The Interview that was Refuted
By: Elnaz Ansari
Thursday 13 November 2008
Translated by: Sudi
I read Mr. Momeni’s recent interview [with IRNA*], and at first I feel anger because the first and most moving interview that he gave was to Campaign for Equality, and the reporter that is now accused of indulging in fanciful speculation is me. But I surpass my feelings of anger quickly and instead I begin to ponder and consider how the system of repression and security works, and what role we play in this game.
Due to Esha’s arrest, hours of on-camera interview with members of the Campaign found their way into the hands of the security forces. These videos were taken inside volunteer’s homes. They showed the day to day lifestyle of the women’s rights activists. A normal life captured by a familiar camera and through the eyes of one of our own, a Campaign member. When you are talking about yourself and the Campaign, it makes a big difference whether you are looking into the eyes of a friend or your own eyes are covered under a blindfold while you are facing a wall. Even if you intend to tell it all honestly to an interrogator, it is impossible that you feel comfortable enough to pour your heart out, and no interrogator will be able to convey to you what Esha could convey standing behind her camera.
After Esha’s arrest, it was normal that Esha’s interviewees were nervous. I am confident that they have, over and over again, reviewed the footage and those conversations in their mind, but I have never heard any of them second guess themselves, even wonder if they shouldn’t have trusted her… Rather they repeatedly mentioned that there was nothing on those tapes that the security agency didn’t already know and there are no new subjects covered on those films. Most of those topics have been covered in various interrogations, many are already documented in past legal cases, and much of this information is discussed in the meetings and periodic reviews of the security agency. The fact that all that was said is out in the open does not mean that the Campaign’s bluff has been called or that it doesn’t know how to play the game or mastermind an anti-security forces strategy. The driving force behind it all is a deep rooted belief that has been publicized many times: “We have nothing to hide”.
For at least the past two and a half years, the security agency has been reviewing various cases with great scrutiny as if under a magnifying glass, and they have investigated the activities of the One Million Signatures Campaign in the hope of finding suitcases of dollars and euros so that they can claim to have discovered evidence that indicates ostentation, treason, propaganda and a revolution of some color or other. Yet not even under their magnifying glasses have they found any evidence of wrongdoing.
Others with great scrutiny and a suspicious gaze are looking into the most personal and private relations of the Campaign members in order to find evidence of immorality and misbehavior surrounding these dynamic activists. It appears that they have not found anything solid to write home about and as such they continue to beat the ground on these two topics hoping that something will eventually turn up.
But with Esha’s trip to Iran to work on her academic project, which was anything but a secret project, this game entered a new stage. Esha’s project itself had already taken a different turn as she witnessed an extremely active Campaign in Tehran. The number of interviewees multiplied so that she can increase the hours she spent on the tiring task of interviewing, filming and documenting. For those that had anticipated the idea of a widespread repression, this period of waiting wasn’t too hard. The waiting was over on the Modarres Highway and the game entered a new stage. Their new strategy was looking for a faster, more efficient method of repression and this chase reached such high speed that everyday there was news of an arrest, an order to appear in court, a traveler barred from leaving, a student deprived from entering university, homes searched and personal belongings seized and “shameless suggestions” made. During the entire time that Esha was kept in solitary confinement, we have all been anxious. Our rapidly beating hearts speak to our concern that history may repeat itself; what if Esha faces the same fate as Zahra Kazemi, Zahra Bani Yaghoub and Haleh Esfandiyari, or endures the same physical tortures that students and the Kurdish activists have endured, or what if they manipulate and edit her films,… but none of these worries was reflected in any of the news pieces. The only things that stood out in the news coverage were the illegality of the entire process of this arrest, and the agony of no personal contact with Esha.
Now that Esha’s father is contradicting himself and claims personal responsibility for the lack of personal contact with Esha, because of his anger towards his daughter, rather than his being denied visitation rights by the officials, it suggests that we are entering yet a new stage of this game, “Facing the Giant”. It is quite clear that the text of that interview was dictated to him and was later publicized. It doesn’t take much genius to understand the desperate feelings of a father whose child is threatened with death or who based on trumped-up charges may face severe punishment. Esha’s case was a reward given to the forces repressing the women’s movement by the mastermind of this game. They may indulge themselves with this reward for a while but rest assured that at the end of this tiresome game, the Giant’s horn will be our reward.
*Mr. Momeni, the father of Esha Momeni who was imprisoned for 27 days conducted an interview with the Government News Agency, IRNA, during which he claimed that his daughters actions were illegal and asked for mercy from government officials in their treatment of his daughter. He further claimed in this interview that he and his wife were so angry at Esha that they refused to visit her while in detention.Read a news report about this interview on AFP.