Farideh Goudarzi beamed with pride as she held up a photo of her son Iman, a slight young man sporting a white martial arts uniform.
“This is when he was a university student. He was one of the champions of the country in Taekwondo,” she told me over a video call. “But in the end, on the charge of wanting freedom, he was put in prison. He got a five year sentence, so we had to escape the country. What I feared was that he would face the same consequences as his father.”
Behzad Afsahi, Goudarzi’s husband and Iman’s father, was among the early victims of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s 42-year campaign of political violence against its own populace. “After 11 months of torture, imprisonment, and being lashed, they took him to the courtyard of the court in Hamedan, where alongside four other prisoners he was hanged using a construction crane,” Goudarzi said.
In the fight for Iran’s separation from mullah rule after the 1979 revolution, Goudarzi’s brother, sister, and countless friends and acquaintances met a fate similar to her husband’s—one which she only narrowly eluded herself. In 1983, and in the final days of her third trimester, Goudarzi was seized by regime authorities, taken to northwest Iran’s Hamedan Prison, and confined to a three-by-four meter torture chamber for “questioning.”