Farnaz, a Baha’i filmmaker from Australia, has released her short film on Baha’i prisoners in Iran, “Section 209″, online. The film, based on a true story, depicts the detainment and interrogation of Ali Muhammad Sabeti:
Ali is arrested held captive in Koohsangi Political Prison in Mashad. Two interrogators enter, Short Interrogator and Tall Interrogator, and systematically interview Ali. They attempt various negotiation methods to convince Ali to either write that he has converted to Islam, or to face execution. Their interrogation is documented and reported to a high-ranking Mullah, Haji Agha.
Ali refuses to convert and subsequently, is brutally tortured to the point of blindness. Bruised and bleeding from repeated blows, his bones are broken and his skin lashed apart.
Farnaz, who must withhold her family name out of fear of repercussions from the regime, decided to create the film after the arrest and imprisonment of the seven Baha’i leaders who were sentenced to 20 years on charges of espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic state, cooperation with Israel, among other accusations routinely leveled against Iranian Baha’is. The seven had been originally detained in Section 209 before being transferred to Raja’i Shahr prison.
“I made this film so I could reveal the inhumane tactics used in Iran to persecute Baha’is and pressure them to convert to Islam,” said Farnaz in a statement to the press.
She decided to release the film online in light of escalating violence and persection against Baha’is. She hopes that the film will galvanize emotional sentiment in support of religious reform in Iran.
“When people become emotionally connected to a story, they are more likely to support a movement for social change,” she said.
The film’s title, “Section 209″, refers to a once-secret facility in Tehran’s Evin Prison — a “prison within a prison” under the control of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry that operates outside the purview of the state prison authority. Political prisoners are often taken to Section 209 for aggressive interrogations and detained there in solitary confinement in attempts to force confessions or, in the case of Baha’is, force conversions to Islam. Some former inmates of Section 209 recount stories of physical and psychological torture, some of which was so brutal it compelled the prisoners to suicide. They are often held there for several months without being charged or put on trial. Because there is no formal documentation of the facility, much of what occurs there is only verified by witness statements and and accounts.