“My Sattar Died for Iran”: An Interview with Sattar Beheshti’s Mother
More than six months after the prison death of Sattar Beheshti, a laborer and blogger from Robat Karim (17 miles outside Tehran) who was arrested on November 3, 2012, and died the next day, his mother and sister have not been able to face in court the men who murdered the 35-year-old man under torture during interrogations. Gohar Eshghi, the mother of Sattar Behesthi, told Iran Wire that despite security forces’ constant threats of abandoning her son’s case and even threatening her that she may end up in Kahrizak Prison herself, she will continue her efforts until the perpetrators are brought to justice.
“He said, ‘We would beat him up and he would laugh,’” Eshghi related, describing a visit she had with an Iranian Cyber Police officer in which he described how her son lost his life after the beating. In an interview with Iran Wire, Eshghi shared information about her son’s life and death and his concerns.
The original interview with Gohar Eshghi, in Persian, was conducted by Iran Wire. The English translation below has been provided by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, published with permission from Iran Wire.
Can you tell me about what kind of son Sattar was for you and his relationship with you?
He wasn’t a son, he was an angel. Really, what can I say about him? He took care of his sick mother. My medications are all expensive. He bought them on the free market. He brought them all to me. He became a laborer, a stucco worker, a construction worker for me. He did everything for me. He prayed regularly and read the Quran. He was a Seyed [(believed to be related to the Islam Prophet)]. He had many good qualities. I cannot adequately describe him. Not because he was my child, but my Sattar had the behavior of a champion. He didn’t want everything for himself. He worked hard for my medication. He wouldn’t let me do housework because I suffer from osteoporosis. He even cooked his own lunch to take to work the next day, because he didn’t want to bother me to get up and cook for him. I didn’t have high maintenance, but he worked really hard for my medications. He was an intelligent guy and had a very good mind. He was very courageous ever since he was a child. He was powerful. He read the Quran since he reached puberty. He was fasting on the day they arrested him. I had never told this to anyone. He never abandoned his daily prayers.
On the days before this sad incident, do you remember your last conversations with Sattar?
He talked to me and told me that he loves me very much. He said he couldn’t see my discomfort. He said very nice things to me. For example he would talk to me about whether death with dignity is better or death with humiliation? I would answer that death with dignity is better. He would thank God and surrender to his will. He always thought about me, making sure nothing would happen to me. He worried about others who didn’t have jobs. He helped all his friends. He was my whole life.
How was he with his friends? Did he ever talk about his activities with you?
Sattar always thought about others. He was a laborer. Some days he would come home and say that he gave his money to someone else, because the other person didn’t have any money and couldn’t find a job. He would tell me that he saw workers waiting for jobs, searching for something to eat inside trash cans in squares and outside shops while they waited. He would come home and cry sometimes. Other people’s misery was really hard for him. He always said that things will be fixed some day. He helped others. He had a very kind heart. He spent a lot of time with his old mother. He couldn’t see me unhappy.
Did he participate in the 2009 election protests? Did he go to Tehran? Did he talk to you about the things that were happening?
He never participated in the protests, because he was working. He talked about it and told me what was happening, but he never went himself. He was always sad about that.
Were you ever able to see the man who was your son’s interrogator, the person who saw him during the last hours of his life and who talked to him during the interrogations?
Yes. After his 40th day memorial service [(Muslim Iranians hold memorial services 3, 7, and 40 days after their loved ones’ passing)], they took me to the police headquarters. We went into the office of the investigative officer in charge of the case. They brought four men who had been with Sattar during his interrogations. Three of them had left at some point but one of them stayed with him throughout, until the end. They said that this man was Sattar’s interrogator. He was the same man who took him from the house. I said to him, “I want to know what my Sattar said under torture.” I said, “As a mother who has lost her son I would like to know.” He said, “Sattar laughed and we beat him up, until it was too late and he died.” I said, “I am proud of him, the lion, and you were foxes. My Sattar died for Iran.” I asked him, “Why?” He said, “I had orders from above.” I want to know who it was “from above.” A young man was murdered in four days without a sentence. Why don’t they answer me?
