Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hallucinations of a Decade

Sitting at the window of my sister’s apartment on the twenty sixth floor of a building in Toronto, I look at the city of Toronto and its many apartment buildings that resemble matchboxes .It is going to be 2010 tomorrow. The insomniac ghost that I am, I sit here at four in the morning and let my mind loose. Looking at the sea of these little windows and apartments in the city calms me down. Having watched the YouTube clips that come from Iran, I am emotionally disturbed. I do not know what to say anymore. I feel numb. Many dear friends of mine are in prison in Tehran…Who knows where…I imagine them sitting down in a solitary confinement. I imagine them terrified, strong or maybe senseless. I imagine them and try to remember their faces. I imagine them being humiliated. I imagine them wanting to survive. This is how we are starting a new year; a new decade.This is how we are welcoming another three hundred sixty five days and nights.

My friend calls me in the middle of the night and asks me, “How are you?” I wonder how I am or rather I wonder how I should be. I wonder if I matter. I say, “I’m ok. Everybody is ok here” and I chuckle. He asks me again (this time authoritatively), “Azadeh, I mean YOU. How are YOU, my dear?” It is funny how you sometimes don’t want to know how you are. You just don’t want to know. You want to disappear in your dear ones’ sorrow. You want to disappear and not know how you are doing, because you can’t do anything about the things that bother you to death. You just could sit, relax and watch Youtube clips of the people of your country dying and getting hit with huge bricks, getting run over, bleeding, screaming, and burning a police station. You just watch and watch. You watch until you go from being shocked to crying to being angry to be disgusted and to being numb. You get so numb that you could watch those awful clips over and over again without any emotional turmoil. You watch until you die from within. You watch and comb your hair while watching obsessively.

In this emotional afterlife, you begin life once again. This time you live in a labyrinth with shattered glasses and mirrors. You see yourself in a thousand different ways. You see yourself sandwiched between a calm North American city and many people your age chanting out slogans while bleeding. You see yourself in a million different pieces. One piece is a little happy child with curly hair running around a garden in Shomal(northern Iran),playing in the Caspian sea, getting hit by little waves and laughing and laughing and laughing. Another piece is a teenage veiled and extremely fashionable girl who is running and escaping from the moral police who are chasing after her in the streets of Tehran to punish her for her not being sufficiently veiled. Another piece is a mute high school student in the United States who does not know English enough to even make friends. Another piece is…Another piece is you voting for the first time to President Khatami and dying of joy of having become an adult. Another piece is years later watching your friends in graduate school cheering for President Obama. Another is the image of an awfully unfamiliar man named Ahmadinejad whose grin scares you. Another piece is you sitting at the library in the middle of the night, taking a break from writing a paper that is due in a few hours and watching YouTube links all the way from Khomeini’s first speech in Tehran till now when your friends chant out slogans and get hit on the street. Time stops. Time runs. Places become compressed into one and that one place loses its space. You become compressed in this spaceless labyrinth. You sort of exist in short intervals and the longer intervals are when you become nonexistent. You begin to exist only to realize that you don’t have enough space to breathe and the cycle repeats itself.

2010? Tomorrow is a new year and a new decade. What is my new year’s resolution? What is my biggest wish? MY wish or a whole nation’s wish? My wish, I guess, is a small one. I just want to be able to wipe off blood from my friends’ faces, embrace them and tell them that they are making history. Even though history is a hilarious word when you are in pain, maybe only the thought of history could kill your pain momentarily. My wish is for my friends in prison to know that they are not forgotten. My wish is that they don’t lose their pride. My wish is to remain nonviolent,strong and proud. My wish is love. My wish is for this labyrinth to regain its space for all of us Iranians and all others who live in fear. My wish is for us to breathe and to at least dream about freedom for our country freely. One of the dearest friends of mine told me recently, “You have to either choose me or politics. Either peace or politics.” I remained silent in response. I only wish I could explain how terribly intertwined our lives have become with this so-called “politics”. I wish I knew which is which. I wish I knew the difference between ME and politics.Who knows?Maybe this new decade is a good time to discover this difference; if there is any.

