"I Was Tired: Enough Talk, It was Time for Action": Witness Testimony of Azam Jangravi
The Testimony of Azam Jangravi
Interview with Abdorrahman Boroumand Center on July 05 & 11 2020, and January 17, 2021
Biography; Formation of Social Concerns
I was born in Tehran, on June 9, 1983. I have four brothers. My father had been a builder ever since I could remember. He was married at the age of 20. He came to Tehran when he was 8 years old and all he did was work. He says that he was just a construction worker at first, then he became a mason. And then, he gradually began to build buildings. Land was cheap at the time. So little by little, he bought land and property. At the time of the 1979 Revolution, my mother had three children and was pregnant with one of her sons, and for those reasons, she had no time for political activities. And my father was not political at all.
We lived in the south of Tehran during my childhood, and moved to the northern parts when I was an adolescent. We are a traditional family. You can say my parents are traditional religious. They perform their prayers. Have you heard some people say ‘we have a reputation of uphold’? He attends organized mourning committees for Imam Hossein; believes in these things. He donates money for the poor every year. In general, my father contributes a lot to charity. He regularly provides dowries for the needy and helps people whenever he can. My mother was born in Tehran, but my father is from Esfahan. They both have their High School Diploma. They never bother anybody.” I have never seen anything bad from my father. His only vice is that he smokes cigarettes.
My parents’ families are not that religious; they’re not considered Bahejab (wearing the traditional Islamic chador/head covering) nor Bihejab (those who do not wear the traditional head covering/chador). I can say that the Hijab they keep is to keep their reputation [and because it’s tradition]; that is, it’s more because they’re traditional, not necessarily religious. In my family, the girls didn’t wear headscarves. After I got married, I had to wear a head covering. My husband’s family forced this obligation upon me. They were truly religious. They would say: “You have to wear a scarf.” They also decided what I should wear. For instance, women should wear blouse and skirt, not blouse and pants.
I got my Associate Degree from Tehran University and my Bachelor’s Degree from University of Eyvanakey, in Computer Science. At university, I was identified as a Talented Student. Among all of the students at Eyvanakey, I was the top student. I further continued my postgraduate studies at artificial intelligence and robotics to get my master.
I started working at the school I had studied when I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree. I had private students too sometimes.
I was pregnant during the 2009 Protests of the Presidential Elections. I went to the demonstrations one time and I received a blow to my belly. I was studying interior design at Tehran University at the time. I did not vote that year.
I worked with the Kahrizak Senior Citizens Home from 2013 to 2017-18. One of my brothers who had noticed that I enjoyed charity work, would take me to various gatherings. That was how I met the Kargozaran (a reformist political party) people. I was not political at all. During my divorce proceedings, I gradually became political. Little by little, I started demanding my rights. I started looking for ways to get my rights. I got legally divorced in December 2016, but the divorce process took almost four years. I came from a well-to-do family; I had hired three lawyers. My spouse had left us. I forgave and relinquished everything, my dowry, everything, for the sake of my child. Nevertheless, I was only able to obtain a divorce through [suing for] my alimony. From the beginning in the court, I had said that this man (my husband) has deserted us. He is a drug addict. He beats me. The judge said, “Ok, he’s an addict. You have to prove it. Then you have to prove he has been a resident in the Drug Rehabilitation Camp three times. If he is still an addict after being there three times, then you can divorce him.” I said this man has cheated on me. He has been seeing a married woman for the past year and a half. They would say: “ this is not a valid reason for divorce. You have to arrange for three witnesses to see him in bed.” If he had had relations with a girl, that would not have been an enough reason for divorce at all. It was only possible if the woman was married, and three witnesses would catch them in bed. As a woman, you don’t count. You have to have three witnesses. They have to be men. What does all of this mean? When you go to court, you realize that we women are not human beings in this society. Only the men are human. They are the only ones who have rights. You cannot do anything legally. Unless the man decides to get a divorce.
