Tunnel, our story from the streets to exile

Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh

30 September 2014

It was in the winter of 2011, around the time I found shelter in a refugee neighborhood in Amsterdam, that the image of the tunnel passage first captivated my imagination. When traveling by train in those days, I would stare out of compartment windows and contemplate the concrete walls of the tunnels. I would think of other women who, at that moment, were also passing through tunnels and I would ask myself: What are we doing here?

As I gazed out of my window, fleeting images from the past flickered like projections on the gray tunnel walls. I saw, for example, a scene from February 1979 in which we stood tall and rallied, securing a place for ourselves in history. Other scenes in which my friends and I were the main players also flitted by. Then another image appeared on the walls. I saw the disputed 2010 election of Ahmadinejad and the confusion that descended on Iran after his coup. Images of the Green Movement—a movement whose primary players were, I believe, common people like Shiva, Parvin, and Sohrab‘s mother—flashed by until finally, I saw the present moment: the maze of exile and its inexhaustible tunnels, the tunnels we women are traveling through today.

These once-diffused images have now been brought together in Tunnel, a 27-minute documentary compiled of chronological episodes covering the lives of several women’s rights activists. I have the utmost respect for these images and the stories they tell as I know all too well how difficult they were to capture.

In this documentary, we see several familiar Iranian women’s rights activists. As for those not included, they are absent only because I could not obtain footage of them, not because they are less important. What really matters in Tunnel is the story of our passage from the Iranian streets to the maze of exile, a story that has not yet been told as it could and should be.