June 30, 2017
Everyone has a story to tell. Mine began in
prison. Many people have experienced gruelling pain and suffering first hand.
But what I experienced in one of Iran's notorious prisons still haunts me.
It all began in 2009. I was a student
activist whose only crime was to have an opinion. I did not have a strong
political viewpoint with an end goal articulated or formulated in my mind. But
I could see with my own eyes human rights in Iran were being violated every day
all around me. Lots of Iranian university students could see it. And they
I was 21 when the regime arrested me for
speaking out. On 19 February 2009, as I was leaving the university campus, an
unmarked car stopped the taxi cab in which I was a passenger.
Agents literally kidnapped me and took me
to a detention centre. I repeatedly denied the ludicrous allegations they were
making, after which they told me to contact my brother, Farzad, to come and
take me home. But as soon as he showed up, they arrested him too. We were both
transferred to Evin, Iran's most notorious prison.
The regime's "courts" then
sentenced us to five years in prison. The incident had an enormous physical and
mental toll. I began to suffer from an array of physical complications and the
regime did not provide basic medical treatment. But that is not the worst of it
While in prison, the regime's agents
harassed and tortured my brother in front of my eyes. They used to beat him,
saying "no one knows about you outside of these walls." The loudmouth
agents would add while still beating him: "No one is paying attention to
what is happening to you here, and everyone will forget about you because you
Those words still echo in my brain:
"No one knows about you outside of these walls..."
The vivid images of my brother's suffering
still haunt me. But I will also not forget his resistance and perseverance. He
used to tell me: "They are lying. There are scores of Iranians outside
these walls who know and they won't forget."
I was ultimately released in 2014 after
spending five arduous years in prison. By age 26 I thought I had seen it all.
But what my brother told me about the "people outside these walls"
triggered something in me. I wanted to know who they are. He used to tell me
there is a vibrant opposition whose supporters are well-educated, dedicated,
young and enthusiastic about democratic change in Iran. They gather every year
near Paris to echo the demands of young people for regime change.
More I Learned the More Curious I Got.
On Saturday, 1 July, I will attend the very
"Free Iran" rally in Paris that I used to hear about in prison; the
very rally that triggered hope and a sense of interest in people who, like my
friends and I back in Iran, condemn the regime's horrific human rights
I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I
cannot wait to see thousands of like-minded democracy activists gathered in one
place, condemning the extremist theocracy ruling Iran. On the other hand, I
think about my friends and colleagues who did not make it. Following the 2009
uprisings, the regime imprisoned, tortured and killed many political activists.
Yet there is hope, because I will join tens
of thousands of others during the Free Iran rally in Paris to echo the voices
of the fallen heroes of my homeland. And I am hopeful that the world will
listen to those voices because I am beginning to think that the regime is
People outside prison walls care and they
will not forget about the plight of those languishing inside those walls. I
have pledged to be their voice and that of the millions of Iranian youth who
want change. That is why I am attending the #FreeIran rally.
Madadzadeh is a former political prisoner and Iranian human rights activist.