These are perhaps my final hallucinations of 2009. Even if nothing changes tomorrow as time grows one year older, I will remain hopeful and wish strength for those who are bravely standing up against injustice in the absence of thousands of Iranians like me who are not there to hold their hands.

I am starting 2010 with a world of fears and with particles of hope. Happy New Year!

Please accept the following song as my new year's gift to you.This piece was performed by one of Iran's great contemporary artists, Lily Afshar, who is sadly currently imprisoned. Click Here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Snowman and You

My Dear Dad;

I know you can’t talk anymore. I tried to speak with you today on the phone. Your nurse gave the phone to you. You made some sounds. But, nothing that you said made sense. I miss talking with you, Dad. I miss hearing your voice and listening to all the nice things that you used to say about me. I miss hearing you say “I love you!” over and over again.

I guess this is simply how life works. One day you die even if you are still alive. You might feel that you are dead, but you are not. You are still breathing. I could hear your breath on the phone. I know you will become healthy once again. I know that somehow magically the authorities of the Islamic Republic will let you leave Iran and reunite with us. I could already imagine how it would feel to embrace you for hours. At first it might be a bit strange when we see each other. But I promise you that in a short while we will begin to talk about all these years for hours.

Remember how when I traveled to Iran in 2005 for ten days to see you, we felt very strangely about each other’s presence at first. We had not seen each other since 2001 and too much had happened during those years. One summer day in 2001, you drove me to the airport, hugged me in tears and kissed me goodbye while keeping my hands in your strong hands. You said to me, “You will only make me proud. I know it!”

We never thought that you will be taken away from us in this surreal way; kidnapped and disappeared in clandestine prisons of Iran. That day when I left Iran for the first time in 2001, the last thing that you quietly said in my ear was: “You will be back in Tehran just in time for us to make our snowman of the year.” It was a promise that neither one of us could keep. Our life was going to get shattered into pieces and we just didn't know it. Eight years later, I am still waiting to make another snowman with you.

When I came to Iran in 2005, I felt alienated from you. Strangely, I blamed you for having grown old. I did not like all the wrinkles on your face. I remember that first night in your apartment when I felt uncomfortable in your arms. But as soon as you began to pat my hair like the old days, I found my lost home in your arms. Remember? I fell asleep on your lap that night. I know how much you wanted to tell me about all those unimaginable ways in which you might have been tortured in prison. Thankfully, you never told me anything. I didn’t want to know. I still don’t want to know. We only talked about your painful memories of prison in silence. Sitting in the lounge of your apartment, we would drink our hot tea in absolute silence. All we could hear was the sound of our spoon with which we were stirring small sugar cubes in our tea. This fragile silence was crowded with terrifying stories of torture, terror, separation and loneliness. Despite the life and dignity that we had lost, we were still hopeful. I could feel hope in your words and gestures.

Now you can’t walk, talk or maybe even remember us anymore. Who knows what goes on in your thoughts? I hope to God that you remember how much I love you. It has been lonely without you calling me every night and asking me about all the details of my daily life. I keep dialing your home number and cell phone and no one responds. I sometimes even pretend that I am talking with you. Too many days are passing by in despair without you in my life.

Last night it snowed here. I went to my friend’s house to celebrate the longest night of the year (Yalda). By the end of the night snow had covered everywhere. We all stayed at my friend’s house for the night as it was impossible to drive. In the morning we stepped outside to play in the snow and make a snowman. We built a nice snowman; not as good as the ones that you and I used to make together in Tehran. We used to spend the entire day outside making our snowman. We always wanted to make the best snowman in the neighborhood. Remember? I remember how we disagreed about the nose of our snowman. I preferred putting a carrot for the snowman's nose and you preferred to put a cucumber instead.

