, and Mr. Farhand. These three souls were already aware of their fate for over three months and were aware that they were condemned to be executed for believing in the cause of God and this had given them a sense of pride and fulfillment for having been bestowed such honor. Mr. Haghighi had asked Mr. Toluii twice about the time of his execution and he had replied, "Do you want me to execute you so that you are mentioned in the history books or that they send your children to the foreign countries for the higher education?"

Colonel Vahdat who was summoned a few hours before these five souls, came back in the evening of the same day in a manner reflecting an upset and revolting condition so much as he was unable to control himself. He came in the room and gave us the news of the martyrdom of those five souls. The most horrendous thing was that they had forced him to put the noose around the necks of our beloved friends. It is impossible to describe the atmosphere of grief and sadness in that cell. As heartbroken as we were, we tried our best to sooth his agony and console him, but to no avail, he kept on wailing and crying. Later we learnt that he had maintained his poise and dignity outside and had only broken down after returning to us. He described to us the courage and forbearance of these souls and how eager they were at the last minute, vying to be the first for the noose to be put around their neck. All were calm and serene till the last minute, while two political prisoners, who also were to be hanged, were trembling with fear. This was a testimony for the rest of us that these lions of the forest of God had indeed reached the loftiest plane of certitude. Jamal was telling the guards, "Look at me, I have no anxiety, touch me and see how warm my body is." The guard had said that this is because you are fearful. To which he replied. "If I was fearful of anything, on the night you drove me from Tehran to Karaj in order to name other Bahá'ís, I would not have thrown myself out of the speeding car to avoid this task.” These five loved ones ascended towards God at the same time astounding their executioner with their conduct.

These events had created within each one of us an immense turmoil and we were all drowned in a sea of grief and sorrow, yet, had they called for a volunteer to be executed we would have all vied for that honor. We were fully aware that the guards were watching our reactions, therefore we all tried to look calm and act in a normal fashion, but a few hours later the door opened suddenly and a young guard who was relatively courteous and worked in one of the offices came in pleading with us saying "By God, just say the word that you are a Muslim and go free, this way not only will you relieve yourselves, but us as well." I told him, "My dear brother, they haven't brought us here because we are Bahá'ís. They have accused us of being spies and that is why they are killing us." He then realized that he had misspoken and shut the door and left.

Another one of our cell mates was Dr. Ruhollah Taleem, who was a close relative of my wife and whom I had known very well. We had never had an opportunity to discuss spiritual matters with each other and it was during these few months in prison that I found out about his vast knowledge and understanding in regards to spiritual matters. During our daily discussion meetings, he used to expound the spiritual meanings of the Bahá'í writings in such a manner that we could see ourselves in the eternal worlds of God. I always regret why I had not taken the time to get to know this sacred person in a better and closer fashion. A few months before his martyrdom, he had sensed that he was going to be martyred as he was given the birth name of Ishmael and later his parents changed his name to Ruhollah (Spirit of God). His argument was that Ishmael was not martyred but Jesus Christ was in fact martyred and such is going to be his fate. He was raised in a modest family by a Jewish mother and a father from a Jewish background who became a Bahá'í later on. His wife was Muslim and had two daughters approximately 7 and 8 years old. He was a famous and very popular OB-Gyn physician working in the city of Kirmanshah. His popularity was such that several thousand people from that city signed a petition in order to release him from prison. Every time he had a visitation with his wife, she would encourage him to recant his faith and be released from prison. This would make him very sad and would strengthen our belief in his strength and forbearance in the Faith. Once in a while when they took us for a break out side, he used to enter into discussions with the prison guards regarding the Faith and try to prove to them the validity of the Faith through reason and logic. It would put us in a state of anxiety as the prison officials were watching and we would try to tell him to be careful and use some tact and wisdom. He disagreed and said that it was our duty to spread the message and we should do so at every given opportunity. During one instance he got into a discussion regarding the length of the dispensation of Islam as mentioned in the Quran (Muslem Holly Book). The guard denied that such a statement was actually in the Quran and so Dr. Taleem asked him to go get the Quran and the guard went and brought the book. He then proceed to show him (Surih sojdeh: Ayye 5) “He rules (all) causes from the heavens to the earth: in the end will (all causes) go up to Him, on a Day, the space whereof will be (as) a thousand years of your reckoning.” The guard was so astonished, which one could see on his face. Even though Dr. Taleem was willing to serve the public the rest of his life, volunteering as a doctor either in the prison or outside, Mr. Toluii's hatred towards him was such that he never communicated his offer to the authorities until the preordained hour was upon us. After saying farewell one by one to all of us, he was taken away from our midst for the final time. As they escorted him down the hallway, we could hear his loud voice saying "We are God's and unto Him shall we return", and also, "All the people shall taste death." He then said Allah'u'Abha (God is Glorious) three times. These hallways had rooms on either side that housed over 65 prisoners each. We were certain that everyone could hear him. His actions made the guards overcome with emotions. Without any regards to the world and whatever the dreams of this world, he sacrificed his life to reach the Abha kingdom. He sacrificed his worldly body in the way of his Beloved and crowned his survived ones with a sense of pride and honor.

