می نویسم، پس فعلا هستم
( گاهی هم البته صرفا بلند فکر می کنم )
۱۳۹۶ فروردین ۱۷, پنجشنبه
An Interview by the Sunday Times
Relative Values: the Nobel peace prizewinner Shirin Ebadi and her daughter, Nargess
The Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, 69, and her daughter Nargess Tavassolian, 34, talk about death threats, imprisonment, discrimination and the price of free speech
Interviews by Caroline Scott
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHARLIE CLIFT
The Sunday Times, April 2 2017, 12:01am
I was Iran’s first female judge and worked at the country’s highest court until 1979. That was the year the new revolutionary authorities decided women could no longer be judges. I was demoted to the post of clerk and my licence to practise as a lawyer was revoked.
Many friends and relatives left Iran, but I felt if we bowed our heads and permitted the authorities to say Islam allowed the assassination of teenagers and writers, there would be nothing left of our faith. So I worked as a consultant, offering legal advice. I wrote books on the rights of women, children and refugees. With my husband, Javad, I raised my children under the constant surveillance of the authorities and the morality police. Our phones were bugged. Once, when we had trouble with them, an electrician found bugging devices everywhere.
My first daughter, Negar, was born after three miscarriages, so as soon as they put this little girl in my arms, she was my whole world. I gave birth to Nargess three years later. As I could no longer practise as a lawyer, I couldn’t afford help, so I did everything myself.
In Iran, a woman’s life is worth half that of a man’s. A man can have four wives, a married woman can’t travel outside the country without her husband’s permission. There are so many bad rules, and women have had to adopt a dual behaviour to survive.
When the girls had birthday parties, we’d close the curtains and my husband would stand on the street because you can be arrested for laughing too loudly. At one point, Nargess was detained and her passport was confiscated. But I knew if I showed any sign of fear, it would exacerbate her plight. I was nonchalant and they let her go. As a result they learnt they could not harm me through my daughter.
In 1999, while going through government files for a case I was preparing on behalf of the family of two murdered dissidents, I came across my name on a list of targets for assassination. It was the single most terrifying moment of my life. It showed me the ruthlessness I was up against.
A year later, I spent three weeks in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, after a court charged me with spreading evidence of the state’s complicity in an attack on students. My interrogators openly referred to conversations I’d had that they could only have found out by phone tapping. The strain made my childhood stutter return, but I didn’t believe they would kill me. My biggest concern was to be with my family and be normal again.
Nargess was high-spirited and I never tried to repress her. My only advice to her was: think before you utter a word. It’s why Nargess and Negar were so eager to leave Iran. Nargess wanted to be a lawyer, but after writing a critical article, she was banned from working in any trade. Negar is now a professor of computer engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in New Jersey. I live in the UK, so Trump’s policy [the ban on Iranians travelling to America] does not affect me directly. But it is not right in the 21st century to separate people based on their religion or nationality. It is shameful in this globalised era.
I left Iran in 2009 because of the death threats and unrest, and Nargess came with me. As a result of my activities, my husband was framed and imprisoned, and we have since divorced. I’m conscious my family has paid a high price for my work, but I don’t feel guilty about it. The bulk of opposition in Iran is made up of women, which is why the government fears us. We are strong. We must stay strong.
Giving birth to my daughters motivated me because I knew one day they would ask: “Mother, what did you do in that period?” I can answer them honestly: I did my best. I lost all my assets, I even tolerated prison and solitary confinement. I never gave up.
Mom is the most stubborn person I have ever met — and I don’t mean that in a bad way. She has fought all her life against discriminatory laws, particularly for women, and I have never thought of asking her to stop, even when her life was in danger.
When you grow up in Iran, you get used to surveillance and phone tapping. It was normal, we even made fun of it. If I was on the phone to friends, I’d say “Hello” twice, because we knew someone else was listening in. If we heard a click, we knew they’d hung up.
I found being judged wrongly harder to bear. Without knowing us, people would say we couldn’t be good girls because our mother was never present. But in many ways Mom was a typical Iranian mother. Every night she’d cook traditional Persian food and we’d sit down to eat together at 8.30pm.
Mom tried very hard to protect us from what was going on by not bringing her work home. But in 2004, while she was working on a report about the government’s execution of children, she found a note pinned to our door that said: “If you go on as you are, we will be forced to end your life.” For a while, I was very afraid of losing her.
After Mom won the Nobel prize in 2003, she was told that if she didn’t wear a hijab at the ceremony, something bad would happen to me. She didn’t wear the hijab and nothing bad did happen. If I had known about that, I would have been terrified. She tells me nothing until the danger has passed. She believes that as long as she stays strong, we will be safe. It’s showing weakness that puts us in danger.
I remember the night she was arrested. It was 1999, I was about 17 and in my final year of high school. She called from the house, and said: “Your father and I are going out for dinner, so order pizza.” She thought she’d be home by morning, so played it cool, but I knew it was bad as reporters kept phoning us. She was released after being in solitary confinement for 24 days.
The night she came home, we had a party at my grandma’s house. I still feel guilty because Negar and I argued over which movie we wanted to see. I just remember Mom saying: “I’ve come out of prison and all you can do is fight.” Still, she made everything so normal for us, and at some point we learnt to be strong like her.
My dad got tired of living with surveillance and threats, but I did not. Being a daughter is different. You choose to be a partner, but I was born into it. It’s like part of my hand, I can’t say I like it or I don’t. I know nothing else. Activism is my mother’s life. It’s my life too.
Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran by Shirin Ebadi is out now (Random House £9)