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On Wednesday, February 28th, a writing campaign for prof. Djalali took place at the Brussels Health Campus in Jette. Dr. Gerlant Van Berlaer read an emotional letter to his friend and colleague. He told Ahmadreza, his wife Vida and their children: “We will never give up fighting for you and your dad, we will never accept this injustice, and we will continue to fight with you, to get Ahmadreza back to you, where he belongs, his wife and children.” Vida responed with a text message: “Many thanks to you and to all Belgian people who are so supportive!”
Just like many people, I wonder how you survived all this time in these terrible circumstances. I have known you as a very distinguished and modest scientist, always proud of his country - even defending it when we had some serious questions and concerns - but never would I have imagined you would have to live and overcome this crazy situation.
We really wondered where you were when you did not appear as promised in our European Master in Disaster Course in May 2016. You had been invited to your home country to speak as an expert in disaster preparedness of hospitals, your scientific topic. It took some time before we knew you had been arrested, and isolated for several months. That was a first shock. What? Ahmad? How is that possible? We got very worried when we heard you were in the terrible Evin prison in Teheran, not allowed to have a lawyer of your choice, and that your judge was famous in Iran as “the hanging judge”. Maybe we were naive hoping a well educated and developed country like Iran would have a good judiciary, and that all would soon be classified as a terrible mistake.
Alas, we feared that you would lose the struggle when you started hunger striking because you were denied access to a lawyer of your choice. Like we knew you could be stubborn, we thought you would die in prison. It was very hard to convince you to stop your hunger and thirst strikes, but we embraced each other when you did. You had heard we did not forget you, that we were convinced you were innocent, and that even the media paid a lot of attention to your unfortunate situation.
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We gained some hope when you accepted in the end a lawyer appointed by your judge, and when you were heard. Honestly, we thought it was strange that you had to defend yourself instead of that lawyer, and that your judge refused to accept Swedish documents to your file, but we had some hope. Your lawyer said you made a very strong impression before the judge. This was again Ahmad as we know him also a s a teacher: meticulously preparing, defending his knowledge and convictions with fire. The nightmare would now soon come to an end.
Unfortunately, a series of serious blows followed: completely out of the blue, your judge sentenced you to death in October, your lawyer and the Supreme Court did not do anything about that but to confirm in December 2017. On top of that, a long video was broadcasted picturing you as a spy and a brutal murderer. I could see you had to tell lies everytime you swallowed. This is where you were uncomfortable reading out lies they made you tell, even promising you’d be freed shortly after. I could read the fear in your eyes, which made this very painful. Then, a picture of you appeared, which I had difficult to recognise: you lost more than 20 kilograms and look very tired and pale.
As your colleague and friend, Ahmad, it is impossible for me to depict you - an active scientist, who sacrificed his work and life to making health systems improve, and to save as many lives of patients or people in danger - in a cell of a few square meters, only allowed some phone calls to Vida and to your mother. Not being able any longer to help others, but depending on any help from us. Uncertain about what will happen, unsure about the future you always helped to build. Knowing you have been used as an excuse for political quarrels between regimes, framed as a criminal instead of a scientist.
We know you had nothing to do with all they accuse you of, Ahmad, and we will keep fighting to get justice for you. You deserve instant medical examination and care, a fair and open public trial, you deserve a lawyer of your choice who explains all documents that are still denied today, and you are entitled to a correct defense, with supervision from your second home country Sweden. You have these rights as a citizen of Iran, of Europe, of this world. And yes, I know how hard you want to prove your innocent to the Iranian people, so you need to be restored in your pride and honour as well
Maybe this will be a surprise to you, but you have become an icon in Europe and the Middle East: we know you are not the only one who was imprisoned and maltreated without respect for your rights, but your case has touched hundred thousands of people, all over the world. So many students, doctors, teachers, scientists, activists, journalists, politicians and diplomats are working on your situation today. I truly hope you remain strong in the meantime.
I do realise you can’t possibly be the same man, friend, and teacher after 22 months emprisonnement, I suppose it will be too hard for you to take up the same activities again, and I can assure you that we have been thinking a lot how we should handle these fragile political differences between the countries we gather during our international disaster course. But nevertheless, we will not rest until you are home with Vida, Ariyo and Amitis. This is where you belong, and we cannot stop until you are there.
As long as there is hope, you will live, and as long as you live, our hope and fights remain. Until you are free.
Dear Vida (Mehrannia), Ahmad’s partner in Life,
Although it is impossible for us to imagine what this injustice means to you, how you survive all this time, taking care of your job in Sweden, but also of the household, your two lovely children, and in the meantime continue to fight for justice for your husband. Even though I know you must be very tired, full of grief and anger, daily writing letters and social media posts, keeping the international attention for Ahmad at the highest level, it is amazing how you continue to refuse to give up hope.
I can only imagine how hard it must be for you to hear Ahmad on the phone, absolutely know that he is innocent, and still net be able to get him back to you. I know you both love your country very much, that you have family, relatives and friends in Iran, and that it is impossible to understand what has happened here, and that this makes you sad more than anybody can cope with.
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We became co-fighters for justice, knowing Ahmad is just one of the victims of a system that is difficult to understand. But let me take this opportunity Vida, to express my deepest respect for you as a person.
Even when Ahmad was imprisoned, you could not tell us the truth immediately, as you were afraid of repercussions to him and your children. You always stayed respectful to your country, as did Ahmad. When lies were told and spread, you responded with dignity: correctioning the information, demonstrating the gaps in the false accusations, and exploring the reasons why Ahmad was sacrificed for causes he had nothing to do with.
I can tell you now: but there has not been a soul who did not question Dr. Djalali: what if even a small part of the accusations was true? We always think we truly know somebody, but you never know. But thanks to you, and most of all to the miserable evidence, the illegal attitude of the Iranian Revolutionary Court with their farce of a trial, and the constructed videos full of twists, gaps and lies, we know you are all innocent. And for innocent people, Vida, we will continue to fight, by all means.
Dear daughter Ariyo Djalali (15), and son Amitis Djalali (6),
As a paediatrician it is my duty to look over the wellbeing of children and minors, wherever in the world. From the beginning of this painful story, I have been thinking so many times of both of you. I can only feel a part of the pain in your heart, but it makes me so angry that you are forced to suffer. When I am explaining your father’s case to the international press, when I am writing letters to Iranian and European politicians, to religious leaders, when I have five minutes during the busy days and when I cannot sleep during the thoughtful nights.
When I look at my own children and hug them longer than they like, just because I know we can, and you can’t, because we are free and you are not. As innocent children, you are torn in this strange situation, and you must be feeling even more powerless than us, not being able to change the imprisonment of your father. This breaks my heart, and the heart of so many people, in Belgium, in Europe and in Iran. As a citizen of this world, as an adult, I am so sorry this happens to you all. You have no part in this, but so much sorrow.
Yet it is to you, Vida, Ariyo and Amitis, that I make this promise from the warmest of my heart: we will never give up fighting for you and your dad, we will never accept this injustice, and we will continue to fight with you, to get Ahmadreza back to you, where he belongs: with his wife and children.
Free Ahmad! We will never give up.