For a few days after this event, we spent our hours mourning his death, until one day they sent for the rest of us and asked us to leave the prison with our belongings. At that time we all thought that we were following Dr. Taleem's path towards martyrdom. We collected a few of our personal belongings and went to face our destiny. After a few hours of confusion and anxiety, they took us to another part of the prison and put us in a cell which had a shower and toilet attached to it. It was better than the previous cell, but at the same time they cut all our privileges of meeting our families, our daily outside breaks and corresponding with our relatives. Our only contact with the outside world was the guards who came into our cell three times a day to give us our meals. We were in this cell for about 40 days, after which they took us to a very small triangular shaped cell. This place was so small that we could not all sleep at the same time. The cell was a triangular room about 8 feet in length. There were eight of us in this room, which had a bucket in the corner for a toilet. Once a week we were taken to the bathroom for a shower and given 5 to 10 minutes to bathe.

On several occasions, the guards were eavesdropping at the door, accusing us of talking loud, and heaping threats and foul language on us. One of these guards was an exception. He was responsible for us once a week and used to provide us with any food that was leftover. All in all he had a special kind of respect and compassion toward us. Another guard also came to our cell one day and talked in a kindly manner about his sympathy toward us, encouraging us to be steadfast in our belief and told us that the secret for success was self-sacrifice and unity. As we had no communication with the outside world, we thought that something might have happened that caused him to talk in this manner; so, I asked him if he had seen any weakness in us that would cause him to encourage us to be steadfast, haven't you seen how courageously our brothers face martyrdom? He responded that he had not witnessed any weakness in us or lack of courage when witnessing our executions. I then told him that he need to be rest assured that my companions and I are standing firm and strong in our belief. A few days later another prison guard, who had a full beard, came to our cell with a few other guards and asked us to tell them on what accusations we were being held in prison. Colonel Vahdat spoke on our behalf and told them that we were here because we were Bahá'ís. He then asked us if we were willing to debate the issues. Colonel Vahdat responded that we are your prisoners and it would not be a fair debate since we are in your custody. If you really want to know the truth, you should find a way to release us, as we are willing to debate these issues at our homes.

Those days, which led to weeks, although very difficult in appearance, were spent in an atmosphere of utmost spirituality. It is extremely difficult to express these feelings, but we all felt that we were in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. One day Mr. Lameh was called by the office of the prison and after they brought him back, he told us that his sentence had been changed to life imprisonment. A few days later, after we had started the fasting period, they called for Mr. Nosratallah Sobhani to be interviewed and sentenced. Based on the questions of the interviewers, we had the feeling that once again the Will of God was that another one of our companions was to taste the cup of martyrdom. During the five or six months that we spent time with Mr. Sobhani, we noticed that he longed for the honor of martyrdom in such a manner that had he not reached that station, he would have spent the rest of his days on this plane in a state of madness. He was bestowed with a strong memory and he had committed to memorize several long tablets revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, which he would recite out loud. I recall that during an interrogation session he was asked at what age he had started his involvement in Bahá'í life and activities, to which he had responded that like any other Baha’i person he had started at age five. The interrogator was surprised and said it cannot be true as it was not possible at the age of five. Mr. Sobhani responded that as soon as a Bahá'í child becomes a part of the children’s classes, he becomes part of the Bahá'í life.

With the martyrdom of Mr. Sobhani eleven souls had drunk the cup of martyrdom from the seventeen of us that were in cell number seventy five, known as the death (execution) cell. As we approached Ridván of 1985, three of us were called to the prison office and were told to bring our belongings. After a few hours of waiting anxiously along with four other Bahá'í prisoners from another prison, they moved us all to another prison, which had approximately two hundred and fifty prisoners, of which there were between sixty to seventy Baha’is. Seeing these new Bahá'í friends in this relatively better environment overlooking the Evin gardens, was for us, who had spent a good part of the last twelve months in some awful conditions, indeed a joyous and extraordinary event. The loving manner in which we were received and welcomed by our fellow Bahá'í friends truly fascinated the other prisoners as well as the prison guards. In this new prison setting our daily life allowed us to have Bahá'í activities such as Nineteen Day Feasts, prayer meetings and memorial meetings. At the same time, exercising tact and wisdom, we were able to talk about the faith openly with non-Baha’i prisoners. As other prisoners from other religious backgrounds were not permitted in the cells with the Muslim prisoners, they were put in the cells with the Bahá'ís. After some time, they were so impressed with living in a Bahá'ís atmosphere, they became attracted to the faith and confessed their belief in the cause of God so much that during the fasting month they fasted along with the rest of us.

At times, in order to correct the conduct of some of the worst behaving prisoners on whom even the harshest of punishments were ineffective in changing their conduct, the prison authorities would leave them in our custody for a few days. Influenced by the spiritual and peaceful atmosphere established in our prison cells and the loving manner in which we were treating them, these prisoners were transformed in a matter of days to courteous and well-mannered prisoners.

During these days the cleaning of the cells and managing of the chores were handled by our younger cell mates with a spirit of love and service. Everything was dropped off at our cell door; so, we had decided on a system where the distribution of all food and materials was done in a fair and equitable manner. This was in sharp contrast to the other cells, where each person used to fend for himself and a spirit of love and unity was lacking. We started each meal with a prayer and we all sat and ate in one group. The spirit of love and fellowship was so eminent that other prisoner's curiosity would be aroused and they would want to see what was going on in our cells. This used to surprise them and even make them envious to see how we operated as one family. On one occasion, another prisoner was heard saying that we had it well in the prison because our Spiritual Assemblies used to sponsor us. The truth of the matter was that we used to save whatever money our families could afford to send us and rather than use it on cigarettes and gambling we would treat ourselves to fruit, and we always put our fellow cell mates before ourselves. To prevent any misunderstanding, Colonel Vahdat went and talked to the leaders of the other cells and explained how we operated in our cells. We used to have a collection of monies for the purpose of helping new prisoners and even contributing to the Bahá'í funds whenever possible.

