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Iranian Political Prisoner Banned From Family Visits Writes a Happy Birthday Letter to 13-Year-Old Daughter

Maryam Akbari Monfared Banned From Family Visits Writes a Happy Birthday Letter to 13-Year-Old Daughter

By Mahmoud Hakamian

An Iranian political prisoner who has been imprisoned for nine years and was recently banned from receiving family visits has written her daughter a letter to wish her a happy 13th birthday.

Maryam Akbari Monfared wrote: “My dear Nazanin: I was not with you on your 13th birthday. I know that by now you understand why we’re apart. I know that you’ve suffered a lot these past nine years. Yet, we have promised each other to smile until smiles light the faces of all of Iran’s children. We promised each other to cherish our brief visits, for all of the times that we miss being together. We have pledged together to vanquish a monster.”

Monfared’s letter, which was dated October 6, explains how she was first arrested, torn from her then-three-year-old daughter, Nazanin, who was asleep in her arms, and how painful it is to celebrate her birthday from behind the visiting room glass, having to keep track of her daughter’s age in lines of the concrete of her cell.

She writes that last week, she and Nazanin had spoken about the upcoming milestone birthday and how they both expected to celebrate in the prison’s visiting room, but this was cruelly snatched away by the prison authorities.

She wrote: “It was more than I could bear to tell you that our visit next week would be cancelled. My heart burned with anger and loathing for [the authorities], who would rob even the smile off your face. Flames of rage are still burning inside me.”

Monfared, as well as fellow political prisoners Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and Atena Daemi, received a three-week ban on family visits from the director of the Evin Prison Women’s Ward, after they protested prison authorities’ attempts to illegally interrogate them at the end of September. They have appealed the sentence, which should be suspended until the case is heard, but no one has lifted the ban.

Monfared was arrested in December 2009 during protests about the rigged election. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Judge Salavati of Revolutionary Court Branch 15 in June 2010, on the charge of “moharebeh” (enmity against God), on the premise that she was a member of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK). She denied the charge.

Two of her brothers were executed in 1981 and 1984 for their PMOI (MEK) membership, while a younger brother and sister were executed in 1988 as part of a mass execution of political prisoners.