As soon as my friends and I left two small pieces of wood for the eyes of the snowman, the snowman began to look at me kindly. I felt as though he was trying to communicate some things to me. I think he was trying to tell me that you dream about me when you fall asleep in the hospital. I think the snowman was trying to tell me that you still love me. I think the snowman wanted me to know that you are still hopeful that we will one day see each other again. I put a curved slice of watermelon for his mouth. He began to smile. It was such a natural smile. His smile resembled the smile that you and I would try and create for our snowman.

It was a bittersweet time out in the snow with my friends. Looking at the infinite whitenss of snow made me miss you even more. As soon as I felt the painfully familiar nostalgia and anxiety, I bent and reached for a handful of snow. I squeezed it in my hand and put some in my mouth. It felt cool. It melted in my mouth.

I vividly remember the first time you took me out in the snow. You reached out for some snow and asked me to taste it. I was scared. I had never seen anyone eat snow before. I was hesitantly curious to taste it. You grabbed my hand, put some snow in my hand and said, “Azadeh, you should sometimes try the things that people tell you not to try. Come on, taste it! Go for it! Look how pretty it is!” I put some in my mouth, smiled and said, “It doesn’t taste like anything, Dad.” You laughed and said, “Well, you could give it your own taste. How about the taste of chocolate?” Then, you put some more snow in your mouth and said, “Man, this totally tastes like chocolate. Try some more!” That day, you knowingly broadened the tiny world of a five-year-old girl.

Twenty years later in a viciously different time and space, I put some snow in my mouth, tasted it and let it melt for a few seconds. I turned around to look at the snowman. My friends were throwing snowballs at each other. The snowman smiled at me with a striking glow in his eyes. The snowman told me, “Talk to your dad even if he can’t talk with you anymore. Keep talking to him. He will hear you.” The snowman said, “You are his most beautiful dream. Never let him down!” The snowman kept smiling at me until one of my friends threw a huge snowball at his head and the snowman lost his head in front of my eyes.

Oddly, I am used to losing friends in this comically tragic way. I watched the snowman die while he was still smiling. I took the smashed slice of watermelon that was the snowman’s smiley mouth from the ground and patted it a bit. His smile felt soft and alive. I think I am going to continue to smile for as long as you remain deeply depressed and silent. I will continue to smile until you join me in smiling. I will smile and tiptoe into all of the dreams that you will have of me in that small and quiet hospital room in Tehran. Your nurse says that sometimes you grin just a tiny bit when she mentions my name.


P.S. The snowman says hello.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Woman in the Mirror

Looking at herself in the mirror, she saw a strangely unfamiliar face. It was her. This was her face and body. How could she not recognize herself? She touched her cheeks and made a funny and a sad face.

She wiped off her tears, closed her eyes for one second and tried to think about nothing. It was probably the longest one second of her life. It felt as though she was stuck in a dark tunnel with many trucks, cars, buses and motorcycles that were fast approaching her. She even got hit by a few. Every time she got hit, she felt dead, but she was still alive. In this darkness, many familiar voices were talking at her. They were all talking and screaming together. She covered her ears and with her eyes watched another truck hit her. The driver of the truck looked outside the window and laughed at her while driving away.

She opened her eyes. Everything was still the same. There was a room confined in the frame of a mirror. And there was her. She still did not recognize herself. The mirror only triggered her memories of others, but not of herself. She closely examined her smile in the mirror. She vaguely remembered the smile; but not as her own smile. It felt as though it was someone else’s smile. Her skin was burning under her sour tears.

There she was again: this woman...this stranger...this butterfly...this woman that was stuck somewhere between a dense past and an indefinite future. She shivered. The stranger woman shivered with her.

She did not know or recognize her. She touched her cheeks again and blew herself a kiss. She, then, smiled. Perhaps it did not matter that she did not remember, recognize or know herself. Perhaps what mattered was that she could refer to this strangely unfamiliar woman that was staring at her from within as "herself ".

She looked in the mirror again. There she was. Herself. She was not alone.

The woman in the mirror winked at her. Then, a voice whispered in her ear, “Don’t you worry. I’ve got your back!”