Several days after arriving at this prison, I was summoned by the authorities and it looked like they wanted to renew interrogating me. While I was sitting blindfolded, the first question from the interrogator was, “Do you know why we haven't sentenced you yet?" I responded by saying that I did not have any idea why and he said that it was because in my previous interrogations I was not truthful. I responded by saying, "Why should I lie? I have no fear of death and besides you did ask for my execution any way." He gave me the questionnaires that I was given during the first interrogation and asked me to be truthful this time. As I was writing the same answers as before, which he did not like, he started beating me. The same scenario was repeated for several days. On one occasion, Mr. Toluii came by and asked the interrogator to bring me to his office after he was finished with me. This did not take place as Mr. Toulii had already left by the time they were finished with me. This time the interrogator was even more hostile than the previous time and said that they were going to completely uproot the Bahá'ís from this land, even if it meant by bringing each one of in here vertically and taking out horizontally. By repeating this over and over, which prompted me to respond by saying that whenever you say something you should always end by saying, "God’s willing." I added that the hand of God is above all hands and everything is in His will. I also asked him why they went through these extraordinary efforts to find us when all they had to do was to announce through the media and ask for all the Bahá'ís to report to the authorities, and as Bahá'ís are obedient to their government, they would do so. At times he would say that Bahá'ís are the enemies of Islam and the clergy. I responded that as a Bahá'í, I believe that all religions have a common origin and so I must accept all religions being from God, including Islam. As far as the clergies go, Bahá'u'lláh mentioned with respect and honor the clergies that behave with justice. One issue he brought up was that they were awaiting a Qaim (The Promised One) who would propagate Islam and he mentioned that the Qaim of the Bahai’s has ended Islam by bringing a new religion. I responded that as it is mentioned in all Holly books and also in the other writings of Islam, the Qaim has the Almighty Power and can change the laws as the time passes on. He continued to beat me as I kept on saying these things, which led to my injuries being so severe that my left ear drum was damaged and eventually infected. It was quite a while before they sent me to the prison's hospital and the doctor, who wished to please the guards, said that my ear drum was damaged before this incident. After a month at this prison, we were joined by the four friends that were left behind at the last prison. This overjoyed us and we were glad to see them alive.

During our stay in this place we faced a lot of problems and difficulties. The worst was the beatings and tortures that we were subjected to. Following these episodes, when we returned to our cell, barely alive and barely able to walk, the others tried to comfort and nurse the wounds, but sometimes it was so severe that it was beyond their abilities and they pleaded with the guards to take us to the prison hospital. Another hardship we had to face on a regular basis was the disruption the prison guards caused when we were trying to hold Bahá'í Nineteen Day feasts and gatherings. They would escort us all out in the cold and search our cell looking for and destroying any Bahá'í writings which were either in our possession or written down by some from memory. This was fruitless on their part, because we kept dear to our hearts the prayers and writings we had committed to memory. We had the privilege of ordering items from outside, which of course we had to pay for, but at times it was months before they would bring us the items. This forced us to ration our items and plan for such happenings. On occasions the clergy, who were in prison for various offences, used to buy items from us, but forbid the other Muslim prisoners to buy from us. Also in this prison were political prisoners from the previous regime, who were so impressed with our display of unity and fellowship that they even tried to investigate the Faith, and we tried our best to accommodate their requests. In 1985 when the international community condemned the treatment and persecution of the Bahá'ís, these prisoners were impressed by the power and influence of the Bahá'ís. They wished us success in this regard and congratulated us, and told us that we were the only group that was able to bring condemnation to this regime.

Among us was a military personality from the previous regime who was arrested while crossing the border, and he was complaining about the attitudes of the Bahá'ís outside Iran who were not being active in demonstrations and meetings condemning this regime. He added that they had tried hard to recruit the Bahá'ís to join their movement to overthrow this regime, but were not very successful. In contrast, he spoke highly of a Bahá'í dentist, Dr. Gholam Hussien Hakim, who when he found out that he could not pay for the treatment, did not charge him for it. I asked him if he had ever read any of the Bahá'í writings to which he responded that he hadn't, and so I tried to tell him the Bahá'í point of view on human society and its functioning. I told him that the goal of the Bahá'í Faith is the unity of mankind, since we see everyone being from the same origin, and in fact we are all brothers and sisters. This philosophy is so ingrained in our Faith that we have no animosity towards the ones who torture and persecute us, as they have been misled and perhaps given improper guidance. These very people, when put in a positive atmosphere, will manifest a sense of love and unity. I also emphasized that Bahá'ís cannot be involved in partisan politics, in which, by definition, each group is working against another group, and by contrast Bahá'ís are working to bring everyone together.

