Now 42, Nazari claims he joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) at a young age, but maintains he never had a hand in violence against the Islamic Republic. Photo: iranwire.com
WASHNGTON DC – In a rare interview Mohammad Nazari, a Kurdish political prisoner in Iran who sewed his lips and went on a hunger strike in 2012 to protest his prison term for life, recounted his worst moments during the nearly two decades in jail he has endured so far.
“My worst days were when tens of my cellmates were executed at once, and also when I heard that my mother had passed away,” he said by mail correspondence with Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist living in London.
Nazari, who is jailed at the Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj and says he has not been outside of prison for nearly 20 years, told Alinejad: “I was at my sister’s in Bukan when I was arrested (in 1994) and later sentenced to death... in a stagy and speedy trial without a lawyer.” He was just 23 at the time of his arrest.
Now 42, Nazari claims he joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) at a young age, but maintains he never had a hand in violence against the Islamic Republic.
“My mother and sister used to visit me from time-to-time and prison and Iranian officials constantly gave them false hope that I will be released,” he told Alinejad. “However, when I started my hunger strike they denied them visitation, and when my mother died they informed me one year later.”
He sewed his lips and began a hunger strike in August 2012, protesting the judicial authorities’ disregard for his request for release.
After the 1994 arrest, he was kept for three months at the Bukan Intelligence Office Detention Center, before transfer to Mahabad Prison, where he was put on trial by a revolutionary court on charges of “membership in the Kurdistan Democratic Party.”
Another revolutionary court later sentenced him to death, but upon appeal in 1999 that was reduced to a life term.
He told Alinejad that he began the hunger strike after seeing two of his cellmates spend over 22 years in prison and losing hope of ever being free himself. He was on hunger strike for 49 days.
“When I decided to finally go on hunger strike, based on a friend’s advice, I sewed my lips and numbed them with narcotic pills to avoid extra pain. But when I wanted to yawn or sneeze my lips were gradually torn, forcing me to re-sew them,” he recounted.
Nazari believes that when a political prisoner dies for his beliefs and convictions he or she attains ultimate glory. But he admits he cannot claim to be unafraid of death.
“Most days in prison are the same. During my conviction I have known and met over 50 prisoners, who have all been executed by now,” he wrote.
“My best day at prison was when I heard my prosecutor, Muhammad Minaii, was dead,” he said.
Nazari said he spends most of his time watching TV or reading. He has never used the Internet, and had only heard about it from fellow prisoners.
He lamented that most of the journalists and news outlets often cover one angle of human rights or only mention groups and parties, but he hopes that they will hear individual voices and spread the word of prisoners like him to the world.
The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who decisively won the national election in June 2013, promised to follow a "path of moderation" in international affairs and to ease restrictions on civil liberties.
However, from the time of his inauguration in August to mid January 2014, more than 340 people have been executed, according to a figure tallied by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre (IHRDC).