My attorney said “it will take several years if you want to get a divorce like this. You should sue for your alimony, and once there is a judgment against him for payment of back alimony, he will naturally not pay, [and the court will grant your petition for divorce]. But even that route and obtaining judgment in this way takes three years”. My alimony [had accumulated to] 13 million Tumans that my spouse had not paid. They calculated the alimony for the three or four years that he had been absent and that was the amount they had come up with. It took an entire year before I could bring a lawsuit for alimony. Once there is a judgment for payment of alimony, the judge will issue a decree of divorce. You have to go to court several times until it is established that you don’t have a caretaker/guardian, that there is no one to pay for your expenses. Then you can obtain a divorce. The process took three years.
I went to court three or four times. I always had a lawyer. Every time a dealt with the courts, I ended up with negative energy. I would come back home and cry. You are under a lot of pressure and you can’t do anything. You had no rights. It was all injustice. I always felt so worthless. They could literally buy and sell us. The laws of the mullas are ridiculous. The tensions and the stress that I endured in Iran, the rights that I should have had but didn’t, all of that was why I decided to go after my rights, so that my daughter would not have to live like I did, and would not have to endure all that hardship and oppression.
These stresses led me to advocate for women’s rights. Otherwise, I was a computer programmer. I am now studying law here (her current residence in Canada). I was an ordinary woman. Had I not involved in a divorce process, and getting the custody of mu child, I would have never become political. I did not ever thought about it. It seems that some people need to experience things first hand. I felt it first hand. It made me gradually learn more; get involved in the society. At first, I’d loved to help people. Then I thought I should help those who are like me, the women, those whose rights are being violated. I tried to learn more, be active, and do political and social activities.
I started my activities in Women’s Rights with the Kahrizak Charity Organization (Kahrizak Hospital for the Disabled and the Elderly). I worked there. Then I went to the Center for Women’s Studies and Research.
In 2016, I got to meet well-known Reformist women such as Shahindokht Mollaverdi, Fa’ezeh Hashemi, and Zahra Shojai through working at [current President] Hassan Rohani’s central [election] headquarters. They had a group called the Reformist Women’s Association, where they did not let just anybody in, and Ms. Shojai had to approve the members. She told me to become a member and I did. I was in the Finance Committee back then and our office was in Vanak Square. I found my job at the Center for Women’s Studies and Research through them. At Women’s Studies, we worked on the harm inflicted on female-headed households, like myself. I concentrated on these cases. Then I worked on children who had lived with bad parents. I saw these people and identified with them. I have a child. I am the head of my household. I was affected by the news I saw every day. I got more news every day. I became more socially aware every day. Before that, I was an ordinary housewife. A girl who’s studying engineering. Very ordinary.
We have [no safety nets and] no facilities in Iran for society’s most vulnerable. Female-headed households are extremely vulnerable. We talked about these issues at the Center for Women’s Studies. The Center for Women’s Studies would send 100 bills to Majless (“Parliament”) and none of them would pass. The Bill for the Prohibition of Violence Against Women went to Majless several times. Ultimately, the Islamic Republic gave nothing to women. They used to say at the Center “men already decided for us”.
They changed that Bill’s title after 11 years and called it [the Bill] for Safeguarding the Dignity and for the Protection of Women. They put an Islamic title on it so it would pass in Majless. Even if Majless passes it, the Guardian Council will reject it again afterward. What can a cleric do who has no knowledge about women’s issues, who knows nothing about scientific research or understand anything about the harms women are subjected to, and doesn’t know or understand anything about what’s going on in society; what is he supposed to pass? Even if the Guardian Council ratifies it, if the Supreme Leader wants to say no to it, it is no, and the Bill is gone. One single person can make decisions for the entire country.
So many researchers work on drafting a bill; but what happens in the end? It doesn’t pass, as if it’s a game. Nothing changes for women in Iran because the laws are based on Islamic laws, and all Islamic laws are anti-women. Let’s not fool ourselves. [What do you have to say] when the Koran itself orders you to beat a woman if she disobeys; this is not something Moslems can deny.