A few months had elapsed from my initial interrogation and it was time for my second court appearance and this time the judge was a Muslim clergyman named Mr. Ravandi. It appeared that in this particular court the law was upheld and respected. He interrogated me personally for about forty five minutes. During this time he received two telephone calls. One was a question regarding the exception for not having to say the Namaz (Muslim daily obligatory prayer). Mr. Ravandi responded that one needs to keep in mind the distance he travels by car and if it exceeds 24 Km then he is exempt. The other call was from a friend who was in prison and wanted to see if something could be done to get him released. The level of questioning was directed towards my activities and knowledge of the Bahá'í Faith. He asked me why I had become a member of the Bahá'í institutions. I responded by saying that we get elected to that position. He asked me why I had not resigned and I told him that if I did not do the work, someone else would do it. He then asked me how I knew that the Bahá'í religion was a true religion. At this time I realized that he was trying to set me up by being devious in his line of questioning. I tried to explain to him that the Bahá'í Faith makes me a better person and that is why I believe that it is from God. He insisted that Islam is from God and it has a miracle. I responded by saying that miracles are not lasting proof, but only satisfy whoever witnesses it and not the masses. The true proof of Prophets and Messengers of God are their writings, which will last for ever, and since reading the writings of the Bahá'í faith bring me peace and tranquility, I believe it is from God. The last question he asked me was whether I had anything else to add or ask. I responded by saying that if he really wanted to know who I was he should ask my neighbors and co-workers for their input. To this he responded that we have no problem with that and we just think that you are all spies. I asked him for the proof of that statement and he did not respond.

We were approaching Ridvan (Baha’i Holy Days) of 1986 and the Bahá'ís of both cells were preparing for this festival, and as it is customary in Iran to visit families and friends, we visited our friends in the other cell. Our loud greetings of "Allah'u'Abha" caused the prison guards to enter our cells and inquire as to the joyous celebration. We informed them that this was the day that Bahá'u'lláh declared His Mission and that was the reason for our celebration. This upset them and the very next day they combined both cells into one. They combined about 80 people in a room no bigger than 5 meters by 8 meters. This caused a multitude of problems and the sleeping arrangements were the most complicated of them all. It was during this time that the international Bahá'í community, with guidance from the Universal house of Justice, began putting pressure on the Iranian government to respect the human rights of the Bahá'ís and that the Iranian government was obligated to uphold the international agreement regarding human rights and respect the rights of the Bahá'ís. At this time there were rumors that the group who were against the Bahá'ís and had power over the Evin prison were gradually beginning to loose their power. Mr. Toluii, who was edging for a promotion and went to the front lines of the Iran-Iraq war to further his position and power, was rumored to have been shot in the back by one of his own men. Mr. Mesbah, who was involved in numerous raids on the homes of the Bahá'ís and had kept some of the property for himself, was arrested and tortured until one of the Bahá'ís intervened and asked for his forgiveness. Eventually, he ended up in a prison cell next to ours. At the end of his days he constantly asked for forgiveness for all the wrongs he had committed towards the Bahá'ís. A third person, Shakyh Rahnamah, whose activities surrounded the city of Karaj, was fired from his position and exiled. There was another person by the name of Mr. Kashmiri, who held the position of a gopher in the previous regime and had gained some power since the Islamic revolution and had started collaborating with the anti Bahá'í group. With his involvement in the raids on the homes of the Bahá'ís, he had kept a lot of the confiscated property for himself. He had taken so much of the Bahá'ís’ property that he ran out of room at his home and in order to make a hiding place, created a false wall to store the stolen goods. Eventually, he was arrested; all the stolen property confiscated and was imprisoned in the same cell as Mr. Mesbah. A short while later, although being at a relatively young age he was paralyzed and could not walk. Some of the Bahá'ís would assist him by carrying him to go see his family during monthly visitation.

During this time when we all were under the impression that all the wrong doings and oppressions to the Cause of God had come to an end, the tree of the Cause of God was nurtured by the martyrdom of another of our beloved cell mates. Colonel Serrollah Vahdat who spent the early part of his imprisonment with us, but was transferred to the execution cell, had become so inflamed with the yearning of being martyred that at times he would express his fear that he would be released from prison and have to live with the regret of not having drunk from the cup pf martyrdom. He was in the military during the time of the Shah and during his interrogation he responded with the same courage and fearlessness of a military man. Mr. Toluii had a unique relationship with him. At times we observed them having discussions and eating fruit while at other times, he would be sent to be tortured by flogging. During the last days of his imprisonment, he used to say that in this world his possessions consisted of a plate, a spoon, a cup and two used blankets, which actually did not belong to him (and those items really did not belong to him), and so there was nothing that kept him connected to this world. During the last hours before his martyrdom, Mr. Toluii suggested to him that he should recant his faith and go free, to which he serenely and courageously replied that Bahá'u'lláh is from God, the promised one of all the previous prophets, and I am on his side. This was his response to the call of his beloved which led to his life being sacrificed for his Lord.

A few days after this tragedy, all the Bahá'í prisoners were asked to move their belongings from section #325, and after a few hours of confusion and hardship, they moved us to a two room cell which was in the basement of the prison. This room was extremely small for our group, and based on our calculations, each one of us had a space spanning 50 cm by 50 cm (A foot and a half by a foot and a half). In a 24 our period we were permitted to go to the bathroom only four times and once in awhile we were taken to the yard for some fresh air. With the help of God we were able to adjust to the new situation, and continuously kept in mind the words of Bahá'u'lláh, "Thy calamity is my providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, inwardly…..The remembrance of God was our sole consolation during those days.