And the world resumed to silence. The world turned into an infinite vacuum of people and places.

The woman in the mirror blew her a kiss and walked away to stand in the middle of that dark tunnel, ready for all those belligerent cars and voices of the past to hit her hard and watch her not die.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Language is the Language of Love and Passion...Not of Terrorism

The other night I went to watch “Brothers” by Jim Sheridan with a friend. It was a terrific movie in many ways. However, it freshened a few of my wounds.

The movie theatre was full of high school students and young college students. I had decided to watch a movie with my friend in order to take a break from the paper that I was writing about the security situation in Afghanistan. Coincidently, this movie was aslo,in a way, about Afghanistan and the war. It was a sad story of two American marines who get kidnapped by the militants in Afghanistan. While the movie was a love story mostly focused on the marine officer who made it back home, his wife,his brother and children, it had a few intense scenes from the Taliban militants, who kidnapped the two American marines and after torturing them for months had one of them stab the other one to death.

The scenes that captured the militants' violence were the only scenes that were in Persian(Dari, the Afghan dialect). The only part of the movie that was in Persian was, indeed, portraying extremism and violence in truly graphic ways. While watching this violence, we would also hear the words of the main militant guy in Persian about how the United States needs to leave Afghanistan and how the militants will fight until the defeat of Americans. They talked about their anti-American sentiments in Dari Persian. In sum, the parts in Dari Persian were about terror,hatred of the United States, murder and extremist jihadists.

While watching those scenes, tears had covered my face. I was humiliated. I kept looking at the rest of the audience in the dark: all these young Americans with their popcorns and soda drinks. What were they thinking? That only terrorists speak the language that they could now hear in this movie theatre? This is the language through which I learned how to love and to care. This is the language of my dream-like childhood. This is the language of my future dreams for this world. Persian is the language through which I define myself. This language does not belong to terrorists. It belongs to us, too! While watching these scenes, I kept wondering: Does the young generation of Americans find entertainment in such snapshots of the odious culture in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan or Iran? Will they ever learn that even if we are disconent about the Americans in that part of the world, we are still not terrorists?

I cannot even describe the depth of this cultural tragedy that I felt in my surroundings in this movie theatre. I wanted to run towards the movie screen and block them from watching these scenes or maybe finding a way of putting this movie on mute so that my beautiful language does not get portrayed only in this inhumane and biased way.

Persian has long been recognized as the language of love, passion and poetry. And now...

That night in the movie theatre I cried for my language. Our Rumi, Sa’di and Hafiz wrote of nothing but of passionate love and peace. I cry for the fate of my language. I cry for the people who are confined in this language and have the world judge all of them for this phenomenon of extremism that has also brought them misery for years.

I wanted to get up in the movie theatre and scream, “Listen up young Americans: Not all of the Persian speakers would put you in a cave, torture you and then have you stab your best friend to death! Please, I beg you to not leave this movie theatre with these images and sounds as your only images of this culture. We are better than this! We really are!”

Will this young generation ever know or learn this about us? Or will it grow up thinking that we are all cavemen and cavewomen who are holding on to “barbarism” and “terrorism”? Will they ever learn that Muslims, Arabs, Persians, Pashtuns and all these ethnicities and cultures of our region understood the beauty of love and peace centuries before any of these young Americans were born? Will they ever learn that we have more than just rifles, extremism and grudge to offer? Or will they continue to be entertained by “terrorism” in their movie theatres while eating popcorn and giggling at the men with turbans in the movie?

I hope they,one day, get to know the real people of our lands. We are better than just terrorists. We, I believe, have the responsibility to expose the younger generation to many other beautiful aspects of our cultures. Terrorism is just an anomaly and not the norm in these cultures! We must tirelessly communicate this to the rest of the world. We owe this responsibility to ourselves, our beautiful languages,our heritage,our cultures,our lands and our future generations.

