MOTHER Mahmood Khalili
She woke up early, washed up in hurry and then dressed to
go. She had a strange feeling, a DJavu like. For sometimes, a cold
worry had nested in her heart and did not want to go away. An
outlandish, anxious and uneasy feeling she was experiencing. This
feeling had struck her since the visiting hours were cut off. She
could not see her son Majid anymore and wondered why.
Seven years had already passed since the first visit. She had
attended every visit allowed, in all kinds of weather from freezing
cold to hot summer. Nothing could have prevented her from
attending her five minute visits with her son. At the beginning, it
was very hard, especially when she was trying to find him. She did
not know where he was. She had searched all the hospitals,
cemeteries, and every corner of town. It took her a long time until
she found him in Evin Prison. Since then she have followed him
everywhere he has been transferred to: Evin Prison, Ghezel Hesar
and now Gohar Dasht.
During the visiting hour, she had met many prisoners’
family Members. Some had given her rides to and from the prison.
She did not have anyone to take care of her. The same people also
helped her find a job for supporting herself. She considered them
as her own family now. They had established a larger family and
their bonding relation was their children who were political
Today, they were planning to go to the city of Ghom (a city
96 miles/155 kilometers south of Tehran) in front of Ayatollah
Montazeri’s house (Then, he was the 2nd highest religious figure
after Khomeini. Later, he was expelled from his position and today
he still is under house arrest).
She only had a sip of water. She couldn’t swallow anything
down her throat that day. She was woken by the bell. She woke up
fast and had opened the door in a rush. That’s why she did not
Mr. Ahmad, Mohsen’s father, was standing in front of the
door. Without inviting him into the house, she quickly got ready
and left the house with him. Mohsen’s mother was waiting for
them in the car. Mohsen was imprisoned since 1979 (8 years ago).
Mr. Ahmad was walking fast, in a hurry. They got into the car.
When in the car, Mr. Ahmad started talking to his wife; she did
not pay attention to their conversation. Time was passing fast, like
trees or passersby on the side of the road. She was daydreaming.
At one point, she heard Mr. Ahmad say: “Families are supposed to
gather in front of Ayatollah Montazeri’s Beit (house/office) at
They arrived in Ghom. After getting out of the car, she
noticed about 20 people waiting there. Everyone, more or less
knew each other. They were in contact with one another and had
established a communication roster between themselves, a friendly
group. Unlike the past, by the time they arrived in front of the
street of Montazeri’s house, there were lots of police surrounding
the street and barricading the road. She could feel that some of the
plain-clothes men were also police.
The prisoners’ family members reached about sixty people in
number. They were about three hundred meters away from the
Beit (house) when she noticed the guards closed the street
completely. Every guard had a wooden baton on their hands and
was equipped with anti-riot gear.
There was some whispering among family members: “it
seems that they don’t want us to pass them.”
She put herself in front of everyone else, just like the last
time in front of the U.N.’s office in Tehran. She was beaten by
batons and everyone was forced to disperse. As usual she was in
front of everyone again and still was suffering from the police’s
kicks and hits.
A Pasdar who seemed to be the leader of the anti riot guards
walked forward and yelled: “Go back to your homes. Ayatollah
does not have time to see anyone today. Disperse, and get lost!” It
seemed that they knew why the crowd had gathered there.
Mr. Ahmad yelled: “We have come from Tehran or other far
cities! Let us visit him and tell him about our concerns!”
The same Pasdar yelled back: “I don’t give a damn where in
the hell you came from. Get lost all of you.”
She could not control herself, she yelled angrily: “We have
come from the hell that you have created for us! We will not leave
until we get a straight answer to our concerns!”
The Pasdar, while waving his baton in the air threateningly
screamed: “Agha (nickname for the Ayatollahs) has stated that
you should go home and your concerns will be dealt with later.”
Some whispered: “We will not leave till we get our
Pasdar yelled back: “You will disperse like human beings
(civil behavior/civility) or we will force you to disperse.”
She couldn’t help herself: “Do whatever you wish. Haven’t
you done what you wanted in the past?” … she hadn’t finished her
sentence when the guards attacked everyone. There were fists,
feet, batons and wooden sticks hitting them from all sides, by plain
clothes or police. She didn’t remember anything else. The last
thing she remembered was Mr. Ahmad and Mohsen’s Mother
holding her arms, taking her away from the crowd. When they
reached the car, she noticed blood dripping from Mr. Ahmad’s
head onto his clothes. They tried to settle her in the car but she
was swearing at the police and screaming to let her go. Mohsen’s
mother put her hand on her mouth to keep her quiet and pushed
her into the car gently.
