He was once again taken to prison (“called” to go to prison, as is customary these days), for writing a sixth, and according to him, final, letter to the leader. Here I have translated an interview he did before heading to Evin. This interview was published on his own website, so maybe more than an interview, these are simply things he wanted to say.
While many are put off by his language towards the leader, I am intrigued by him because I believe he represents a chunk of the opposition which is usually ignored: strongly devout followers of the Islamic Republic, whose faith in the system has gradually and surely dissolved in the aftermath of the election. But as authentic believers of the revolution, this crumbling does not come easy or lightly. It’s like watching your entire life, not only what you stand for, but what you are … dissolve. And as “children of the revolution”, it doesn’t come as many might interpret.It seems to me that they still believe in ideals that we may find unrealistic or naive. But maybe that is what keeps the poetics of the movement alive, beyond pure pragmatism. He comes from a fascinating place, and I follow his story with with the same vigor. It is the pluralism of voices within the Green Movement that makes it so intriguing and vibrant, so complex … and his voice is one which I will always be listening to.
Here is a bitter sweet video of him before heading to prison. In the background, you can hear women telling him “send my regards to …” or “give these sweets to …” which probably come from all the people who have loved ones in prison.
Mr. Nourizad, are you being sent to prison once more for your most recent letter to the leader?
I believe so. That is, I see no other reason. I believe that I’m being sent to prison for humbly writing this letter. In this letter, I put myself before the judgement of God, and I put him [the leader], who I like very much, before the judgement of God. And I revealed to him the questions we must both answer. So I do believe I am being called to prison for this letter.
In the call they made to your home, what did they state as the reason, and when did they say you should be there?
I will go tonight. It seems as though these friends have missed me and I must go soon.
You have written six sympathetic, criticizing letters to the leader. What kind of a reaction did these letters invoke from your friends in the principalist factions? Are they too facing the same doubts towards the leader?
Yes, many have faced the same doubts. I am but a known repersentative of this group. I have become known for these questions I ask, but there are many others in cultural, economic, military and basij circles, even those in clerical or religious circles, and when they come to see me, they tell me that I am putting their views forward as well. But they say that they do not have the space to put forth their views, or are worried of the repercussions. I am not the only one who thinks this way. This is an all encompassing phenomenon. This is a crack in the wall which has appeared in many places, and will continue to expand. In the thirty or so years since the revolution, there is a big population that has heard of the ideals we never achieved and has seen that we have actually sinked further and further. We have lost opportunities because of mismanagement and lack of wisdom. We have lost our national riches and resources and I am certainly not the only one who is worried about this. Rather, many of my ilk think the same way. I have written six letters to Mr. Khamenei, and have stated that the sixth letter is the last one. I hope that this letter is read, and with my attempts to depict judgement day, some of these calls, most notably the call to free prisoners, are heard.
You mentioned that this is your last letter. Are you disappointed in the prospects of this letter being read?
In the end of the letter, I mention that I hope the leader will read it and free political prisoners and act towards reconciling with each and every one of our people. This last letter is written to depict my hopes. I end it on a very hopeful note.
How did interrogators treat you, a child of the revolution and of the system, and who has fought in the war? How did they speak to you? Can you talk about the physical nature of the violence inflicted on you in prison?
I am not important. If only one person is harmed, that’s like all Iranians, and even all of humanity, has been hurt. I have been subject to physical abuse when I should not have been. But I know many good, loving, honest men who have been subject to torture, have been tormented and abused. Their families have been threatened. All of this comes at a time when we expect patience and wisdom more than anything else. We expect lawful, rightful action. When you are met with beatings and abuse, when they forcefully put your head into a toilet bowl, and when they swear using the most vile language, this is completely against any ethical or religious teaching we have ever known. I am distraguth with what is happening to our children in prison, and I loudly declare that in solitary confinement our youth and our men are under torture, and are subject to beatings and abuse and their wives and children are being threatened using the most vicious language. This is the very sad reality that we seem to be living in.