Our languages and cultures are burning in fire just as our people are!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Her Pride....My Pride

photo by Kamran Jebreili/AP

Stressed about all her final papers, she woke up, checked the news, got dressed and headed to school in the morning. It was the University Student Day in Iran. In Massachusetts, however, it was a simple winter day. The most exciting part of her day was so far the fact that three fire trucks had passed by her student apartment with loud sirens.

During the hours that she had fallen asleep while trying to write a paper about why Mussharraf cut deals with the forces of Taliban, many university students, her age or younger, had protested in Iran. Some of them were injured and detained by governmental forces. In Massachusetts, however, not much was going on. The weather was sunny and cold.

Walking towards school, she kept checking her blackberry for photos from the student protests and the crackdown in Iran. Photo after photo… Tears had covered her eyes. She was proud of her fellow Iranian university students in Iran. But did it even matter how she felt about what the people were doing in Iran? Maybe yes, maybe not! In any case, some of the photos made her smile and some of the other ones that had captured the moments of beatings and blood made her frown. She would only look up when she had to cross the street.

Everything was orderly in Cambridge, Massachusetts. No one looked particularly angry, agitated, scared or ready to protest. The homeless people of Harvard Square looked unhappy, hungry and cold. Just like all other mornings. Everything looked absolutely normal. People were going to work, to class and most of them had a cup of coffee in their hands.

Walking into Starbucks, she kept looking at the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe that were placed next to the cashier to see if Iranian university students had made it to the first page of any of these newspapers. “Grande non-fat Latte”….Yeap, that was her cup of coffee. She got her coffee and started walking towards school once again. She walked into the school building all proud of the university students in Iran who had courageously protested despite all the fear and repression. Her friends said hello to her and she said hello back to them. The rest of the day was full of small talk and studying. No one realized that she was proud of anything particular that day. She, too, did not really ask anyone if they were proud of the people of their country at that very moment. I mean, it is an awkward question to ask! “Excuse me, how proud of the people of your birthplace are you today?”…haha...Maybe no one would respond to such a silly question except for her. She would say, “I am extremely proud. They are amazing. These university students are making history as we speak!” She would talk, talk and talk about how proud, worried, terrified and yet hopeful she is for Iran and its fascinating young generation.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, everything was absolutely calm and normal. Another fire truck passed by during the day. But that was about as unquiet as it could get in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Different Narratives

My professor of “Modern Diplomacy” class ended the last session of the semester by reminding us of a few factors that, if ignored, could lead to the failure of any kind of negotiations or diplomatic attempt to resolve conflicts. Two of those factors have really made me think: different narratives that each side has of history and the nature of the conflict and whether the parties involved actually wish to have the conflict resolved.

The distinction of narratives is an intriguing phenomenon to tackle. How could one go about finding hidden spaces between the lines of these different narratives and to advocate for a common ground that could keep both parties content enough to compromise?

I find narratives to be the most precious and sensitive aspect of a people’s history. And yet, this same narrative is what could confine a nation in its past, its losses, and its desire to ask for its taken right and even to avenge. This same narrative that could protect the unheard voices of history is what often leads to strong assumptions about the other side, ideologies and grudge. It’s this same narrative that at times justifies the lack of any kind of effort to understand the “enemy”. It’s this narrative that helps us draw seriously defined borders between “us” and “them”. It’s the power of this narrative that produces a generation that is just as confined in the past as the previous generation. At the same time, this narrative is sometimes the only heritage that is left for us. It becomes our legacy and our souvenir from the past that was taken away from us by force. This narrative is the only thing that we could keep from the physical and moral invasion of the other side into our lives. They could take away our homes, photo albums, peace and land from us. They could humiliate and murder us. But, they could never take our narrative away from us. In fact, many of us manage to survive for the sake of passing on that narrative to others.

So, how could a nation or one side of a conflict let go of its narrative or compromise on its historical understanding of a conflict? I wish I knew the answer to this, because if I did I would try to practice it in my own personal life and would do my best to spread this art to the rest of the world… the art of preventing a tragic past from defining us as a people and as individuals, the art of looking ahead, reconciling with the past and letting go of the complexes that this past has planted in each and every one of us.

