Barring political and civil society activists from exiting the country has become a repetitive and tiring game.
It does not matter on whom this policy is implemented: social volunteer or political activist. What is important is that those who want to leave and “return” are not allowed to leave. On the other hand, some of those who want to leave and “not return” do not face any problems and the security apparatus is even happy that they are leaving and not returning. It is not important to what country or what purpose they are departing. What matters is that they leave and not return. But if they intend to leave and return, then they must pay the price.
It is true that people do not suddenly go “missing” as they did during the previous decade, but measures are still in place to relegate them to the sidelines. When in prison and during interrogation sessions officers do whatever they want to their victims so that they forgo the right to live in Iran: officers make arrangements for them to be fired from their workplace for questionable reasons, shut down their offices, officially or unofficially, drive their publishing companies to the verge of bankruptcy, filter their websites and blogs, threaten them or create an environment of terror so that they would refuse to grant interviews to or cooperate with media outlets outside the country, shut down their civil society centers… All of this so that they finally throw up their hands and say, “Leave us alone, we will leave and not return!”
They want the social and political activists to leave and not return so that they can point accusatory fingers to friends and family, colleagues and coworkers and shout: “Didn’t we tell you that they all are foreign mercenaries!” They want all political and civil society activists to leave Iran so that in Iran, newspapers or magazines, blogs, streets, alleys and universities are no longer bothers to the government, so that the government would no longer has to worry about eruption of social movements spearheaded by political activists or civil society volunteers.
If their policy is to encourage us to leave and not return, we must do something else: stay and persevere in our work and remain committed to our plans. If the game is to return us from the airport and then pressure us to give our passports back to us, we must let go of passports and the desire to travel, whether for political or social motives or to participate in a conference or gathering or workshop, or whether for personal reasons and visiting a child or parents. In return, however, we must defend our rights not behind closed doors of interrogation rooms, but in domestic and foreign courts.
We must stay and fight and do something so that, not only our country is not emptied of political and civil society activists, but also those who left return and help us change conditions inside the country.
We may face prison, or unemployment or threats if we stay, but that is better than the prospect of our children having the same problems as us in the future, and Iranians having to leave their country’s borders for an ounce of freedom and security, and not see anything of their country, other than a giant prison, the size of Iran!