Tehran Diary Daily Life in Iran, One Year after the Uprising

Part 4: 'Why Has It Come This Far?'

Thursday, May 27, 2010

+++ The chief of statistics announces that 10 million of Iran's 72 million people live under the "absolute poverty line" -- which equates to living on €500 ($600) per month for a family of six -- and 30 million Iranians live under the relative poverty line (€800 per month).

The website Rah-e Sabz quotes the secretary-general of the recently banned reform party Islamic Iran Participation Front: "The Green Revolution lives." They are the final words of Mohsen Mirdamadi, 55 -- an organizer of the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran -- before he has to return to the infamous Evin Prison from his prison leave. Because of national security concerns, the government sentenced Mirdamadi to six years in jail and banned him from politics for a decade after the 2009 protests. +++

Ana Ghazwahanian, the artist. I've made rigid cardboard models of my future works of art. I take the designs to our restaurant to see how fellow employees and guests react. One model depicts a knot, which has a special meaning in our society. Our cook Rashid asks me whether this knot will ever come loose. Another model depicts a man with a giant helmet. He has no ears and eyes. He is wearing heavy armor. An older man says: Do we see anything but their armor nowadays? The old man doesn't realize how happy he makes me. Am I actually being understood?

Later on, I drop off my models at the city administration. My contact there likes the knot. Has he understood the significance of my piece? I wonder whether they'll approve my designs.

Mohzen Sahabifar, the shopkeeper. The telephone rings late in the afternoon. It's my daughter Roja. For her, the weekend has already begun. She wants to know whether I'm finally going to go to the park with her today. "Sure, of course I will," I promise. But as soon as I've hung up the phone, I know that, once again, it isn't going to happen. And it won't happen tomorrow, either, because I have to stay in the shop and sell things. I can't reach Roja to tell her this. The telephone company has blocked my number for outgoing calls.

Mohammad Mostafaei, the attorney. I write to the Tehran public prosecutor. I demand an explanation for why an order was issued barring me from leaving the country. I only found out about it at the airport when I wanted to fly to Asia in the winter. I just had to get away from the stress for a while. I had already gone through passport control when three men stopped me. That was the end of the trip. I don't expect to receive a response to my inquiry. Being barred from leaving the country isn't the first punishment for my efforts as an attorney. I was detained for several days last year and was interrogated about my human rights activities.

Manijeh Hekmat, the director. Panahi was released from prison on Tuesday. Cannes is over. I still have a few days left before my flight back to Tehran, but I can't really enjoy them. Now I'm all the more worried about how things will continue in my country, with the opposition movement. It hurts me to see people here shaking their heads about what's happening in Iran. I love my country.

The Green Movement has called for protests on the anniversary of the day of the election. Back then, people were so full of joy and hope. I would never have thought that this euphoria would turn to bitterness. Maybe I should make a film about the events of last year. Without censorship, one of these days.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, the human rights activist. Ebadi's sister and brother have come. They were repeatedly summoned by the courts and had to answer the officials' questions about their contacts with Shirin. The tone of the hearing was harsh, and they mention harassment. Shirin's sister Nushin is particularly tense. She was already imprisoned once for 20 days without any legal justification, the goal being to silence Shirin abroad. But both are strong women, and they will not give in. I assure Nushin and her brother that I am on their side.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


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