When they reached the city gate, there were some family
members’ car waiting on the road counting the number of people
to make sure they had not arrested anyone. Mr. Ahmad stated that
he was not sure about the arrest of anyone but when they arrived
in Tehran, he would call everyone.
On arriving in Tehran, she lost her last breath of her life. She
felt weak. Mohsen’s mom helped her into the house. Mr. Ahmad
parked the car and entered the house. He washed her face and
hands and said that he should go home but would rather his wife
stay with her. Before anyone said anything, he turned to his wife
and added: “I need to see someone. If I can, I will be back to pick
you up. Otherwise, I will be back early in the morning”. He then
said goodbye and left the house. This was the first time that
Mohsen’s Mom was staying in her house without any formal
The old woman did not know exactly what had happened
and would not remember much. She was puzzled by this couple’s
action but thought there must be a reason for it. Perhaps there, in
Ghom, something had happened that she did not observe. Maybe
he went to find out about the jailed children.
She was uneasy, felt anxious inside. Something was
bothering her but Mohsen’s Mom was trying to calm her down.
The old lady seemed like a chicken with its head cut off,
extremely restless. She wanted to say something but couldn’t.
Worrying about beating, didn’t know what she should ask.
In pain, she got up and offered Mohsen’s Mom an omelet. It
was about 11:30 PM when someone knocked on the door. She
opened the door. It was Mr. Ahmad looking for his wife. She
offered him a cup of tea and offered to cook him some dinner,
which he refused too. She noticed that he looked older today. He
was puffing on a cigarette harder than ever. His wife could not
stand it and she asked: “So what happened? What did they say? Is
there truth in it?”
The old lady did not know what Mohsen’s Mom meant by
this series of questions. She looked at Mr. Ahmad with astonished
eyes. Mr. Ahmad was silent for a long period but finally said:
“they say about 80% for sure but exactly how many and how, no
Dumbfounded, the old lady could not follow the course of
the discussion between husband and wife. She thought that they
might have a family problem and she should not get into their
family affairs. She began day-dreaming again. Suddenly, she
remembered the morning in Ghom. She worried about her
extended family. What had happened to them? Why didn’t she
remember anything? What happened to them? They should tell
her too, she is part of the family. She voiced her worries.
“Nothing has happened to any family members but…” Mr.
“But what?” she cut him off. “I should know too.” she
Mr. Ahmad mumbled in a long pause but said: “It has been
several months that it has muffled everyone. There is much
unpleasant news, … but …. No one can be sure of it”. He noticed
tears on his wife’s cheeks, quietly falling. If it was anyone else, he
would have screamed and yelled, but Mr. Ahmad was very gentle.
He was an enduring and loving man. He couldn’t get angry at his
wife for crying. He was her partner in pain and suffering. The old
lady was more puzzled. She couldn’t figure out the discussion and
could not follow the course of the dialogue: “What are you guys
talking about? Please let me know what has happened”. The old
Mr. Ahmad in a calm voice said that he visited Sasan’s
family; there were some other family members. They were saying
our kids have been eradicated. They have massacred all the
prisoners. There is a rumor that .. there is a rumor that….
She couldn’t hear anything. The world in front of her was
dark and translucent. It seemed as if the roof had hit her head. All
of a sudden she got a bad headache. She passed out. When she
opened her eyes, she found herself in a hospital room. A nasal
canula for oxygen and an intra-venous infusion in her arm for
fluid. She didn’t know how long she had been out. The nurse
noted her eyes opened so called for the doctor. On arrival, the
doctor gently laid the palm of his hand over her forehead and said:
“Good, the trouble is over.” She tried hard to open her mouth to
say something but had no energy. She could not open her mouth.
The doctor noted the attempt, said in a gentle voice: “Don’t worry,
you will get better, I will send you to the regular floor.”
In the afternoon Mr. Ahmad and his wife came to visit. They
would only allow five minutes for CCU patient. She was still
puzzled. She didn’t know what had happened. She could not
remember how she got here in the first place. With great difficulty,
she finally asked Mohsen’s Mom: “How long have I been there?”
