Interview with the artist Parastou Forouhar

Iranian society in shock

Every year German-Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar travels to Iran to commemorate her parents who were killed by secret service agents. This year, the funeral service coincided with the nationwide protests in Iran. Interview by Farhad Payar

Parastou Forouhar is one of the most prominent voices in Iranian contemporary art. She fell out of favour with Iran's rulers because of her struggle to solve the politically motivated murders of her parents Dariush Forouhar and Parvaneh Eskandari. One of her works of art earned her a prison sentence. Nevertheless, the artist continues her activities to preserve the memory of her parents and the political murders in Iran in the 1990s – in her works, at political events and in the international media.

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Ms Forouhar, bearing in mind you hold a memorial ceremony for your parents every year in Tehran, did you experience any harassment this year from officials?

Parastou Forouhar: Until three years ago the memorial was banned. However, my immediate family and I always spent the day in my parents' house, the venue of the event, subject to certain conditions – for instance, we were not allowed to leave the house. Nevertheless, many people attended every year and, standing at the barriers, refused to be deprived of their right to remember and honour the victims. For three years now, however, the security authorities have not taken any action in advance. That said, we do not know until the last minute whether or not the memorial will be prevented. This year, the event was advertised for 22 November from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., but by noon, many plainclothes police were already standing in the lane leading to my parents' house.

How was this year's memorial?

Forouhar: This time the memorial took place when the unrest was at its height. The whole country was in a state of emergency. The oppressive machinery of the system was in full swing.

A choice of correspondence and texts, documenting the effort to reveal the political murders of autumn 1998 in Iran (source: parastou-forouhar.de)
Parastou Forouhar's parents, Iranian dissidents Darius Forouhar and Parvaneh Eskandari, were murdered by the Iranian secret service in 1998. She has worked untiringly ever since to ensure their memory is preserved and their fate not forgotten

We, like many others, thought the ceremony would be banned. The government had blocked the Internet. So we couldn't issue any invitations via social media and the telephone network only worked sporadically. As a result, we only managed to publish one advertisement in the daily newspaper Etelaat, which appeared on the deaths page.

Few people attended the ceremony than in previous years. Although the plainclothes officers did not harass the visitors, they had remarkably large cameras with them and photographed them all – intimidating in its own way. For the last two years we have always remembered my parents in silence, but this year I gave a couple of readings.

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