Coming to terms with a collective trauma

IRAN: Imagine being born in one of Iran’s most gruesome political prisons, not knowing anything about your past, except for what your body tells you. Born in Evin is a story about a brave young woman who seeks the truth about her past.
Astra Zoldnere
Zoldnere is a Latvian film director, curator and publicist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: March 28, 2019

Born in Evin



The first time I saw Maryam Zaree was in the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin. In the play Denial (dir. Yael Ronen), she addressed her mother from stage, asking why they never speak about her birth in the Evin Prison in Teheran – a prison housing political prisoners in Iran since 1972 and accused of serious human rights violations. Maryam cried on stage. So did I.

«I know I was born in this prison. And that is basically all I know» – Maryam Zaree

The second time I saw Maryam was in the emotionally charged Berlinale documentary Born in Evin that had its world premiered at the festival. This time the young actress and director questions not only her silent mother, but she also conducts a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her birth in one of Iran’s – and the world’s – most cruel prisons. Evin is notorious for its numerous executions and brutal tortures – even pregnant women and mothers in front of their children were seriously abused there in the 1980s. Until now the Iranian government remains silent about the human rights violations committed.

The revolutions that went wrong

Around 2010–2011 the Western World looked with hope at the East and the Arab Spring. However, the progress many of us wished for and expected did not happen. The region was instead plunged into political instability, Islamisation and a long war in Syria. Several decades earlier a revolution went wrong in another Middle Eastern (but not Arab) country – Iran.

Maryam Zaree speaking with Iranian women in exile at an international conference in Florence

In the late 1970s many Iranians were dissatisfied with the Shah’s oppressive and corrupted regime. They hoped for progressive changes, and Maryam Zaree’s parents were among them. But the revolution didn’t turn out as they had expected – the Shah’s monarchy was replaced by the Islamic regime lead by Ayatollah Khomeini, and those who opposed the new regime were hunted down. Maryam’s parents were arrested in …


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