Everyone, all activists, start with reforms. But a person of honor and integrity, a person who has understanding [and awareness], if they are honest and decent and want to continue down an honest and honorable path, they will come to the realization in 3 or 4 years that no reforms ever take place in the Islamic Republic; it’s a dead end.
Personal Protest within the Framework of Social Protest
On Tuesday (February 13, 2018), I had gone on behalf of the Center for Women’s Studies to [the city of] Shahrerey Social Emergency Center – which is under the supervision of the Welfare Organization – with several officials including Massumeh Ebtekar (the President’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs) and Fatemeh Fakurian who was an adviser to the Governor of Shahrerey. These centers are intended for women who have run away, who have no place to sleep. They are allowed to stay there for three nights; and they’re prisoners during those three nights, they can’t do anything, they can’t leave. They have quite ludicrous regulations.
I saw a kid when I was there who was probably 13 years old but was much smaller than her age. She said she had run away from home. Her father was a drug addict; they had not given custody to her mother and had instead put her under her grandfather’s guardianship. She told me that her grandfather had raped her three times and that she had harmed herself each time, and that she had finally become friends with a boy and had run away and come to the Social Emergency [Center].
I told that girl I would teach her how to study, that her entire life would change. I told her that she needed to go to college, get an education, and become somebody. I told her I would return on Friday to see her again.
We talked to the people in charge of the Social Emergency Center. We were trying to convince them to keep her more than the three days so that we could find a way for the welfare Organization to accept to take this girl in their charge. I told Ebtekar the whole story in the car. She said: “You will see a lot of these things, my daughter. There are so many of them. You’ll get used to it. You can’t tend to all of them.” Nevertheless, my thinking was that since we had seen this girl, we had to do something for her.
I did not go to work on Thursdays, and that particular Thursday, February 15, 2018, my [thesis] supervisor professor also said that they would not be able to come to the University. I decided to go to Enqelab [Street] and buy the books I had promised that girl. I had not been able to get that girl out of my mind since I saw her two days earlier, and I had nightmares about her. I thought of her as my own daughter. I cried so much for her that morning; I was a nervous wreck. I’m a woman, I have a daughter; one cannot [fathom and] understand a grandfather raping a child. There are a lot of cases of rape perpetrated by Maharem (“close relatives”) in Iran, but unfortunately, everyone stays silent. We have absolutely no laws protecting children in this regard. (And for a lot of people) their honor and reputation is [more important], which is an extremely twisted cultural trait in these cases. And on top of that, they did not allow the 2030 Agenda to be implemented. To make a long story short, I really became upset when I thought about her.
A week before that, Nargess** had climbed on a platform in Enqelab Street. I had told my cousin that it was a very good act (this women’s movement). This would talk to the world about our problems.
When a woman goes up there [and takes her head scarf off on the stand to protest], when women are protesting in every corner of Iran, it means that our people don’t want these laws. These laws need to be changed. What century are we living in? Unfortunately, however, our activists have no means of pressuring [the officials]. It is incumbent upon international institutions to put pressure on them from a human rights standpoint. We have to put pressure on the Islamic Republic in the human rights realm. International institutions must publicly announce their support so that the people can understand that they are being supported, that they are being seen. This human rights support helps. I don’t have an opinion regarding other areas. When we are yelling at the top of our lungs in order to save someone who’s been sentenced to death, governments and international institutions don’t do a thing; they let the person die and then they [make an announcement and] say something. But if a couple of countries put pressure on the Islamic Republic, [then the Islamic Republic will not be able to continue these executions]. In that instant, all these thoughts crossed my mind.
