Actress Reyhan Parsa exclusively told bTV: I was regularly beaten to death at home for not wanting a hijab

Protests in the streets of Iranian cities after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini do not stop. The young woman died in custody, where she was detained for improperly wearing a hijab. Now, hoping for change, hijabs burn on the asphalt, and hundreds of women cut their hair in the squares.

How far can the power of the so-called moral police go? How badly do you have to yearn for freedom to give up your family? And will “spring” occur in Iran in the first days of astronomical autumn?

An exclusive story by Reyhan Parsa – one of the rising stars of the Iranian film industry, who today is an activist with millions of followers on social networks.

Tell us more about your life in Tehran.

Reyhan Parsa: I was born in 1998 in Tehran, I am 24 years old. In Iran I worked as an actress and for 4-5 years I was in the field of cinema. Due to the stress and pressure, I was forced to emigrate and left Iran and Tehran forever.

When you lived in Tehran, how old did you wear Hijab?

Reyhan Parsa: All girls and women who live in Iran, from the age of 7 must, I emphasize, must, without exception, wear a hijab, and also comply with all the requirements for wearing a hijab. Otherwise, things happen that make me cringe even more than Mahsa Amini was subjected to.

As painful as it is for you, we will stay in the school yard a little longer. Did you feel the wind in your hair when you played there?

Reyhan Parsa: Impossible, at the age of 7 you put on the hijab or the so-called tycoon, it’s for life. There is a law – in school, even in the classroom, you are forced to cover your hair. The feeling of the wind in your hair is unthinkable, all girls in Iran are deprived of the feeling of the wind in their hair.

Did you then accept the world you live in as normal?

Reyhan Parsa: Until we didn’t have or had less access to social media – yes. A child cannot differentiate between the situation in his country and elsewhere. The fact that in his country it is mandatory and in other countries it is not. But when social networks appeared and awareness in society increased, we realized that it is not like that everywhere. Especially my generation, from the age of 9 to 10 we understood that this is our natural right and what they are imposing on us is tyranny. That we are deprived of our freedom.

Is that how you actually found out that the world you live in is different?

Reyhan Parsa: Everyone has faced this injustice in their own experience. I personally felt real normal very early. I myself, from a young age, internally felt that I should strive to achieve something in order to help myself and many others. This was the pillar on which I leaned and held on. Like an epiphany. Believe me, children already know from an early age, but there are also many strictly religious families where it is impossible to express yourself.

And what was your family like? Did you feel supported by your parents?

Reyhan Parsa: It was through mother and father that I realized that this pressure is not only from the state, but also rooted in the family. And behind the walls of the home, the girls are forced to fight windmills. And I have been fighting this since I can remember. My family was very religious, there were constant fights about the hijab, my clothes at school. I was regularly beaten to death at home on this occasion, I was warned at school. The moral police detained me for this, and when I started working in the cinema, they detained me for wearing the hijab badly. I received constant threats.

At that time, you also become one of the rising stars of the Iranian film industry.

Reyhan Parsa: I had a great desire to become an actress, it was inside of me, to my joy I started to follow my dream very early. I have been interested in acting since I was 15 years old, and six years ago I started playing the lead role in a TV series. The series and the two subsequent films were wildly successful. I attracted the attention of the Iranian people, I became really famous.

Describe for me a day at the top of your career.

Reyhan Parsa: Rather, I want to tell about a bitter memory. While we were shooting a stunt in the series, a very small part of my legs was visible. For this reason I was called to the security police. I was detained without explanation. They didn’t let me go for half a day. The most bitter day of my life so far, my worst memory. Mostly because my family never showed up, never supported me. I was alone. The pressure, stress and fear I felt is indescribable. This can happen to any girl who is determined to live independently.

How far are the limits of this so-called moral police?

Reyhan Parsa: Unfortunately, they can do whatever they want, they can commit any violence or crime. I don’t know if there is time to talk about what is happening now or not, but from the voice of the people, which is increasingly being heard, it is clear how deep the problem is. Anything can happen to a girl and the darkest things you can think of. This is a warning to everyone. If a girl comes into the sights of this moral police, it doesn’t matter what she is, if they mark her as not following the hijab regulations, anything can happen to her.

Can they kill her?

Reyhan Parsa: Yes, they can. They can kill her and they have done it thousands of times, many girls disappear without a trace. I think that the majority of them are detained by the patrols and killed. I think the news about missing girls is suppressed because they are killed.

Where did your revolution start?

Reyhan Parsa: When I was in Iran I launched a hashtag “Be yourself!”. I was criticized, reprimanded and threatened. After I left Iran, the threats increased, despite my silence and being away. I escaped here in Istanbul, but I still get threats. However, I continue my way, my mission. I will never regret that I have shown the truth, that I have made many others think about where the truth is.

Were you afraid?

Reyhan Parsa: Yes, I was afraid then. Always the Iranian government instills such fear in one’s heart that wherever you are, they can find you. Even though I am here, it is possible that I will receive physical terror. But despite everything I rebel, I’m no different from that girl who goes out in the middle of the street and fights. A struggle is a struggle, we must all unite and fight as best we can.

And for your loved ones? Do you feel bad for them?

Reyhan Parsa: Unfortunately, I can say I’m afraid, but I’m not sad. Because of my escape, our people disowned me, we cut off all contact. But I miss my sister who is 10 years old very much. He texted me today saying he couldn’t talk to me because they were bugged. When a child has this fear, it is not good. But my friends, all the girls, all the women out there are trying and fighting to make that fear disappear and especially these days and it shows.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Was that the cup that spilled over?

Reyhan Parsa: The drop of water turned into a flood. That was probably the point. What is happening today is a continuation of that point, of that murder. All people, all girls these days somehow imagine that this could happen to them. I don’t know what to say, it’s so bitter I don’t know what to say. People’s blood boiled and I don’t know how it will calm down. They can no longer cover their ears. You can’t go out of your house on an ordinary day and be killed because of one hair showing outside your headscarf. After this happened and word spread, everyone felt fear and threat. What made the public’s blood boil is the young age of the girls to whom all this is happening. We see girls between 18 and 25 years of age. The last straw was this case, it directly affected them. They were brought face to face with this violence and oppression. After all, they have to let out this anger that has built up over the years.

Will spring finally come in this early fall?

Reyhan Parsa: Look, the government is doing its job – oppressing, suffocating, killing. He kills tens of thousands not to mention one girl is killed, this is his only weapon. The people are empty-handed, they have no guns, and if the government had no guns, then there could be talk, but they have guns and there is no equality. This time, however, we see unprecedented support from men as well. They stand as shields against the cannons. The wound is open and the state has no healing salve. The voice of the whole world is now heard. I personally hope for a change, but I don’t know what will happen now.

If she comes, will you come back?

Reyhan Parsa: I don’t want to talk about it, it’s very personal, but the truth is that there is nothing that can compensate for the anger that has built up inside me. I don’t think about going back to Iran and I don’t think about my family. I only write to my sister these days: “See how glorious it is to fight for your freedom.” It is very good to fight for your freedom at this tender age. I think about myself, about the fact that my business is to make films and be an actress, I want to contribute to the truth in which I believe.

Is this belief symbolized by the neck tattoo?

Reyhan Parsa: It is the flow of life and the key of F in music that signifies the continuation of life. The change of day to night, the new day.

What does your new day look like now?

Reyhan Parsa: I am currently making a film called “Time for a Month”. It’s very exciting to see meaning again.

If you could stand up so that everyone on the street in Tehran could hear you right now, what would you shout?

Reyhan Parsa: Maybe I would shout the best slogan: “Woman, Life, Freedom!”


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