In an interview with Kaleme, Mahdieh Mohammadi, the wife of Ahmad Zeidabadi, discussed his recent condition:And the English translation of the interview,
Since the arrest of Ahmad Zeidabadi, journalist and head of the Islamic Alumni Association a year and a half ago, he has not been able to receive a prison leave. In the past year, Zeidabadi has won the 2010 Golden Pen of Freedom Prize by the World Association of Newspapers and was issued one of the heaviest sentences for a journalist [by the coup government].
Zeidabadi is sentenced to six years imprisonment, a lifelong ban from activities associated with the media or politics, and five years exile in the city of Qonbad-e Qabus. Despite all this, Zeidabadi’s wife and children get through the days holding on to the hope that one day he will be freed.
Kaleme: Mrs. Mohamamadi, may you please provide us with the most recent news on Ahmad Zeidabadi’s situation?
Mahdieh Mohammadi (MM): Mr. Zeidabadi is still held in Rajai Shahr prison along with other political prisoners including Isa Saharkhiz and Masoud Bastani. We get to visit him every week. But since men and women have to visit on separate weeks, I see him every other week. He calls the house twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Anyway, this is how we pass the days far away from each other.
Kaleme: Mr. Zeidabadi is one of the political prisoners who has not yet been given any time off from prison. Why is that?
MM: I have no idea why he is not allowed to benefit from prison leave considering it is his legal right. None of the political prisoners in Rajai Shahr have been given any time off from prison, except for Mr. Soleimani who a few days ago was allowed to leave for a very short period of time. The reason for not allowing a leave for my husband is unknown to us considering that it is a legal right for all prisoners.
Kaleme: What measures have been taken in this regard by you or his lawyer?
MM: We have requested a leave for him five or six times. One of the requests came directly from Mr. Zeidabadi and was received by the Tehran Prosecutor Mr. Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi. Interestingly, he said that it is out of his hands because the Ministry of Intelligence must grant the prison leave, and the Ministry has issues with my husband. The Tehran Prosecutor stated that there is a lot of sensitivity around [my husband].
Kaleme: Your husband won the 2010 Golden Pen of Freedom Prize. How did that feel?
MM: I had two polar feelings. On one hand, I was truly thrilled and proud that I have spent years living by the side of such a human being; a person whose aptitude and influence is applauded by the world. On the other hand, I am worried that by being given this award, the Islamic Republic will be even more resistant to him. He will be deprived of more allowances, such as his right to prison leave. I’m afraid that prison conditions for my husband will be even more difficult now.
Kaleme: Did Mr. Zeidabadi have any reaction when he heard the news of the prize? What did he say?
MM: This award was given to my husband last year and the ceremonies took place this year. Anyway he was very happy to receive such an award. Mr Zeidabadi is an extremely knowledgeable and talented journalist. Our country is great at fostering the elite, but unfortunately it does not know how to utilize these great citizens. On one hand our universities produce exceptional students, then these same highly educated citizens are held captive in prison.
Kaleme: Mrs. Zeidabadi, you have three sons. How has your husband’s imprisonment affected their lives?
MM: You can imagine how important it is for a father to be there for his sons, especially when they are going through puberty. My two sons who are in their adolescence and the younger one need their father right now. But, unfortunately, my innocent children have been deprived of the blessing of a father for the past year and a half.
Kaleme: How are you holding up? Do you ever cry because of being so far away from your husband?
MM: Of course, yes, over and over again. I cry because of the injustices committed against my husband, me, and our children. I have aged ten years in the past year and a half. Everyone needs a partner and confidant in their lives, and we had spent every moment of the last 20 years by each other’s side. I will never forget the moment my husband was arrested.
Through the camera lens on my i-phone I witnessed how they took him and dragged him away. The memory of that moment is very painful. I have the responsibility of three children on my shoulders and [the imprisonment] has made my situation even more difficult. Anyway, we have trust in God, and we must try to have patience so God may provide retribution.
Kaleme: Throughout Mr. Zeidabadi’s imprisonment he has hardly complained or written any letters. Why is this?
MM: In practice, he does essentially recognize the law. Even though he is banned for life from any media activity, he does not accept this verdict, but prefers to heed to it because of the current situation in society. Additionally, at the start of the Millennium, he was sentenced to a five-year ban from any media activity. He has not involved himself in the press or conducted any interview since then.
Kaleme: How much hope do you have that he will be released before his sentence deadline?
MM: We have a lot of hope and get by every day holding on to this hope. I always tell my friends that if they told me on the day of his arrest that we would endure a year and a half of separation, I probably would not be able to bear it. Every day we hope that he will be freed. Every night we sleep with the hopes and dreams of his freedom. I cannot imagine, even for a moment, that he will actually spend another 4 1/2 years in prison.
Kaleme: Have you thought of the moment when your husband is freed?
MM: All our daily and nightly dreams are about that moment.
Kaleme: During this time, what were the best and worst moments?
MM: The worst and most difficult moment was when I watched the i-phone video of how he was dragged forcefully and taken away by Intelligence agents. The sweetest moments are the phone calls. With every contact from him we become re-energized and I am able to discuss issues pertaining to the kids and make decisions [together] about our life affairs.
Kaleme: How will life change when your husband returns home?
MM: I think that even if he is freed, we will always live with the fear that at any moment, the doorbell will ring and they will take him away again. This feeling has been with us since the year 2000, the first time my husband was arrested; a constant feeling of insecurity and anxiety. With every unexpected doorbell or phone call our hearts begin to race.
Translation by Laleh Irani - (Persian2english)