My husband is in effect a victim. A scapegoat
An interview with Mehrangiz Kar
By Fariba Amini
May 30, 2002
If people were not veiled,
If they were not so unclean,
If their voices were not so weak, so tight,
Then I would implore them for meaning.
I would use a different logic.
Your true picture is absent
from the people of this world.
I have kept it like a secret
of love, deep inside.
Your praise is too sacred
for people in prison.
I shall save it for the society of the Divine.
Grace, courage, and intellect describe a well-known Iranian woman who has withstood
illness, jail, and now the 8-year sentence of her husband journalist, Siamak
Mehrangiz Kar speaks softly, not only in person, but also in public functions.
Of all the recent speeches by Iranian expatriates or political activists, one could
only listen to Kar and conclude that this long-time defender of the rule of law is
no doubt a strong person who speaks as a lawyer without a bit of self-righteousness.
The content of her presentation, which is both legal and passionate, is in
effect a resolution in condemnation of the Islamic regime's record of human and legal
rights violation. She represents the aspiration of those whom she has defended and
she stands for what enlightened Iranian women are all about.
I spoke to Kar in her office in Washington, DC. Since
October 2001, when she came to the U.S. for medical reasons (cancer treatment) at
the invitation of Yale University and to settle her teenage daughter down, she planned
to go back to Iran when suddenly the news of the disappearance and eventual arrest
of her husband came as a shock.
Many colleagues and human rights organizations persuaded her to stay as her
return might do more harm than good. In her frail condition but with a strong stamina
she is writing and speaking about the issues she has dedicated her life to: the rights
of minorities and women in Iran. She is currently on a fellowship.
Kar was arrested two years ago upon her return after the famous Berlin Conference.
There, she and a number of Iranian intellectuals attended the conference at the invitation
of the Henrich Boll institute in April 17, 2000, titled "Iran after the elections".
Formal charges stated: "Ms. Mehrangiz Kar Kheiran, lawyer, is freed on
bail (at 50 million toumans, equivalent to $60,000). She is charged with conspiring
against internal security by way of attending the conference. Using propaganda against
the Islamic Republic. Refusing to respect the Islamic hejab. Disparaging religious
Kar was sentenced to 53 days of solitary confinement at Evin Prison. Later,
She and Shahla Lahiji, a publisher shared a small cell in the infamous prison: "Like
other women who had been handpicked, I tried to get closer to those whom we shared
our thoughts with. It was obvious that confinement of a woman for political reasons
alongside others who are accused of prostitution or drug addiction is in total disregard
of all international laws. But where should we speak of these injustices. Everything
and every word have its respective place."
From my interview with Kar:
I must give special thanks to the human rights division of the Embassy of Holland
in Tehran, in their relentless effort to help me obtain a visa for medical purposes
and expedite my departure from Iran. I worked in Iran as a defender of minority rights.
I had received my law degree a few months prior to the revolution. I started my practice
almost twenty years ago. My law firm represented especially women and religious minorities
who had been targets of violence.
I had the case of a Jewish woman murdered by a Moslem man. I defended her rights
as a deceased and determined that there was ample neglect in her file. The accused
paid a minimal penalty (blood money or Dieh) and was released shortly thereafter.
Another case was of an old Bahai woman had been strangled to death, apparently by
This is still an open case in the criminal justice system of the Islamic regime.
I could not defend any political prisoners. I was forbidden. When Reza Mohajeri Nejad
(a student activist) had been arrested, he specifically asked for me to represent
him but the officials refused to adhere. They told him "Ms Kar is not competent
to defend you!" Seven months ago, my husband Siamak
Pourzand, 72, an experienced journalist, and founder of the cultural center
of Tehran, disappeared while leaving his sister's house.
Allegedly, special groups related to the security forces
within the Sepah pasdaran took him to an unknown destination. These Special Forces
work entirely under the auspices of the higher echelon of the government. They had
entered our house and taken my computer files. At first, they framed him with adultery!
And the usual branding of receiving ex-amount of dollars from various foreign sources!
This frame-up was so ridiculous in content that later they withdrew the charges
and now his file contains other charges. He is now been accused of pro- monarchy
tendencies and engaging to Overthrow the Islamic regime! To this date, we do not
have any information in which prison he is kept.
My husband is in effect a victim. A scapegoat caught in between the rivalry of
the reformists and the hardliners. He is innocent in every respect. His only crime
was his defense (in writing) of the reformist newspapers. He is 72 years old, with
a frail and weak health. He cannot tolerate or endure the harsh conditions of imprisonment.
In a message he left for our daughter, and myself he said, "Do not do anything
for me. Consider me dead. And go on with your lives."
As a lawyer, I made a formal complaint to the commission of the council of Islamic
Parliament. I have not heard any response as of yet. And I do not expect to.
My family and I have been slandered. My husband and my daughters have been accused
of all sorts of wrongdoings by no other than Keyhan newspaper and its editor Hossein
Shariatmadari who is acting as the representative of Ayatollah Khamenei. There is
clearly a system of compiling slanderous accusations as a means to discredit individuals.
My family has been the target of such accusations. Kayhan distorts the facts purposely
I was also among the list of being physically eliminated. When the policy of physical
elimination was changed following the serial murders of 1998, a new policy was put
into effect. The special units (Nahad) misusing the laws and changing the law for
their own benefit are trying to eliminate us from the political arena. And to some
extent, they have succeeded. The 'policy of elimination' has not been completely
put aside. Only it has changed color and is now being implemented under a different
pretext, under a legal form.
For twenty-three years, I resisted the temptation to emigrate, but now I am here.
Although, my husband, Siamak asked me not to say anything on his behalf, I shall
not stay quiet. If I knew silence would help his case, I would do so. But knowing
the way these units have operated for the last 23 years, silence will only make them
even more violent. We shall use all the legal means to defend him and to speak about
Pourzand's family urgent call: "Our request
from all organizations, which are working on human rights, is to take an urgent action
about S. Pourzand's critical case. He needs immediate medical services. We will gladly
pay for all expenses to transfer him to a hospital. We are alerting that he is in
an emergency situation and any delay would be too late. Respectfully reminding that
every single minute is important in avoiding another tragedy taking place in an unknown
jail against an old journalist who has worked lovingly to improve culture and expand
democracy in his society."
Kar wrote in her short essay about prison, " Nevertheless for me, those
were not all bad times spent. The taboos were broken one by one. Do you remember
when they used to say prison is a man's place? When men spoke so proudly about their
prison experiences, with their curved mustaches and their long beards. Well, we have
neither of them. But in a short span of 53 days, there is so much to tell that only
a few ink drops can be written on a piece of paper from a vast ocean of thoughts