An Appeal from Siamak Pourzand’s Daughter: ‘My Father Has Given Up on Life, Release Him.’”

By Fereshteh Ghazi, An Interview with Lily Pourzand, Rooz Online, Tuesday December 1, 2009.

Siamak Pourzand's Recent Photo at the Hospital

We have interviewed the daughter of Siamak Pourzand, the 78 year-old Iranian journalist who, in the words of his family, “since last week has given up eating meals and has cut off telephone communication with his friends and family”, about his condition. Pourzand has been confined to the Tus Hospital [in Tehran] for the past 15 days due to his deteriorating physical and mental condition, although he himself has said “I’m not physically ill; they have made me mentally ill.” For this reason, Lily Pourzand implores, “My father is no danger to the Islamic Republic; give him permission to leave the country.”

Siamak Pourzand was also hospitalized at Iran Mehr Hospital on October 22 but was released after several days. At that time Lily told Rooz that “her father was not discharged from the hospital due to an improvement in his health, but rather because there was nothing more that could be done.”

But with Pourzand’s condition becoming serious, Lily tells Rooz: “After the last report that you published about my father about a month ago, my father was released from Iran Mehr hospital and was put on a new treatment, but the medications did not have much effect, because of his absolute loneliness and his deeply damaged mental state, especially as he refuses to take the medicines that he must take on a strict regimen.

Ms. Pourzand, who is a lawyer residing in Canada, adds, “My father expressed deep stress and uncomfortable, scattered agitation on the telephone and we didn’t know what to do, until two weeks ago, with the deterioration of his condition, he was first taken to a clinic and from there transferred to the hospital.”

Having mentioned that Tus Hospital does not have a neurological and psychological department, she says, “My father prefers to stay in this hospital because we have doctors and friends working there and they help greatly; however, unfortunately this help has not had any effect and Father has not eaten at all since last week, and since five days ago, he has cut off his telephone communication with his family and however much we beg, he only says ‘I can’t talk’ and hangs up.”

According to Lily Pourzand, “My father is also refusing to accept or speak to friends and acquaintances and this illustrates how this journalist is giving up on life and has washed his hands of everything that has to do with life.”

Siamak Pourzand’s daughter says, “My father’s doctor is trying and trying to get him transferred to a specialized neurological clinic but unfortunately [my father] still doesn’t have the will to go, and neither we nor his doctor can predict what is going to happen.”

Ms. Pourzand, who is seeking the issuance of a visa for her father to exit the country, says, “With the condition that my father is in, it is extremely urgent that he get permission to fly out immediately, as it is possible that if he is given an exit visa and his passport [which had been confiscated] his mental state may greatly improve, and our wish is that he be allowed to leave the country and be with his children and family for some time.”

Having said that Mr. Pourzand is giving up on everything, Ms. Pourzand adds, “The only chance for renewing any sense of hope in life for him is to get him permission to leave the country and see his family; my father, in his condition, poses absolutely no danger to the Islamic Republic that would cause them to deny him permission.”

According to Lily Pourzand, Mr. Pourzand’s doctors have recommended that anyone who wishes to should go to visit him even if he refuses or doesn’t speak to them, because the presence of people and friends is crucial to the improvement of the journalist’s mental state.

Body or Mind?

On another note, a Rooz reader has written in an email message discussing Siamak Pourzand’s hospitalization in Tus Hospital and his visit with the journalist, “Mr. Pourzand said, ‘I’m not physically ill; they have made me mentally ill.”

In continuation, having mentioned that Siamak Pourzand is under sedation and is consuming nothing besides water, this reader explained the deterioration of Mr. Pourzand’s mental and physical condition by writing, “Mr. Pourzand really has no serious physical problem but due to the depth of his depression he is suffering. In his own words, after the elections his mental health has become far worse, since a great number of friends with whom he had passed great times have either been imprisoned or have left Iran and he has been deeply affected by not having them around. He is truly lonely and in need of attention; in addition he is deeply afraid of everything. I see a strange fear in his existence. Severely, just like in prison! He deeply misses his family and friends.”