On one occasion, I had a need to use the bathroom outside my allotted time, and even though I called the guard several times, my calls and pleas were ignored. I proceeded to leave the room unescorted and without a blindfold. When the guard saw me, he was upset and objected to seeing me outside the room without permission, but I was able to convince him that it was an emergency and eventually he was okay with the situation. He was particularly kind and gradually I was able to befriend him. Once a week when it was his turn to guard our cell, I would come outside and we would engage in conversation which led to topics about our imprisonment. At one point he asked me as to why I was being imprisoned and what was the basic claim of the Bahá'ís? I told him that the promised one of Islam had come. He pondered this for a few moments and then asked me, "What if it is all lies? I told him that during the last several thousand years, every Manifestation of God met with hardship and conflict from the people, but gradually He was able to establish and prove His truth. This also applies to the Bahá'í Faith, and after only one hundred and forty years it has established itself in the world. He thought for a few moments and then said, "What if the Promised One that we Muslims are waiting for comes? What are you going to do?" We as Bahá'ís believe that the Promised One has come and his faith is progressing throughout the world. He kept on insisting that what if the promised one of the Muslims comes. What was I going to do? I told him that if such an event does happen, we will seek his presence and tell him that we were so eager for his coming that we accepted the one who came in his name. At the same time I told him the stories that he believed in were void of the truth and were vain imaginings.

We were trying to adjust to our new situation, but once again the storm of tests and difficulties began to roll, and one of the chosen youth of Bahá'u'lláh, by the name of Farid-e-Behmardi, was taken from amongst us and reunited with his beloved. It is impossible to describe this beautiful soul using tongue or pen, and most certainly it is beyond my ability to do so. It is certain that in the future, the historians and writers of the history of the Faith will present this soul in a manner that befits him. What I can say at this time is that he was knowledgeable regarding the Faith and had a strong command of various languages including English, Farsi and Arabic. Most of all he was extremely courageous and willing to be martyred. As I mentioned earlier, a certain gentleman by the name of Mr. David who was also in prison, asked him to allow him to use his financial wealth to buy his freedom or reduce his sentence. Mr. Behmardi refused and insisted that they should let history take its course and he is willing to accept God's will. In truth the words of God have life transforming power. When one of our friends was called to the threshold of martyrdom, his entire being would be transformed. It is very difficult to describe them, but it seems that their souls were not part of this world any longer. Even when we embraced them, they felt light and when they walked it seemed as though they were walking on air. At first we thought that it was only a feeling we Bahá'ís had, but soon saw that our fellow prisoners of other religious faiths also noticed a transformation.

As we were mourning the loss of our friends, the war between Iran and Iraq intensified and the aerial bombardment of Tehran started. The explosions were so near that we were constantly hearing the explosions and even on one occasion the explosion shattered our windows and blew away our door. During the times the bombs hit our building, we had no refuge except Bahá'u'lláh and we used to pray to Him and call for His assistance and thanked Him for giving us the yearning to be martyred for His Cause. A few months passed and we were asked again to assemble our belongings and they moved us to a higher floor and felt that we had served our punishment. This was a bigger place with two cells, relatively more comfortable to walk around and we noticed that we were joined with three hundred and fifty prisoners from eight different groups in eleven other cells. We were permitted to spend half a day in the courtyard for a much needed breadth of fresh air. Of the prisoners there were several political ones who were on a hunger strike and were in the midst of confrontation with the prison officials. Later on, we realized that our transfer to this prison cell was to actually influence the other prisoners and have a calming effect on them. During this time we met a fellow believer, Soroush Jabarri, who was in the midst of the political prisoners and eventually martyred for the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh later. The hunger strike of the political prisoners lasted for thirty five days and it was very hard for us to see the young people going through the hardship and had a very difficult time eating our meager portions in front of them. It was during the last days of the hunger strike that my friend and I were escorted to meet with our families . The supervisor of our ward told us that it has been proved to the Islamic Republic that the Bahá'í community is not out to harm them and our release was bound to happen.

A few days after this, a couple of clergymen who worked with the prison, met with the prisoners regarding the situation. Most of the time was spent with the political prisoners, but towards the end one of the friends, Mr. Akhtari (who was later martyred) asked them why is it that the Bahá'ís who are obedient to the government are imprisoned. To this they had no response. Among the political prisoners were some who were learned and educated. They showed an interest in the Faith and wanted to investigate it further, so during the few months that we spent with them we had several discussions. One of them who had a doctorate in political science had become very friendly towards us. Even though he criticized religion and did not believe in it and blamed it for the cause of wars in the world. It was during one of our discussions that I told him that all religions are essentially the same and in truth there is only one religion, so much so, that each Manifestation of God acknowledges the previous manifestation and foretells of the next one. Especially now with regards to the Bahá'í Faith whose advent has been mentioned for ages in all the religions, the progress of the sciences has made it possible for the unity of mankind in this era which is bound to happen. He was so influenced that he promised us that once released he would look into the Faith. It was also during this time that the trial of a few of our friends was held, and as a result two of the members of the Spiritual Assembly of Tehran were released, which lifted a burden from our hearts as we were concerned about their fate. A few others got their sentences reduced. These events made us believe that the intensity of animosity had lessened towards the Bahá'ís, but alas during the fasting period of 1986 and by the Will of God, two of our cell mates, Albul-Qassem Shayegh and Soroush Jabbaree, were taken to the lofty station of martyrdom after meeting with their families. Indeed, achieving this station is only through the bounty of God and everyone is not called upon to drink from its cup. We spent the Naw Ruz of 1986 in sorrow and mourning with the loss of our friends and our fellow prisoners (political) came to console us. It was during this time that a fellow Bahá'í named Ardeshir Sistanee had his death sentence reduced to a life sentence. He used to joke that the authorities saw that he was too valuable to be kiled, so they decided to keep him there for life.