Have you noticed that sometimes you just can’t take it anymore, that you’ve reached the maximum you can take? That girl was my trigger, my driving force. I talked to her on the phone that day and she told me to definitely go there the next day as she was crying. I took my white shawl and went to Enqelab Street. Right there I wrote a piece:
“I, Azam Jangravi (Azi), have started my political activities, concentrating on Women’s Rights. I am a member of the Society of Reformist Women and of the Construction Party. I hope to bring about reforms. I am tired……one should do something. We have had plenty of slogans. I did this for freedom. For an end to all laws and regulations against us women. I accept all consequences of my actions. This action of mine has no connections to any groups or individuals, either inside or outside of Iran. I did this to oppose compulsory hijab.”
I bought some elementary school books from a bookstore, and then I bought several story books from a street vendor to give to the girl the next day. I told the street vendor what I wanted to do. He said: “Don’t do it, they’ll come and arrest you.” “No,” I said, “I feel like I need to do this. I want to do this today.” But I was scared. I said to myself, if I post this piece on Instagram, that will be it, I will have no choice but to do it. I posted the text: “I climbed the platform. I think it took half an hour to forty five minutes. People gathered around me. One of them, I don’t know if he was a Basiji or security officer. I don’t know who he was. He pushed me off.”
Several plain clothes people, obviously security officers, gathered around me. They said, “Its enough. Come down.” I said, “I don’t want to.” The police came. They didn’t do anything. They just told me to come down. They called for a female officer to come and bring me down. And then somebody, I don’t know, Basiji, security, of police officer, pulled me down. The force of the fall broke my thumb. It was very painful. I kept crying, “My hand, my hand.” They immediately put me in a car. I always had my cell phone with me. As soon as I got in the car, I put a story on my Instagram.”
They took me to a police station nearby, at the intersection of Vesal Shirazi in Tehran. My hand really started to hurt when I got there. The police chief came to me and said, “Look, just write down that you are sorry, the whole thing will be forgotten. Otherwise, the security people will come and take you away, and you will be left to the Recording Angels. I said, “I am not going to write an apology.”
One of the police interrogators fixed my hand. He asked me which hand, and I showed him. He took my hand in his hand and suddenly twisted it. Like a doctor. I screamed. It got better.”
Then I asked for my cell phone, so I could let my family know that I had been arrested. They said you can use the police station phone. I said I don’t have the numbers memorized. They gave me the cell phone. I took a screenshot of my face, and tweeted that I may had not been released anytime soon.
Then I called my cousin and told her I was in the police station. She said, “Why? Did you have an accident?” I said, “No.” She said, “What happened?” I said, “Do you remember what I told you last week?” She said, “You’re lying. You’re pulling my leg.” At first she didn’t believe me. Then I told her I had put a declaration on Instagram, and everybody has seen it.
At Vesal police station, after my arrest, the same man who fixed my hand asked me some preliminary questions. Family name, where do you work? What is your job? Very routine questions. Who are your family members? What is your address?
Fifteen minutes later, two ladies arrived from the security forces. They were very dignified. They left me alone. They didn’t harass me or bother me. After two, two and a half hours, they took me to the Vozara police station.
When we arrived at Vozara police station, an officer came up to me, said a bunch of meaningless stuff, and tried to scare me. For instance, “What were you thinking? There are rules in this country. Did you think nobody is in charge here? You went up there?” One of the people there was really nice. It was dinner time. I had not had any dinner. He asked, “Have you had dinner?” He had a banana. He gave me his banana and told me to eat it. I declined. He said, “Come here.” I asked what he wanted. He said, “I wish my wife was like you. You are very brave. He started asking questions. I even asked him for my phone, so I could call my mother. I called my mom and told her, “Mom, I am going on a trip. An emergency trip has come up. My child was at my mom’s house.
At Vozara police station, members of the Cyber Police** came to take my cell phone. They told me to give them the password. I took my cell phone to put in the password, and quickly deleted my Instagram. Of course, they had my cell phone, and could do anything they wanted. But I didn’t give them my password.
