Parisa Panahi was born in Tehran 37 years ago, but now lives in High Heaton. She came to this country twenty years ago after her father had been able to come to live in Britain five years previously and at first Parisa lived in Hexham. Parisa came here as a 17-year old to be with her father, but has since become an important member of the artistic community in the region, with particular concerns regarding what is happening back in her country of birth. Parisa is an activist regarding women’s and human rights.
You are not living in Iran now, so why do you care so much about what is happening there?
Parisa: It’s my homeland…and I always say that here is my godmother, but Iran is still my mother. I still have friends and family over there. My roots are over there. Ultimately, I would love to go back.
What is happening in Iran?
Parisa: Since last September, people have been rising up after the death of Mahsa Amini. She was a Kurdish girl, who went to Tehran to visit her family and the Morality Police caught her because there was some hair showing out of her head scarf. She was arrested and taken to detention. Three days later they announced that she was in a coma and she passed away the next day. When the reports came out, people saw that it was a head injury. The camera showed that she was taken to the detention centre, but part of the film is missing. The next part shows her lying on the ground. For years the Iranian authorities have tried to divide people in Iran against the Kurds and now there was an opportunity for people to come together to protest.
The uprising started from Tehran and spread across the country. The uprising is shut down at the moment, because the regime executed so many people. Also, people have to go to work to earn money as there are no benefits pr pensions. Over 400 have been killed by the regime since last September, including many children. People are still doing a bit of protesting with civil disobedience.
The Iranian authorities even destroy small tributes in cemeteries. They are scared of the dead.
Question: What could help people in Iran to have better lives?
Parisa: People in Iran need to have a democratic country, with a real choice and no mullahs at all. Iran should be a federation, with proper members of parliament. People there need the west to care, but not to interfere.
Question: What are you doing around Newcastle?
Parisa: In Newcastle, we have had some protests and are still having silent protests every other Saturday. I hope to have an exhibition, showing art relating to Iran at the City Library in Newcastle. A few of us had an exhibition in Durham called ‘Everybody Has a Dream’, with pictures of people killed in Iran, and underneath people could draw their hopeful responses to the pictures,
Question: How can people help?
Parisa: People can tell other people about what is happening in Iran, either by telling them or by art or music.
Question: Anything else you want to mention?
Parisa: Thank you very much!