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 Pourzand.
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 beliefs."
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 special units. 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 and viciously.
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 his case.
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
©Copyright 2002, The Iranian