“Help bring my husband back” – One woman’s campaign to free her husband in Iran
By Vida Mehrannia Sweden
Iranian-born Swedish resident Dr Ahmadreza Djalali, a medical doctor and lecturer in disaster medicine, has been detained in Tehran’s Evin prison since his arrest on 25 April 2016. While in solitary confinement, he was subjected to intense interrogations, and forced under great emotional and psychological pressure to sign statements. He has been accused of being a spy for a “hostile government” and threatened with the death penalty.
Anyone who’s met Ahmadreza knows he is a kind and compassionate person who loves people. He is a conscientious and compassionate doctor who has put all of his effort into the health and welfare of others.
In the years that we have been together, he has always supported me and has been a wonderful father to our children.
The shock of his arrest
I was shocked when Ahmadreza was arrested. I didn’t even hear about it until four days later when his family in Iran told me. I thought that it was some kind of mistake and that he would be released. I didn’t hear from him until the next month, and, when he called, it was only for two minutes; I sensed that he was under intense psychological pressure.
In those first few months, I fell into a state of complete shock. I cried a lot and was an emotional wreck. I was unable to sleep at night or to even look after my two children.
Even now, a year on, I still haven’t come to terms with this separation from my husband. I think about him every second of the day and I spend every moment awaiting his return.
My son is five years old and he thinks that his father has gone to Iran for work. He keeps asking me when his father will come back home. When he gets upset, he crouches in a corner and asks for his father. My daughter is 14 and has always shared a very close bond with Ahmadreza. He always accompanied her to school in the mornings, but in the past year, she’s been coming and going to school alone. On her 14th birthday, she was devastated that her father was not by her side. She knows that he is in prison and is very worried about him.
Accusations by the Iranian authorities
Ahmadreza’s arrest came about as a result of the delusions of the Ministry of Intelligence. Ahmedreza’s work as a doctor in disaster medicine, his studies and teachings in Europe, and his residency in Sweden have been used by the Iranian security apparatus to suggest that he is a spy and has been acting against the national security of Iran. These are all claims that have been fabricated by Iran’s security apparatus.
For seven months after his arrest, Ahmadreza was denied access to a lawyer. The authorities have accused him of being a spy but have never even allowed his lawyers to review his case file in order to prepare their defence. In fact, they have so far rejected all three of his lawyers. Now he has to find yet another lawyer or else the court will appoint a state-approved one for him.
Ahmadreza went on hunger strike in December 2016 when his interrogators told him that he would face the death penalty if he refused to sign a statement “confessing” to being a spy for a “hostile government”. During his hunger strike, I found it difficult to eat as I kept thinking of him. I was worried that his health would fail. My daughter was beside herself with fear of what might happen to him. His hunger strike lasted three months and resulted in the severe deterioration of his health. He has lost 29 kilos and developed problems in his heart and kidneys, and has experienced gastro-intestinal bleeding. His hunger strike caused osteomalacia (soft bones) and he has been having problems with his legs, feet, and knees.
Ahmadreza has always been devoted to helping others; now he is wasting away in prison for nothing. I ask Amnesty International activists around the world to help bring my husband back to his wife and children.
Pleading for Ahmadreza’s Release
I have written letters to Iran’s Supreme Leader, the President, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, requesting my husband’s release but unfortunately none of them have responded. I have also sought help from the Swedish government, the European Parliament, and international human rights organizations to secure his release.
Several European officials have called for his release including the Prime Minister of Sweden, the foreign ministers of Belgium and Italy, the head of the European Parliament, and the EU’s High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
My husband’s colleagues at the European universities where he has studied and taught, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the Università Degli Studi Del Piemonte Orientale in Italy, and the Vrije Universiteit Brussels in Belgium, have not hesitated to support him in every way they can, but we still need more help and more people to join our campaign.
A call for help
Ahmadreza has always been devoted to helping others; now he is wasting away in prison for nothing. I ask Amnesty International activists around the world to help bring my husband back to his wife and children, and to the academic world.
Dr. Djalali is one of many dual nationals detained in Iran.
— Urgent Actions (@AmnestyUA) April 25, 2017