Mohsen’s mom showed the numbers with her fingers but could not
say a word since the nurse warned her to get out and not talk to
The poor old lady did not know what five fingers meant: five
minutes, five hours, five days, or five…. Two days later she found
out that she was in the hospital for seven days. Mohsen’s parents
came to visit every day. When she got better, she still wanted to
know what the rumor was. So finally, she asked Mr. Ahmad. He
said it was a rumor and was not true and asked for forgiveness.
She was in the hospital for a total of seventeen days. Mr.
Ahmad was supposed to come to get her but he had not shown up
yet. She was worried. It was strange because he was punctual and
precise. She thought he could have been busy with some family
affairs. She was frustrated by thoughts and could not remember
their telephone number. She thought they might have forgotten
her. No it could not be possible. She was part of their family, how
could they forget her?
She didn’t know how long passed when Mr. Ahmad showed
up, unshaven and unhappy. She had never seen him unshaved. He
was always clean and sharp. Today he looked much older. He
wouldn’t look at her face. It seemed that he did not want to look at
her and was in a hurry to leave: “Let’s go. You are being
released.” He said. She was thanking him for coming and praising
his kindness but asked where his wife was. “She is sick”, he said
and added “I will tell you later in the car. Let’s go.” she started to
move fast toward the car. Very quickly, she got into the car and as
she sat down she asked: “So what has happened? What is going on
with the kids? Did you visit Mohsen?” she asked question after
question without waiting for an answer. She, herself was amazed
how she had enough energy to talk so much. Immediately after
recognizing her action, she got quiet. After a short silence, Mr.
Ahmad with grief in his voice said: “Everything was resolved.
They let us visit the kids, face to face. In Zanjan Committee (a
police station in Tehran in Zanjan Street). They gave us his
belongings in a sack. Since then Mohsen’s mom is in shock”.
Overwhelmed, the old lady said: “Maybe Majid, my son,
will be next. Let’s first go to your home to see your wife and then
we should go to Gohar Dasht to see what is going on there.” She
did not notice that Mr. Ahmad was driving her toward her house.
Mr. Ahmad mumbled: “I hope you don’t have to visit.” With
displeasure, and not listening to the conversation, she said: “That’s
ok. It doesn’t matter if he is skinny as long as I see him, I will be
okay. It is enough to see him alive. All that I want is for him to be
alive. I want to see him again.” She said with a smile.
Mr. Ahmad apologized dropping her at her house instead of
taking her home with him: “Mohsen’s Mom is sick so I sent her to
her family to stay with them for a while.”
Bewildered and puzzled she got out of the car, said goodbye
to Mr. Ahmad. He pushed on the gas pedal to speed up the car and
left in a rush. She felt uneasy and strange about his behavior. She
Entering the house, she noted mail under the entrance door.
She picked it up quickly. It was stamped by the prison
prosecutor’s office. She was so excited she opened it up in a hurry.
There were only a couple of words: “Please come to Piroozi Street
Committee”. There was no date or anything else. Just one
This was a strange letter. It was about 12 o’clock. From their
house to Piroozi Street was only one hour. She remembered Mr.
Ahmad. They had gone to see Mohsen in Zanjan Street but
Majid’s visiting was in Piroozi Street. It was strange that there was
not a date or time for the visit either. It also was taking place in a
different place. “Well, that is ok, no matter what; I will go for a
visit. If they don’t let me in, at least they will tell me when to
She was deep in thought. Right away, she went to pick up
some money hidden under the carpet. She left the house and at the
first sign of a car she jumped in. She was shocked when she saw
Mr. Ahmad as the driver, greeting her. She was frozen. “Mr.
Ahmad, what are you doing here?” She asked. Without any pause,
he asked if she received a letter. Without waiting for answer he
continued: “Don’t worry, I will go instead”. This time she did not
let him finish and said: “I am doing fine and if you feel that you
need to drop me here, it would be fine with me. Drop me off here
and I will take the bus instead.”
Mr. Ahmad felt embarrassed to have said such a thing to hurt
her. He tried to make up for it: “What are you doing? There may
not be any visiting hours. Maybe it is about something else. Let
me find out for you. Please let me find out about visiting hours and
days and I will inform you.” She was amazed at his bullish
attitude. She became angry with him but did not show it by her
tone: “You have always treated me like a sister. You always were
kind to me. However, please don’t worry about me. I am healthy
and psychologically stable. Don’t worry about me. I will enjoy
doing it for myself.”
