Their Black Imaginings: Letters from an Exiled Wife to Her Imprisoned Husband

The letters of the Iranian exile Fatemeh Shams to her imprisoned husband Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour in Virginia Quarterly Review:

My love!

In these thirty days, I have written letters to whomever I can think of. When I tired of appealing to the closed doors of law and (in)justice, where nobody heard my cries, I consulted your three martyred uncles. I told them that these days our youth are charged with defending the honor of our country—the same goal that they, your uncles, sacrificed their lives for—and now our youth are being imprisoned. I told them that your father named you after them so that the memory of their sacrifices and bravery would not escape our minds.

The dead were the first and last place of authority to which I took my complaints. In the visits that the families of the detained had with the authorities, your name was ever present. That day when they visited our dear Khatami, and I was exile-bound, I wrote him and asked him to bow his head on his pure prayer mat and pray for your safe return. I heard back that he is worried from the depths of his heart and will not stop at anything to free you and the others.

But it was not just these letters my lovely! Our families tried numerous times to exercise the fundamental right of obtaining an attorney. But each time, they were met with obstacles. They took away your right to visit with an attorney. Our calls have gone unanswered, and this is my share: no news of you, my own vagrancy, and this worry about your state.

The days that you have been in prison, with no news, have been historic. But the bitterest of these events was the grief of Sohrab’s mother.2 You were not present, you did not see how young Sohrab’s mother wept by his graveside. With every ounce of my being, I feel her twenty-six days worth of unknowing, uncertainty, and with each tear, I wish to wash away the blood that she has witnessed. This earth is once again being watered by the blood of its fallen youth, and the green sapling of freedom is growing from its core.

Two nights ago I said a prayer of gratitude because a friend brought word that your singing fills the nights in the solitary cells of Evin, though she had not been to see your face. But just knowing that the songbird of Evin still has his voice calmed my heart. As another friend said, your song tells us of your health and breath and aliveness. I know your heart is strong. I know you are standing strong and that the lack of news is due to your continual resistance. I know that if they had broken you and you had told them what they wanted to hear, I would have heard your voice by now, or even seen you. When at night the grief, stronger and many-rooted, attacks my body and soul, I cry for the weak constitution of your interrogators. Staring into your green, lively eyes and forcing you to write and confess to that which you do not believe. This act must require such a hardened heart. I cry for the repression of those who keep you from sleep for long stretches of time trying to make you give in to their dirty, false confessions, and I ask God to guide them and to give you strength.