It’s the non-violent struggle of women that frightens the Iranian regime. Women whose rebellion puts «the identity of the government» in crisis day after day. Among these women there is Nasrin Sotoudeh, human rights lawyer, the number one public enemy of the Islamic Republic, who on Sunday, at the funeral of the young Armita Garavand, beaten to death for not wearing the veil at just 16 years old, was avid again against those who do not accept the status quo. Sotoudeh ended up in prison, accused by the judicial authority of the Islamic regime of assembly conspiracy against national security, propaganda against the regime and attack on public order. But she refused once again to wear the veil, even after the blows and sleep deprivation. And as long as she has a voice, her husband Reza Khandan, a former political prisoner, tells us about her battle for rights to be respected will go on. «The only way to save our country and the Middle East, always chaotic and torn apart by war - said Khandan -, is to strengthen non-violent movements such as “Woman, life, freedom”. However, the more peaceful and non-violent the protests are, the more violent and cruel the reaction of the government and the repressive apparatus will be».
You got to talk to your wife after the arrest. What did she say about what happened?
She told me that those present were attacked, beaten, thrown to the ground, taken by the feet and dragged on the stones of the cemetery. Their heads crashed into the ground, the gravestones and everything there was. Of course, I know she censures his story a little, so as not to worry us. But this seems to me enough.
Did she suffer any injuries?
There are bruises on different parts of her body. But what worries me the most is her headache and swelling behind the back of his neck.
Above all, women are targeted by the Iranian regime. Why do they scare power so much?
Of course, it must be said that the number of men arrested was not insignificant. There were 30 men and 32 women being held in the Vozara or morality police detention center. But this government derives and defines its identity in terms of the subjugation of women and the revolt of women against this domination is what threatens its identity. Also, the women’s protest takes on a more civil form and is nonviolent. Dictatorships have an easier time fighting armed groups rather than non violent movements.
In what kind of prison is Nasrin being held?
My wife is currently in Qarchak prison, where she had previously been. It was not born immediately as a prison: it was an industrial cow barn that was converted into a warehouse for holding addicts. With some minor changes it has been converted into the largest women’s prison in Iran. It is a prison which complies with no standards, dirty and filthy, with the stench of sewage, very tight unbreathable spaces, atrocious management and limited amenities.
Were you able to talk to the people who were released? What did they say to her?
Yes, I have spoken to at least one person. Not only was she beaten, just like my wife, but also tortured in the moral police detention center. Nasrin tried to go to her rescue, but she was pushed away with all her might, with a blow on her chest. They were also kept awake until morning and were not allowed to sleep after a very stressful day, which included physical assault.
Will Nasrin continue her battle in defense of rights? What gives her so much strength, despite all the suffering you have suffered?
She will do all that’s within her power but regardless all humans have physical and emotional limits. What gives her so much force and power is that she simply can’t stand people’s rights being trampled on and remaining silent, she simply can’t.
Even after her release, your wife continued to condemn the regime publicly and her words often gained worldwide resonance. Have you ever been threatened or retaliated for this?
When she was outside prison, whenever she issued a statement, gave an interview or did something special, she would be threatened with being taken back to prison in one way or another.
On the day of his arrest, his wife continued to refuse the veil, even after arriving in court. This prevented the procedures from taking place in an ordinary way and the arrest warrant was delivered to her atypically. What does this mean?
Nasrin and her friend, Manzar Zarrabi (family member of some of Ukraine International Airlines' flight 752 victims, shot down the January 8, 2020 a few minutes after its take-off from Tehran-Imam Khomeini International Airport from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, ed.), they did not wear the veil. And they could not force them to wear a veil inside the detention center. Consequently, they could not take them to be questioned in the detention center. They were held for hours in the car outside the prosecutor’s office and were eventually handed the prosecutor’s questionnaire forms to fill in in the car. They did not surrender before the threats and did not wear a hijab at any point. And all this is very important for the advancement of the movement “Woman, life, freedom” and in the fight against the obligation of the hijab.
The regime ended the lives of young women, such as Mahsa and Armita. How many more victims will there have to be before this madness ends?
I don’t know how many more times Mahsa and Armita will be repeated. What I do know is that a day will come when this regime will end.