In recent years, as the world has witnessed, students, merely for posting an opinion on a blog, exactly as I am doing right now, or a young musician or painter expressing themselves might also warrant harassment and arrest. As we have also seen as of late, human rights activists, such as the jailed lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, or the jailed filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who are among many dozens of jailed Iranian professionals, are being symbolically suffocated from independent expression
The Iranian people, particularly the youth, women groups, and students among others, have responded clearly, as the world witnessed two summers ago. While there might now not be thousands of people flooding the streets as they did in the summer of 2009, a larger and deeper rooted questioning of the norms and practices of current Iranian society is taking shape. These developments make Iran a very interesting and important country to watch in the months and years to come.
I end with one of the greatest lessons I have learned from Iranian prisoners I have interviewed; that power does not lay in the hands of those who implement laws and control the government – true power is in the hands of every Iranian man, woman and student wrongfully imprisoned, those who stand up against persecution and fight for the rights of their fellow citizens.
And while there are many millions of Iranians that might never see inside a prison cell, the systematic forms of censorship, incitement of hatred against ethnic and religious minorities, and a disdain for all things perceived as “un-Iranian”, run the same risk of damaging the spirits and minds of a generation. It is then that pen and the freedom of expression which it carries that becomes so vital. And for those currently pursuing democracy in Iran, it is you who are forging the way for creative resilience and construction of a new Iranian identity