It was in the middle of April that the authorities asked us to gather our belongings and we were sent to "Gohardasht prison in Karaj, where we were reunited with our friends who had already been sentenced. It was a few weeks later in the beginning of May, 1986, and after three years of uncertainty, that the authorities sent for me and Mr. Sohrab Doostar. At this time they read our sentences so, "Because of the membership in the sect of Bahá'í, with one degree of reduction, you are sentenced to life imprisonment." At this time, I was relieved, but was also saddened, since I felt I was not worthy of martyrdom in the path of my Beloved. My friends consoled me by saying that God had other plans for me. I want to take this opportunity to mention a few words about Mr. Sohrab Doostar who in my opinion was a great man. He was a highly educated man who worked and taught in a university in the United States of America, was much deepened in the Faith, and underwent multiple tests and difficulties in the path of God. He was elderly and not in good health, but I never heard him complain about the hardships. He was always advising the friends to be patient and forbearing in the face of trials.

In the Karaj prison, the conditions were constantly changing. At first they put the Bahá'ís with other political groups, but moved us since we got along with them and used to have teaching sessions with them. This wasn't bad, as our new location was a huge section with thirty cells in good clean condition and each cell had a window to the courtyard and its own bathroom. It looked more like a hotel than a prison. We were relaxing through this time, when suddenly the situation totally changed and they put us all in a very small cell which was without any sunlight or air circulation. During our imprisonment in the Karaj prison, the meetings with our families were reduced to once in two weeks, but they were able to send us more money for our expenses. It was sometime after our transfer to this prison that Mr. Amir Hassan Naderi, who was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, was called out by the authorities. We were concerned for his well being as he did not return. Several months later I learned through a conversation with my family that he had made contact with his family, but no one knew of his whereabouts. A few months after that, another of our beloved friends, Mr Akhtari was called out and was asked to bring his belongings. All of us, including himself, were aware of his fate, but he had a very strong spirit and showed his deep faith in Bahá'u'lláh as he bade us farewell by giving us warm embraces and heading out to meet his destiny. Two days later, I learned that he along with Mr. Naderi, had achieved the rank of a martyr and now were in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. During the last few days of his earthly life, Mr. Akhtari had this poem on his lips.

The longing that my heart has to see you
Only my heart knows
And I know
And my heart knows.

After a while, I fell ill and the prison doctors suggested that I be operated on and before that operation, they asked me to undergo some tests which included an EKG. The person responsible for the test asked me why I was in prison and what was I being accused of? I told him that I am a Bahá'í. Right away he asked me to accept Islam. My response to him was that I do accept Islam and additionally accept Bahá'u'lláh. As we spoke, I realized that he had a lot of animosity towards the Faith and even heard him insult the Faith in a telephone conversation and continued to do so as he came back. At this time, I lost control of my temper and stood up with various wires hanging from me and shouted that I am a prisoner who has been sentenced to death and my life has no meaning to me and he has no right to be disrespectful to my beliefs and faith. In reaction to my outburst he calmed down as he was afraid that I might complain to the authorities. As a result of this the EKG was not conducive to having surgery under general anesthetic and I was operated on under local anesthetic. A few months later, I had the opportunity to meet this man again and he asked me about some of the friends. I told him that they were released and hopefully we too were going to be released soon. He objected that my belief was not recognized by the government and that was not going to happen. I responded that all the religions of God were not recognized at first, but gradually were accepted and even Khomeni has recognized our faith. During the time I was hospitalized, everyday at noon, there was a person who came to my bedside and inquired regarding my condition. One day, he asked me if I knew him and I responded that I did not know him and he proceeded to introduce himself as the chief of the prison hospital. With respect for him I stood up and apologized for not recognizing him and that I have heard of him and his kindness towards the patients, particularly the Bahá'ís. To my surprise he asked me if I would be willing to talk to him about the Faith, to which I gladly accepted. He sat on the bed next to me and we talked for over two hours regarding the Bahá'í Faith. At the end of the conversation, he mentioned that there were several books on the Bahá'í Faith which were confiscated from the Bahá'ís, but that he could not find any answers to his questions. I told him that there were special books for seekers who wanted to investigate the Faith and gave him a few suggestions. He thanked me and left.

While I was still recovering at the prison hospital, they called me to the prison office, where I overheard some guards talking about the authorities wanting to release me. I asked for the reason, but they would not give me an answer. My mind was racing with the possibilities as to why I was being released. Could it be that my family had met with a tragedy? I was sitting on a bench, blindfolded, when the guards came to take me home. I insisted that I would not get in the car, unless I knew the reason as I was still recovering and this trip would be difficult for me. They told me that they did not know but would find out why. They returned to tell me that my step mother had passed away and there was a memorial meeting being held at my home. Later, I found out that it was due to the perseverance of my wife that they allowed me to go home for a few hours, especially when it was practically impossible for the authorities to release prisoners who had a life sentence. It was also due to the good behavior of the Bahá'ís that I was allowed to attend this memorial. There were about fifty of our family, friends and neighbors in attendance. The two guards were very polite and sat through the prayers and readings. At the end of the meeting, I asked the guards if I could call my son and daughter who were living abroad. They happily consented as they were obviously moved by the spiritual atmosphere of the meeting. By the grace of Bahá'u'lláh, I was able to talk to my children and also my brother-in-law. This lasted three to four hours and I was able to meet many of my relatives and friends. The guards were suspicious at first, but soon went outside and left me alone with my family. On the way back to the prison, we had a discussion about the Bahá'í Faith and they had many questions regarding my religious belief. It was truly a transformation and their behavior towards me was a lot better.

