Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Interview with Esha's Father: from Traffic Violation to Section 209 in Evin Prison

By Mohammad Zarghami

An Interview with Reza Momeni, Esha’s father.

Translated from Radio Farda’s Article dated10/25/2008

Esha Momeni, an American- Iranian graduate student, traveled to Iran to work on her academic research on the subject of Women. After her car was stopped, allegedly because she had overtaken another car illegally, she ended up in section 209 of Evin Prison.

Esha’s family has spent the past 10 days waiting for Esha, while Iran’s judicial authorities told Mohammad Dadkhah, Esha’s attorney, that she has been arrested because of her association with the “One Million Signatures Campaign: Change for Equality” [this grass root campaign is working to change the discriminatory laws against women in Iran]

In an interview with Radio Farda, Reza Momeni, Esha’s father, talks about Esha’s life and studies and describes Esha’s arrest.

Radio Farda: According to news reports, Esha was born in the U.S., but you live in Tehran?
Reza Momeni: I was a student at California State University, Los Angeles. During my studies two of my children were born in America, one of them was Esha. After Esha was born, I finished my studies and the Iran–Iraq War broke out. Because of my devotion to my country we came back to Iran. We lived in poor and harsh places and tried to help.

Radio Farda: What do you mean by poor places?
Reza Momeni: I loved my country, I lived in Port of Bandar Abbas for example and for two years we lived in Hormozgan Province. I was a civil engineer and we build roads. All of my kids, especially Esha, grew up in that situation. When we came to Tehran I enrolled Esha in a music class. She was 10 years old when she started to learn the tar. Then she went to university and got her BA in Graphic Design. After her graduation, since she was a US citizen, she went to the U.S. for her graduate studies.

Radio Farda: How come Esha decided to come to Iran to do research for her thesis?
Reza Momeni: You have no idea how much Esha loves Iran. Every time we talked about Iran, Esha wanted to come back and work in Iran. We told her to do the research in U.S. and that it may be harder to pursue her research in Iran.

Radio Farda: Did you know that Esha was working with the One Million Signatures Campaign?
Reza Momeni: Yes, I often travel to the United States. I talked about this with Esha and I went to some of their gatherings. I saw among them many well educated and active women of the community; if it was a bad idea these intelligent women wouldn’t support the efforts of the campaign. Their requests are not against Islam or religion and their activities had nothing to do with Iran’s political order. I had no objections once I got to know them. And I did not stop my daughter from participating.

Radio Farda: Ms. Momeni came to Iran. But what really attracts our attention is the way she was arrested. Didn’t she talk about her project with the Iranian government before she began it?
Reza Momeni: There was no need for her to talk to the government, because she didn’t film in public places, nor was she bothering other people while shooting her interviews. Esha even asked me about the situation and I told her that if she wanted to talk to four people, she would not need permission from the authorities. Her work was not designed to question the political system in Iran and it was not against the law.

But Iranian officials state that they originally arrested her for a traffic violation, because she was unlawfully passing another vehicle. Then while she was driving another car suddenly turned in front of her and from that car some special forces officers got out and arrested her. At first they had told her she had unlawfully passed another vehicle. She called me; she was frightened; she was crying. She told me, "They are telling me I have committed a traffic violation". Then they arrested her for that and brought her home. The police searched my home. There were four male officers and one female. They searched our home for one hour and then they took her with them to Evin.

Radio Farda: Is she in Section 209 in Evin Prison?
Reza Momeni: Yes and we hear she is not feeling well. The last time I talked to her she was crying. She was really upset. Our lives are upside down now. Esha needs to go to her classes. She will lose her job. This situation has made a mess of her whole life.

Radio Farda: Mr. Momeni, have you talked about her arrest with Iranian officials?
Reza Momeni: We went to the Islamic Revolutionary Court twice. We took the title to our house as a security deposit, just so they would let her out of the prison, and then we will take her back for the court date. But they said that her interrogation has not yet been concluded, and when the interrogation is over they will let us know what to do.

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