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“When Mr. Zarif Lied, I Felt Deep Revulsion”

May 3, 2015
Guest Blogger
4 min read
“When Mr. Zarif Lied, I Felt Deep Revulsion”


Journalist Shahram Rafizadeh was arrested in Iran in 2004 and detained in a secret jail for 73 days. Saeed Mortazavi, Iran’s infamous “Butcher of the Press” threatened his family and forced him to give a false confession. In an interview with IranWire, Rafizadeh responds to Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s claim, in an April 29 PBS interview, that Iran does not imprison people for their opinions.


I was arrested on September 7, 2004 at the offices of Etemad Newspaper, and carried to a secret jail.

When I was arrested, I was explicitly and directly charged for my journalistic activities and weblog writings. The reasons presented for my arrest included articles I had published on the Emruz website.

All the interrogations that took place during the 73 days I was held in that secret jail, or during the 13 days I was held in Evin Prison, referred explicitly to my articles and journalistic activities.

My first interrogation took place on the very first night of my arrest. In one of the first sentences my interrogator spoke, he referred to one of my articles, which was entitled The Room of Miracles. It was about the methods interrogators use in Iran to force prisoners to confess.

The interrogator asked me, “Do you know where you are now?”

I replied, “With closed eyes and closed hands, how can I possibly know?”

“You are now in the Room of Miracles!” he exclaimed sarcastically.

Not only did all the accusations he made against me refer to my writings, but after my temporary release, I was summoned to the general persecutor’s office by Mr. Saeed Mortazavi.

He unequivocally told me, “You should confess that all the books you have written were written at the request of extremist reformists with the intention of overthrowing the leader of the Islamic Republic.”

In front of the closed-circuit television cameras, he forced me and other prisoners to confess by intimidating us and threatening our families.

One of the books I had written, about the attack on Saeed Hajjarian, was called “Shooting at Reforms.” The name of another book was “The Game of Power.”

During the forced confession, they made me say that my books received their publication permit from the Ministry of Islamic Guidance with the help of reformists who had penetrated this ministry.

My confession was published by the Fars News Agency. This in itself shows that I was arrested only because of my articles, books, and journalistic activities.

When Mr. Zarif said in his interview, “We do not jail people for their opinions,” I felt deep revulsion.

One of the things that really irritated me and other Iranians during the eight years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency was the lies. Lying is the red line for free thinkers and the Iranian people.

Mr. Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani should know that their government came to power because of the support of the journalists who are now in prison.

They came to power even by the support of the 2009 presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who are still kept under house arrest. In reality, Mr. Rouhani’s government is a proxy government.

Those who voted for Mr. Rouhani were Mr. Ahmadinejad’s opposition. People realized that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government was based on lies. Since one of Mr. Rouhani’s main slogans was fighting against lies, people elected him.

So when Mr. Zarif repeated the same lies that Mr. Ahmadinejad kept saying, I felt extremely sorry that even in a proxy government, which came to power as the result of the votes of the majority who are against lies, there are still people who easily lie.

However, the function of Mr. Rouhani’s government in the past two years, rather than Mr. Zarif’s lie alone, is what has inflamed the fire of anger and discontent.

For example, on May 13, 2013, during the presidential campaign, Mr. Rouhani gave a speech at Sharif University of Technology. He was asked whether Mr. Karroubi, Mr. Mousavi, and his wife Ms. Zahra Rahnavard, would be released from their home detention. He answered, “In my opinion, that will not be difficult and we can pave the way to solve these problems within a year.”

Now, two years have passed. There is still no positive measure on Mr. Rouhani’s government’s agenda in relation to internal policies and the defense of civilian and human rights in Iran.

Mr. Zarif’s lie has caused this deep public discontent to surface. In the words of the poet Mehdi Akhavan Sales, “One does not expect anything from a person who gives no hope, but one who gives hope but brings about despair, is a traitor.”

However, after the public backlash to his lie, Mr. Zarif published an explanation, in which he says that he was only referring to the case of the Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. Some people have accepted his defense.

But in my opinion, Mr. Zarif’s explanation shows that he uttered that lie in an organized, systematic way. The reason is that Mr. Rezaian is a journalist who was arrested in Iran like all other journalists.

I have no doubt that Mr. Rezaian’s arrest was directly connected to his journalism. Otherwise, there was no need to keep him in a solitary confinement for ten months.

Maybe if Mr. Zarif had not given this explanation, we could think that he just made a mistake in the interview.

However, his explanation shows that he is systematically cooperating with those interrogators who arrested Rezaian, and arrested other journalists, myself included.



Ahmadinejad is a Liar! Zarif is a Diplomat!

May 3, 2015
Mana Neyestani
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