At Vozara police station, they gave me a pair of slippers and took me to a solitary cell. The last day I was in solitary, they brought a young girl to my cell. Her brother had had an argument with some agents, over her hijab. Since there had been an altercation, the police had a complicated case against them. They brought this girl to my cell at one in the morning. The agent said she can’t be with the other prisoners. The women who are brought to Vozara, are rarely political prisoners. They are identified as either drug addicts or from houses of ill repute. I don’t know what kind of place they call a ‘house of ill repute’.
That night, before this girl arrived, there was a woman in charge of the prison. I couldn’t sleep. There are cameras. She came to me and said, “Are you worried?” I said, “Yes, I can’t sleep. I’m worried about my daughter.” She said, “I hope everything works out. Why did you do this to your life?” I said, “Because I believed in this. This was not just about hijab. All of the suffering, all of the things I went through, culminated in my going on that platform. Then I told her about all the things that had happened to me during my divorce proceedings.
I was at the Vozara police station four nights. I was interrogated twice. One time the interrogation lasted seven hours.
One time it lasted three hours. I think they had asked my family to come and talk to me and convince me to not be so stubborn and say I’m sorry about what I did. My brother said, “Dad doesn’t know yet. We kept this news from him. You know if he finds out, he will have a heart attack.” My dad does not use the Internet. They had disconnected their dish. They had told everybody in the family not to say anything to my parents. They wanted me to repent in writing. If I had expressed remorse, they would have quickly released me.
The interrogator was a man named Mousavi. He talked a lot. Mostly, he asked about Molaverdi***. He asked about the people I worked with, the details of my job, and my place of work. He wanted to know exactly what I did. They wanted to gather information about Molaverdi. He even told me to write down all of my activities with her, all the years we worked together. They wanted to know where we had been, what her job had been, and where had I been working for her when she was in charge. As for my university days, he wanted to know what I was doing at university. When I was at university, I had created a charity and I raised funds for it. He asked about everything. Sometimes I wouldn’t answer the questions. I would say I’m tired.
At first, they asked about White Wednesdays****. They wanted to know if I followed White Wednesdays, I don’t. The interrogator believed me. He asked about Masih (Alinejad). “Do you see what she’s doing? Do you agree with what she’s doing?” I said, “I put a declaration on Instagram. You’ve seen that I said I am not connected with any organization, domestic or foreign. I don’t know this lady and I don’t know who she is. I have heard some things about her, but I don’t follow her.
Actually, at that time, I knew about Masih) and I had some information, but I was not one of her followers. I had a white veil because I was in Women’s Studies. I followed Vida Movahed’s movement. We published news about the Girls of Enghelab Street. I believe Masih is part of this community. She is not outside of this movement. The Iranian Women’s Movement has been going on for forty years. Women have been trying to get rid of this hijab and these restrictions. In my opinion, everybody is trying to do whatever they can. Masih is working non-stop, using her movement and her abilities. I am doing whatever I am able to do.
Public Prosecutor’s Office
At the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the girl who had stayed in my cell was very frightened. She kept crying. In the morning, they took us both to the Islamic Guidance Prosecutor, near Motahari Street. I was with a female agent. When we first sat down, the young girl and I were handcuffed together. Our legs were bound together, too. Then they separated us. A female agent attached one side of a pair of handcuffs to her own wrist, and the other side to mine. We sat there for an hour. Then we went in front of the interrogator. At the Islamic Guidance Prosecutor’s office, they kept me in handcuffs, in full view of the public. My legs were still bound together. When you walked, the restraints would chafe your legs. The backs of my legs were cut. We went in front of the interrogator. He was a young man. Not too old, 37-38 years old. 40 at the most. He started with some outlandish observations. “You work for the Israelis. You work for the Americans in Telegram.” I said, “What did you find out from my Telegram? What have I done? My emails are there.” He said, “Why did you erase your Instagram?” I said, “I’m sure you have access to my Instagram, right now.” Then he started reading the emails that I had received in my Direct Instagram. I said, “I don’t know these people. They have sent me messages. What does that have to do with me?” He started reading the comments that people had left under my post. I said, “What does that have to with me? People have made those comments.
