07/24/09 - 6:00am
by Chas Danner

the Power of Mom

8:30am update: Transcript added below the jump

Parvin Fahimi, the mother of Sohrab Aarabi, was reportedly told by the Iranian authorities not to make a scene at her 19 year old son’s funeral a few weeks ago. Plainclothes officers then attended to hear her ignore the warning and rage against the death of her son in a gut wrenching speech that ended with “No one can stop me! No One!” Since then no one has, and she seems to be daring them to try. Parvin FahimiWithin days of the funeral she was visited by Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard (another powerful woman in her own right) and footage of their meeting was made widely available across the internet. She also spoke with BBC Persian that week, a satellite network who’s broadcast the Iranian authorities routinely try to scramble.

Yesterday Parvin resurfaced to meet with the Tehran City Council and spoke at length about her ordeal, asking why her son was killed and who killed him (Videos: Part One & Part Two – transcript below). Her outspoken criticism of the circumstances of her son’s death may be setting her up for a dangerous confrontation with the regime, but with the attention she has drawn it might be very difficult for them to try silencing her without risking an even greater public relations disaster. It is reasonable to assume that if she were to be arrested she would instantly become one of the most famous prisoners in the country, and critical international attention would quickly focus on her captors, probably even resulting in a solid media hit.

Americans will remember a few years ago when another mom, Cindy Sheehan, spent her every waking moment stalking President Bush (W) over the death of her son in the Iraq War. She became the effective face of the anti-war movement for much of the country. While it remains to be seen how the grief-powered courage of Parvin Fahimi will play out, she should be watched closely by the international media, and if they’re smart the opposition inside Iran will work to raise her profile as high as they can. One mom might not be able to bring down a government, but this one seems like she might be willing to try. Mothers of murdered children simply have nothing left to lose.

***Fahimi was also already a member of an activist group called Mothers for Peace, a group of Iranian mothers who have spoken out in the past about the danger of Iran’s nuclear ambitions***

TRANSCRIPT of Parvin Fahimi’s testimony
before Tehran City Council on 7/23/09:

With greetings to the Tehran City Council and friends. Please hear my painful story as a resident of Tehran. I lost my son on Monday 25 of Khordad (15 June) during a peaceful rally that was taking place to protest the election results. With the crowds estimated at minimum 3 million, many people were lost and I too lost my son. The mobiles were cut off and I couldn’t reach him – I searched everywhere for him and went back home and found he was not there either so I went back to Azadi Square to keep searching for him. The atmosphere was terrible, so much tear gas everywhere, it felt more like a battle ground and I have been sick ever since with chest problems. I couldn’t find my child and I returned home and together with the sons of my relatives we searched every hospital and police station and we didn’t get a response – my son did not have his ID card with him; he just had a bit of money on him to go and buy test papers at Enghelab Sqaure to prepare for the university entrance exams coming up.

My husband died of brain tumor and was very sick for 4 years prior to his death, so that he could hardly eat. My son was a true companion to me during that time, he was a true nurse alongside me. That night I still did not hear of my son – the next morning when I called 110 (Police call number) and they told me to refer to my local Police station. I went to the local police station and filed a missing person report and they started the search process. No one had the guts to tell me that maybe my son was killed; some people said he is probably arrested and some said he may be injured. I found out that 7 people were killed that day – of those, 5 had been identified and 2 had not. The 2 that had not been identified were apparently older – the sons of my family members went to see the 5 that were identified and they confirmed that none of them was Sohrab. I therefore was relieved to hear that and thought that my son was therefore arrested. I knew that he wasn’t injured because I searched every single hospital – I am aware that some hospitals would not give me a clear answers but others did.

So I headed out for the Revolutionary Court to follow up on his arrest – they told me to return home and I told them I couldn’t – I am a Mother – I couldn’t even eat and to this date I have a hard time eating – my throat just closes up and I have kept myself going through liquids only in the past few weeks. I can’t tell you how much time I spent at the Revolutionary Court, Evin Prison… if I were to write the story it’d make a very thick book. Someone at Evin prison, I am not sure who since they never reveal their names, collected us in the Parking lot and told us: “Those of you who do not see your loved one’s name on the list of detainees not have you received a phone call from them, you must refer to the Revolutionary Court and follow up with them. If your child is due to sit the University entrance exam, tell them that since those detainees are supposed to be freed shortly.” I know that to be true because I spent days and nights at the Revolutionary Court and I did witness them releasing those who were due to sit the University entrance exams. Everyone know me there by now.

