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Iranian Hijab Protester Speaks Up About Cruelty Of Fugitive Judge

Azam Jangravi with her daughter. Undated.
Azam Jangravi with her daughter. Undated.

Victims of the notorious judge and prosecutor who was found dead in suspicious circumstances at a Bucharest hotel on Friday have begun speaking up. Azam Jangravi, one of the women activists against compulsory hijab was a victim who has told Radio Farda about her ordeal.

Judge Gholamreza Mansouri put many Iranians, both men and women, behind bars after arbitrary trials, took huge bribes -- 500,000 euro in one case -- and fled the country only to be found dead while Iran claimed it wanted to extradite him.

On December 27, 2017 during anti-government protests in Iran a young woman climbed on an electricity transformer box on Tehran's Revolution (Enghelab) Avenue, removed her white headscarf, tied it to a stick and started waving it at the crowd that gathered in protest to compulsory dress code for women (hijab). She was immediately arrested by the police but her civil action was the starting point of a movement known as the Girls of Enghelab Avenue.

Azam Jangravi was one of the dozens of women arrested for re-enacting what Vida Movahed started on December 27 and posting photos of their protest action on social media. She worked as a researcher at Tehran University's Center for Women's Studies and was studying for a master's degree in artificial intelligence and robotics.

The police dragged her down from when she also climbed on an electricity transformer box and took her to a police station, put her in solitary confinement and left her there for four days. She was then taken to see the prosecutor in the case. After waiting for a while, a husky man walked in. It was Mansouri.

Azam says the he first called her names and told her she was an agent of the United States and Israel and, threatened her with jail when he did not succeed in persuading her to write a letter of repentance.

"I told him what I did was in protest to the unfair compulsory hijab law and had nothing to do with espionage. The officer who was taking me to the court told me not to protest because Judge Mansouri could easily send me to prison, " Azam told Radio Farda.

"Judge Mansouri shouted at me rudely to get up from the chair as soon as he entered the room. Then he looked me in the eye, called me a prostitute and a nutcase and threatened to ruin my life," Azam says. "He threatened to take away my driving license, have me fired from work and from the university where I studied to get a master's degree," she adds.

Judge Mansouri made all his threats come true. Azam's car was confiscated so she couldn't drive any more, her boss was forced to fire her, and she was kicked out of the university. But the worst was the threat to take away her daughter.

"I got divorced from my husband in absentia and had full custody of my daughter. He threatened to take away my daughter and hand her over to social services," she says.

Judge Mansouri threatened to send Azam to the notorious Qarchak prison where hygiene and security standards are appalling. She was, however, taken to another notorious prison, Evin. She was put on trial twice, once for protesting against the compulsory hijab and again to deprive her of the custody of her daughter "because, he said, I was a nutcase and wasn't fit to look after my daughter", Azam says.

Azam knew that courts had no power, in theory, to build a case against her to take away her daughter because her divorce was legal but Mansouri was omnipotent and had a lot of influence and his command would be carried out. The hearing for depriving Azam of her daughter's custody was held an hour after the trial for protesting hijab which ended up in a three-year jail term.

In the hearing they said the divorce had to be annulled "due to insufficiency of evidence and documents" and the child's custody had to be given to her husband who had never visited the child in five years. They claimed that the documents and evidence she had offered to get her divorce were lost. Eventually, the judge ruled that the child had to be handed over to her father within ten days. That was when she decided to flee the country.

"I had a few very hard months in Turkey and was worried all the time that Mansouri could locate us".

Azam eventually moved to Canada where she lives happily with her daughter now but hearing that Judge Mansouri was dead came as a shock.

"I can't say I'm happy about his death. I really wished he would be put on a fair and transparent trial. I wasn't his only victim. He had tens or maybe even hundreds of other victims who still live in Iran and can't do anything to get justice," she says and adds: "There are still many others like him in the system that need to be brought to justice".

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    Maryam Sinaiee

    Maryam Sinaiee is a British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National, who contributes to Radio Farda.