After participating in widespread student protests in Iran in 1999, Ghazaleh Nozamani was tortured in a detention centre and then dropped off in the countryside.
She said it was a “very hard three days, which felt like three years.”
The now Chilliwack resident and Canadian citizen said an older man found her, and took her to a phone kiosk.
“He was an angel, he appeared and saved me,” Nozamani told The Progress. “I called my father and said ‘trust this man.’
“I don’t remember anything else and I woke up in an oxygen tent.
“It was bad. Many people had been killed in that detention centre. I was lucky. For some reason they released me.”
After that, Nozamani was forced to end her engineering studies at Shariati Technical College. She was blacklisted, which made her unable to leave the country.
The then-20-year-old spent the next decade working on human rights issues and helping operate an orphanage in Iran. Finally, in 2009 she escaped to Turkey. She claimed refugee status with her partner in Cyprus where they then got married, having a son in 2011.
The three of them were eventually sponsored by a church in Chilliwack in 2017, and she has lived here since then, working now as an estimator and a project manager. She holds her Red Seal in heat and frost insulation.
Nozamani is watching with keen eyes what has been happening in her home country, as all Iranian ex-pats are.
The killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by Iran’s morality police on Sept. 16, 2022 for wearing her hijab too loosely has sparked protests inside the country and around the world.
Nozamani was among the tens thousands of people protesting in Vancouver recently. They formed a human chain from the Vancouver Art Gallery all the way to Stanley Park.
Now, 10,000 kilometres away from the country where she suffered at the hands of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in 1999 in a protest that changed little, Nozamani is asked what is different in 2022?
“The difference is they weren’t that up front before,” she said regarding the morality police. “There used to be a fine or you would get 20 lashes. Now they are taking another step. Now they kill.
“They are killing innocent women or hitting them in the middle of the street because of a piece of fabric.”
Little changed in Iran even after the Green Revolution in 2009 when protests erupted after an allegedly flawed election, or after the 2011 Arab Spring.
Another difference she sees this time is how widespread the protest are, but also across generations.
“As students, we never had support from our parents or neighbours. Now people are backing each other.
“We want to change society for the next generation.”
What would Nozamani like readers to know about her home country?
“I would like Canadians to know about Iran. Iranians are a warm people, but through this 43 years they have had a very, very tough life and they deserve to be treated as humans again.
“Sooner or later this regime should go. They are a threat to the world. If atomic bomb technology gets to Iran, it’s going to be terrible.
“We are in a very critical point in the life of the country”
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