You mean it was just because he was laughing? Did he tell you that they beat him and he died while being beaten?
Yes, he did. And he was very upset. He said that Sattar ridiculed him and made them angry. And he did whatever he wanted to do with him, he beat him so much that my son died. He told me, “If I knew that someday someone like Sattar Beheshti would step into my life like this I would have never entered this line of work.”
Now that they know who caused your son’s death, why don’t they put him on trial?
I don’t know. They give us the runaround. But I will not rest. I will continue to pursue this case. If they want to cover it up, I won’t let the case go. They think maybe we will settle down, but I can’t have peace even for a minute. Sattar was my whole life.
Your daughter, Sahar, said in an interview that she had been threatened with arrest because of sharing information about her brother’s case. How did you learn about the threats and the pressure she has been enduring?
One morning Sahar called me and said, “Mom, are you O.K.?” and I said, “Yes.” Then an hour later they called me and said that Sahar was hooked up to an IV. I asked “What for?” but they said they didn’t know. I went there and found her unconscious. When she came to, she said that she had left the house with her two-year-old baby to go shopping. Though she hadn’t told anyone she was going to be leaving the house, a man on a bike got close to her, grabbed her arm and threatened her, telling her, “If your mother gives interviews, we will take you to Kahrizak and do things to you.” I tell my daughter to pursue her brother’s case. I tell her that if she wants my blessing she should follow up with his case. But she receives most of the threats. If they have something to say they should come say it to me, they should tell me that they will take me to Kahrizak if I talk.
Did any of the officials come to your home during this time to follow up with you, considering it has been established that a violation, a crime has taken place and that at least one individual was responsible for this?
Nobody. None of the officials opened the door to my home. The only people who came to my home were the Laleh Park Mothers, and I thank them very much. We once went to the home of [Member of the Parliament] Ali Motahari in Tehran, the man who defended Sattar’s case in the Parliament. He said that he would pursue it. He has really pursued the case, but what use is it when they don’t care about what he says? I am really grateful to him. My son was murdered six months ago. I am a mourning mother. Now they threaten my daughter and tell her nonsense. Nobody has walked through the door of my home to pay condolences to me. None of the Judiciary and Parliament officials have come to us. They act as if we are not mourning a loved one. Mr. Sadegh Larijani [(Head of the Judiciary)] never agreed to meet with us. He doesn’t answer us, let alone agree to see us.
Ebrahim Nekoo, the Member of Parliament from your town of Robat Karim, said a while back that he doesn’t see the need to apologize to Sattar Beheshti’s family. Perhaps not to extend an apology, but did he come to your home to pay condolences or to follow up on the case with you?
The MP from our town is a liar. He worries about his own pocket. He must say what his people want him to say, but he lies about Sattar. My son had not done anything to lose his life under torture after four days in custody. His house is only 15 minutes away from our home, but he didn’t come to visit with us even once. Other people come; I now have a lot of daughters and sons who come to our home to offer me condolences.
How do you spend your days since Sattar’s passing?
I wake up at 5:00 am to pray. I open my prayer rug. It feels like Sattar is standing on the side of the room. I do my daily prayer. Then I pray and greet the souls of all the dead, the martyrs, and my own son. At 11:00 a.m. I go to Sattar’s gravesite and stay there until evening. I live with his pictures at night. Our home is a 40-square-meter dwelling. His photo is posted at the yard entrance to our home. Our home is filled with photographs. I live with his photographs at night. I haven’t slept for six months. I went to the doctor and he told me that I have grown weak. But my spirits are high; I won’t let my spirits deteriorate. I will stand on my own two feet until I see all those Sattars avenged.
Do you have any requests of the United Nations or other international organizations?
I request and beg the UN to do something for my son’s case to go to court. I ask everyone to not only send my Sattar’s case to court, but all the other cases, too, so that these mourning mothers suffer less. I sit under the sun by Sattar’s grave from morning to night. I wish a reporter would come to see what Sattar’s mother is doing there from morning till night. I talk with my Sattar. I talk with him. Please help send Sattar’s case to court.