My Stolen Revolution Explores Memories Behind the Prison Walls of Iran
Nahid Persson Sarvestani, a teenage activist at the time of the 1979 revolution against the Shah of Iran, goes back in time to find out what became of the idealistic young revolutionaries and communists who overthrew the monarch, but were later crushed by the Islamists. She dedicates the film “to the Iranian political prisoners who sacrified their lives in the pursuit of freedom, justice and democracy and to those still imprisoned who continue the fight today.”
Sarvestani shows the breadth of the opposition to the Shah, and demonstrates that the revolution was not led by Islamists, but rather by young secualr rebels. But in the end, “They (the Islamists) were better organized than we were,” she says. They stole the revolution from the revolutionaries. When they came to power led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the ensuing repression “was far, far worse than the Shah.” Everyone in Iran was “shut off behind the veil” and forced to obey Islamic law. Friends were arrested and imprisoned. There were mass executions daily. Although Sarvestani was the main activist in her family, by an accident of fate, she happened to be away from home when the Islamist thugs came to her home, and her brother Rostan was arrested, tortured and eventually executed. She knew they were looking for her, but she was able to flee the country and feels the guilt for her brother’s death to this day. For years she tried to suppress her memories, but now felt it was time to confront them. She starts on a quest to find out what happened in those dark days and manages to find several women she knew who were jailed in the aftermath of the revolution and spent ten years in prison under horrific conditions, tortured daily before being released. The women gather together at Sarvestani’s home in Sweden and exchange stories of what actually happened to them in an attempt to exorcise the pain they have suffered.
Some women in the prison crumbled under the pressure and recanted, “confessed,” informed on their comrades and families, pretended to become devout Muslims to put an end to the torture. But these women hung on to their beliefs, and the companionship of their comrades pulled them through, scarred, but now enjoying more or less normal lives. Art was the salvation for some. For others, memories of family and friends. They think back to the days of their youth. “We had such energy, felt such joy.” By meeting with the women and hearing their stories Sarvestani is now better able to come to grips with the guilt she has felt all these years for having been the one who escaped. She too has not forgotten the past, and doesn’t want to. On her keychain is a picture of Karl Marx.