Roxana Saberi Released From Iranian Prison 'With My Head Held High'

A short time later, Hosseinkhah was a prisoner herself. An active member of the Campaign for Equality, her bail was set at an impossible $100,000. She wrote about meeting a woman named Leila who had been imprisoned for two years after a beating by her husband, who was also arrested. But while he made bail and went back to a new wife and children, Leila sat in Evin because, as the mother of a child with Down Syndrome, she dared ask for her nafagheh -- the money a man is required to pay for the expenses of his wife and children.

Hosseinkhah's bail was eventually reduced to nearly $5,500 and she was released in January 2008.

In December 2006, Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program, was imprisoned for 105 days after becoming trapped in Tehran without her passport following a robbery. With authorities suspicious about her involvement with the program, Esfandiari was accused of attempting to overturn the Iranian government.

She was released in August 2007 after her mother put up her apartment in Iran to make bail. Esfandiari told Wilson's Quarterly that she exercised and composed a book about her grandmother in her head while in solitary confinement for more than 100 days.

Esfandiari, who was 67 during her stay at Elvin, described a cell with a fluorescent light left on 24 hours a day and interrogations about her position with the Woodrow Wilson Center.

"They never threatened me with physical abuse," Esfandiari told the publication, adding that she believes she got fairly humane treatment because of her age. "The way they would threaten me is to say, 'We are not satisfied with your answers, so your situation is going to worsen.'"

"Torture goes on in Iranian prisons," she added. "I was very lucky that I was neither harassed physically nor tortured."

Going Inside Evin Prison

A 2006 BBC report from inside the Evin prison described reporters only being shown newer sections of the jail, with prison officials boasting of good food, a new hospital and even a midwife. But the reporters said they were denied access to several prisoners, including French and German nationals.

It was, they reported, a far cry from the accounts given by released political prisoners who complained of torture and basic human rights violations.

The 2007 book "My Life as a Traitor" describes the beatings and torture suffered by 20-year-old Iranian Zarah Ghahramani who spent 29 days at Evin in 2001 for participating in student protests against the government.

In an interview with Marie Claire magazine, Ghahramani said she was arrested when a car pulled up next to her and a woman demanded she get inside. Once in the interrogation room, "they hit me, punched me. I had broken ribs. My entire body was bruised. I had bruises all over my face and a big cut on my chin from being hit there," she told Marie Claire.

"One time, I got hit with something -- I still don't know what it was -- on my shoulder and arm," she said. "My whole body was in pain, and I would faint and wake up hours later not knowing where I was or what had happened."

Ghahramani said she fled to Australia once she was released and she feared being brought back by the Iranian government.

"When I came out, when I saw my mother's face, and I saw my dad crying for the first time ever," she told Marie Claire, "I realized how selfish I was."

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