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Iran Interview: Daughters of Opposition Leader Mousavi Speak Out...and Take Risks Doing So

Mir Hossein Mousavi & Zahra RahnavardLast week marked the two-year anniversary of the strict house arrests imposed on Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main challenger to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the disputed 2009 Presidential election, and his wife, academic and activist Zahra Rahnavard.

On 11 February, security forces raided the homes of two of their daughters. Zahra and Narges Mousavi were taken to Evin Prison and interrogated for several hours.

Both women were warned that they and their sister Kokab could be summoned again if they continued to speak out about the strict house arrests, imposed in February 2011, of their parents. In particular, authorities worried about statements about the women's concerns over Mousavi's and Rahnavard's health. The officials also told the women to refrain from political comment.

The three daughters did not comply, giving an interview to the opposition website Kalemeh a few days later.

Yesterday, Kokab Mousavi was summoned to Evin for interrogation.

The interview, translated by Banooye Sabz:

Q: Please describe the new wave of pressure and restrictions imposed upon your family.

Zahra Mousavi: On Monday [11 February] they entered our house using their customary tricks. I immediately immersed my laptop under water because I wanted to make sure that our family pictures, particularly those in which we are not wearing our customary Islamic dress code (hijab) would not fall in the hand of a Namahram ["forbidden to be exposed to" under Islam].

A number of men accompanied by one woman, raided our home. They kept repeating that a woman was with them as though that fact some how automatically provided them with a permit to enter. Upon searching our home, they confiscating everything they could find, including a number of books and a laptop. I was then told to accompany them to Evin [Prison].

We entered Evin from the back door. I believe they had not coordinated our arrival and we waited in the yard for around half an hour and eventually they took me to an interrogation room. The questions they asked me centered mostly around Kalemeh website; a media outlet they were particularly sensitive to and referred to as anti-revolutionary; a claim that I rejected for they were obviously looking for a pretext to associate us with anti-revolutionary forces. Our parents approve of the Kalemeh website and it goes without saying that we support everything our parents endorse. They were also sensitive to the joint statement we published with [detained opposition leader and 2009 Presidential candidate] Mehdi Karroubi’s son.

In general they referred to the publication of our statements as spreading lies. They raised issue with the fact that we had used words such as “rigged elections”, “kidnapping”, and “illegal house arrest” in our statements and kept asking why we use such terms.

During the questioning, they suddenly made an about face and the gentleman who had earlier entered into an altercation with my sister returned and stated that they do not wish to see these scenes repeated for they too have morals adding that they wish to uphold human dignity (exactly the terms our father used). I was then asked to provide a written affidavit that if summoned by phone I would appear in court. They said that [Mousavi's eldest daughter] Kokab had also engaged in spreading lies and would be contacted as well.

Narges and I then spoke by phone. We were both worried about Kokab being summoned. We talked about what we would do if they harassed our sister and it look as though the new summons are reactions to our discussions.

Narges Mousavi: On Monday as I was getting ready to go to work with my son, a car stopped us and several men and a woman stated that they have a search warrant, taking us back to our home. I felt very unsafe. I wanted to scream so people would know what was going on when one of the men pushed me inside the house. I injured my hand and was very distressed by his behaviour. One of them lifted his hand and said: “I will slap you so hard that all your teeth will fall out.” This all took place in front my 4-year-old son.

They searched and ransacked the entire house, confiscating a number of items such as 150 CDs, two laptops, two cameras, an iPad and three cell phones. I plan to file an official complaint for these were our personal belongings and have not been returned despite the fact that they said they would return them by the same afternoon.

Their behaviour was so inhumane that even when I gave my terrified four year old the iPad to calm him down, they yanked it out of his hands. They threatened to kill me in front of my child. When they were searching the house one of the men told me that if it were up to him, he would push me out the window of the building.

When they were searching the house they found an old Bible amongst the other books and took it with them as an evidence of crime. They were so busy looking at each other triumphantly that they didn’t even realize that there was a Koran on the bookshelf as well. There were a few CDs in the CD stack that had been scribbled on by my son. They peered at each other again and also took them as evidence of crime.

I want to emphasise that we feel a sense of insecurity when it comes to our life sand the lives of our children. Their sudden raid of a single mom’s home is unethical and this type of behavior is violation of an individual’s personal privacy.

Q: Did this individual look familiar to you?

Narges Mousavi: Yes, the gentleman who insulted me was an Intelligence Ministry employee. He used to sit in a white van in front of Akhtar Street in the early days of our parents’ house arrest. I even asked him if he was the same person who used to sit in a white van in front of their house and he obnoxiously responded that he was.

Q: Did they show you a warrant? Did they tell you which government entity they were affiliated with?

Narges Mousavi: Yes, they showed me a warrant from the prosecutor’s office. We were however told later by an informed source that it had been issued by the President’s office. That is why we have doubts about the warrant and its source.

