Reyhaneh Jabbari was born in Tehran on November 6, 1987, as the first child of Shole Pakravan and Fereydoon Jabbari. Together with her two sisters, she grew up in Tehran in a protected, loving, artistic home. She studied computer science and worked part-time as an interior designer in the office of a family friend. She was a young, modern woman with ambitious plans and dreams. But her “business meeting” with a surgeon and the former secret service agent Morteza Sarbandi changed everything. When he tried to rape her, she defended herself with a knife and stabbed him once in the back. She fled the apartment. A short time later, Morteza Sarbandi succumbed to the stab wound. That same night, Reyhaneh was arrested. For 58 days, she had no contact with legal counsel or her family. During this time, forced confessions through beatings and psychological harassment were made that lead to her death sentence in a show trial under Qisās’ retribution law of blood revenge 1.5 years later. Reyhaneh spent 7.5 years in prison – first in Evin Prison, then in Shahr-e Rey Women’s Prison. Here she got to know women from different social strata of Iranian society and began to write texts about the systematic oppression of women by Islamic laws, which she published through her mother Shole. She tirelessly campaigned for better conditions for her fellow inmates until her execution on October 25, 2014 in Rajai Shahr prison.
This execution was in the face of international protests. Reyhaneh could have avoided her execution by withdrawing her accusation of attempted rape to save the “honour” of Sarbandi but refused and for her honesty was executed.
Should you conclude that the Iranian theocratic state is misogynist then yes you are right. It hates and despises opposition to its tyrannical rule and executes both male and female but it hates women even more. During Reyhaneh’s trial then presiding judge asked why such a “devout Muslim” as Morteza Sarbandi was in his residence alone with a female. The prosecution was silent. Hypocrisy and misogyny as bedfellows.
I have travelled over the years in fascist and communist dictatorships but a theocratic dictatorship has a special connection with “God”. The Nazis exterminated the inferior. The communists exterminated the capitalist roaders. The Iranian theocracy murders all who oppose the will of the theocrats who have their faces plastered all over Tehran in true and crude Stalinist fashion.
Reyhaneh’s mother and sisters escaped to Germany. But their father “head of the family” is denied his passport a rather misogynist act in itself!
If this documentary makes you angry and disgusted it has succeeded but it is also a powerful testimony to the moral courage of Reyhaneh Jabbari to fight for human rights and if she were alive today that is what she would want you to remember. At the end of her life she forgave those who tortured and abused her and even the Sarbandi family but not Morteza Sarbandi.
This 97-minute 2023 German and French documentary is written and directed by Steffi Niederzoll.
Part of the Toronto Hot Docs Festival and is showing on 1/7 May as a North American premiere.
RKS 2023 Film Rating 95/100.