Search for Freedom: Shahram Wahab Bolouri

by Zach Selekman

In 2009, Shahram Wahab Bolouri joined the Green Movement protests in Tehran, Iran. Already subject to discrimination as a Kurd, Shahram had refused to join the army after secondary school and therefore the Iranian Government refused to allow him to go to university, get a government-funded job, get a passport or buy a car. Having kept in touch with his friends in the university, he got involved in politics as they did. Despite warnings from Ayatollah Khameini that protesters would be taking their lives in their hands, he joined the week before elections took place. Shahram took photos and videos of the protests and sent them to websites to be published. He also spoke to people from Iran who were living outside of the country to update them on the situation.

The day or day after the June 12, 2009 elections, Shahram received strange calls to his cell phone, asking for someone whom Shahram did not know. Later that night at 2am, the same number called his landline phone but would not respond to Shahram’s answer. The same caller called several more times. Then someone rang up to Shahram’s family’s apartment, saying that they were neighborhood guards and that a thief was in the apartment and they were coming to arrest him. Shahram told them that they were okay but the supposed guards came up anyway. Shahram suspected that the people at the door were after him. Shahram attempted to hide in the bathroom while his father answered the door to a large number of plain-clothed government forces. They handcuffed Shahram and confiscated videos from his room and the hard drive from his computer.

Shahram asked his arresters where they were taking him. They told Shahram not to worry, they were taking him to the “good place.” When they got to the car, they blindfolded Shahram but he was able to see a sign that said they were going toward Evin Prison. That night, the group that arrested him – who were revealed to be Army Intelligence, put Shahram in a solitary cell. This cell was just a little bit more than 3.5 feet square with a small hole for a toilet, a small pipe for washing and a bright light that always stayed on. Shahram was kept there for 25 days.

Shahram was then moved to a different building in which he was interrogated every day. During this time the authorities also used psychological and physical torture. On one occasion, the authorities, realizing that Shahram had done bodybuilding, asked him to squat and stand up 100 times. He did this, but they said that Shahram didn’t count so they told him to do it again, but to count to 200. Then they said that they couldn’t hear him – they made him to do it 500 times. Before this, Shahram had broken his leg in a motorcycle accident and he told the officers that he couldn’t do the exercise that many times. The authorities told him that he could do it because he was a bodybuilder, but after about 100, Shahram fell to the floor. The guards told Shahram that he was cheating them and told him to count from 1500 to 1. Shahram fell down again and passed out.

After 7.5 months, Shahram was released on a bail of $200,000, for which his parents and his relatives gave over the deeds to their homes. Thinking the nightmare was over, he received a letter from the prison that his sentence was actually for another 4 years. He decided to leave the country, unsure if he would be executed or tortured if he returned to the prison. Shahram is currently waiting for assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to be able to seek asylum in another country.