Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg: Don't stop reporting on Iran
November 23, 2022
Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg herself was once detained at Iran's Evin prison. Today, the politician continues to speak up and demands support for the protesters.
DW: You protested for freedom, democracy, and women's rights in Iran over 40 years ago. What is going on in your mind when you follow the protests in Iran today?
Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg: I am sad and angry. Sad about the death of a young woman who was imprisoned simply because her headscarf was loose. And who then dies in custody. Angry, because women's rights are constantly violated in Iran and this systematic oppression has been intensified in recent years. When women's rights are violated, human rights are violated, and then there can be no democracy. But I also have hope because so many are now rebelling against the conditions. They are concerned about universal rights. There are women who say: you can imprison us, you can beat us, but we will not give up.
Iran uprising seen through the eyes of Iranian women
DW: Are the current protests to be considered separately from those you participated in or is there an ongoing revolutionary process taking place that has now grown into an avalanche?
Eskandari-Grünberg: Freedom, women's rights, and human rights have been suppressed in Iran for 40 years. The protests then and now are signs of the people's will to overcome that. The difference is that women have such a strong voice today. They are, after all, one half of society. In online videos, Iranian women are cutting their hair, and women in other countries are following their example out of solidarity. That's a very powerful image. They are saying: If my hair is an unwanted attraction, then I'd rather do without it. There have even been men who have shaved off their hair out of solidarity, others who wear headscarves. These images, I am sure, will go down in history.
DW: What role do you ascribe to social media in relation to the protests in Iran?
Eskandari-Grünberg: Unlike in the past, these scenes are spreading like wildfires via Twitter. People are using the media as a protest, as a powerful weapon. And the regime knows that this weapon is very powerful because the world can see what is happening.
"There is no free media in Iran"
DW: Over 60 journalists are now imprisoned in Iran. Among them are the two journalists Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi who were the first to report on the death of Jina Mahsa Amini. In a joint statement, more than 500 media representatives in Iran condemned the persecution of Hamedi and Mohammadi and demanded their release. What is the status of the media in Iranian society?
Eskandari-Grünberg: There is no free media in Iran. Newspapers, radio, and TV are under the control of the regime. That's why it's even more important for people to be able to communicate and coordinate through social media.
DW: How is the crackdown on journalists and media in Iran discussed within your party, the Greens, who hold the German foreign ministry, and what consequences will further be drawn?
Eskandari-Grünberg: It took too long, but at least Foreign Minister Baerbock reacted with clear messages. I was impressed by her statement that human rights are universal and apply everywhere. We cannot be indifferent when human rights are disregarded in other countries.
DW: What are the consequences of international media coverage for the Iranian regime?
Eskandari-Grünberg: International solidarity helps the protesters in Iran. I am glad that representatives of all democratic parties support this. I would like to see even more interference from the political side.
Iranians call for regime change in Berlin protest
DW: In Berlin, more than 80,000 people from large parts of Europe came together to protest against the regime in Iran. What effect do expressions of solidarity from abroad have for the protesters in Iran?
Eskandari-Grünberg: It's a great help and support. It is good for the protesters to know that there is worldwide solidarity.
DW: Citizens in other German cities are also protesting against the actions of the Iranian regime. With you as mayor and now as acting head of the city, how do Frankfurt's citizens perceive what is happening in Iran?
Eskandari-Grünberg: People in Frankfurt are also very concerned about Iran. We had several rallies, including one with 4,000 participants on Römerberg.
DW: Your daughter Maryam Zarée made a very personal film Born in Envin about the circumstances of her birth in Envin prison. It is about what political prisoners, especially women like you at the time, experienced there. You didn't talk about your experiences before the movie came out. What reactions have you come across since?
Eskandari-Grünberg: Of course, I was very touched by the film. But it is especially significant for the second generation of refugees.
DW: "Women, Life, Freedom" is one of the slogans of the protesters in Iran. What political measures are conceivable within the framework of a feminist foreign policy to stop the regime in Iran from using violence against its civilian population?
Eskandari-Grünberg: Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has already called for sanctions against the regime in Iran, but other sanctions should follow. To my knowledge, Federal Chancellor Scholz has not yet commented on this, nor has Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission. I would like to see more clear signs and sanctions here.
DW: What do you think of the accusation by the opposition in the Bundestag and the criticism that the sanctions imposed by the German government do not provide sufficient leverage?
Eskandari-Grünberg: The sanctions as well as the statements came very late. And I think there must be others - like putting the Revolutionary Guards on the terror list.
DW: What issues do you think are given too little attention to in the coverage of the protests?
Eskandari-Grünberg: My request is that journalists do not slacken in their reporting. The awareness must not be allowed to diminish. Only then is there a chance that democracy in Iran can triumph.
About Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg
Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg is mayor and acting senior mayor of the city of Frankfurt. As a young, pregnant woman she protested for women's rights and reforms in Teheran for which she got arrested by the Iranian mullahs' regime. Without ever being brought before a judge, she remained imprisoned for several years at Evin prison in Teheran, where she gave birth to her daughter Maryam Zarée. In 1985, after her release from prison, she fled with her daughter to Germany. She studied and received her doctorate in psychology. Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg is married to Kurt Grünberg and has two daughters.
This interview was conducted by Jovana Kastratovic.