During this time the anti-Bahá'í faction in the government was loosing strength and the government was isolating themselves from them. This was obvious in the attitude of the prison authorities towards us and the atmosphere seemed a lot friendlier. We used this opportunity to educate them regarding some of the laws of the Faith by using every chance we got. One of the Bahá'ís was planning to get married and needed the consent of his father who was in prison. The authorities could not understand the reason why as the person was an adult. We explained that in the Bahá'í Faith, unity is our primary aim and the unity of the family is secured by the parents giving consent for their children to be married. They inquired as to where the consent needed to be sent and our friend asked them to mail it in care of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the city where the person lived. They were amazed to find out that there are Bahá'ís living outside Iran. This was one of the instances where we were able to share the beauty of the Bahá'í teachings with the prison authorities.

It was during this time that we heard the news that three members of the newly elected National Spiritual Assembly of Iran were arrested. We feared that a new wave of persecution had started. As we were preparing ourselves to deal with the worst, we heard of their release after being imprisoned for two months. This brought immense joy to our hearts. It was also during this time that the war between Iran and Iraq had escalated to a new height and some of the missiles hit so close that the shrapnel ended up in our cells destroying our supply of food.

It was time for the political elections and the prison authorities were inquiring if we wanted to participate in the elections. Unlike the previous time, they were persistent in their request for us to participate, and wanted a written statement from us saying that we do not participate in politics. We willingly gave a statement stating that we do not participate in politics and they were amazed that all of us said exactly the same thing on paper.

Usually, in the month of February, which coincided with the anniversary of the start of the revolution, the authorities used to reduce some of the sentences of the prisoners. This year, for the first time it included the Bahá'ís, where some friends who had small prison sentences were released. With regards to my life sentence, it was reduced to fifteen years in prison. Overall, we were noticing a change in their behavior towards us and each of us could feel the Grandeur and Power of Bahá'u'lláh in our lives and destiny.

During these days, they took two of our friends from us, Mr. Behnam Pashayee and Colonel Iraj Afshin. They were not yet sentenced and we did not hear about them for several months. In the meantime the war had come to an end and a political group named "Mojahideen" who had exiled themselves to Iraq had a few prisoners in the same prison. They were very defiant towards the authorities and in turn the prison officials responded likewise. At one point they brought these prisoners who had been beaten, to our cell. We took care of them and this made our situation bad as the authorities were upset that we were kind to the prisoners. We insisted that as Bahá'ís we love mankind and take care of anyone who needs our help. As a result, they put all sixty of us in a room that barely had room for thirty. This made our situation unbearable and we were left there for almost twenty five days until a visit of an official from outside saw our condition and insisted that the authorities transfer us to a better place. During this time we were also forbidden to meet with our families. After three months our family visits resumed and it was during one of these visits that we heard of the martyrdom of Mr. Pashayee and Mr. Afshin. This brought immense grief to our group and we prayed for the progress of their souls in the Abhá Kingdom.

A few nights later, at approximately 2 a.m., the guards opened our cell door, screaming and yelling at us to line up in the hallway outside our cell. All of us, except for one elderly man, went outside. We were all very anxious, as most of the group executions took place in the early hours of the morning. They asked us to go into the interrogation room individually and the interrogator asked us if we stuck to our belief in the Bahá'í Faith and if so we should expect all kinds of consequences. Each of us replied that we were still followers of Bahá'u'lláh and were ready for any consequences. The investigators even went and questioned the elderly Bahá'í in the cell and he responded similarly. Frustrated, they left us out there for several hours and then asked us to get back in our cell. We found out later that this was a method used to weaken the faith of people and we were thankful that they were not able to accomplish their goal.

It was the beginning of the winter of 1988, when the guards gave us the good news that this time we would be able to meet our families face to face rather than behind a glass. They also communicated this to our families and so they scrambled to get some fruit and sweets to share at this occasion. It was the first time in five years that we were able to share a feast with our families in a spirit of spirituality and fellowship. We even invited the guards and the prison authorities. The other prisoners were visibly upset and complained as to why they were not getting the same kind of arrangements. The authorities chastised them and asked them how they could compare themselves to the Bahá'ís, as the Bahá'ís have for over five years not once given the prison guards any problems. A few days after that, one of the prison officials who always seemed to bring us good news came into our cell. We all arose in respect for him and he told us that we should get all our personal belongings together as we were going to be released tomorrow or transferred to Evin prison from where we would be released. We thanked him for all his help and assistance throughout the years and for being an angel of good news. We assured him that he would be in our prayers throughout our lives. Throughout the night, as we were packing up our belongings, the guards who were moved by our behavior, came to our cell and asked questions about the Faith and even took contact information where they could learn more about the Faith. They thanked us and appreciated our behavior throughout the years as they only saw love and affection from us. A few even asked us for our addresses so they could contact us once we were released.

The next day around noon, they ordered us to bring our belongings to the prison yard, where there was a bus awaiting us. While we were boarding the bus, one of the guards who was known for his hatred for the Bahá'ís, yelled out in a loud voice. "O Toluii, where are you? Look at them releasing the Bahá'ís whom you worked so hard to get imprisoned." After a few hours we arrived in Evin prison, and they took us to a room where there were twelve other Bahá'ís.

