« The Iranian regime has no possibility of reforming itself because it is totalitarian »
The cross : What is the singularity of the protest movement that is shaking Iran today compared to those of 2009, 2017 or even 2019?
Azar Nafisi: Previous movements did not enjoy general popular support. This time, Iranians of all categories take to the streets: farmers, teachers, students… It’s a unitary movement. Another peculiarity is continuity: every day, for nearly a month, Iranians have been on the streets. The combination of these two elements is new and brings us to a turning point.
Can this movement lead to reforms?
AN: The regime has no possibility of reforming itself because it is totalitarian. It proposes a world divided between good and evil. Under these conditions, dialogue is not possible. Power is therefore faced with this alternative: to continue to resort to violence or to deny itself.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the revolution, you wrote that, in wanting to rule and make women invisible, the regime gave strong political significance to the slightest of their acts of defiance. Are the demonstrations today proof of this?
AN: Exactly. Along with minorities and culture, women are among the three targets that the authorities attacked after the revolution. He changed the family protection law, which was favorable to them, imposed the wearing of the hijab… In fact, he politicized the body of women. He made a weapon out of it. In this context, for women to take to the streets and remove their headscarves demonstrates that the regime has failed to control them. He is aware of it, as he is aware of the power of women. He knows he lost the game. This is why his reaction is very violent.
Unlike you, who knew Iran before the revolution, the young women who protest have never led a free existence. What drives them to protest?
AN: We must delve into the history of the struggle of Iranian women. This is very old. It was in the 19th century that, for the first time, a woman removed her veil: Tahirih, executed in 1852. At the beginning of the 20th century, women played an active role in the revolution to move to a constitutional monarchy . Iran then endowed itself with a ministry of women’s affairs, the second in the world… Of course, the young women who are demonstrating today have not lived through this past and have not enjoyed the freedom that I I was able to benefit before 1979. But they received this heritage from their mother, their grandmother… It feeds their resistance.
Would you say that this movement is feminist?
AN: It is a revolution started and carried by women. But what is great is that other groups have joined. The men, in particular, who understood that they had to unite. The freedom of women is the freedom of all.