QPASTT, Brisbane, Australia
In 1979 the Iranian revolution led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic, which continues to rule the country to the present day. The Islamic Republic’s constitution was established based on the concept of velayat-e faqih – the idea that people require ‘guardianship’ by Islamic jurists (Dabashi, Theology of Discontent (1993)). Under this theocratic regime and ideology, reports of
human rights violations have remained widespread until the present day (Amnesty International, (2009)). This state based violence and control is evident in the therapeutic work provided to Iranian clients at the Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT). We know that the ‘economics of …torture’ mean that the torture of an individual has the capacity to impact entire communities and even societies (Pavlin, (1998), QPASTT). What is also seen in our work with Iranians is that the trauma, violence and control reported within families and social networks often parallels what is being perpetrated at a state level.
This paper will explore the impact of this interplay between state based violence and control and interpersonal trauma, using Iran as an example. Based on clinical case studies, this paper will propose that the ‘protection and control’ exerted by politically oppressive states on their citizens not only has an impact on communities and societies, but that this can lead to state trauma being replicated and reinforced through individual interpersonal trauma at the family and community level. This raises unique challenges to recovery with this paper arguing for the importance of a holistic approach to therapy that encompasses healing on a personal, community, societal and cultural level.