Parvin Ardalan in Interview with Rooz
They Are Afraid of our Exit
by: Asieh Amini
Wednesday 10 December 2008
Rooz Online, December 8, 2008:
Several women’s rights activists are barred from exiting the country. Why? What do women seek or achieve in communicating with the outside world that entices the government to prevent their exit? We discuss this matter with Parvin Ardalan. We read the interview together.
Rooz (R): In your opinion, what is the benefit for the government of barring women’s rights activists from exiting the country?
Parvin Ardalan (PA): In my opinion, they are not concerned with our resistance, they are concerned with the coverage. They are afraid of our communication with the world outside Iran. They are willing to pay the price of media coverage but in the long run create the terror among activist of traveling outside the country in order to suffocate any kind of communication between social and civil society activities and the outside world.
R: Do they directly say these things to you?
PA: They protest to us about why we advertise and campaign so loudly! But I think they intentionally create controversy in order to institute fear so that no one is longer thinking about why he or she is barred from exiting the country, but fearing what may happen if he or she attempts to exit the country and what kind of repercussions may follow. This problem afflicts not just women, but also student, labor, social and political activists. In any case, the tactics used are the same old tactics. Perhaps if it wasn’t for public opinion pressure they would kidnap us at the airport rather than barring our exit.
R: Why are they afraid of activists traveling? What is supposed to take place during such travels?
PA: Social movements are fundamentally built on communication and cooperation. Today the media plays part of this role and as a result banning travel is not a very good weapon. However, in the case of countries with a background of dictatorship and undemocratic regimes, that fear of communication has always been present because it undermines the control over the people. Like always, they resort to violence. Any kind of communication can threaten this chauvinistic order.
R: Will the government be able to prevent communication between Iranian activists and the outside world?
PA: That is impossible, but the government can create terror. It can refuse to allow undesirable people to enter or exit the country. Banning travel is not the only part of the story. One the other hand, they create terror among activists. For example, Asha Momeni says that she wants to take a different image of Iran to America, that she wants to portray a different picture of Iranian activists to Americans, a positive image. But they confront her too.
If they increase their confrontation of civil society activists, the negative effects will be much harsher. This is because social activists are looking for cooperative relations. In reality governments want to maintain a monopoly over all kinds of communication with the outside world. They do not want civil society activists or non-governmental organizations to be involved. For example, even for issues related to Palestine, if a non-governmental organization wants to communicate with women’s groups abroad, it is confronted by the government, unless it does so through channels that are recognized as legitimate by the regime, such as the Basij.