I am sorry to take up so much of your time but I have some much to say and please allow me to use someone else’s time if they don’t mind so I can keep talking. So I did all the paperwork to show that my son needs to sit the entrance exam, and my brother was his guarantor and they still have not returned my brother’s ID card that was submitted as part of the paperwork. I faxed these 3 times and they told me my son’s name is not on their list of detainees and I accepted that. But they did say that in certain sections of the prison, they do not necessarily provide a list of names of the detainees – if necessary, I can provide the names of people who told me these things. I kept giving out photos of my son to be taken into the prison as well as his ID card, the photocopy of his birth certificate, the University entrance card – I did everything I could but I didn’t get any response. So on Thursday or Friday, 18th of the month they told me to go to the Revolutionary Court and to not bother coming back to Evin Prison.

I did all the things that I could do, but they didn’t find him and they gave no answer. In the last day, maybe Thursday or Friday, it was 18th of the month (Month of Tir in Persian calendar – July 9th) that one of the authorities told me you must go to the Revolution Court and don’t come back here again, I went to Revolution Court on Saturday, 20th of Tir (July 11th), and forgive me for saying this, but as usual they insulted me and the other mothers there, telling us: “Why do you keep coming here? There are a lot of other young detainees here and they have no problems here while you mothers are killing yourselves, you better go to your home and take a rest, because your children are eating and sleeping in our prison!” and they also said things like: “your son is Phosphori (moves around different opposition groups)”, or “your son didn’t give us his name or has given us a wrong name”, and some other similar things and more insults that I am too embarrassed to repeat here so let’s forget about these things.

They asked me if I had already been to Shapour, and I answered yes, I’ve been there, and I had advertised his name, and in Shapour they told me on Thursday (18 of the month) to come back on Saturday in order to track my son’s cellphone to be able to find him. On Saturday I went back and asked one of authorities what’s the latest on my lost son, do you have an answer for me, my son has disappeared for 25 days and not called me. And I should mention that I even went to office of prosecutor, and while I didn’t meet Mr. Mortazavi personally, the head of his office told me that your son is in Evin Prison. I mean, all the authorities were telling me that my son was in Evin Prison, and that perhaps he wasn’t in a regular ward of the prison, that perhaps he was in a special ward. But I don’t know why he was suddenly killed…what must have happened for him to have been killed?

The same person also told me that we have a picture of your son, and he showed me my son’s national identity card, and told me to come back tomorrow and that they will have an answer for you. Despite that fact, given that the federal investigation agency had called me at home and asked me to go there, I went to federal investigation agency office in Shapour. There they wanted me to look at the pictures of other people’s dead sons, but I didn’t have the heart to do that – the representative said he would follow up on the cellphone tracking but that a member of our family had to identify the photo. My second son who is particularly sensitive and physically weak, and he himself is a student, went to do the body photo identification and had actually recognized my son’s photo from the head up. I noticed that my second son was late in coming home and I got so worried thinking that he too might have been arrested so I went out looking for him for him (Siamak). I even spoke to that same representative and asked him to find my second son – it turns out that my second son did recognize his brother’s photo and he was trying to avoid seeing me so he was hiding from me – he was unable to tell me that they’ve killed his brother. He was so shocked and in such a state, his face was completely white and he had a nervous disposition and couldn’t talk. I finally found him and asked him: “Siamak please tell me the truth… I can read it in your eyes that something bad has happened, please tell me what’s happened” and so he couldn’t hold himself any longer and said: “Mom, Sohrab has been killed.” I asked him: “Why? when? where?”

I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt – all I want to know is for what reason was my son killed? Why did he have to go? Was it because of the way he voted? Was it because he protested the results? How can a 19 year old that has yet to sit the University entrance exams and has yet to fulfill any one of his dreams be killed? By whom and on whose orders and for what? I ask the City Council, what did my son ask of you? What did he ever ask of the government? What did he ask of his country? We wanted nothing but peace, tranquility and a freedom of thought – that’s what’s important to us, that my son thinks about whom he votes for and where his vote goes. He didn’t ask for anything else. Just because he was a supporter of Mr. Mousavi, he must be killed?? For what crime??? On the basis of what guilt??? My son was in the prime of his youth, a 19 year old, who never fulfilled his dreams. As a mother, I ask God day and night to put an end to this injustice. I apologize Sir for taking your time.

Special thanks to F.B.

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5 Responses to “the Power of Mom”
  1. javid shah says:

    I hate the Islamic State as the people they were taking to power. HIM Reza Shah was a great man and before his time. This value was not the people and the abolition of the kingdom. Now they pay the price for the dictatorial government. I am an Iranian myself and I hope that the son of Reza Shah taking power in Iran. He is for democracy. Death to Ahmadinejat and Khamenei. I hope that israel instead of bombing sites bombard the Parliament and a separate large mega bomb in ahmadinejat and khameneis home

  2. javid shah says:

