Maral Mohammadi “I might not see my home town again”
The situation in Iran has been boiling for around 20 years now, and each movement or unrest has led to the current state of society. With Aban (Bloody November 2019) Iran reached a tipping point, the brutal killing of Jina Mahsa Amini on 16th of September 2022 sent never felt before shockwaves to Iranians in Iran and the rest of the world – as a result a women-led revolution is taking place in Iran. “After 44 years of Islamic occupation, Iranians want their country and culture back and are fighting a battle against religious barbarism, oppression, misogyny, and corruption”, as Arya Zappa aptly analyzed the current happenings.
To give deeper insides in the current situation in Iran, Thomas Venker talked to the German Iranian Music producer and artist Namito; the web3 social-impact initiative Iran DAO, raising crypto and providing resources for Iran’s women-led revolution; the Senior Journalist at Iran International Maral Mohammadi; and the German Iranian Musician and artist Arya Zappa.
How would you summarize the nucleus of the current situation in Iran?
Maral Mohammadi: Woman, Life, Freedom. The answer is in this slogan. Iranians are struggling with economic crisis, environmental crisis and many other social issues. However, this movement started by something much deeper and intersectional than any of our struggles. It is focusing on everything that the Islamic republic is against and we as a society, have become mature enough to know that if we let this slogan lead us, in time we can overcome all the other struggles too.
When did you first become aware that the situation in Iran was coming to a head?
Aban 1398. What is happening now is the final act of a very long show. Each movement or unrest in Iran in the last 20 years has led us to where we are now. But I think Aban (Bloody November 2019) was a tipping point for the Islamic republic.
Were you immediately aware of the extent of the conflict?
Yes. from the second day, it felt this time was different. Everyone I talked with felt the same way. “This time is different” was on all our lips.
This is a good time to briefly review your individual life stories and connections with Iran:
I moved to London 20 years ago and went back for every holiday that I had. I still don’t know how we could afford all the tickets, but we did. Until 10 years ago when I got in trouble for having done interviews with TV stations abroad and having worked with musicians that are “against the regime”.
25th August 2012 I left Iran for the last time. I didn’t know it then tho, maybe I wouldn’t have left if I knew. Over the years I tried to come to terms with the fact that I might not see my home town again. That I won’t swim in Kish, won’t see Alighapoo in Isfahan (The Ali Qapu Palace (Persian: عالی قاپو,’Ālī Qāpū) also known as the Grand Ali Qapu is an imperial palace in Isfahan), won’t have a sandwich from the greasy spoon behind my old university. I tried to prepare myself for losing my parents and not being able to say goodbye to them. I am now a journalist at a TV station that Islamic Republic considered a terrorist group because we cover the news and uncover the crimes of the regime. I came to terms (after so much therapy, sleepless nights, anxiety attacks and heartache) that visiting Iran is in my past. This movement, this revolution, has opened up that door again. I daydream about walking in Valiasr. I plan where I’m gonna visit first. I am hopeful. I know I will see Iran again.
Do you feel that the global press is adequately reporting the events? If not: What do you criticize?
Yes and no. I think there have been crucial events and moments that they did well (like the Evin prison attack), and times that they were silent (like the hangings in Baloochestan). One thing that upset me a few times was how some journalists that are members of parties that lobby for the Islamic Republic in the west (NIAC), get so much platform and have this much power to change the narrative of what is actually happening.
In your opinion, which media should be followed to get the most reliable picture of the events?
There are some independent teams that are active on social media (like 1500tasvir) that report reliably and responsibly. They fact check everything and are very aware of the safety of the people inside Iran. And from Iranian TV stations I think Iran International is the most inclusive and reliable of them.
The people on the ground in Iran are risking their lives with their protest. This is hardly comprehensible for people who do not live in such a totalitarian system.
What can you do as a person who does not live in Iran (and has no family there) to help? What do you think you should do?
My parents and my brother live there. And until not long ago (when I realised I can not go back anymore) they were still affecting how I lived and the decisions I made. But now, I can only be the echo of the people in Iran.
I can use my freedom and safety to contact politicians where I live and demand a global act in support of the people inside the country.
I can use my platform and my voice to make sure the movement doesn’t get cold, even if there are fewer protests in the streets.
I can talk to anyone who listens and tell them the real stories.
I can make sure that we don’t forget the lives lost in this path. I can keep the memory of Mahsa Jina, Nika, Sarina, Navid, Mohammad, Khodanoor and everyone else who gave their lives alive and make sure their torch is passed on.
I go to all and every protest, being in London or Berlin! I have been writing to my MP almost every week, demanding action and updates on what they are doing. They rarely take a satisfactory step, but they respond. I have made mini documentaries and video art for different causes. I send money to the workers on strike. I try to find ways everyday. Compared to what people inside the country are facing, what I am doing is nothing! I do sometimes feel at a loss, I feel embarrassed for being safe! Maybe we all have a bit of survivor’s guilt, but most of us try to turn that guilt into action and take advantage of our situation.
What do you think needs to be replicated?
Not sure what needs to be replicated, but I know what I want to be done.
The people inside the country have done everything in their power. They protested, went on strikes, got arrested, got shot, their children got shot and have brought everything that they have to the table. It is now western governments’ turn. It is their turn to help and support the people with more than just words. I am against war and military attack is not the only way to support. They should stop seeing this regime as a legitimate bunch, and treat them as the terrorists that they are. Deport their family members living safely and happily in their countries, call back their ambassadors from Iran, close Iranian embassies, close any business or organisation (like the Islamic Centre in London which is an office for Khamenei) and stop any deals and talks with the Islamic Republic. They are terrorists and have taken 80M people inside the country hostage.
What else is there to say?
Woman, Life, Freedom.