In an interview with the Center to Defend Families of those Slain and Detained in Iran, Reza Khandan, Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband, points to the psychological pressure exerted on his family by Iran’s judiciary. Khandan also describes how he has been deprived of basic rights afforded all prisoners, such as visitation with his incarcerated wife, and the painful circumstances of their two young children who have been brutally denied of their mother’s presence at such a tender age.
The content of the interview with Mr. Khandan is as follows:
* Mr. Khandan, if at all possible, can you please describe Nasrin Sotoudeh’s condition and the pressure exerted on and your family and her?
I visited the prosecutor’s office prior to the Persian New Year, requesting a face-to-face meeting with my wife. They asked that I provide them with a written request and I complied. In response to my written request, and in the presence of 30 to 40 individuals, they stated that they would grant us a face-to-face visitation which they later reneged. On Thursday March 24th, we planned to visit with Nasrin, as Thursdays are visitation days, but we were told that the prison was closed [for the New Year holiday]. The next week, on Thursday March 31st, we once again headed for Evin with the hope to visit with my wife. Many others from across the country and other provinces were also waiting to meet with their incarcerated loved ones on that day, but the prison gates were once again closed. Unfortunately when the prison gates are closed, no one is available to answer any questions. We waited for 4 or 5 hours, losing almost an entire work day and still no one showed up. To date, we have had only three ten-minute phone conversations with Nasrin. I no longer attempt to contact the prosecutor’s office, as it is fruitless. The last time I approached the prosecutor’s office, I was arrested for approximately 10 minutes under the pretext that I had raised my voice. The prosecutor does not feel obligated to answer any of my questions. As a result, I have stopped contacting his office or making any demands.
* How are your children holding up? Do they miss their mother?
We some how manage, but it’s very difficult on the kids, particularly during Persian New Year when people visit each others homes. While [the regime officials] were busy with their hustle and bustle during New Year and visiting their loved ones to their heart’s content, they deprived us of all visitation. We were not allowed a minute of face-to-face visitation nor even a visitation from behind a cabin.
My son is unable to cope. He has lost all hope. Last night during a short telephone conversation with his mother he broke down and told her that she was never going to come back. The reality is slowly sinking in and things are deteriorating with the passing of each day. His mind is filled with strange notions. He is convinced that his mother is never coming back. He argues with me and insists that she is not coming back home. My daughter has her own problems. Her aunt is worried even more about her, because she has a tendency to internalize everything. She is also at a challenging age. I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to do….
I think we may just go outside the prison as a family, set up a tent and remain there in protest. No one answers us. No one pays any attention to the myriad of letters we have written [to the prosecutor and the judicial authorities]. It is because of my letters that I was summoned and a case was filed against me. In the past eight months, our children have not met with their mother for even an hour. Based on Iran’s laws, it is intolerable that a child (a three year old toddler) be deprived of seeing his/her mother. Even though we visited others during Norooz, I wish we hadn’t, as the children really missed their mother; her absence was very apparent. What could I do? In the end I was forced to take them away from Tehran.