    That the Conservatives with ahmadinejat the lead want to retain power at any price. Depends on the Kahmenei is sick and is 75 years old. So he may past away anytime. It is the real facts. Then do not ahmadinejat and Khamenei that the reformers will have the power right now if he is removed during mousavis presidency. Then reform-minded forces, and can without a conservative supreme leader, to change laws in Iran to more reform-friendly Iran. They can choose when a reformist highest spiritual leader of those in power. It may be the end of the Islamic State. That is to prevent the Conservatives and because Khamenei is so old and sick, he has actually nothing to lose. If it is a reformist government in the period when Khamenei dies, it may be major changes in Iran and the conflict with the more conservative in Iran. That’s exactly what they want to prevent. the Conservatives in power they can go for a hard spiritual leader, and actually continue to keep in power. Khamenei choose to support ahmadinejat to all funds. Because he wants to make sure that the Islamic Republic are undertaken after his death. It is a terrifying future that awaits Iran if it occurs. This scares the world that the Conservatives want to keep in power by all means and that they do not want the world to do. In addition, suspect the outside world with a conservative government that it intends to produce nuclear weapons. It do not intend and will not the world (Europe, Israel and USA) to allow. Had it been a reformist government and Khamenei had gone away so the world had had much greater chance to influence Iran not to produce nuclear weapons. And therefore no sanctions against Iran. But as it stands today, Israel will in all likelihood to attack Iran in the near future. Maybe before the end of the year. This leads to even more difficult times for all Iranians. Both inside and outside the country … And of course an even more isolated Iran. The world must act now. Not wait and see what the people on the streets of Iran will do. With a conservative, isolated Iran with nuclear weapons will be very dangerous. Would the world still waiting to see what demonstrations will lead. Instead of action and help the Iranian people? It is a mistake that all the world’s governments will regret. Furthermore, the people alone to overthrow a dictatorial government that keep all their citizens prisoner. Today, Iran is a large prison. With paramilitary who basijis and with the police and Hamas help (which are paid by the Iranian government to help basijis) can never be the Iranian people to defeat the government. Basijis and Hamas will fight back by all means. They will do everything in its power to crack down demonstration States and keep the Conservative government. Basisjis is also conservative as Kahmenei and Ahmadinejat so for those it does not matter if the reformers have won and that Ahmadinejat have cheated to their victory. Basisjis does not want to have a reformist government. They are striving for a more isolated Iran with even stricter Islamic laws. The world’s condemnation helps hardly demonstrators. Nor cares basijis and Hamas about what the world thinks about the situation in Iran right now. The police dare not go against basijis. So they can not remain outside the struggle for power. Basijis have an enormous power in Iran. They can do as it pleases. Shooting with intent to kill, hang the young and old, women and children, women who are not married or is a virgin forced marriage with a basisji guard the night before she will be hanged and watch now with coercion is his spouse has sex with the woman / child because under the law for not a virgin or unmarried woman hanged in Iran. Thus rape that has Khameneis blessing, / / go against the police. basijis has completely free hands to do as they wish. Nobody in government is questioning their activities. Because Khamenei is dependent on. The reason is that an Islamic state still exists in Iran. This know Khamenei and the Islamic government. Without basijis overthrow the government. Just because they may do as they wish. It is a mutual relationship between basijis and State. Basijis have their own laws and rules and is itself an economic power with free access to weapons. Basijis are dangerous because they seek martyrdom, just as suicide bombers. Should the government overthrow it should also basijis overthrow. Otherwise, it will (just as in Iraq) to be a massive suicide attacks. It also Hamas will be involved. Even Hamas has its own interests in Iran. Without this government, they have nobody to help with weapons and funding for Hamas. So it is very important to Hams to the Islamic government continue to exist. Ahmadinejat and Khamenei wants to make sure a cover Islamic state in the conservative spirit. After Kahmenesi death. They have more to lose than to agree to a compensation consultation with the reformers or the outside world. So much to lose so that Khamenei his honor as the highest spiritual leaders in the game. He knows that his time is soon. So why should he insure that Ahamdinejat for his spirit. Khamenei knows that it would not be a reform-friendly government would have power today.

  3. javid shah says:

    I hope people are Khamenei and ahmadinejat as they are second with a crane on the square to scare others for what can be done them

  4. javid shah says:

    people should make home-made bombs and throwing against basijis and Hamas forces, which is currently in Iran to protect government
    tooth to tooth. eye to eye

  5. irani says:

    With all do respect. Shah was also a murderer. Have a look just on the internet to see a fraction of the crimes he has done. He also promoted the “mullahs” because he was afraid of another movement like that of Dr. Mossadegh. We liked him so much, we throw him out TWICE. We lost the revolution true, but we wanted a revolution and we wanted Shah gone. We just didn’t want another ten times worse dictatorship. We wanted and still want democracy. No Shah, No Khamenei just an elected president by the people and for the people. As for the tooth to tooth argument, that is exactly what we have now. This is our problem. A blind rage. NO sir, we need a very different approach than just blind hatred. To better Iran we need use our minds. The emotion is only what will keep us going when we are sad and tired. It cannot be and shall not replace our reasoning and logic.

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