Bita Ghaedi, awaiting deportation.
Today we publish, in her own words, the personal account of Bita's flight to the UK from a miserable life in Iran.
“I grew up in a patriarchy. It was even hard to talk to my father...and my mum as there was not any rights for females.”
“I grew up in a very traditional family from the Lorestan region of Iran. Who followed ‘Ashire’ customs which are particularly repressive towards women. I was always seeing how my mother was beaten barbarous by my father and it was most painful things. I was witnesses and I still see them in my nightmares.”
“I study in a country that I was temporary [banned] from school just because of having a Turkish singer photo without Hejab. And was not given permission to enter in my class as my hair was not covered properly or because of wearing white socks in a girl’s school. I grew up in this regretful situation and was not permitted to go to university after I finished high school by my father.”
After two years post school education, and considerable personal introspection and parental control, Bita had finally convinced her father to concede and allow her to study at university. She continues...
“My biggest wishes came true as my father allowed me to study in university. I was very happy [at] being in a different part of the world...I was very excited that I could do something I wished to for the first time.”
In May 1997, the cleric Mohammad Khatami, won the Iranian Presidential election with 70% of the vote. The election was considered to be a turning point in Iranian history as almost 80% of the entire Iranian electorate had voted, many of whom were first time young voters and women. This has been attributed to Mr Khatami's 'reformist' agenda where he had pledged to include more Iranians in the decision-making process, to strengthen the rule of law and make further attempts to inject democratic principles into the Iranian clerical system.
“There was a strange anxiety and excitement feeling which I had never seen in my life and it was more after Mr. Khatami candidate himself. Every where and every time the students were talking and arguing about political situation and future and I try to join them and learn as far as my limitation allow me to . The center of political activity and activities was in Tehran university student dormitory that I was taken there once by one off my friend Ms Mojgan M. She was very pretty, attractive and intellectual who new about everything and it was very interesting for to have her as a real friend.”
“Later she told me her brother was killed in 1988 after seven years imprisoned. He was a supporter of Mujahedeen(PMOI). I had heard about PMOI from one off my uncle, but she told me all their background and their movement.”
“Although she was very careful about her connection and it was not an unforeseen event to oppress the student and the opponents of government by revolutionary guards but I did not seen her after 18th Tir.”
On July 9th 1999, students at Tehran University held demonstrations (18th Tir crisis) in protest at the closing of the Salem Newspaper. Within days, the protests had spread throughout Iran and onto the international stage. The protests ended violently with a reported death and scores of injuries. The 18th Tir crisis marked a turning point in Iran and is widely credited with being the largest protests in Iran since the 1979 uprising.
After University, Bita returned to her family.
“My best times of my life passed very quick and I was not allowed by my father to study any more as he believe it is more than enough for me to [graduate from] university and it was time to get [married] but I did not to do that at the time.”
“Later [my father] arrange for me to teach in a girls school after my mum and me insist a lot on that. And then after about one year I was offered a good job in a private computer institute as a computer trainer, I did not to miss that opportunity and I arranged to be there among my hours in school and did not let my father and my brother know about that. I had to train government employees how to use computer in their jobs. I met Mr. Hamid Saedi there.”
“In the beginning he was just my student but it change to a normal friendship, he was the first man I could speak to freely in my circle limit of my relation.”
“Soon he became my best friend at the time, and was the only person I felt peace and relax with him. We were very happy and I started to enjoy and found the life was beautiful as well but it did not take more than one year after I found out he was not single as he had told me before and it crashed me and lost my belief in men and everybody.”
“It was very difficult time for me, I could not to stop blaming myself and I could not forget or forgive. I could not do anything except crying and crying. I was swearing, cursed and even beaten by my father and my brother that[s] why I cried and why I did not go to the school.”
“As there was a [continuous] pressure from my family to get marry, my dad would treat me and offend me saying that I must having relationship because I went out to work. Nobody supported me to choose whom I wanted to marry and just wanted to get rid of me and show the family that marriage material and there was nothing wrong with me. And they would never accept that I wanted to get to know the person I was to marry. They never thought there was not any right for me to have any [communication] with proposers or to ask my opinion and the other relative suitors who knew each did not [want] to marry me because of my father’s bad temper”
“It did not take time not to resist on my father insist to get marry with an old rich friend of my father. I wanted to [distance myself] from my father and my brother and sure they wanted to get rid of me.”
“I moved to a beautiful well designed apartment which was filled with antique, expensive furniture’s. He was an influential, fanatic and frustrated man who [believed] he could do whatever he wanted and everything he wished to.”
“He said that I was the most difficult THINGS he wished to have for long time. All the time he used some excuse on my request of registration our marriage and at last he said I wanted to be his official wife just because of his money.”
“He just was normal, happy and playful when he was high smoking opium”
“It was nightmare again, I lived in another hell and I could not do anything and there was nowhere to escape or even to hide. Simply my relationship with Mr. Saedi start again [and] I did know that it was mistake and wrong , I did not think about anything in that situation, I just wanted to talk to someone who can understand me.”
“Often, young [couples are] controlled and checked by the revolutionary guards in the public places so if there was nobody in his flat we prefer to go there but the last time his wife came back unexpectedly I and Mr. Saedi ran away [but] my mobile phone has been left. There was no chance for neither me nor Mr. Saedi to get back to our homes.”
“We ran away, hide and decided to escape from Iran to a safe place.”
At this point Bita and Mr Saedi flee Iran and begin traveling outside of Iran, eventually arriving in the UK.
“We thought that we arrived to a safe place but we were arrested and had taken to prison for 45 days with criminals. [They] hated Mr. Saedi. I [believe] it was his fault I had very bad time as I was not able to eat. I've been regretted since then little by little I missed my mum and my sister. Soon after I was told the [law] had been changed and I [was] released.”
