“Young Iranians are incredibly courageous”

“Young Iranians are incredibly courageous”

What pushed you to go to Iran in 2022?

It all started with reading The use of the world, by Nicolas Bouvier, the Swiss travel writer, when I was 25 years old, in 2012. At the time, I was a professional ice hockey player, passionate about literature. This book gave me a fervent desire to leave, backpack, travel the world. Fascinated by Iran, I had read Iranian writers and poets, as well as travel writers like Pierre Loti . Most of the story of The use of the world takes place between 1953 and 1954, in Iran, where the latter then resided. I left for a report… I brought back a book!

It was risky…

Yes, it was a month after the murder of Mahsa Amini, who died on September 16, 2022 after being beaten to death because her veil was incorrectly put on: the first demonstrations left 500 dead; Iranian journalists and their lawyers were “detained”. Furthermore, I knew that Iran practiced hostage diplomacy by detaining Westerners to exchange them, but it seemed legitimate to me to take this risk, which was not heroic. Heroism consists of going out without the veil, and shouting in the streets: “Death to the dictator!” » like this student, Niloofar, whom I met when I arrived.

Is this the “echo of Tehran” that you talk about in your book?

One evening, in the street, Niloofar asked me if I wanted to hear “the wonderful echo of Tehran”. When she screamed, I was afraid of the morality police. A car rolled down its windows… the passengers started shouting: “Death to the dictator. » Windows in the distance opened and other people shouted the same thing: this is the echo of Tehran. Women and men of immense courage who fight for their freedom despite torture, arrests and the sinister Evin prison.

You have maintained links in Iran. Do resistance and repression continue?

Many women do not wear the veil in large cities… The only one where women are completely covered is Qom, the Shiite holy city. Contrary to popular belief, 85% of the population is urban and educated. The Basijs, the government militia, cannot arrest everyone. But they try to repress by other means, economic for example. They had reduced the arrests a little but with the attack launched on Israel on April 14 and the hardening of the regime, the noose tightened again. The demonstrations have declined, as they remain very harshly repressed. And the Iranian state has never killed and tortured so much.

You met a lot of people opposed to the regime…

I have never met a people who had such hatred of the regime in place. No Iranian supports the mullahs anymore, not even those who are reformers. This power is only maintained by the force of machine guns and kidnappings at dawn. It is a small oligarchy: between 200,000 and 300,000 Revolutionary Guards hold the strings of the economy, oil, tourism.

Paradoxically, Iran is not a very religious country: life does not stop when the muezzin calls for prayer. There are synagogues, Zoroastrian temples, churches. People are fed American films and series and wear Nikes. The anti-American demonstrations that we see on television are orchestrated. There are so many intellectuals imprisoned that the Iranians call Evin Prison, “Evin University”! Many fled their countries for Europe and the United States. But there is no political figure around whom opponents could rally to bring down the regime.

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