Zahra Mousavi: They showed me a letter from Evin court, but the gentlemen who entered my home had no identity cards. They were the supposed renowned solders of Imam Mahdi, who in reality have acted as the anonymous enemies of the last Imam and as always it was unclear which entity they were affiliated with. We truly have no idea who we are dealing with.

Q: How would you characterize the differences between this incident and incidents in the past?

Narges Mousavi: “After the elections our dealing were always with the Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC [Revolutionary Guards], but this time it was unclear which entity we were dealing with. In the past they threatened us with statements such as “perhaps you’ll be run over by a car one day on the street, or you’ll suddenly fall ill”, or they would threaten our kids. Their behaviour was nevertheless slightly better, though one night they called my sister in front of my dad and began interrogating her on the phone, an act that extremely angered my father who protested: “There is no culture or religion in which a daughter is interrogated in front of her father.”

In the past their behavior was never this bad. There had never been any verbal abuse, physical threats and pushing.

Kokab Mousavi: The key issue is that we report these incidents to the news media. On Monday when they arrested Zahra and Narges they told them to pack for they were not coming back any time soon. Their arrest was reported right away, resulting in their release. If their arrest had not been reported perhaps they would still be detained. The dissemination of information is very important and must continue.

Q: How have the past two years effected your lives? Describe the problems and challenges in your day to day activities.

Narges Mousavi: Following my parents’ detention, my ex-husband was repeatedly taken and interrogated. These incidents created challenges in our marriage. They threatened and interrogated him at least once a week. They pressured him into a divorce. They even asked him why he was not taking a Sigheh [temporary marriage endorsed under Islam] and said other similar things that, frankly, I am embarrassed to repeat here. These types of incidents resulted in our divorce and every time I complained about their behavior they told me to try and prove it if I can.

To make a long story short, it began with my ex-husband being interrogated, my brother-in-law beaten, my sister who has a PhD and is a university professor losing her job. I myself had no job security. Each time I started a new job they would create chaos and disorder by wreaking havoc at my office and amongst my co-workers.

This time around their goal is to once again harass us through a new round of arrests and interrogations. We don’t know who to complain to. We don’t even know what they have in store for us on the day we arrive in court for our next interrogation process. It is unclear if we will even be allowed to go back home.

We are extremely worried for our safety, though we always thank God and believe that nothing is absolute when you embark on a journey. Our father taught us that every process must takes its course.

Q: Why have you been banned from seeing your parents? How long has it been since your last visit with them?

Narges Mousavi: It has been close to three months since our last visit with them . During our last visit, the security agents informed us that Zahra will not be allowed to attend. My father responded that either all three of us will come together or none of us will come. After that they began fabricating legal cases against us. They also banned all telephone contact. In the past three months we have not even been allowed to hear our parents’ voices by phone.

Zahra Mousavi: They had told us that if we inform the public about our parents’ situation we will be banned from visiting them. Following the publication of one of our statements we were informed that our visitation rights had been revoked because we had published news regarding our parents. They added that if we continue charges will be filed against us and they have now acted upon that threat.

Q: Have you been informed about their physical condition and well being?

Narges Mousavi: We have no information what so ever. My father did not have any issues with his heart prior to his house arrest and yet after his illegal house arrest he developed a heart condition. We have no information on my mother’s health either. Every time we complain and demand access to their medical files, such as the results of blood work, they respond that it would be publishing lies and disturbing public order.

Don’t we have a right to know about our parents’ physical health? During the last visit with our parents my mother informed us that “the conditions here are worse than Guantanamo”. We have no idea what our parents have been through these past two months that has led our mother to describe their condition as worse than Guantanamo, placing the blame for their physical ailments on those responsible for their detention (and it is still unclear which entity within the ruling establishment ordered their house arrest).

My mother said: ” We don’t know what they have been feeding us that has made us ill.” They were both healthy prior to their house arrest. They had no medical condition or physical ailments. They are responsible for our parents’ lives. We are very uncertain when it comes to their physical condition.

Q: It was reported that you were recently informed unexpectedly that you will need to provide their food. Can you please clarify?

Narges Mousavi: When we initially asked to provide them with food they did not allow it, claiming that we might try to poison them! A while back, however they informed us that they will no longer be shopping for them (it goes without saying that my parents were paying for the food that was bought) and that we needed to provide the food.

The last time we delivered groceries to them we also included other items such as paper and a platter made by a famous brand that was still in its original packaging. Later we realized that they had never delivered it to them. When we asked them why, they informed us that it had been taken to a laboratory for testing! We still have no idea what story they plan to concoct regarding that platter!

Q: What in your opinion is the cause of the current behavior and pressure by the ruling establishment?

Kokab Mousavi: One of the issues at hand is their reputation and the events that occurred at the shrine of Hazrate Masoumeh in the city of Qom [the attack by President Ahmadinejad's supporters on Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani on 3 February, shouting down his speech and throwing shoes and prayer stones at him]. They wish to divert attention from such events and as a result are creating a series of new events. The other issue is the upcoming Presidential elections. They don’t want any noise created and are keeping everyone quiet through suppression and terror. They also want to make sure that our parents are silenced so that people enter a state of lethargy and forgetfulness.