Bita was held at Holloway prison for 45 days while Immigration officials assess her case for asylum in the UK. Due to a change in legislation she was released under bail conditions and a condition she reside at a designated address until her case can be discharged.
“I stayed with a friend of mine who lived in London and wait for Mr. Saedi as my solicitor [instructed me]. I did not want to do that. And there I met Mohsen Zadshir for the first time in end of November 2006. Mohsen was an asylum seeker himself and had been in prison for about 12 years as a political prisoner [in Iran], where he endured harsh torture. We realized that he had gotten to know my uncle in the same prison in Iran. After my difficult escape from Iran, I had faced many problems which caused some psychological problems for me and added to my difficult life. Mohsen who had himself had a difficult life [helped me]. He was a member of PMOI (the Mujahedeen Organization of Iran), the main opposition of Iranian regime. As he had a lot in common our relation grew fonder and we became closer.”
“Mr. Saedi and I were accommodated [in] a two bedroom flat in Rotherham by NASS (National Asylum Support Service). I did not want to live with Mr. Saedi but I had to. However, I spend most of time with Mohsen and more or less live together.”
Here, Bita recounts the breakdown of her relationship with Mr Saedi and how the relentless stress she has been exposed to begins to effect her health.
“In unknown apprehension situation and in a strange country I felt exotic and alone so need to take sleeping tablets and soon I was sent to a psychologist by my GP and had taken anti depressing tablet and had been treatment for about one year.”
“Living with my case mate, Mr. Saedi, made my life more difficult and unbearable. So I decided to stay in London more and just went to Rotherham to visit my psychologist, in fact I lived with Mohsen. He offered me to get religious marriage after few mounts off knowing each other and I accept it.”
"Do not forget your future is in my hands and I can destroy it" Mr. Saedi repeated all the time specially when ever I wanted to go London.”
“My case was refused by Home Office in Sep 2007 and unfortunately refused by Court as well in Oct same year. I was very disappointed and thought I would be sent to Iran I [took] all my tablet to kill myself but I found myself in hospital while Mohsen was there distressed and worried. I was kept in hospital for one [month] and he came to visit me most of the time.”
“I was permitted to leave the hospital after I was told I should not be alone and Mohsen [looked after] me so I moved to London and have lived together since Jan 2008.”
“We [tried] hard to get marry and talked to different solicitor but we had been disappointed by all. I was very worry and scared, all the time I felt what would happen if I was sent to Iran. I have not been able not to think about that and my trepidation increased and increased and I could feel the same in Mohsen as well as [me].”
“It is frightful to live in Iran for female, there is not any law, organization or community which wants or can support them and it is nightmare for me to think about my father, brother, and my husband as well. I am pretty sure it is benevolent, advisable and godly for them to kill me if I won’t be arrested.”
Since living in the UK, Bita has been involved with the PMOI through UK activist networks and has sought out those who have been familiar to her in the past through her associations at University.
In July 2009, Iraqi security forces attacked fellow pro-democracy Iranians living at the PMOI enclave at Ashraf city in Northern Iraq. The operation led directly to the deaths of eleven and as many as 500 injured. The operation failed but Iraqi commanders left with 36 key people arrested. The 36 were detained by the Iraqi's in harsh conditions and under sever duress. In London, Bita and other Pro-democracy campaigners of the PMOI, carried out sympathy hunger strikes outside the US embassy in London's Grosvenor Square. After 72 days, the Iraqi's were forced to release the 36 and were forced to withdraw their forces.
In the later part of 2009, the Iranian regime began experiencing severe disruption within Iran as ordinary Iranians lost their fear of the regime and begun organising protests against the June 2009 re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an election widely considered to be fraudulent by many Iranians.
As a result, the Iranian Mullahs have persistently claimed the PMOI are behind the protests and have routinely stated they consider the PMOI to be enemies of the Iranian clerical regime. Under various acts of special legislation passed by the Iranian legislature, those who are engaged in the protests are arrested under the proscribed crime of 'Mohareb' (fighting against God). The proscription is indiscriminate and has led to the public execution of two men, while a further nine are awaiting their own executions. The two men publicly executed in the last few days were members of a group called the Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran (API), a banned group within Iran advocating the restoration of the Iranian Monarchy.
Bita has now been told by the UK Border Agency and Immigration Service that her application to remain in the UK is 'without merit' and have notified her that she may be removed at any time back to Iran at a time when the Iranian regime are under chronic pressure to score points against the PMOI. In recent weeks the Iranian regime have accused Britain of “fomenting the post-election turmoil that has shaken it“ (Independent, UK 18th January 2010) and of deserving a "punch in the mouth" (Independent UK 30th December 2009). While some commentators in the British media have claimed that this is nothing new, the pressure on the Iranian regime is very new, and not lost on those who hold the reigns of power in Iran.
On February 11th, the Iranian regime will hold celebrations of the anniversary of the toppling of the regime of the Shah of Iran and the beginning of the religious regime of the clerical Mullahs. The celebration will be directly confronted by ordinary Iranians who have reached the end of the road with their tolerance of religious hardline legislation, corruption, fraud, persecution and religious diktat handed down to the people from clerics. Above all, they are sickened at seeing those engaged in protests as a dialogue device with its government for the things they want and need, being met with arbitrary imprisonment...and the hangman's noose.
Please sign the petition to help Bita remain in the UK here,
Independent UK, 18th January 2010 (“fomenting post-election turmoil”)
Independent UK, 18th January 2010 (“punch in the mouth”)
Bita Ghaedi (image Steve Merrick)