Political Prisoner’s Friend Commits Suicide After Release
Confirming news of Behnam Ganji Khaibari’s suicide, a friend of his spoke with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran about the 22-year-old student who was arrested on 31 July, along with human rights activist Kouhyar Goudarzi, and was later released on 8 August. He told the Campaign that “Behnam Ganji did not have any political or student activities in his the past and was merely arrested for his friendship with Kouhyar Goudarzi.”
Campaign: You spoke with Mr. Ganji after his release. What did he share with you about his detention period?
Kouhyar Goudrarzi, Behnam, and another one of their friends were arrested illegally at Behnam’s house on 31 July. Behnam had gone to buy bread and just as he entered the home, plainclothes forces who were hiding ambushed him and entered the house behind him by force. During the illegal and forceful entry into the home, they treated Behnam very forcefully. They were arrested by those plainclothes forces and were transferred to solitary cells inside Ward 240 of Evin Prison. Behnam himself told me these details after his release.
Behnam did not have any political or student activities in his past, but he was interrogated every morning and afternoon inside Ward 240 of Evin Prison. And he was under increasing pressure from security forces and interrogators [who pushed him] for confessions against himself and Kouhyar Goudarzi. The interrogators questioned him about his personal affairs and his private life and tried to put him under pressure to confess against Kouhyar, but they did not succeed.
Campaign: How did his time in prison affect him?
Given that he was not politically active, he was not mentally prepared for arrest and solitary confinement, stressful interrogations with blindfolds and under psychological pressure, and white torture. These events had a huge impact on him and caused severe depression and isolation for him during the days after he was released from prison. After his release from Wards 240 and 209, he was so frightened, he even feared his own shadow and never went anywhere alone.
Campaign: Was he abused during his detention? What was the reason for his arrest? Or what did he think it was?
Behnam did not tell me anything about his physical torture or being beaten during his interrogations. However, the white torture and psychological pressure and detention in a small solitary cell can be a lot more psychologically destructive than physical torture. Without a doubt, government authorities are responsible for his death, because by illegally detaining him they caused his severe depression. The reason for Behnam’s arrest was merely his friendship with Kouhyar Goudarzi. He was informed of his charge as “acting against national security through contact with Kouhyar Goudarzi” at the Second Branch of Evin Prison Court.
Campaign: Did you know him before his arrest? Was he depressed? Does his family know what pills he took and at what time and how? Were they able to get him to a hospital? Or did they see him once he had already passed away?
I have known Behnam for years. He was a jovial fellow with a great sense of humor. He did not have any kind of depression or mental disorder prior to his arrest and it is not clear what they did to him in solitary cells and interrogation rooms to cause him such depression. His depression after his release was so bad that when he went to see a psychiatrist with his family the psychiatrist authorized him to go under treatment inside a clinic. I don’t know what kind of pills he used. His family got home at around 3:00 a.m. on Friday morning and found him dead and were unable to do anything for him. The last contact the family had with him was at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday night. He attempted suicide at about 12:00 midnight. After police forces appeared at the scene, they disrespected the family and the corpse, and did not even help to transfer the body downstairs from the fourth floor. His father and brother had to carry the body down four flights of stairs in their residential complex.
Campaign: What did he say about Kouhyar? Did they see each other there?
After being transferred to Ward 240, Behnam and Kouhyar were kept in solitary cells and did not have any information about each other. Behnam told me that he only heard the sound of Kouhyar’s interrogations several times, when he was discussing the law with his interrogators, calling their actions against the [Islamic Republic’s] Constitution. And once, also, while the two were transferred to the Evin Prison Court, he saw Kouhyar in the Evin Prison compound.
Campaign: What conditions is the family in right now?
The family is extremely saddened by this event. Behnam was the youngest child in the family. He was only 22. This tragedy is a big shock to them. His parents had come to Tehran from Mashad to try to release him from prison. Behnam was released, but now his parents have to take his body instead of him to Mashad.
According to JARAS website, Behnam Ganji’s body has been transferred to his home city of Mahsad, and his funeral was held there on Sunday.