Since the murder of Jina Mahsa Amini, there have been ongoing protests in Iran, resulting in a revolution that is accompanied by protests and statements of solidarity all around the world. In this interview, KOPFZEILE talks to the Iranian students Sogande and Dokhtare Iran. These are not their real names, of course. Both have to stay anonymous, fearing repercussions from the Islamic Republic, a regime that imprisons people who speak the truth and stand in solidarity with the revolutionary protests in Iran.
Thank you, for sharing your situation, your experiences with and your thoughts about the revolutionary protests in Iran with KOPFZEILE. Please introduce yourself. What is your connection with Iran?
Sogand: Hey. I have to thank you for wanting to be our voice right now. I’m 25 years old. I’m from Iran and I study in Germany. When I was 19, I decided to go to Hamburg to continue my studies here. I, too, could’ve been Jina Mahsa Amini. I was always afraid of the morality police. That they would arrest me because of my loosely worn Hijab, that they would talk to me without any respect, that they would beat me. I remember what my father told me: No matter what happens here in Iran, no matter what our future looks like, think about yourself, about your studies, about your future. My mother also emigrated to the EU to study. I chose the name “Sogand” for the Interview. It’s a Persian name and means something like “oath”. There’s also a new anthem for the revolution called “Sogand” , that I find very beautiful.
Dokhtare Iran: I’m 29 years old and I’m currently studying pharmacy in Hamburg. I’ve lived in Germany for almost four years. I’m only here for my studies, my family lives in Iran. Right now I can’t imagine going back to Iran, but when the situation get’s better I’d like to go back there. “Dokhtare Iran” translates to “Iranian girl”.
If you have family, friends or other contacts in Iran, what do they report?
Dokhtare Iran: I have many friends in Iran and my family is there. The situation is very bad. The economic and political situation keeps getting worse. They don’t make enough money to pay rent and other living expenses. All my friends want to emigrate to other countries.
When we’re talking about arrests and prisons in Iran, we’re talking about disrespect, violence, torture. We’re talking about the fear the IR-regime purposefully instills in the citizens, so they lose the idea of demanding their rights. As if we’re their property.Sogand, Iranian student
Sogand: My family members have multiple VPNs and apps installed on their phone. They try and try again until one of them works, so we can message each other. They don’t get the real news and the news from Iran can’t leave the country. And my friends and family are afraid to write about anything related to the political situation and their anger, in case the IR-Regime can trace it. That scares them a lot.
Still, I managed to talk to my family. My cousin, who is a student in Teheran, told me that security forces threw tear gas into his room. I have to add: He isn’t even politically active. He was just at home, but there had been protests in his street. My other cousin, who is also a student, reported that his friends have been arrested in the protests after the death of Jina Mahsa Amini. He left Teheran in fear. To me it’s obvious: He was traumatised.
Maybe it’s important to explain: When we’re talking about arrests and prisons in Iran, we’re talking about disrespect, violence, torture. We’re talking about the fear the IR-regime purposefully instills in the citizens, so they lose the idea of demanding their rights. As if we’re their property.
How are you right now, regarding the situation in Iran?
Sogand: Two words: Not good. I feel like I live as two people at the same time. As an Iranian person and as an Iranian person who has to survive abroad. On the way to work, for example, I read terrible news. Two minutes later I’m at work, having to smile, because I’m responsible there, no matter how many people are murdered in my country, in my hometown, no matter how much blood I see in those videos. It’s hard and it demands a lot of mental capacity. Furthermore the IR-regime ruined the Iranian economy. Everyday it get’s harder for my family to send me money. So I absolutely have to work alongside my studies.
The news are so terrible and sometimes I think: Why can’t I do anything for the people there?Dokhtare Iran, Iranian student
Dokhtare Iran: I hear bad news about my home country every day. Too many people are executed for peacefully protesting. Too many are murdered on the streets and too many are in prison. The news are so terrible and sometimes I think: Why can’t I do anything for the people there? What can I do at all? It’s very hard to focus during lectures or while studying.
How are you following the development of the revolution in Iran?
Dokhtare Iran: I read the news on Twitter and on Instagram.
Sogand: I follow the news from foreign news agencies and on social media, especially on Twitter, because there is no independent and free press in Iran. The journalist Niloofar Hamedi, who reported on the death of Jina Mahsa Amini is in prison now, too. [Editors note: Hamedi is now facing the death penalty].
How are you experiencing the protests?
Sogand: I see people, who have been oppressed for 44 years. They’re afraid of protesting because they get arrested and killed. They have no possibilities to voice their opinions. Everything is controlled by the regime. There’s a lot of other examples of people who have been arrested, raped and killed. Like Armita. [Editors note: TW: sexualised violence and murder]. And it seems like the IR-regime is not afraid of being recognised as a murderer. They just don’t acknowledge the murders. Many videos have been recorded and are proof of what’s happening. Ghazaleh Chalabi and Shirin Alizadeh were shot, filming the protests.
