“In Iran, as everywhere, the veil embodies values ​​that contradict the equality of men and women.”

FIGAROVOX / MAINTENANCE – in his novel interrogationSuzanne Azmayesh is French. His parents are Iranian political opponents who have taken refuge in France. She questions the concept of identity and contemplates the mullahs’ regime. These themes resonate strongly, at a time when Iranian women are challenging the authority in Tehran.

A Frenchwoman whose parents fled the mullahs’ regime to France, Suzanne Azmeyesh is a lawyer and novelist. publish interrogation (Leo Cher, August 2022, 216 pages, €18).


Vigarophox. – Two days after his arrest by the morality police on charges of “”Wearing inappropriate clothes(sic), Mehsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian girl, died on September 16. Since then, demonstrations have multiplied in the country. How do you see these reactions?

Susan Azmayesh. – Upon arriving in Tehran with his brother to visit his family, Mehsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman, is caught by the etiquette squad, who blame her for the few visible locks her scarf pulls out. She is taken to the police station, and while in detention, she dies in a very violent way: skull fracture, cerebral edema and hemorrhage. Under these circumstances, there is no doubt that Mahsa Amini died under torture.

Since then, the whole country has caught fire. Women depict themselves cutting their hair, others dancing in the street and throwing veils into the fire, without fear of what they might suffer in return.

These pictures are now spreading around the world. They demonstrate anger and saturation in the face of the daily humiliation that Iranian women have suffered every day since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Seeing these demonstrations, we can feel the need for freedom and dignity for women, and all Iranian people in the face of a strong fundamentalist regime.

What is the symbolic veil in Iran? What is the political message you convey?

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Hijab is compulsory for all girls, hardly from childhood, in all public places. It is combined with a strict dress code and, more generally, police oversight implemented by the decency squad, which can randomly stop passersby on the street, summoning them to ask for their clothes (that’s what happened to Mohasa Amini), or making sure that an unmarried man and woman don’t walk around together And they talk to each other for no specific reason.

The veil conveys the idea that a woman is responsible for the desire that it can cause, and responsible for protecting herself from it.

Susan Azmayesh

In this repressive regime, the veil is a symbol of the control exercised over women, the limitation of their freedom: to dress as they like, socialize with whomever they like, and dispose of their bodies as they like. The headscarf conveys the idea that a woman is responsible for the desire she can cause, and responsible for protecting herself from it, by covering her hair, hiding her curves, not putting on makeup, and not laughing too much. For boys, otherwise they deserve punishment.

Politically, this vision of course embodies rape culture and patriarchy, which is transmitted as a divine message, and commanded to live in humility and piety.

For more than ten days, Iranian women have been burning their headscarves in public. Is removing the veil a condition of women’s freedom in Iran?

Yes, of course. As long as the veil is imposed on the woman, as long as her clothes are codified and monitored, and as long as she is subject to censorship and repression according to the way makeup and dress are applied, she will not be free.

It is an illusion to think that compulsory veiling can be associated with any form of development for women.

Susan Azmayesh

It is an illusion to think that compulsory veiling can be associated with any form of development for women.

Moreover, let us not lose sight of the fact that the veil is accompanied by an entire system of values: the system of Sharia, which conveys the fundamental inequality between men and women. For example, the testimony of a woman is less than that of a man. A woman’s right to inherit is reduced by half compared to her siblings. Divorce cannot be on his own initiative. More than that, men are allowed to marry Up to four womenwhere the opposite is clearly not possible (this practice[de la polygamie] It may be rare, just because it is allowed is no small matter.)

It is therefore important to consider the veil not as a simple fabric, or an imitation of dress with cultural value, but as an instrument of a system that defines a hierarchy between the value of women and the value of men. This is the case in Iran, but it is the case everywhere in the world: the hijab is not a simple garment or an expression of individual belief. It necessarily embodies a set of values ​​incompatible with equality.

Do you think that these events can shake the Iranian regime?

Several times in recent history, the Iranian people have revolted against the regime, and each time repression has prevailed over freedom. Neither the economic blockade nor the international pressure nor the internal revolutions in the country have so far led to the overthrow of the Islamic regime. All movements, unfortunately, ended in disappointment. This time again, the government is violently attacking the protesters: there are already many dead.

There is hope that this uprising, led intensely by young people and women, will bring about real change in Iran.

Susan Azmayesh

Censorship is also at work: The Internet is blocked in the country, access to social networks has become impossible. The regime is keen to limit the circulation of information in order to promote its own version of the facts, which are clearly misleading and false.

But there is hope that this uprising, led intensely by young people and women, will bring about real change. It is therefore necessary to support this movement internationally, to commit to putting pressure on the government, and to show that public opinion around the world has been influenced and exposed by the fate of Iranian women. The Iranian regime cannot be tolerated.

in your story interrogationYou work a lot on identity. why? Can the relationship to identity be neutral?

The relationship to identity is always complex because it is always a personal invention, a construct that everyone produces in relation to their original heritage and culture, but also the place in which they live from its aspirations and its value system. However, this uniqueness is difficult to understand. It is always tempting to adopt the simplest reading network, which consists in restricting the other according to his racial type, the consistency of his name, his physical appearance, and what one imagines of his roots.

The projection can, of course, be negative: for example, the character of Ava, due to her Iranian origin, is He is seen as dangerous when he arrives in IsraelDoubting that she could be indoctrinated, her parents’ country restored her values ​​and attitudes that were not hers at all.

But this projection can also be positive, in an equally deceptive way: this is what arises in Orientalist fiction, to use the term popularized by essayist Edward Said, when the Other is seen as so amazing and so strange, because of the fabricated imagination attributed to it.

Iran for me is just an abstraction, an imagination I build in relation to the memories my parents told me and the mosaic of impressions, but I have no real knowledge of this country, nor any experience in this land.

Susan Azmayesh

Anyway, whether it’s about the way we put ourselves or how others view us, I don’t think identity is neutral. But it’s also what makes the subject so interesting and inexhaustible.

Is this novel rooted in personal experiences?

With this novel, I drew on my history and feelings to express myself regarding dual culture and the difficulty of appropriating one’s heritage when one is from a country they don’t know, which we may never know. Like Ava (my character), I am the daughter of political refugees, from a family of exiles who left Iran to escape the religious fundamentalism of the regime.

For her, Iran for me is an abstraction, an imagination I build in relation to the memories my parents tell me and the mosaic of impressions, but I have no real knowledge of this country, no experience of this land and its landscapes.

However, I am physically written as Iranian, and I have an Iranian surname. Others see me as a stranger. So how do you deal with that? How do you know yourself? Which inheritance should we seize and why do we do it?

The novel questions all these questions and more through fantasy filter. In fact, I did not seek to write an autobiography, but rather to produce independent characters, with their own paths, that stand out from me as an author.

Susan Azmayesh interrogationEditions Léo Scheer, €18, 220 p. Liu Cher

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