Iranian activist says farewell to family as he is jailed for writing his views

Majid Tavakoli embraces his wife outside the gates of Evin prison.

Majid Tavakoli is an Iranian political activist who has spent much of his life fighting for a liberal democracy in his country, opposed to the Islamic Republic.

It is a cause that has formed his life's journey. He even named his young daughter Raha, which means "freedom" in Persian.

Today, infront of the gates of Evin prison, while his hands were cuffed, he hugged and kissed his wife and daughter goodbye. He will now be separated from them for five years. Just three weeks ago, I interviewed him online from inside Iran. We spoke about his fears about being imprisoned once again.

Last year he was put in solitary confinement and interrogated "hard," he said, for three months. Then he was sentenced to five years.

He has already endured seven years in jail and suffered severe torture during that time.

ITV News' Lucy Watson speaking last month to Iranian women taking up arms or choosing exile for their daughters

Last year, at the beginning of the major uprising by Iranians against the Islamic Republic after the death of Mahsa Amini, he was detained at his home and accused of actions against the government.

After a few months of temporary detention with bail, Tavakoli was temporarily released but given a 5 year jail term. Since then, he has been waiting for the "knock at the door." He is one of the prominent young opposition figures in Iran, whose liberal, patriotic, and freedom-seeking ideals have inspired a new generation of Iranian students and young people to stand against the Islamic Republic. Here is the full transcript of our interview just a short time ago. A conversation with a man with a longing for democracy that I will never forget.

A father who won't see his child until she is eight, and all because he wants his daughter to live in a normal country and have a normal life, and he has dared to say that out loud.

MAJID: "Last time I was in prison, I was single and not married. Now, I am married and have a little child. Sometimes in prison they threaten you and blackmail you. Inmates at some prisons only get two hours of fresh air a day.

"Some days they ban it and you don’t get any. If there are a number of political activists in the prison like Evin or another prison you will serve your sentence with them. Or you might end up sharing a room with criminals such as murderers. That happened to me for six months. "You are also not allowed to wear shoes so exercising is very difficult. Prison food is awful. After you are sentenced you are not allowed to have a lawyer anymore, so even your lawyer is not allowed to come and visit you." LUCY: You are about to go back to prison to spend 5 years of your life behind bars why do you carry on with this struggle? MAJID: "It is a hard question to answer. I am committed to proving the truth and show the hardship the Iranian people are enduring. We deserve a better life and people like me are responsible for letting the outside world know what we put up with and what we deserve.

"It’s hard to say serving five years of my life is worth the fight. I have tried so hard to avoid being jailed again. This situation is very painful for me. I can’t think about the hardship my family is going to face.

"It’s not easy for me to accept. My daughter will suffer so much, emotionally. We are such a close family and love each other unconditionally. But I have done what I believe is right. I still have hope." LUCY: When the protests began and the 'Woman Life Freedom' movement erupted, there was such a huge sense things could change, do you think that anything has changed? MAJID: "I was arrested shortly after the start of the movement, and even before my arrest, I believed that this movement might not achieve political results - but it did change public opinion.

"The day before my arrest I wrote, 'There are no political ideas if we get victory, so we will be defeated.' After I was released from prison, I wrote this time and time again.

"We don't have political answers for this situation, although lots has changed. The Woman Life Freedom movement has been coming for years. This movement, like all others in Iran, is a political movement, but since it lacks the necessary political strategy post-victory, it will face a serious crisis.

"Within the government, there is still no willingness to accept the public's demands. I have repeatedly written that, in my opinion, the motivations to suppress these protests still exist within the government, so we may not see good days ahead." LUCY: How would you describe the regime's response to dissent? MAJID: "We can't just look at the protests surrounding women's rights. We've had so many movements in recent years, which all indicate that people just crave a normal life.

"This normal life is the negation of all the humiliations, marginalisations, and exclusions that the government has imposed in all areas of politics and culture. The government is still cracking down on people in three main ways. "One, legislation is now stricter. The government is forcing women who believe in social freedoms out of formal work environments, government agencies, and institutions. This is also taking place in public spaces, markets, schools, and government offices. "Two, there are now stricter punishments for the bold and brave amongst us. Their national IDs are targeted, their bank accounts, their money is frozen. These punishments can range from confiscating their cars, job deprivation, closing their shops, and making their lives virtually unlivable. "Three, the government has ways of creating an atmosphere of insecurity for women who believe in social freedoms. This insecurity can be official or unofficial. We need to understand why the government insists on compulsory hijab. Does it have only a religious meaning?

"Does it want to show that it hasn't failed throughout the course of the year during the protests? Does it do it for its supporters? Does it want to exclude women from society? Whatever the reasons, the government is likely to continue its crackdown on women through its policies, and we will face a significant challenge." LUCY: I have never been to Iran, can you explain to me 12 months after this uprising what does Iran feel like now? Does it feel the same? MAJID: "The legitimacy of the government has eroded, and the socio-economic conditions have worsened. There is no visible hope among the people. There isn't the revolutionary atmosphere anymore, although there has been a fundamental shift in the mindset of Iranians.

"Iranians are engaged now with civic activism and continue to disobey the clerics, but not as extensively as a year ago. The society is grappling with severe economic crises, some people struggle for so much as a piece of bread.

"There's a pervasive sense of hopelessness across all areas of society. I don't see any positive signs, except for young women who are resisting the compulsory hijab laws.

"In other areas, I don't see even a glimmer of hope. Society is deeply troubled, and the prospect of defeat is what prevails. People feel that victory is impossible, and more and more people are emigrating. Our options are very limited, even though our generation has become more focused on seeking political solutions.

"People have distanced themselves from emotional actions and are looking for more calculated approaches and responses to achieve a better future. But Tehran now feels like it did two years ago." LUCY: Why do you, your wife and daughter stay?

MAJID: "It’s a very hard decision for me. If I were to make a personal decision, I would leave Iran but I feel that I have a responsibility. They are not only my own hopes but those of others that I shoulder.

"In the long term, I remain hopeful. I believe that technological advancements may also help this situation, but hopes must stay alive in society. It is my wife who will suffer the most, not me, but I hope that good things will happen soon and that we can put an end to all of this sooner rather than later." LUCY: Do you want your daughter to grow up in Iran?

MAJID: "I want my daughter to grow up in Iran, but not in these conditions. That’s why I need to talk to people like you and teach others inside and outside Iran what life is like here. That is my responsibility.

"My daughter deserves better than growing up enduring such difficult conditions. I don't have any big dreams for her. All I long for is that Iran becomes a normal country where people can have a happy life, normal life.

"We don't have happiness right now. I hope she can have a happy life. I hope she won't be discriminated against because she is a woman. I believe that this will happen, and her generation will experience better times.

"Any big dreams are currently out of reach for us. But to become a normal country where people can have a normal life is what I aspire to."

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