The Islamic Republic won’t just leave Iran. They use all opportunities to show, that they represent the Iranian people. This exact government is trying to arrange 14.000 executions. [Editors note: The parliament accused the protestors of “War against God”, which can lead to the death penalty, according to Iranian law. At least 14.000 people have been arrested since the murder of Jina Mahsa Amini on the 16th of September. Last week, the first death sentences have been announced by the government.]
The Islamic Republic does not represent us.Sogand, Iranian student.
In my opinion, a free discussion has been missing from my country for 44 years. I’m speaking from experience, I gave up talking at all and left Iran. After these protests, especially on Twitter, Iranians from all over the world have started talking and discussing their opinions again. Like I said, the Islamic Republic does not represent us. Just like in Germany, the population is made up of many different people with many different mentalities. The Islamic Republic is just one part of that, and a dangerous part. I also want to say that we’re afraid of the Islamic Republic here in Germany, too. Most of us wear our masks while protesting so that our faces can’t be recognised when the videos get published. Even though I flew home last year, I won’t risk it again. I haven’t covered my face during the demonstration two times already. If they recognise me, I might not be able to leave Iran again.
Dokhtare Iran: The protests in Iran are completely different this time. The world sees everything and so many people and celebrities reacted. I think that it’s a revolution, not a protest.
Why is it important to talk about what’s happening in Iran?
The pressure on the regime has to come from outside, too.Dokhtare Iran, Iranian student
Sogand: I’ve studied in the Studienkolleg for a year and met many of my friends there who all came from other countries. I noticed that many other countries, especially in the Middle East, have a dictatorial government. It’s important to talk about Iran, so that people from other countries hear it and know that they’re not alone, that they have rights, that their situation is important. But first they, the people in countries with dictatorships, have to know their rights and stand up for their freedom.
Dokhtare Iran: It’s important, because we can’t leave the Iranian people alone. The pressure on the regime has to come from outside too.
Who are you talking to about the situation in Iran? Are people without personal ties to Iran talking to you about the protests?
Sogand: Even people without personal ties to Iran have talked to me about it. But so far, I had to initiate the conversations because my colleagues didn’t know what was happening. They knew about Jina Mahsa Aminis death, but they didn’t have any more information. But they supported me and told me, they also want Iran to be free. I think, no person wants to see other people suffer.
Dokhtare Iran: At the university, no one has talked to me about Iran, but the people outside, in the train or at work, sometimes talk about it.
How do you feel about the direct actions and protests here in Germany?
Dokhtare Iran: They’re great. For example in Berlin, there were so many people protesting on the streets. This can motivate the people in Iran and show them that they’re not alone and that the world supports their revolution.
Sogand: In Hamburg there have been many protests organised by Iranians. But last week, there was a protest organised by the AStA too.
Are you following the behaviour of the German politicians? What do you think about it?
Sogand: Annalena Baerbock took some measures against the IR-regime and Olaf Scholz posted on Twitter. The German politicians are becoming more active nowadays but especially in the beginning it was far too slow and far too little. Maybe we expected more, but thanks for the support anyway.
Dokhtare Iran: Yes, yesterday I saw a video by Norbert Röttgen on Instagram. He described the situation in Iran very well and called for a reaction from the German government about the executions. Sadly, the German politicians aren’t active enough to this day.
What do you want the people in Germany and the German government to do?
Dokhtare Iran: The situation in Iran got worse every day and too many people are in danger. The situation for Iranian students in Germany is getting worse, too. We can’t be in contact with our families, because the internet in Iran is so bad. The Iranian government partly turned off the internet. We can’t get financial or other support from our families. I don’t have a real answer to this question, but there are opportunities to do something.
The security forces of the regime fire weapons at people and kill them. How can you not call them terrorists?Sogand, Iranian student
Sogand: Be determined in your support of the Iranian people. End your political relationships with the Islamic Republic. Declare the regime and their revolutionary guards as a terroristic organisation. Expel the ambassadors of the Islamic Republic. The IR-regime is a terrorist group and that is not just my personal opinion. There’s videos that we watch every day. The security forces of the regime fire weapons at people and kill them. How can you not call them terrorists?
Is there something you wish for from your university?
Sogand: Yes, please put yourselves in our place and try to understand us. We are in crisis. This is not a normal situation, our capabilities are suffering under it.
Dokhtare Iran: I don’t know what possibilities the university has for us in these kinds of situations.
What can your friends and your fellow students do for the people in Iran?
Dokhtare Iran: You can support us by participating in our protests.
Sogand: Be our voice! The voice of the Iranians can lead to their executions because their government is their enemy. In Germany, the state is protecting the safety of the people. Let’s be the voice of the Iranian people. Today you stand in solidarity with us. Tomorrow we stand in solidarity with you.
Thank you Sogand and Dokhtare Iran for the interview.
هر يك نفر كشته شه، هزار نفر پشتشه
(Rough translation: “Behind every person that is killed, there’s thousands more.”)
This is a translation of the original interview conducted in German. The interview was translated by Lisa.