How do you see the future? Where is this Green Movement headed? From your last letter, it seems you believe in fate and the end of tyrants?
I see a very bright future. The growth and maturity our people have experienced in the past year is one that takes a whole decade to achieve. And the vicious face we came to see on the other side can take ten to fifteen years to reveal itself. This can only mean brightness and hope. We are seeing harm, but no victory comes without a price. We do not want to undo everything we have done. Every revolution in every country means a step back for that country. We want change. We say we want ugliness to be replaced with beauty, insecurity to give its place to safety, disrespect to give way to respect, and lawlessness to be replaced with the rule of law. It is only a truth that we utter. And to want this change is a holy tradition. We have learned this from the prophets. When your clothes are stained and dirty and you attempt to wash them, no one criticizes you because you have acted rightly. So we too are attempting to clean this dirt. We want to rid our country of this dirt and pollution and replace it with purity. I see a very bright future. I didn’t write this letter in hopelessness, I didn’t leave it to fate. Those questions I present are not only issues we will face on judgement day, but whether we want or not, complexities we will have to face in this world. The questions I put forth are not questions for the afterlife, but this life. Either way, we all have questions before us which we should be ready to answer.
You met with the family of Mr. Tajzadeh the day before. Would you have signed that letter if you were invited to do so? [letter of seven reformists who have taken legal action against Commander Moshfegh. I am currently translating this letter]. And like those seven reformists, do you believe in the coup d’etat?
That letter, is a letter which expresses the views of millions of people. If an action is righteous, we will support it, no matter who it comes from. This is a long held tradition which even our religion advocates. When an unknown person is treated unjustly, no matter what the religion of that person, when his rights are trampled and when he is subject to injustice, people must stand by him, so he does not feel that he is alone. It’s not only me, we are all standing with any move that aims for justice. Sometimes you say a word, but it is really a word that all of society feels, or you write a letter on behalf of all people. I believe Mr. Tajzadeh is innocent. But, there is a plan to force him to confess to certain things, and there is plan to force him and his colleagues to say certain things, and so he is subject to torture in solitary confinement. If you really think about the beatings he’s injured in solitary confinement, four days straight, your body will shiver. Who does this and with what mentality? So no matter what the religion of a person may be, no matter how little known or far away they may be, if they have been forced to endure injustice, all of humanity will stand by him.
Considering the fatal blow on religon that the establishment has caused, what do you think our relationship will be towards religon in the future?
We must plead with people, so that they do not consider religon the reason behind our horrible acts which have contributed to a terrifying depiction of religion. People have a right to turn against religion when they are so hurt with our actions. People have a right not to believe in god and the prophet, not to fast and not to pray. Becasue we have lied to people using this very prophet, this very prayer. We have tormented them using these tools, we have tyrannically trampled their rights. We have to plead with people so they know that if someone acts in the name of religion, that has nothing to do with the essence of religion. The essence of religion is a call to peace, calm, reason, wisdom and goodness. The call of all holy religions was a call to righteousness, reason and purity and if a group of people were impure and propagated this impurity in the name of religion, we must separate them. The actions of the past few years must not make people turn away from a religion that has come to humanity with open arms. And if such a thing were to happen, I completely understand why a wounded, hurt and traumatized people would turn away from religion.
You were close friends and colleagues with Mr. Avini for years. If he was alive, what do you think his reaction would have been towards the actions of the political establishment?
If Mr. Avini was alive, I don’t know what his reaction would have been. But from what I knew of him, I know that he was a wise, intelligent man, a fair man. So if I were to guess his minimal or maximal reactions: at the least, he would have been deeply distraguth with the current situation. At the most, he would have gone leagues further than where I have gone. This guess is based on what I knew of him. He would have been distraught from the inside, and he might have loudly and clearly voice his protest, much much stronger than I am doing today.