Maryam Akbari’s unbound courage, unfettered soul, and unbroken resolve keep her going amidst overwhelming adversity
On December 30, 2023, Maryam Akbari Monfared starts her 15th year in jail without a single day off even for badly needed medical treatment.
Maryam Akbari Monfared was born on December 14, 1975, and is the mother of three daughters. She is one of the most resistant female political prisoners who has chosen to live free without bowing down to the mullahs.
She was taken to Evin prison “to provide some explanations” at midnight of December 29, 2009, without being able to say goodbye to her daughters. But she never returned home.
She was incarcerated because she seeks justice for four of her siblings executed in cold blood by the clerical regime in the 1980s. Her sister, Roghiyeh Akbari Monfared, had a little daughter when she was sent to the gallows among the prisoners massacred in the summer of 1988.
A Rainbow of Hope
Throughout the years she spent behind bars, Maryam has always inspired other prisoners. Her heart is as big as an ocean filled with feelings for everyone around her. One of her cellmates, former political prisoner Atena Farghadani, describes her as “a woman whose resistance was a rainbow of hope for all the prisoners.”
So, prison authorities sent her to a remote prison to prevent her inspiring others. On March 9, 2021, they abruptly took her away to the Prison of Semnan and abandoned her among ordinary prisoners in violation of the principle of separation of crimes.
In Semnan Prison, she was deprived of visitations and of making ordinary phone calls to her family like other prisoners. Every call she makes must be in the presence of prison authorities and security agents.
After 14 years of imprisonment, political prisoner Maryam Akbari Monfared is suffering from various illnesses. The Ministry of Intelligence does not allow her to see a doctor outside the prison. The prison’s doctor prescribed her special food, but her requests for proper nutrition and a visit to a specialist have not been answered.
Her physical condition has acutely deteriorated due to a lack of proper nutrition and access to treatment, and she is suffering from various side effects.
The price of remaining steadfast
In August 2023, Branch 101 of the Criminal Court of Semnan sentenced Mrs. Akbari Monfared in absentia to two additional years in jail and 150 million rials in fines for “disseminating falsities in social media” based on two cases filed against her by the Ministry of Intelligence.
The first case concerned her time in Evin Prison, which charged her with disseminating “propaganda against the state.” The second case concerned her time in the Prison of Semnan for which she is accused of insulting Ali Khamenei, the mullahs’ supreme leader, propaganda against the state, assembly and collusion (!), disseminating falsities and disrupting public opinion, and inciting people against national and external security through letters published in social media.
The breathtaking countdown
In a letter she wrote from prison last year, Maryam Akbari described her feelings. “Thirteen years is a breathtaking battle to pass second by second. Counting 13 years day by day (that is 4 thousand and 745 days) makes a person tired, let alone if she wants to spend 4 thousand and 745 days one by one in the middle of an unequal battle. It is not a 4,000-page story; it is the naked reality of life some fascists have imposed on us because we did not want to surrender.”
Maryam Akbari also wrote about being separated from her children. “Although I wanted to be with my children, what mother wouldn’t? But I do not regret it, and I am more determined to continue my path. I have said this in every formal and informal interrogation session and am happy to repeat it!”
Keeping the faith
On the secret of remaining resistant, she wrote: “If you ask me, then how did I survive in the darkness of torture and exhaustion of time? I say that the blazing flame of faith in my heart has kept me going.
“Amid loneliness with empty hands, this warm and rebellious flame is what the interrogators want to steal from the prisoner from the first moment of her arrest so that her being freezes and surrenders to the yoke.
“But I kept it burning for all 13 years with the holy fury over the tortures I witnessed and pierced my heart! I laughed and made others laugh so I could stand firm because resistance is our heart.
Faith in the cause that my brothers and sisters died for. Faith in the path I stepped into and the clenched fists and firm steps of the young people who are now protesting in the streets against the dictatorship with their bodies and lives.
“Yes, faith in the innocence and oppression of my brothers and sisters, whom I never considered dead; they were and are the most alive for me. They grabbed my hand in every moment of my prison time. And now I find them in the streets of Iran.”
On this December 30, we honor Maryam Akbari Monfared and pay tribute to this courageous Iranian woman’s unquenchable flame of hope, unwavering faith, and resolute spirit. As she eloquently penned in her letter’s conclusion: “Finally, one day, I will sing the song of victory from the summit of the mountain, like the sun.” Tomorrow belongs to us.