My Memories of Evin's Ward 350 - "The Heart Breaking Story of Abdolreza Ghanbari, Teacher on Death Row" By Saeid Pourheydar
by Banooye Sabz on Friday, July 15, 2011 at 2:50pm
Abdolreza Ghanbari, an honorable teacher and dear friend was sentenced to
death by Judge Salavati's unjust court. He was my cellmate in room 3 at Evin's
Ward 350, his bed right above mine, making our bond even stronger.
We used to call him "professor". He is a professor of literature
and quite the poet too. They arrested him in front of his students, three days
after the bloody events of Ashura while he was teaching. Though Abdolreza Ghanbari
has one of the most controversial case files of all the prisoners of conscience
arrested after the rigged presidential elections, his case has received little
attention as he continues behind bars awaiting his execution day.
Ghanbari's only crime was receiving one single phone call and unsolicited
emails from the television outlet of one of the opposition groups abroad. The
supposed telephone conversation that took place on Ashura was less than a
minute long and a minute was all it took for Ghanbari to be charged with the
crime of enmity against God (Moharebeh) and sentenced to death at the hands of
the unjust Judge Salavati.
The Professor recounted his encounter with his interrogator as follows:
"The interrogator kept repeating that whether or not you accept the
charges, your name has been drawn and you will be hanged and your hanging will
serve as a lesson for others."
On Ashura the Professor and his daughter were out on a street in Tehran
for only a few minutes when he received the infamous and unsolicited phone call
from "Simaye Azadi" an opposition television station, asking him to
provide them with an update regarding the conditions on the streets.
It took only 23 days after his arrest for Ghanbari to be interrogated,
charged and sentenced to death by hanging. The professor explained that according
to his interrogator the reason for such a rush was to ensure that he would be
executed on the eve of the 22nd of Bahman demonstrations. For some reason
however, the death sentences for Ghanbari and other prisoners on death row who
were also our room mates, including the late martyrs Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad
Haj Aghai were postponed at the time.
The professor is a man of few words and spends much of his time writing on
his bed. He is from Mazandaran and has a nice voice. I recall how he used to
sing to us on Saturdays with his Mazandarani accent. When ever he climbed or
descended his bunk bed, he would step on my fingers or my shoulder and would
laugh and say it is your own fault for having half you body hanging out of your
bed. We used to stroll for about an hour each day in the prison court yard and
discuss the future of the Green movement.
The sentences for political prisoners were generally announced on Mondays.
As a result the Professor and other prisoners on death row anxiously awaited
every Saturday and Sunday, wondering if their names would be called so that
they would be transferred to solitary confinement and later taken to the
hanging chambers. With the passing of each Saturday he would say: "We made
it alive yet again this week", and with the passing of each day, those
political prisoners on death row once again awaited the never ending, agonizing
Saturdays and Sundays. The endless wait for the execution date to be announced
is almost more difficult that the execution itself, a predicament that no one
can fully understand unless they have experienced it personally.
Ghanbari suffers from kidney disease and back pain. They once called him to
see the forensic doctor. We were all very worried. At the time he commented
that they probably wanted to examine him one last time before his execution.
Every time his name was announced on the loud speaker he would worry and we
would worry for not only him but all our colleagues sentenced to death and in
the same unbearable predicament.
The day I was released from prison, I gave him a long hug. Though I tried
hard not to, I couldn't stop crying. I said "Professor we will see each
again soon in the free world... I am certain of it..." He too was hopeful
and replied: "Just pray that they don't hang me so that we can see each
other again some day, so I can see my family, my students and ...."
Abdolreza Ghanbari wrote the following poem in my dairy from Evin's Ward
The heart beats slowly turn into moans,
Moans that slowly turn into cries,
A rampage that transforms an obscure and hardworking blacksmith,
enduring much injustice to rise much like "Kaveh, the Black Smith"
In the midst of this destructions,
my heart is filled with hope
For when destruction passes a threshold a light begins to reappear.
and as I watch the destruction around me,
I am assured that the roots of this destruction will some day be uprooted
I hope that we meet again in a freedom that is not far away....
Evin Prison Ward 350
Written by Saeid Pourheydar, Journalist and Former Political Prisoner at Evin’s Ward 350
Read more about Abdolreza Ghanbari’s unjust and inhumane case: