Memoirs of a prison guard

Zahra Qasemi
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


Ali ibn Yaqteen, a great Shiite scholar during the time of Imam Sadegh and Imam Kazem (peace upon them), had a ministry in the apparatus of the Abbasid government. When he asked permission from Imam Kazem (peace upon him) to leave his post, the Imam told him not to do this ... the atonement for your deeds is kindness to your brothers. Your religious brothers are honored by you.

Asghar Koorangi is one of the people who was in charge of the prisoners in Qasr Prison. Persons such as Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Taleghani, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Engineer Mehdi Bazargan, Mehdi Araqi, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, etc. were among the prisoners whom he was their prison guard. He was always worried about why he should be the prison guard of great people, believers and scientists, and he was not satisfied with that heartily. One day, he asks Ayatollah Taleghani what his duty was, expressing concern over the responsibility that had been given to him, and he replies: Act like Ali ibn Yaqteen.

Asghar Koorangi was born in Isfahan in 1307 (1928). After studying at the Police Higher Education Institute, he started his work at the Abadan Police. At the same time, he continued his studies at the Faculty of Law, University of Tehran. One of his memories in Abadan is the strike in Abadan prison where he had gone there for the first time as a guard. After a few years, he was transferred to Isfahan and took over the management of Isfahan Prison. In 1335 (1956), he was given the post of Shahreza Police Chief and at the same time, he refused the invitation to cooperate with SAVAK.

He came back to Abadan three years later and made great efforts for preventing many thefts from the city's refinery. After that, he was appointed as the Police Chief of the town of Aghajari. Then, he left for Tehran to spend a disciplinary and administrative training course, and at the end of the course, chose the city of Gonbad kavoos to continue his job.

He was summoned to Tehran to head the Qasr Prison in 1344 (1965). From the very beginning, he started reorganizing the prison, changed the forces, built the necessary buildings, including a school, set up art workshops, and so on. The changes in the prison were such that representatives of the European Commission of Human Rights, after visiting the prison, acknowledged that the conditions were favorable. One of the prisoners was Ayatollah Taleghani in Prison No. 4. Asghar Koorangi already knew him and in view of his devotion to him, tried to fulfill his demands.   

A while after his presence in Qasr Prison, Asghar Koorangi offered a plan for transferring the political expatriates to Qasr Prison and after follow-up and providing necessary conditions, Engineer Mehdi Bazargan, Dr. Yadollah Sahabi, Dr. Abbas Sheibani, Ahmad Ali Babaei and several others who had been exiled, were transferred to the prison.

Many memories of the narrator regarding different parts related to the Qasr Prison are donated to his activities for facilitating the prison conditions for political prisoners. When the SAVAK had installed microphones in the cells before the expatriates arrived, he informed this to the families of the prisoners and since SAVAK had suspected him, detained him for 30 days. Asghar koorangi participated in the ceremony held by the prisoners, dealing with their issues and problems personally. Their relation was so good that when the father of the narrator passed away, Ayatollah Taleghani hold a ceremony for him.

During the years he was in charge of the prison, no political prisoner was exiled or punished for disciplinary issues, and as far possible, proper conditions were provided for all prisoners. 

In 1348 (1969), due to physical problems caused by the pressure of prison conditions, he was appointed as CEO of the Prison Cooperative and Industries. After three years, in 1351 (1972), he became the head of the Executive Orders of the Municipality. One of his most important activities in this position was the organizing of the Behjatabad Fruit Market. In 1352 (1975), he was appointed as the Commander of Iran's Customs Guard.

In the beginning days after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1357 (1979), the revolutionary forces tried to arrest him twice, but Engineer Bazargan and Ayatollah Taleghani did not allow. In the same days, he was offered to accept the post of police chief of the whole country, but he did not agree. After the appointment of Colonel Nasser Mojalali as the Police Chief, the narrator was appointed as the Deputy Chief of the Country's Police Intelligence Department. In the book, memories of revolutionary executions in those days are highlighted. He retired in 1358 (1979) at his own request.  

Mahsa Jazini became familiar with Asghar Koorangi during the turning of Qasr Prison into a museum, and compiled his memoirs. The book "Christ in Qasr" consists of preface, introduction, thirteen chapters of memoirs and appendices (a letter), interviews (narrator's interview with the Iranian History website and Fars News Agency) and pictures (32 photos and documents). The book has 312 pages and was published in 1396 (2017) by Rowzaneh Publications.      


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