MG: I read a book about the Iranian Revolution called Persepolis, in which the lead character tells a terrifying story of political and religious persecution. Did you fear for your safety, like she did?
PS: Yes. One time, when I was 14, we were playing chess. My dad was under house arrest at that point. At times, he would be taken in for questioning. Chess was illegal because it was considered a violation of Islam. I remember trying like mad to hide the chess pieces so when those guys with their guns walked into our living room, there would be no sign of chess. I was trembling and my heart was racing because I knew that if they found the chess set, my father might be arrested or killed. Thankfully, they didn’t see it. That experience was scary because when I looked at my parents’ faces, I could see the fear in their eyes.
MG: What was daily life like?
PS: I’ll give you an example. We had a German shepherd. The new government said dogs are a symbol of the West. Walking a dog meant you would get arrested. So I would take him out wearing my head scarf—but I would make sure I still showed some hair. Inevitably, I would get arrested. The police would take me to the station, call my parents, and make them sign a statement that said “Parisa will never do this again.” Two weeks later, I did it again. I had fear though because every time I stepped outside of my house, it was a world I didn’t know, I didn’t belong to, I was fearful of. It was incredibly stressful, but even as a child, I wanted to make a statement: my personal freedom.