Search for Freedom: Ahmed Hussein& Suheila Rashid

By David Hovde


Ahmed Hussein Sharif and Suheila Rashid Rahman both came from families that actively worked for Kurdish rights in Iran. Their fathers were friends and Ahmed's sister married Suheila's cousin. Ahmed often visited Suheila's family and when he asked her father if he could marry Suheila, her father did not refuse. They married in 1999. As a couple they worked for the rights of Kurds, women, children and the environment. They did not support any parties that used violence. They believed in equality between men and women and cared for women affected by violence.

The Iranian authorities arrested Ahmed in 2003 when Suheila was pregnant with their first son. In prison, the authorities tried to get him to confess that he was part of a Kurdish party that used violence against the government. He would not. They released him after forty days. In 2005 they arrested him again. They released him after taking him to the intelligence office.

After their son, Karo, was born, Ahmed spent much time with him for three and a half years. Then in 2007 soldiers came to the house to arrest Ahmed again. Because of the trauma Karo experienced seeing the soldiers arrest his father, he could not speak for a long time. In prison, the guards tortured Ahmed daily. No one could visit him, or even knew where he was. Later, he got out on $50,000 bail.

One day in 2009 the family went to visit Suheila's sister. While they were away, the authorities broke into their house, destroying everything, even digging up the garden. They found nothing. A few days later, while Suheila and Karo were away at another sister's, many soldiers came to the house and arrested Ahmed. Suheila came home immediately then went to stay with her parents. She was heartbroken that Karo would have to start school while his father was in prison.

Ahmed was put in a single cell with enough room for only one person to sit. The torture this time was more severe. The guards often beat him with sticks or cables. One time they pulled out three of his teeth, poured water on him after he passed out, then beat him some more. He went 33 days without a shower. The guards tortured him physically in many other ways.

The guards also tortured him psychologically. Several months after his arrest, the guards told him his wife could visit. She came with their son, pregnant with their other son. They interrogated her all day without letting them see Ahmed then sent them home. They told Ahmed they arrested her as well and would do the same things to her that they did to him.

A few months later, their second son needed to be born by C-section. Suheila cried much that day because it was the second time a son would be born to them while Ahmed was in jail. The doctor had to wait to do the procedure because Suheila's blood pressure was very high. She was worried about Ahmed.

Around that time, the authorities told Ahmed they would hang him and that he could make some final requests. He chose to right a letter to his father, shave and wash. They blindfolded him and led him to a room, where they made him stand on a stool and put a noose around his neck. He was shaking. The guard laughed and tried to get him to confess to belonging to a political party. He would not. He stood there for 40 minutes. Then, another guard came in and said not to hang him. Ahmed was too weak to walk, and had to crawl out of the room.

Shortly after that the authorities transferred him to the prison in his home city of Marivan. Suheila and Karo came to see him. They did not recognize him at first. He weighed 40 kilos. His skin was black. He had teeth missing. Suheila fainted. A female guard poured water on her to revive her. Suheila and Ahmed cried for about 10-15 minutes. They kissed each other and Karo. Even the head of the prison cried that day. When Suheila left, she was in shock. It affected her body so that she was not able to produce milk for their newborn son, Zhiar, for over a month.

Ahmed's father hired a lawyer and had to pay $70,000 for his bail to get him released. Three months after his release, on July 6, 2010, Ahmed and Suheila left Iran. They came to Iraq with their family. They did not want to leave their home, work, friends, and family, but they had no choice. Ahmed believed that, if the authorities arrested him again, they would truly hang him.

Ahmed and Suheila's family have lived in a refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for the past year. Many other Iranian Kurds left Iran as well, fearing for their lives. Ahmed and his family, like many other Iranian Kurdish refugees, do not have enough money to rent a home in the city. They still receive threatening phone calls, which say that Iranian intelligence is looking for them and will bring them back to Iran. Ahmed and Suheila want to find asylum in another country so that Karo and Zhiar, can have a better future. A saying that kept Ahmed strong while in prison was: "This generation has to do something for the next generation."