At the time, I had the Amad News channel on my phone, in Telegram. He said, “Do you have this channel? You are collaborating with foreigners.” Back then, I even had Masih’s channel. I also had Tavana. He kept asking about Tavana. He kept insisting I worked with Americans. I told him, “Show me a message that I have sent to somebody.” He said, “No. You are an American and Israeli influence.” He was very busy. At one point, he received a phone call. I suppose it was Mr. Mansouri. He said, “Haji Mansouri wants to see you.” I went upstairs. I think it was the third floor. The female agent did not come into the room. She unlocked the handcuff. I went in. It was a big room. Nobody was there. I went and sat in a chair by the desk. I was not blindfolded.
(Mansousri) came into the room. He said, “Who told you to sit? This is not your house. Stand up. I stood up. He was a large man. Very good looking. His beard was smartly styled, neat and trim. He was large, very large. Very rude. He turned to me and said, “You are a prostitute, you are a street walker. You jumped up there to find a husband?”
The first interrogator had told me, When you are with Mansouri, don’t say anything. Don’t tell him anything. Even the female agent had told me, Don’t say anything. Don’t gamble with your future. If he (Mansouri) gives an order, you’re done for. When I went there, I reminded myself that I was not going to say anything.
When he said those things to me, I felt very distressed. I was crying, and I couldn’t control myself.
Stupid me, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what horrible things they were going to do to me. I wasn’t worried. I don’t know what I was thinking. He was leafing through my file. Everything was there.
Then he (Mansouri) said, “Do you drive? I’m not going to let you drive anymore. I will revoke your driver’s licence.”
I had driven my car to Enghelab Street. My mistake was that after I was arrested, I told the police I had parked my car by the box that I had climbed onto. I asked them to bring my car. I gave them my car keys. They impounded my car for three months. Then I had to pay a large fine. I just remember it was a lot of money.
(Mansouri) said, “Are you a student? You seem to be a good student. You are an honor student! You are not going to be able to study any more. You will be barred from going to university.Do you work? You are going to be fired. A crazy psycho shouldn’t be working.”
He said, “You have full custody of your child? You will not be able to raise your child. We will take your child away and turn her over to Social Services. A crazy, psychotic, corrupt person like you is not qualified to raise and nurture a daughter.”
I was despondent. He (Mansouri) told them to take me away. I was supposed to be interrogated again, in a couple of hours. It was in the same Islamic Guidance Prosecutor’s office.
The detention center has solitary cells. That’s where they took me. There were tiny roaches. It was filthy dirty. I went there. I don’t know what time it was. Nor do I know how long I stayed there. After a while, they brought me out. I went into interrogation again. They asked the same questions. They just wanted to bother me.
They even sent me to the coroner’s office to prove I was crazy. They weren’t able to do that. I asked them why they wanted to take me to the coroner’s office. What is the reason? In the van, I got into a fight with one of the two women I told you about. She was in the van with me and a man who was obviously very disturbed. I resisted. I said, “I’m not coming. Why do you want to take me there? I don’t have a problem.” We got to the coroner’s office. The coroner told them, “She doesn’t have any problems. What do you want me to certify?” He didn’t write anything. That mean agent, the ill-tempered man who was also very young, was not able to get any kind of certificate from the coroner.
They sent me back to Vozara police station. It was almost nighttime, when they took me to Evin prison. When I got there, I changed my clothes. On the way, I was blindfolded. I had no idea where I was going. I had no idea where I was. No one would answer my questions. I entered the prison ward.
I spent four days at Vozara police station and six days at Evin prison. All of it in solitary. I never saw anybody. In Evin, I was interrogated twice. I think I was in Section 209A of Evin Prison. The interrogator was not rude. He just talked. What he said made you angry. He was trying to make me say things I shouldn’t. He wanted to find out what you had done. He wanted to wear you out. Out of their kindness, they sent me to Evin, and I was spared going to Qarchak. I don’t think this had anything to do with my brother’s job.
