Choking on Silence

East Kurdistan is one of the most heavily assimilated, deeply oppressed and significantly under reported regions of Kurdistan.

There are many reasons for this. All political. And all part of Iran’s grand ayatollah plan.

Behind the façade of Nuclear weapons and the veil of ‘Iranian Fashion’ which has swept social media websites is far from the reality of Iran.

Behind the pictures of a woman ‘forgiving’ her son’s killer minutes before he is hung, is a trail of horror stories of human genocide.

I come from a family of Kurdish rebels many whom have fought on the ground in the Kurdish cities occupied by Iran and therefore have had to endure the consequences. I have grown up listening to bits and pieces of the horror stories of what goes on behind the bars of the notorious prisons of Iran, uncommonly know as torture cells.

I don’t have an official report with extensively documented stories of these people, but I have their words. I have the look in their eyes when they speak of the horror in which they endured. These are the reports in which I can share.

*Names and identities of those in these stories will be kept confidential for security reasons.

From experience of living and being raised by two former prisoners of Iran I know all too well that the scars carried by former prisoners are not just physically. They come out in their dreams when they wake up screaming, they show in their strength when they listen to the news of more executions back home, more turmoil, more young men and women taking up arms because they no longer have any choices. These incredible men and women almost never share their stories. But when they do share glimpses of the horror story they lived through, it’s is almost unbearable for their listeners, and you begin to understand their silence.

I remember sitting around a coffee table drinking tea with several exiled Kurds from Iran one night. As always the conversation related to something regarding politics. A younger Kurdish man fresh out of Iran spoke of the greatness of Rouhani’s reforms. The older male exiles sat in silence nodding heads and at times chuckling at the product of assimilation which presented them with facts and figures spewed to him from government owned news agencies.

When he had finished, or maybe he took a break to drink his tea, I don’t remember, one of the other men started to speak. At first softly and full of held back anger “I remember when the Islamic Republic and its ayatollah’s come to power…” He started. “The Kurdish rebel insurgency was at its peak with thousands of men heading to the mountains to take up arms and many Peshmerge head-quarters set up all over Kurdistan…” he continued, “Nobody was prepared for the evil which had just gripped the country. When the Fatwa came against Kurds and Kurdistan, the military reigned on Kurdish cities and villages giving no mercy to anything or anyone in its path.”

“I remember the night we got caught. Hundreds of us, taken completely by surprises, Blind folded and thrown into the back of pick-up trucks and driven to unknown locations. We were lucky…” He took what seemed like a very long pause before he went on… “We had heard of the massacres taking place around Kurdistan, capturing Peshmerge’s and killing them on them spot. Lining them up and shooting them… we were taken to the prisons. Every prison in the country was so full there was no room left in the cells. We were instead, kept blind-folded and lined up in the court-yards of prisons. I hand to sit on concrete asphalt with by hands tied and blind-folded for 3 days and three nights before being moved. If we spoke or tried to move, you would get a boot to your head…”

He takes a large sigh, “During the night, with no trial, with no lawyers, no family advised or any witnesses. Masses of prisoners were taken and executed. I remember sitting there on the asphalt one night when I heard yelling coming from afar. Pasdar’s of the Islamic republic yelling in Persian for prisoners to be quite and do as they are told. There was a small gap of silence. Then I heard a familiar voice, the young man yelled with all the might he could endure “Biji, Biji Kurdistan” and then the sound of a round of bullets being fired…” He stopped letting that linger in the air as the entire room froze. I will never forget the look in the eyes of everyone else in the room that had similar experiences as the horrific memories came flooding back to them. The man telling the story broke the silence by finishing… “Years after my release I found out that the young man with the familiar voice who had been executed that night was my cousin.”

Murmurs of agreement of the horrible regime in Iran circled the living room. Then another man started to speak,

“Those boots, I will never forget the boots of the Iranian Guards. I remember when the Iranian soldiers used to come in to our cells in the middle of the night and while we were sleeping they would step on our feet with those boots to wake us up. I don’t know what was worse, those boots or the canes they used to lash under our feet. They would hit the soles of our feet until nothing but blisters remained, but that wasn’t the worst bit, it was when they would stand you up, straight after, so that all the blood rushed to your feet. That’s when the real pain began…”

He stopped, shaking his head. I’m unsure whether he was shaking off the memories or in shock he had just shared something which he had locked up in a vault deep inside his memories for over 20 years.

The women kept silent the entire time. I remember over hearing my father talking to someone once saying that the worst torture of all was hearing the screams of the women on the other side of the prison wall.

The stories of these men and women are not unique and they are not limited. The Kurdish political prison survivors of Iran’s infamous prison system are not just few or many. They are all around us. They live among us. But they all, every single one of them, carry the traumatic scars of fighting for their lives, their freedom and their homeland. They carry the guilt of survival. Our heroes, our Peshmerges are always remembered and cherished for their sacrifices. But those peshmerges that fought with their words, those who stayed and fought but where caught are forgotten. Even today our political prisoners are unheard of and our occupiers feast on our silence. Out of sight, out of mind?

We shouldn’t need sources and special reports; we shouldn’t need romantic pictures of them in uniforms in order to raise our voices for their sacrifices.

East Kurdistan in Kurdish is Rojhelat, which literally translates to Sunrise. The sun will once again rise in the east for we the people will raise it with our voices, our struggles and our hope.

In memory of all those executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. For the families who still don’t know what happen to their loved ones behind those bars. For the mothers who went to visit their sons only to receive their belongings. For all the bodies whom are yet to be put to rest.