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Zahra Rahnavard: "Iran has turned into a huge prison"


Source: Radio Zamaneh

In an interview with Le Monde, Zahra Rahnavard declared that she is ready to sacrifice her life for freedom, but if her family fall victim to "serious difficulties and conspiracies" the Islamic Republic government must be held responsible.

She went on to report that the heads of the opposition, including her husband, Mir Hossein Mousavi, are being subjected to fierce pressure through various methods by Iran's security and judiciary bodies.

Rahnavard maintained that the government is trying to avoid arresting these leaders because "it does not want to provoke the people"; however, it is repeatedly subjecting the opposition leaders to various forms of pressure.

She added that Mir Hossein Mousavi will not bend to such pressures and will pursue his demands "with steadfast steps."

Zahra Rahnavard also maintained that the Green Movement is what the people of Iran want and she described the demands of the Movement as "freedom, the rule of law and democracy."

She added: "The Green Movement is not a seditious movement; it is a reform movement. It is an expression of our civil society and its actions are all peaceful, even if the adversary uses weapons and violence."

Rahanavard declared: "Unfortunately the government is only concerned about being in power and keeping the country under complete control."

Zahra Rahanvard was chosen as the third most influential global thinker by Foreign Policy magazine in 2009.

The political scientist and university professor was described by Foreign Policy as the "brains behind Iran's Green Revolution and the campaign of her husband, opposition leader Mir Hosssein Mousavi."

Engligh translation of Rahnavard's interview with Le Monde (source: Mousavi's facebook)

"Iran, a Huge Prison"

Scarfed up under the black chador and determined smile, the presence of Zahra Rahnavard on the election campaign, hand in hand of her husband (un-heard of in Iran), former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi was the first surprise of the campaign for the presidential election of June 12, 2009. To those who criticized her, she replied: "The man needs woman. It takes two wings for a bird to fly ..."

Since then, Mr. Mousavi, one of the presidential candidates supported by reformers, has continued to challenge the re-election of President Ahmadinejad, taking the lead as opposition to the government in the great Green movement and in speeches and street demonstrations, Zahra Rahnavard has become increasingly important to him.

This 65-year old intellectual, artist and feminist with strong character who was the first female university president after the revolution, after a year of fierce repression, shares today the "camera" of constant surveillance to which her husband is subject.

A few days before the anniversary of the June 12th election, she has yet taken the risk to answer a few questions of the world, via an Iranian journalist. Her answers, for obvious security reasons, for a woman to whom the powers ordered not to speak to the Western press, do not address certain too sensitive issues. But it demonstrates the strength of an intact commitment.
The transcript of this interview is as follows:

How have you been all these months given that you have been under constant pressure?

When I decided to stand beside my husband, during the presidential campaign, I knew that I was placing myself in a difficult position, even suicidal. I knew that all fundamentalist groups that are very misogynistic and the government would concentrate their violent attacked on me. I knew this from the last thirty years of my life being a woman in this country.

In my opinion freedom, democracy and rule of law is always associated to the end of discrimination for women in Iran. Before the revolution, I was in the U.S. and I already had this speech in countless debates. I even wrote a book on the role of Muslim women. The fundamentalists attacked it when it was published in Iran.

So in March 2009, I published a statement entitled "The feminist claims and the presidential elections", saying that women should no longer be abused. And I must say that my presence in this campaign had attracted the attention of many young Iranian men and women. But then we were victims of an electoral coup and Iran has turned into a huge prison. Many of those who fought for freedom have found themselves in detention centers known as Kahrizak or Evin. And this time, women were equal with men, for ill-treatment, torture or executions based on unproven accusations.

The government has not arrested my husband and I, despite the policy of police repression because they don't want to encourage people more; but they have used other means of pressure. Thus, they arrested my brother Shapur Kazemi, an electronics engineer who is not involved in politics, and he spent six months in solitary confinement, subjected to physical and psychological pressure. Even his son was arrested for a month. Then, the nephew of my husband was killed during demonstrations in the celebration of Ashura.

Since then, the government media have launched programs slandering and insulting me and other figures of the Green movement and have used a policy of "character assassination". But my husband and Mr. Karoubi (former Speaker of Parliament and one of the leaders of the Green movement) and Mr. Khatami (former President of the Islamic Republic) will resist all the pressure until the demands of the Iranian people are met.

Do you feel in danger?

After the election, I was physically attacked during a rally at the University of Tehran, by persons in civilian clothes who have sprayed pepper spray on me. Then, during the demonstrations of February 11, the anniversary of the revolution, the Special Forces hit me with an electric baton. Since then I have a headache and I have lung problems. But I'm willing to get killed if I can save all those who fight for freedom. I am ready to sacrifice, to go to prison, to be tortured, on behalf of freedom. I'm not afraid, I'm a believer and I feel protected by God. But know that if my family would be a victim of a serious issue, or a conspiracy, I say now is the regime which would be liable.

How would you describe the Green movement?

It is a movement that echoes the demands of the Iranian people that actually date back to over a hundred years, to the time of the constitutional revolution of 1906. And the presidential election was an opportunity to remember: freedom, rule of law and democracy. The Green movement does not want to topple the regime; what it wants is reform. It comes from civil society and peaceful means. I repeat, peaceful, even if the other party has no shortage of weapons, and uses violence.

This movement is expressed in various ways through meetings and gatherings of civil society, all layers of society: teachers, workers, athletes, artists, representatives of ethnic minorities ... Women, who represent half of the population, and students who have played a special role and have an important place within the movement.

My message to Iranian women is to say: "Move on, raise your level of knowledge and studies to be eventually accepted as full citizens." I campaign for it, against polygamy, violence and decades of discrimination. Iranian women have no choice, they must continue the fight.

Your husband has evolved from being a presidential candidate to a discrete charismatic leader of the opposition ...

But he've always been very determined in the affirmation of his ideas, and he is very brave to enforce them. He does not easily give up his goal. If he went into the election campaign because it the country's situation was delicate, even dangerous. And he continued after that because of his courage and his personality. But I want to stress again that he is not the only one; there are also Karroubi, Khatami and many others who continue the struggle for democracy. And I'm on their side.

Do those in power listen to you now?

Unfortunately, the authorities don't realize that they cannot maintain their authority over the country by force. The Green movement's demands all fall within the framework of the Constitution (end of censorship, free elections and freedom of political parties ...). We also call on the release of political prisoners. But the government has not listened to our message. However, if they want, they can do so at any time. We're going to hold commemorative events for the anniversary of the presidential election. I think the victory will come back one day to the people.

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