In general, women who were accompanied by their lawyer were treated better by the interrogators and even by Mansouri himself. The ones who don’t have a lawyer are treated very poorly. They wanted to scare me. They would find the weaknesses in each of our lives. If you talk to any of the Girls of Enghelab Street, you will see how they found each of our weaknesses. They would find your weak point and that’s where they would enter your mind.
(During my incarceration) I lost three kilograms. I was afraid to eat. I would only eat things like potatoes and eggs. (I was afraid the food would be poisoned.)
After ten days, my family put up 50 million tomans bail, and I was released. After I came out of prison, I was tailed wherever I went. It was as if they wanted me to know they were following me. The first week was like this. Even my brother’s wife noticed. She said, “Somebody is following us.”
I was very scared. After I got out of prison, my brother who was against me put a lot of pressure on me. So much so that I blocked him. He kept calling me. I couldn’t tweet or anything. The rest of my family left me alone.
The Reformist Women’s Association terminated my membership after the Girls of Enqelab Street incident.
After two months, I got a summons from the court. I got two summonses. The first summons had to do with the Girls of Enghelab Street events. I didn’t know what the second one was for.
I showed the summons to a lawyer. He said if you like, I can help you and I can be your lawyer. But I was afraid. My brother had scared me. He wouldn’t let me get a lawyer. He said political lawyers will make your case more complicated and your crime more severe. He disagreed and did not let me choose Nasrin Sotoudeh as my attorney. I can’t begin to explain how much pressure my brother put on me. At the same time, my father found out about all of this before my court appearance, and he spent three days in the hospital. He had become sick and I didn’t want my parents to suffer. He (my brother) kept bothering me. I tried to be my own person and do the right thing .
I responded to the first summons. On July 1, 2018, I went to Ershad Court on Motahari Street. I went with one of my brothers. I was so stressed, I nearly threw up three times. I felt so bad, my brother pulled the car over.
They didn’t allow my brother to go upstairs with me. I went to court by myself. The judge was truly a puppet. He did everything on the phone. They would tell him what to do. His family name was also Mousavi. Both my interrogator and my judge were named Mousavi. All of us (the Girls of Enghelab Street) had the same judge, Mousavi. He was not ill-mannered.
This court was not what you imagine how courts should be. No. I entered the judge’s office. He had an office manager and a secretary. The secretary had sent me to the judge’s office. They were very organized. My trial was set for 8 am. The judge had arrived at 7:45. My trial was going to be at 8 am. It took fifteen minutes, and it was over. He talked with me for a while and said bad things about Nasrin Sotoudeh. He asked me, “How come Nasrin Sotoudeh isn’t your lawyer? Well, no wonder. That’s the kind of person she is. (Maligning Nasrin Sotoudeh).” I said, “I don’t know.
One of my crimes was that I had put that declaration in cyberspace. The same declaration that I had put on Instagram. They had printed out all of the comments under my story, and all of these were in my case file. It was a thick file, full of printouts and things other people had said.
The judge showed me these. He said, “Look. Leaf through your case file.” The interrogators who had questioned me, had written about ten pages. They had written some things with red ink. It was all about my Instagram. I didn’t have anything on Instagram. It was all other people’s comments. I said these are not my comments. He said this is your page, and its your responsibility. That’s how they created a file for me. At 7:55 am, the deputy prosecutor showed up. He was a young man. He was representing Mansouri. I guess Mansouri was the deputy prosecutor of Tehran. He sat down, talked a bit, and showed me the case file. Then he said, “Write down your comments. Why did you do this.” I wrote down why I had done this. I wrote about all these things that I’m talking about. The fact that we women have no rights. He was not malicious at all. He spoke very politely. He just wanted to prove his point with reasoning and proofs. For instance, when I said we have no rights, he said, “If you want to prove your husband cheated on you, you have to find witnesses. We cannot accept something without reason.” I said, “Where can I find proof?” I said, “My husband is an addict.” He said, “Prove it.” I said, “Please make him go and get tested. How can I prove he’s an addict.” He said, “You have to prove he is an addict.” I explained how difficult it had been to gain custody of my daughter, and how I had had to go to court five times for this. I talked about my divorce. I said, “All these things motivated me to go up there. I don’t wear a hijab. This issue is not that important to me. But it’s a symbol for us. Why do you have to regulate all aspects of our lives?” He said, “We have laws here. These are the laws of this country.” I said, “These laws are based on injustice.” The trial was over in fifteen minutes. Then they told me to come back that afternoon and get my verdict. This verdict had already been issued.
