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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Atena Daemi, "I will not be silent."

Atena can not keep silent about the human rights atrocities committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Her story will be featured in my new book, "Dear God, Please bring freedom to Iran."

Atena Daemi is a powerful human rights defender and lives by the motto, “I will not be silent!

            She loves humanity with all of her heart and is outraged by the horrific treatment of innocent people by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Atena especially loves children. She has spoken out against the unjust treatment of children in Kobane and Gaza, advocating for their human rights. Outraged over the frenzy of political executions that happen almost every day in Iran, Atena has been a strong vocal critic of the death penalty. She has met and consoled the families that lost their loved ones in the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988, drawing attention to one of the darkest moments of Iranian history when Khomeini was still the Supreme Leader.

            Atena is a strong voice for humanity, but has always conducted her demonstrations peacefully. Handing out leaflets in 2014, Atena joined thousands of other Iranians in a peaceful protest against the execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari. She has utilized social media to criticize the government on Facebook and as a result of this was arrested in September 2016 for “assembly and collusion against national security” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.”

            A few years earlier in October 2014, Atena was arrested by the Revolutionary Guard and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for propaganda against the regime by holding demonstrations in support of the children of Kobane in Syria and also by listening to Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi’s protest songs.

            Atena’s imprisonment conditions have been horrific in a jail which is overcrowded and unhygienic. After becoming ill from the unsanitary conditions, she was denied access to medical treatment. She was also sexually assaulted by prison guards on numerous occasions. Refusing to surrender to the horrific prison conditions, Atena composed several letters behind bars drawing attention to the inhumane treatment she and other political prisoners endured at both Evin and Shahre-e-Ray prisons. Suffering alongside her best friend Golrokh Iraee, wife of Arash Sadeghi, they both embarked on a long hunger strike in February 2018 to protest against the pathetic prison conditions that had taken the lives of their fellow inmates through “silent executions.” Thousands of supporters became their voices through posts on Facebook and Twitter joining them in the cause to condemn the inhumane treatment by the Iranian regime.

            Suffering in prison in both body and soul, did not stop Atena from being a loud voice of protest against the barbaric tactics of the government. In one of her most powerful prison letters, Atena confronts the Iranian regime with their horrific history of human rights abuses. The most profound way to get inside of the soul of Atena is to read her prison letters of rebuke against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

               Forty-one years ago, protestors took to the streets to struggle against poverty, addiction, class difference, corruption of officials, etc. They held secret meetings, secretly distributed audio tapes and pamphlets in the dark of nights, wrote on the walls, held gatherings and went on strike, shattered windows and set fire to public properties, buses and banks, obtained guns and hand-made bombs, and killed high ranking officials which ultimately led to the (1979) Revolution. I studied all of these again during the 107 days I was in exile in Gharchak (Prison). These were the memoirs of people who had spoken proudly of what they had done, and now, many of them are high-ranking officials of this regime.

       But none of the problems that were supposed to be uprooted by those honorific actions have been eliminated; they have rather become worse than in the past and further supplemented by massacres and mass graves.

        Over the past 40 years, the criticisms and protests of our angry and tired people have been suppressed in the cruelest possible manner; they have been imprisoned, executed, sent to exile and (forcibly) disappeared. As done by ISIS, they were run over by cars. Even their religious convictions were seriously undermined by this Islamic regime. Gharchak Prison and its inhabitants are but a small part of the achievements of the revolution.

       Yes, you must know that the more you resort to violence and repression, there are many who would rather die than to surrender to oppression, like the girls in Koubani who jumped from the top of Koubani Mountains and died to protect them from being outraged by ISIS. Now, instead of torturing, recording forced confessions, and issuing death sentences, you should think why people are turned into critics, protesters, opponents and finally your sworn enemies. To find out why, you must examine your own behavior and actions.

     I personally reject all forms of violence. I condemn issuing death penalties under any pretext for anyone with any belief or creed.

   And Gharchak! This was a great, albeit bitter, experience for me. It was actually a great university! This forced exile opened my eyes even more on a great part of my society which has been forgotten or concealed behind false propaganda.

   I believe the intolerable conditions in Gharchak Prison should be strongly denounced. It is a concentration camp, a rehabilitation camp, and is called the Shahr-e Ray Repentance Center. There is a lot to say about this Repentance Center where one can find everything but repentance. I will soon speak out about the truth.

   I am grateful to those who were kind to us in any way they could despite their own agony and pains in that dark dungeon. I repeat that I am humble before each and every one of those prisoners, even if they were forced to swear at us or beat us!

   I am also grateful to everyone who remembered us while we were absent. In the end, I would like to express my gratitude to my dear family who has not left me alone even for a moment throughout these years, despite being beaten by electric shockers and baton.

        Atena is a tough survivor and a brilliant outspoken young lady. The Iranian Regime cannot silence her. Her voice is being heard loud and clear all across the internet, on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever there is a platform, you will hear Atena speaking out for humanity.


       From young children, to the victims of juvenile executions, to the brave ladies who remove their hijabs on Revolution street, Atena has become their voice. She is not concerned with her own freedom or physical well-being, but rather she is concerned with the injustices committed on a daily basis to the people of Iran that she loves with all of heart.  Atena refuses to be silent!