State Violence and the Economy of Silence in Post-revolution Iran

In the last 30 years in Iran, repression was used as a mean of control over society through an economy of silence and publicity around state violence, and through the prisoners’ families. For the families and people close to political prisoners, silencing, intimidation, uncertainty, disruption of social networks were not only an effect of state violence, but a tool of social and political control. This missing link between targeted repression documented in the closed world of the prisons, and the wider social world (which was living in the very determined context of a violent exterior war) has received less attention. However, the experience of the families who had relatives in prison is fundamental for two reasons:
- The control that was exerted on them (surveillance, interdiction to organize funerals, non-admission in universities) can help understand and map the modalities of state control over society beyond the repression used inside prisons, and thus understand the relative silence that surrounds what happened in the 1980s.
- The memory of violence the families carry with them has a subversive potential: how does it come out? In which form? How is it transformed into political agency, as the example of gatherings around Khavaran, or the political activitism of children of people executed in the 1980s after 2009 show.
A thick description of the families experiences and modalities of memorialization helps to understand the texture of the “bluriness” (What really happened? At what scale? How to name it?) of the immediate postrevolutionary era .
A main notion is the economy of silence and publicity, through a politics of death (giving back the bodies or not, informing of the execution or not). The absence of sepulture and the impossibility of ritualized mourning show how politics of death are used not only to suppress opponents and minorities, but also to govern a population who lives in terror and with the wounded memory of dead without funerals.
Family experiences allow us to explore how politics of death involve kinship as the mediating link between private and public spheres. How did practices of disappearance shape the memorialization of violence and its intergenerational legacy in exile, while there remains no resolution or recognition?