A few days later at sundown, they blindfolded twenty three of us and made us walk to another building and to the top floor. At this time, one of the officials asked us if we were all Bahá'ís and we all answered yes. He then asked if there were any non-Bahá'ís among us and we responded no. At this point they asked us to remove our blindfolds and we saw seven of our fellow women Bahá'ís present in the room with us. It was a moving experience to be able to see the faces of these beautiful spiritual souls after five years. It was a mixture of emotions, of sadness and joy. We were glad to see them and sad to see their faces showing years of painful mental torture. The guards distributed questioners for us to fill out and one of the questions regarded the original accusation brought against us. For a response to that question they asked us to put down that we were Bahá'ís which surprised us all. This was unusual because in the past whenever we gave that as a response they would say that it wasn't the right answer as the government of Iran allowed all religions to practice freely and the reason we were in prison was that we were spies. It was a great reward and consolation for us that the government of Iran had finally acknowledged that they had martyred and imprisoned Bahá'ís solely for their belief and nothing else. After completing the questioners, we realized that our moment of freedom was getting closer, but were also concerned about the welfare of the ones who were still in prison. After a few hours of being together, they asked us to return to our cells at which point one of the friends asked if we could call our families to give them the news so they could get the necessary paper work in order and find the appropriate guarantor of bail. It was customary to guarantee any prisoner who was being released by both personal and commercial property.

It was close to the period of fasting and since we did not have any facilities for cooking, we asked the authorities for a stove to heat our food and they kindly provided that for us. After a few days of fasting, the non-Bahá'í prisoners noticed that we were getting up early and asked one of their cell mates who was previously married to a Bahá'í as to the reason. He told them that it was time of the fast for the Bahá'ís, but they could not understand as they were eating after the call for prayer which was earlier in the morning. He replied that the Prophet of the Bahá'ís was kinder to his followers with regards to fasting. They have to fast for nineteen days during a cooler time of year and they don't eat anything from sunrise to sunset.

Slowly the process of releasing us started and everyday a few of our friends were released. Thankfully, all the friends gradually went through the process and were released. One day while we were getting ready to break our fast, they called three of us and took us to one of the prison offices to complete the administrative process for our release. There we met two other friends who were also being released. The very office from which our orders for freedom were issued was the same office from which came the order of the execution of our beloved friends who had drunk from the cup of martyrdom. This bitter sweet memory brought mixed feelings to our hearts. Obtaining our freedom from this very office and the respect with which we were treated, would to the eye of the observer be the result of God's Mercy and Grandeur for our patience and forbearance in the face of tests and difficulties. After completing the necessary paperwork we walked through the prison without a blindfold for the first time in five years and the guard who was asked to escort us started to have a discussion with one of us and the discussion heated into an argument. I intervened and realizing that he was upset that the authorities were releasing us, I calmly explained to him that we were their guests for five years and that we accept the Islamic Faith as being a religion of God and after many years our innocence has been proven and we are being united with our families. By this time we had approached our cell door and we took the opportunity to say goodbye and go our separate ways.

I cannot express my gratitude enough for my dear friends who accompanied me through my trials, but there are certain stories that I would like to share with you.

One of the friends had received a delicious looking peach from his son. He approached me and asked my advice as to what to do with the peach. I told him to eat it and he was appalled by the idea. He insisted that it would not go down his throat as none of the other friends had some fruit. Later he came by with the peach, cut into twenty-eight pieces, one for each of his cell mates.

As we taught the Faith, we referred to the Dawn Breakers, where twenty thousand had given their lives for the Faith of God. Before the persecution of the Bahá'ís, one of the friends had given this book to a friend, who returned it after two days, saying this was fiction since no one gives up everything to be killed for his belief. After reading about the accounts of the sacrifice of the Bahá'ís in Iran, he came back and apologized and asked for a copy of the Dawn Breakers so he could read it. This proved to me that the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh transforms a soul irregardless of the time in history.

On 7 March 1988, at approximately 8:00 p.m., in the midst of pouring rain, I was released from prison and stepped into the open arms of my family. That very day was the anniversary of the martyrdom of two of our friends, Mr. Abol Qasam Shayegh and Mr. Soroush Jabbari Seysani. The bitter sweet moment of my release coupled with the memories of their martyrdom brought immense grief to my heart, realizing that my release was because I was not worthy of being martyred in the path of my Beloved. My only consolation was that in all the Worlds of God, there is no spiritual joy greater than the bounties obtained from being steadfast and firm in our faith in God, when we are faced with tests and difficulties based on the wrongful accusations of the enemies of the Faith. This bounty is the sign of God's approval and confirmation.

Our home was filled with friends and neighbors who had heard of the news of my release and had come to welcome me. There were a few who believed that my imprisonment was because we held meetings in our home and were truly surprised that after my release the frequency of the meetings increased.

May my soul be a sacrifice for the wrongs and tests that the Iranian Bahá'í friends were subjected to, who had, at one of the most critical moments in the history of the Faith sacrificed everything, even their lives to safeguard the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. It was through their sacrifice that the entire world, especially the Bahá'ís, saw the advancement of the Cause of God through selfless service in the Cause marked with the path of resignation and detachment. It is my hope and wish that the spiritual example of the friends in the cradle of the Faith maybe utilized to advance the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh throughout the world.

It is with immense gratitude that I acknowledge my dear wife, Tahereh, who, along my side, endured the tests and difficulties willed by the Grace of Bahá'u'lláh, and helped and assisted me in documenting my experience.

I often think of why I was released from prison and not given the bounty of martyrdom. My conclusion is twofold. It was God's will that I be released from prison so that I can dedicate my life to telling the world of the coming of Bahá'u'lláh and that my soul was not worthy of martyrdom in the path of God.

If all the people of the world were destroyed, it would not matter, as long as the light of truth is shinning throughout the world.

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