Victims and Witnesses
"Judge Mansuri Destroyed My Life": Witness Testimony of Azam Jangravi
Abdorrahman Boroumand Center
June 20, 2020
On June 16, 2020, the body of Gholamreza Mansuri, a fugitive judge accused of financial corruption, was discovered in a Bucharest hotel. To a number of journalists and activists in whose arrest and persecution he played a role, he was a known figure.
Azam Jangravi is one of the “Girls of Revolution Street,” young women who in late 2017 and early 2018 mounted platforms on Tehran’s Revolution Street and removed their head coverings to protest the mandatory hejab.
All media outlets have [in one form or another] stated that Gholamreza Mansuri died in Romania on Friday, June 19. But for me, one of the Girls of Enghelab (“Revolution”) Street*, and one of numerous individuals who were victims of his anger and torture, he will always be alive.
The first time I saw Judge Mansuri was on Sunday, February 18, 2018. He was Tehran’s Deputy Prosecutor and Head of the Ershad Prosecutor’s Office** at the time, and was very powerful. I had been arrested on Thursday, February 15. My crime was that I had stood on a podium, where Vida Movahed and Nargess Hosseini had stood a few days earlier. Like them, I had raised a scarf in the air, and had removed my head covering while standing on that podium.
I was arrested a short time later and spent four days in solitary confinement at the Vozara [Street] Detention Center. They are usually supposed to keep defendants there for two days but they kept me for four. The Interrogating Judge talked to me before I was sent in to see Mansuri at the Ershad building. He said: “You’re a spy, an operative of Israel and America. Admit it, and write down that you are remorseful.” I responded: “What I did was protest the draconian and oppressive mandatory Hijab law. What does that have to do with spying?!” “Write down that you are remorseful, otherwise you will go to prison,” he reiterated. I refused to do what he asked. The Interrogating Judge then directed the female police officer to handcuff me and take me to Mansuri. Before leaving, the young Interrogating Judge told me not to say anything in front of Mansuri; I think he felt sorry for me. As we were going up the stairs, the woman accompanying me also gave me advice: “Don’t say anything. Mansuri can easily send you to jail.” The young female police officer did not come inside the chamber with me; I went in all alone. There was no one there. I went and sat on the chair next to the large office desk.
A few minutes later, a big, burly cleric precipitously entered the room. As soon as he came in, he started screaming: “Where the hell do you think you are, your aunties’s house? Who told you to sit? Stand up.” I stood up and listened to what he was saying. He looked at me straight in the yes and said: “You f…ing whore, you slut; were you looking for a husband when you went and stood on that podium? Are you crazy? Why did you take your head scarf off ? I will take your life, I will take everything from you.” I was scared and had a big lump in my throat. He continued: “Do you drive? Do you have a driver’s license? Well, no more; that’s over. You can’t drive anymore.” And he did what he said he was going to do: They impounded my car for three months after that day.
Mansuri continued to scream: “Do you work? You’re crazy, you are not fit to work. You can’t work anymore.” And again, he carried out his threat: Two days later, I learned that they had summoned Akram Mossavarimanesh, my boss at the Institute for Women’s Studies and Research, and told her that “Azam Jangravi should not continue to work”. I was fired and did not even get paid for the last month I worked there.
Mansuri asked: “Are you studying? You can’t study anymore; you’re not fit to be a student.” He carried out what he said he was going to do: Two months later, when I was following up on defending my Master’s Degree thesis in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the not for profit Eyvanaki University, I was told that I was not allowed to defend my thesis. I therefore had to let my studies go unfinished.
Someone entered the room in the middle of Mansuri’s torturous threats. Mansuri’s demeanor suddenly changed and he told me in a very kind tone “go stand in that corner, my daughter, so I can take care of this person’s business”. I was surprised, but my surprise only lasted a few minutes. As soon as the person left the room, Mansuri’s threats resumed. He started screaming again: “You’re crazy; you are incapable of raising your child and you don’t have the right to keep you child. I will take your daughter away from you and will give her to The Welfare Organization***.” I had obtained an in absentia divorce and had legal custody of my daughter. But Mansuri now wanted to take that away from me. I was just crying profusely and could no longer understand what he was saying.
A few minutes later he called the Investigating Judge and asked him: “Why is this girl still here? Why haven’t you sent her To Gharchak [Prison] yet?” Mansuri knew that the safety and hygiene conditions at Gharchak Prison were deplorable, and so he continued to threaten me. Before we exited the room, he told the female officer: “Take her to detention for now.”
There was a very small and ugly room in the basement of the Prosecutor’s Office building that was apparently used for temporary detention. They kept me there for two hours and then sent me to Evin Prison. It was Mansuri’s order; they had gone easy on me by not sending me to Gharchak.
Mansuri also carried out the last threat he made about my daughter, and initiated two causes of action against me. At the trial in the first case regarding protesting mandatory Hijab, the court issued a three year prison sentence for me. The second case was concerning my daughter’s custody. I knew that my divorce was perfectly legal, and that the court that had now convened did not even have competence to hear the matter. But Mansuri’s order had to be carried out. At the second trial, which took place an hour after the first one, I was told that the documentation for my divorce was incomplete, that the divorce would be reversed, and that my daughter’s custody would be granted to her father. For an entire month, my family and I looked for the documentation presented at the previous trial for my divorce, but the court authorities said that the evidence had been lost. We were not able to get anywhere with the authorities no matter how much we insisted that we had a court ruling. They were saying that there was no such ruling recorded in their system. They were doing all of that to take my daughter’s custody away from me, as Judge Mansuri had mandated.
They succeeded in their efforts in late July 2018. They sent a summons to our home whereby they had given me ten days to appear in court and turn my daughter over to her father, a father who had not bothered to see his daughter in five years.
Those were very difficult days. One day before the expiration of the 10-day deadline, I left Iran illegally through the border with my daughter, and went to Turkey. I wanted my daughter to continue living with me. I did not want to allow Mansuri to get his way. My daughter and I spent very tough months in Turkey, all the while worried that Judge Mansuri was after us. All these years, I have endured the fear and anxiety caused by people like Mansuri, not only as a Girl of Revolution Street who objected and continues to object to mandatory Hijab, but also as a mother, worried that she would never see her daughter again.
My daughter and I now live together thousands of miles away from Iran, happy and free. And Gholamreza Mansuri has died thousands of miles away from Iran, despised and humiliated. I do not want to say that I am happy about that: I would have liked to have seen him tried in a fair and transparent trial. I was not his only victim: Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other people were his victims and are still in Iran and have to remain silent, but they all want justice. His death does not make us happy; what would make us happy is the implementation of justice. Gholamreza Mansuri is gone but there are many people like Mansuri who must be brought to justice. I am longing for and await the day when that happens.
* “Girls of Revolution Street” refers to women who stood on a metal box on Enghelab (“Revolution”) Street and took off their head coverings in public to protest mandatory Hijab.
** The Ershad (“Guidance”) Prosecutor’s Office (located at Prosecutor’s Office, District 21) is a branch of the Prosecutor’s Office reserved for moral and “norm-breaking” crimes.
*** Sazman-e Behzisty (“The Welfare Organization”) is a governmental organ in charge of putting children in orphanages and arranging adoptions, among many other things, including providing financial assistance to women and single parent households.