There was a calm atmosphere. She thought that she might be
sick but what was wrong with Mr. Ahmad? All of his actions were
strange and suspicious. It was ridiculous; they had visited their
children but did not wish her to see her son, Majid! She began
day-dreaming again, picturing her son’s face and figure. What
would he look like? She thought.
Nearing committee, she noticed that Mr. Ahmad did not look
like himself anymore. He was completely unkempt. After parking
the car, Mr. Ahmad asked her if he could have the letter and while
she waited in the car, he would talk to them and inform her of his
While getting out of the car she said: “No, thank you. I
would like to talk to them myself and if I need help, I will call
you.” She got out of the car and asked Mr. Ahmad to wait in the
car. Mr. Ahmad said he would come anyway.
In front of committee was a frowning man demanding the
reason for her coming. She gave him the letter. He said that they
should have come early in the morning, not now. Anger his eyes,
he put his head in the office and yelled: “There is another one of
those again.” He wanted to say which one when a voice from
inside yelled at him to let them in. He pointed to his left and
guided them in but asked if Mr. Ahmad was the father. She said
no, a relative. He did not let Mr. Ahmad go in: “No relatives, only
parents” he said.
Mr. Ahmad, while protesting the decision, begged the guard
to let him in and started to whisper in his ear. She did not pay
attention to their conversation in hopes of seeing her son. She
walked where she was told to. The door was half-open. Suddenly
she noticed Mr. Ahmad standing next to her. She knocked at the
door. Someone called them in. A big picture of Khomeini on the
left side of the room with a table full of papers and a man, in his
thirties in committee dress and full beard, behind of the table on a
chair. It seemed that he was looking down but indeed was looking
at them from the corner of his eyes. Before presenting the letter
and introducing herself, in a sarcastic voice he asked if she was
Majid’s Mom. She nodded. “There are some concerns that you
should be aware of and if you do not pay attention to them you
may cause trouble for yourself. First of all there should not be
tumult in the neighborhood. Second, you should not wear black.
Lastly, mourning is not allowed.
Puzzled, she was shaking. She didn’t understand what the
guy was talking about. He got off of his chair and searched among
the bags and started saying: “You haven’t raised your son right. It
was a useless attempt. Islam cannot tolerate anti revolution.”
While giving her a chocolaty colored bag came close to her and
calmly said: “God bless, we cleaned this dirt out of your life.”
She couldn’t control herself. Screamed: ‘What have you
done to my son, my Majid, where is my Majid,” “We sent him to
hell”, he stated. She didn’t hear anything else. She put her hand on
the table but could not control her balance.
She fell on her left side over Khomeini’s picture. She fell on
the floor and as she fell, the picture of Khomeini dropped on her.
“Living In the Antechamber of Death”
Compiled short stories of political prisoners in Islamic Republic of Iran.
This book is dedicated to the thousands of young men and women, who, under the most brutal regime in the world were tortured with the most horrific physical and psychological methods.
These stories represent a small part of our history. A hidden history that by remembering them, my vessels constrict, resulting in tense body and shivers, subsequently bursting to tears.
Crying, I found, was not the solution, even though I shed tears everyday. Therefore, I decided to channel my efforts into translating these stories.
This book is dedicated to all the parents who suffered; parents who lived through the hell of the Islamic regime or died with their children. Finally, this is in remembrances of all people struggling for justice, peace and equality.
Let the world remember that while we were beaten, tortured and executed, McFarlane (then Secretary of State under Ronald Regan) visited Khomeini and took the Bible to him. At that time no one, I mean no one, heard us. No one, I mean NO ONE.
I dedicate this book in hope of more translations or publications of our history by others. This includes selections from many books internet sites and memories of survivors of such atrocities. They simply divulge their life and generally do not consider themselves as writers, as I also am not a translator by profession.
I believe these stories are true, as I have personally witnessed similar situations. However, my sincere apology to all writers whose permission I did not have to translate. In some cases, I have also changed the structure of some sentences to fit English speaking readers.
I admit that all of these stories need fine-tuning. Please consider the translation as an amateur work with the intention of revealing the history of what has happened to us. This history, which has never been shared with international tribunes and communities.
Furthermore, three of these memoirs are from the Shah’s prison, the rest are all from Republic of Islamic regime The use of this print with mentioning of source, writer and translator is free. Finally my sincere thanks to those who helped editing this book: Sara, Laura, Taraneh, ehrdad, Masoud, Majid, Bijhan, ….
Let the world know what happened to us.