An hour later, at 9 am, I had another trial, for my divorce. There were two courts. This was the Appeal Court on Heravi Street. I saw my ex-husband there. I felt terrible. With all the stress I had, I came face to face with him. I was very upset. At this trial, my brother had come with me. The Judge said, “Since your case file is incomplete, its missing this (paper) and that one, your divorce decree will be revoked.” The judge was a cleric. I don’t remember his last name. I told the judge, “Sir, I have a fiancée. I have been separated from this man for a year and a half. I got a divorce. The divorce pronouncement was read. How can you revoke that? I was able to get a divorce by legally demanding my back alimony. All of these documents are in the case file. It’s been recorded in the system.” The judge said, “The documentation for demanding your alimony is not in the case file.” I told the judge very clearly that if my divorce was revoked, I would kill myself. He said, “Ok my child, go find your case file.” I said, “How can I do that? The file might be lost, but this information has probably been recorded in the computer. Can’t you get a printout from the computer?
He said it’s not there. I said it’s impossible. I had already received the decree.
I think they had gone to my ex-husband, and he had cooperated with them. This hurt me more than anything. I called the lawyer who had put together that file. After a month of searching for documents from that file, he said the papers had been in the file all along. I took the decrees to the judge. He said this is not right. The decree was stamped with the seal of the Judiciary, and they couldn’t find it in the computer. They just wanted to harass me.
The verdict for the trial of the Girls of Enghelab Street was issued in the afternoon of the day of the trial. They had given me three years in prison, and they had affixed this verdict to my divorce file. In the ruling about my revoked divorce, it said the payment of alimony after divorce had been suspended and that my ex-husband intended to pay the alimony. What was I going to do with that 13 million anyway? My daughter’s school cost me 15 million a yearThey harassed me. In this trial, they took away my child’s custody. They did this in the trial having to do with divorce. This was not about custody.
My lawyer had told me that it was not possible for things to be erased from the computer. They had deleted everything from the computer. My lawyer and I both have copies of these rulings.
We objected to this ruling, and it was sent to the Supreme Court. There is still no news of the appeal. They cannot legally revoke the divorce. But they did it back then.
Two days before the Girls of Enghelab Street ruling and the divorce return order, I had a nervous breakdown and I fainted. This breakdown caused me to forget many things. My father said you have to leave Iran. My lawyer also advised me to leave Iran. He said they want to harass you. There is one thing I don’t understand. Forget about the alimony issue. What did the Girls of Enghelab ruling have to do with my divorce?
In early August of 2018, I got a summons, saying I had ten days to deliver my child to her father. I knew all about her father. He was irresponsible. He had not spent a day raising his child. My child did not even know her father. I knew I would die without my child. This man is an addict, he is violent. One time he broke my nose. I knew what kind of person he was. My ex-husband was financially well to do. I still don’t understand why he cooperated with them. I never talked to him. And he never talked to me. One day he called and said I am in such and such police station. Bring the child here and give her to me.
The ten-day period was not over yet. On the ninth day, I left Iran. I was very stressed. My child understood what was going on. We did our best to shield her. Waiting at the border was the worst. It’s one of her nightmares. To this day, if I tell her to talk about the border, she starts to cry, and she says she doesn’t want to talk about it.
We were at the border for a week. It was a frightful week. Very stressful. You can’t trust smugglers. We were so frightened. We managed to leave the country.