Zahra Mousavi: The country is in crisis. In addition to denying this crisis they seek to hide it through creating diversions. In reality they should be resolving the issues facing the nation and allow the citizens to live in peace. Behaviour such as raiding people’s homes and creating terror and fear amongst families is neither ethical nor will it lead to any positive results. They sow the seeds of anger and hatred with their behaviour and this type of condition will not lead to positive results for them in the long run.

In the past two years we have come to realize that they operate without a predefined and well thought through plan. Their domestic and foreign agenda to create pressure is devised with a short term view. My father always emphasised that the protests were not any form of sedition or uprising but rather a large social movement. These are my father’s exact words. By stating them we are not spreading lies.

Narges Mousavi: As we enter into the third year of this illegal house arrest, they may have increased the pressure because they are fearful that the public may be reminded of it. This type of behaviour will without doubt have negative consequences for all involved parties. Our father’s predictions regarding the current conditions have been proven to be correct.

The truth is that our father never wanted any votes, nor was in interested in power. His only concern was the damage to humanity and human dignity. This is what pained our father the most.

When we look at the critical conditions facing our nation, the economic challenges and the financial hardships endured by our people we are all reminded of what Mousavi predicted. His crime was that he worried about such matters and has paid the price by being under house arrest for two years.

Q: You made references to Mir Hossein’s concerns regarding the conditions in Iran. He had stepped aside from politics for 20 years watching the events from the outside. Why did he decide to re-enter the political arena?

Narges Mousavi: When a storm is coming from afar, someone looking at it from above can predict its arrival. My father could see the approach of the storm; the storm that is currently destroying and leveling everything around it. He felt a sense of responsibility towards saving our country and protecting our people and as a result decided to re-enter the political scene.

Everyone knows that he walked away from politics years ago and had no desire for power. After the protests began he only reiterated that he wished to stand with the people. They accused him of many things and if you ask me it is their behaviour that what should be defined as spreading lies and disturbing public order.

Q: Did Mousavi predict the current situation when he entered the political scene?

Narges Mousavi: When my father re-entered the political scene he prepared himself for every eventuality, much like a closed box whose content people are unaware of.

Although my father is an artist and a kind human being, he is nevertheless capable of a unique form of strength and perseverance. I myself was often afraid of this strength of character and charisma. It is because of these characteristics that he is able to remain steadfast and patient. I view patience as the means to achieving justice.

As the saying goes, rights cannot be handed out but rather must be demanded. One must demand one's rights. One must not remain silent, even if it means having to pay a price. My father always said that we must all take steps towards achieving justice and that it is an evolutionary process that will get us to our ultimate goals.

My mother and father are friends and soulmates. They have always supported each other in all areas. They are in many ways inseparable. One of my mother’s admirable characteristics is her courage and tenacity. She has always demonstrated endurance under pressure. It is because of her mental strength that, despite the difficulties and pressure, I keep telling myself that I am the daughter of Zahra Rahnavard and as such I can tolerate it all. In the past two years, every time she saw us she would say: “Be patient, be strong.” We miss her and are worried.

Q: What are your main concerns and demands?

Narges Mousavi: Our first and foremost demand is the immediate release of our parents. We would also like to have explanations regarding the actions that have been taken, for to date not one entity [within the ruling establishment] has accepted responsibility for their detention. Each time we have followed up on this issue they have provided us with a different response. First they say it is the prosecutor’s office, then the Revolutionary Court, the Intelligence Ministry, the IRGC , the Office of the Supreme Leader, and we still don’t know who is responsible for our parents’ house arrest.

Shouldn’t someone in this country finally explain this illegal, illegitimate, immoral, and un-Islamic detention? Tell us what they have done and what the charges are against them. My mother is a scholar and university professor who can play a positive role in scientific developments within our society. Our father is a well known political and revolutionary figure whose presence could be effective in the critical conditions we are traversing today. Why should they be under house arrest for two years?

Zahra Mousavi: We have no news of our parents. We have neither spoken to them by phone, nor have we been allowed to visit them. When they treat those of us who are in the public eye in such a manner, how do we expect them to treat our imprisoned parents? We don’t have a sense of security.

Given our predicament, someone could suddenly appear at our bedside while we sleep. How can we have any security when they are free to take us to an undisclosed location without us knowing what individual or entity is responsible for such an act? Given these gentlemen’s reputation, we are concerned for [the safety and well-being] of our children.

They once called me and began threatening me in front of my father. Who is to say that they won’t treat our children in the same manner? We are concerned for our children’s safety. The other issue at hand is their lack of respect for morality and ethics. The laptops they confiscated belong to women and contain photos, images and writings and memories that are personal and should be respected as a result of personal privacy.

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