Faezeh Rafsanjani: Prison Was the Best Time of My Life

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Faezeh Rafsanjani, daughter of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, spoke to Reformist Etemaad newspaper about her political activities and incarceration, some of the customs that have been imposed on women in Iran and her father’s warnings about her outspokenness. A former parliament member and founder of a women’s newspaper which was later banned, Faezeh has been a high-profile activist who served 6 months in prison for her statements and activities during the 2009 election protests.

On her stay in prison, Faezeh said that not only did she not think that she would go to prison but also that “because my verdict was not just, I did not think it would be carried out.” She added that she was never worried about it. On her days in prison, she said, “I liked, and still like those days. It was a strange experience and costly, and I thank God. I still look at it as the best time of my life, and I thank those who offered this opportunity for me. Prison opened another world to me. I think it was my own spirits that turned this threat into an opportunity.”

Faezeh denied rumors that she received special privileges while in prison. She explained that during her stay she spent “several hours a day translating a book,” ran two different book clubs and her and the other prisoners would hold different political and non-political meetings for various occasions. She claimed that the relationships she made in prison have lasted, because “the depth of a friendship that is made in prison is not something you easily forget.”

When asked by reporter Mohammad Hossein Mehrzad about her role in breaking traditions in Iran, Faezeh said, “In relation to each issue, I try to do what I think is right. Some customs in our society have been imposed, and an imposed custom is without value and cannot persist. Therefore, when I do not believe in that custom and I do not believe them to be logical or I do not value them to be beneficial to society, especially to girls and women, I do not see it necessary to follow them.”

In contrast to some customs that over time come about and have value, Faezeh said, “Some customs have been built, imposed and contrasted with human rights and especially women’s rights.” She continued, “Customs that have no base and that are forced, leave as quickly as they arrived.”

When asked if her approach is what caused “the daughter of Ayatollah Rafsanjani to wear jeans and colorful headscarves to break many taboos for women,” Faezeh said that it had to do with “personal tastes [and] breaking a taboo in front of limitations and forced customs.” She added that despite “pressures from specific groups,” she stood her ground and that it was even “welcomed by many religious families.”

Faezaeh said that Rafsanjani did not interfere with her decisions in regard to her attire, but did offer “recommendations, warnings and sometimes threats” about her newspaper Woman. Faezeh said that Woman was a “reformist paper and defender of women’s rights, and was the target of anger of officials and like many other reformist papers was banned in 1999.”

Although Woman is no longer a banned newspaper, she says she does not have “any motivation” to restart her paper. When asked by Merhzad if the “new environment” has not given her the motivation, Faezeh said, “Not yet. We do not have a shortage of newspapers. During that time our view was toward women. Of course, today the situation has not changed much since that time, and in some areas we have regressed.”

Faezeh believed that one of the more significant events to happen after the 2009 elections was to show that many of the rumors against her and her family “were not true.” Rafsanjani and many of his children have been accused of financial corruption, and it is rumored that Rafsanjani has used his access within the government to make himself one of the wealthiest people in Iran. When Mehrzad asked why such rumors did not persist about the families of other leaders in the system, Faezeh said that although other families were attacked, Rafsanjani was attacked the most because he was especially “influential and powerful.”