Speech To Sister Behind Closed Doors

Speech by Rosa Vasseghi
Melbourne, Australia - September 27th, 2013

Today is your birthday and you are behind closed doors

When I wake up and look at out of  my window I feel as though I have lost something, something that hurts me very deeply. Something that brings darkness into my life.

I see the sun shining in the sky and the breeze gently blowing and bringing life and joy to  everything. The branches of trees are full of blossoms dancing and spreading their colourful petals in the air to celebrate the coming of spring. My dear sister, there is no sun, or trees and petals for you. You and many others have been living in darkness behind closed doors, in a cell without windows and bars. You can’t see any of this beauty , all of you have been living in the dark for days , months, years, without seeing any seasons and I feel sadder than before and I become very angry.

I see parents walking with their children, taking their hands to keep them safe from unexpected dangers.  Their children are full of energy, jumping up and down happily, their voices creating a beautiful, musical song. The parents look into their children’s eyes with love and  many hopes for their future.

On the other side of the street a number of young people enjoy of their freedom by wearing colourful dresses and walking with their friends, with a thousand thoughts in their minds for their futures.

My sister what is your future, and for those other innocent people behind closed doors? Where are your colourful dresses? You can’t  wear what you want or you can’t eat what you want or you can’t read what you want, and you don’t have any place to walk.  Tears wash my face and I press my face on the window and scream and scream. “It is not fair, it is not fair”. You and other prisoners don’t have any choice or any kind of freedom as a human because you  have all been chosen by people who are in power and control the world. 

Why? To be a Baha’i  why is it a crime? Why is loving other people, helping each other, a crime? Why is asking for freedom a crime?

My mother’s face comes to my mind, when you and she meet each other separated by glass, each putting your hands on the window trying to touch and feel each other and you kiss her face on the glass like thousands and thousands of  other mothers, fathers, sisters or  brothers who have a loved one there.

My tears wash my face and the glass. I think. I am not free either, because I can’t go back to my home country and see my family and friends. I can’t send any letters to them.  Any time I call my mother I know somebody is listening to our conversation and we are often interrupted by unknown people who are listening and sometimes they play with us and don’t let us hear each other’s voice. Why do some people enjoy torturing their fellow countrymen? Why are they afraid to accept other people for who they are? But then I remember that I am not alone, that there are many people in the world who are far from their families and  have the same situation I have.

I scream from the bottom of my heart and my voice is broken in my throat and disappears in the human world of deprivation and injustice. Why must the world be like that? What is wrong with people in our world? Why do some people become greedier and more interested in power and lose their sense of humanity and loving other people? Why can’t we share everything there is in the world with each other without fighting? Why can’t we learn from each other and take those things which makes a better  life for us and change our future and bring  peace to our world. Then I drown myself in a dream just to survive.

My dear sister, you know the prisons of Iran are over-populated by innocent Baha’is, true lovers of humanity believing in unity, in diversity, people who respect  all the people in the world. And I have tried, by talking to people and through writing, to tell our stories all over the world. I have tried to  tell them about our experiences of torture, trauma and every kind of persecution that you and I  and our family have been through which reflects what all of Iran’s 300,000 Baha’is have been subjected to since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

My dear sister, for more than 3 years you have been in prison for something you never committed. They accused you of “teaching against the regime, taking action against the national security and teaching the Baha’i Faith.” And you stood up in front of them and refused to accept their accusations. They have accused all innocent Baha’is in the same way.

I heard that when they questioned you in interrogation, people used bad language and behaviour. I know they took you sometimes to a very small room, a place where the smell of sewage was not tolerable and where it was cold and wet.  People told me when the guards  walked through that area to give food to you they covered their mouths and noses because of  the awful smell. I heard that they did everything to bring you to your knees. I don't know what I can say but I am so sad that you have suffered so much and are still suffering.
You have been in prison now for more than 38 months. During this time you have lost too much weight and you have been in pain all over your body and I don’t know why.  But I know many times you and our elderly mother requested by sending letters to people in authority or  meeting them asking that they  take you for  treatment, which you greatly need for gum disease and other pains. But every time they responded to you differently and to this day you haven’t been allowed to get medical treatment or even for one day to go home with our elderly mother which is the right of other Iranian prisoners.  The Ministry of Intelligence has never granted it and says that : until you  sign the papers accepting their accusations they are not going to look at your request.

Last year they took you, with chains around your ankles, to court again to face unspecified charges, facing many more years in jail – or worse – and you were found guilty. You were indeed sentenced to a further five years in prison, in addition to your original five year sentence. 

Can somebody tell me where is the justice and where are those people who talk about Human Rights.
I remember those days we were together in Australia when you visited, before you were arrested and put in prison, were great days for me. We went shopping and you bought many small kangaroos and koalas and when I asked you what you wanted to do with them you told me, “ There are many children in orphanages. They never can imagine there are such beautiful  animals like these in this world . I want them to bring life and interest to their world. Maybe these small things can help them to be a little bit happy.”
Those people in power, who abuse that power, steal the days we should be with families and friends, the days we need to be part of society, to study, work and enjoy our lives as humans. They steal the days we need to grow up and have a career and to help people in the world. But it is important that we remember that all these things have been happening to other people around the world too.

I ask all of you here, for one minute, to please close your eyes and imagine you were born and grew up in your country, you never hurt anyone, you were never involved in politics and always respected and loved others and, suddenly, the  people in power changed and you learned you can’t have a normal life like other people in your country. You can’t go to university. You can’t have your own business. You are denied the right to work in many places. The authorities can monitor your bank accounts, your phone calls and letters  and where you are going to and coming from. The authorities can confiscate your property or destroy your cemeteries any time they want.

And one day you are sitting in your home when some people come and take you, put chains around your ankles, take you into the street in front of people as though you are a criminal, and throw you into prison. What is your feeling and how would you describe what is being done to you? Where are those people in power talking about Human Rights and how they want to help people in the world? I think those people in power are very busy and that it is time for us to help each other by supporting each other.  And remember, anything can happen in this world and maybe this will happen to you one day, regardless of what you believe or where you live. I have had first-hand experience of the capabilities of these people and prison conditions. I believe if we don’t act upon injustice, and wait until it is too late, ultimately all our lives will be affected. 

Dearest Sister, I can never find the words to put on paper or tell  those who have come here for your birthday, to fully express what some people have done to innocent people like us. I don’t know if I will be able to see you one day or ever again. I am living with the hope and dream of being with you, remembering the days we were together, the days we laughed and cried.

Rozita, I wish I could call you and say to you “Happy Birthday” but I know it is not possible. If only I could  hear your voice, only your voice.

For me, tomorrow is yours, and thousands and thousands of innocent people’s birthday, and I wish people who are in power would look at others and realized they won’t always be in power. And think about what they can do to have better societies and a better world. Each of us is a citizen of this world and we need to all walk together, talk together and work together based on moral principles. Because we are all human and we are one.

I am the author of “Where is the Justice? Stories from Behind Closed Doors”. This book is based on true stories of horrendous tortures endured by women and girls in prisons, some of which are beyond  any concept of human imagination. You can find further information in your attachment or at The Foundation House website: www.foundationhouse.org.au/resources/publications_and_resources.htm

We have decided that for the whole months of October, November and December all proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to help Baha’i prisoners in Iran and their families and supporters, and to support other children and families who need it whether in Iran or other countries.

Could you please send this email to your network.

Kind regards,

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