Personal response by Niloofar Golkar, developed in workshop/rehearsals in January and February 2013. Incorporated into Ouster Remixed performance in Toronto, March 1, 2013 at A Space Gallery.
I am too young to have witnessed this history, but I am old enough to be an Iranian exile in Canada, old enough to have witnessed Iranian government’s brutal oppression of its own people and ongoing imperialist sanctions that push those people further into poverty, daily struggle, fear.
During my studies at Tehran University, I participated in the student movement as a writer for the student magazine Talangor. I was also active in women’s movement as a member of Change for Equality’s One Million Signature Campaign that demanded changes to the constitution to eliminate discriminatory laws. Every year, my friends and I worked with other student groups in organizing demonstrations on 16 Azar, Students’ Day, at Tehran university. On 16 Azar 2006, in front of the same building where three students were killed in 1953, I read a statement addressing gender-based discrimination in universities and the broader oppression of women.
Evin prison, section 209, midnight: I’m blindfolded, sitting on a chair facing the wall. The woman interrogator shouts: “Why did you read the statement at 16 Azar demonstration? Who else are you connected with? We know everything but I want to hear it from you.” This goes on for a few hours. I refuse to write what they want. She tells me “This is the same place where Zahra Kazemi was interrogated.”
What happened to my friends, other activists who did not leave? Many are in prison with long sentences: Shiva, Bahareh, Saeed and others. Those who are outside are under economic pressure which is intensified by sanctions or silenced by the political oppression of the government. Many have became refugees.
We had great hopes for change even when arrests happened. But with the threat of war and the pressures of sanctions it is easy to lose hope. It is a double oppression: one side of it is the Iranian government, the other side is the West. We witness increasing militarization eroding what small space there was for social movements.