Siamak Pourzand since seven years ago has been a prisoner of the security services; he has been sent home at times due to deteriorations of his physical condition and then detained again after a period.

Siamak Pourzand’s wife, Mehrangiz Kar, and two of the journalist’s daughters, Banafsheh and Azadeh, live in America and Lily Pourzand, the other daughter, lives in Canada. They have requested clemency from the officials of the Islamic Republic several times so that they may go to their father’s side but to this date no response has been given to them.

Lily Pourzand had previously spoken of this to Rooz, saying, “Both during the Khatami administration and over the past four years we have several times directly and indirectly written letters to various organs and individuals, even begging, that they provide us with letters of clemency so that we may go see our father and take care of him. My mother has even personally written a letter to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad making this request but to date they have given us no answer; for each of us, returning to Iran is tantamount to risking being detained and put in some secret facility, and we can’t take anything more like that. My mother went to prison and developed cancer, and my father too has been afflicted as you see.”

At the same time she had referred to the trip of Azadeh, the youngest daughter of Mr. Pourzand to Iran and had said, “Azadeh was only 16 years old when she left Iran and hadn’t gotten involved in political matters or human rights and was occupied only with her education. When Father was transferred from jail to the hospital and then home [in 2004], she went to Iran to be at his side, and of course at that time when Mr. Khatami was also the president, we were able via various intermediaries to gain promises of clemency for her to travel to Iran. They said to us that it was only on condition that she leave Iran within ten days and Azadeh still went, but unfortunately, she, who was no older than 19 years, was interrogated and harassed. What is interesting is that living outside of the country, we were not very familiar with the concept of the
[governmental organization] “Children’s and Youths’ Intellectual Development Organization, but Azadeh was interrogated under the auspices of this organization for hours, and she later said that she had lost hope of returning [to America].”

Ms. Pourzand had explained then, “It has been years since my father abandoned his typical social activities and has closed himself off from everything [political] with the goal of hearing his children’s voices again and being at his wife’s side and that of his children, but the judicial and security organs have not given him such permission. We only hope to be able to embrace our father once again and to take care of him.”

For Original in Persian click here.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Friday Night Wonders

My god, I miss writing! It has been a long time that I have not written anything more than a bunch of dry policy memorandums for school. I am almost scared of letting myself write rather freely. Just a few nights ago, when I was feeling emotionally fragile and academically exhausted, I decided to stay in my room and just read a short novel. I started and finished Olivia by Dorothy Strachey. By the time I finished the last line of this well-written story, tears had already covered my face. That night, I realized how much I miss hiding away from this world and its noises once in a while and spending time with fictional characters. Real people and things are sometimes too much to handle. I remember how I was tired of being disconnected from the world and its current events during the years of studying literature in college. And now…I feel exactly the opposite. I just sometimes want to shut my eyes and my ears to this world. I feel we talk too much about ourselves, our allies and adversaries, our objectives, perspectives and goals. Sometimes I feel I have turned into this machine that knows well how to talk and strategize her life in a way that seems very much aligned with the norms of this society. I might just be tired or aching to rebel. All I know is that there must be more to life. I remember having felt that there is more to this life during some of the hardest times of my life in the past. But somehow lately I feel very machine-like with a vision that is perhaps shrinking everyday.

The only time that I realize bits and pieces of the passionate, brave and emotional human being that I used to be are sill left in me is when I remember the past. Remembering the past…such a funny phrase! I remember years ago when I was a happy child in Iran despite all the political insanity that had forced peace out of our life. I remember how happy I was every time I would see my parents smile, talk and discuss their daily plans. I remember how happy I was in high school in the U.S. when I kept thinking of myself as a future leader that I desparately wanted to be. I remember the years that I felt I belonged to a land named Iran and how I used to think I would eventually feel that I also belong to the United States of America. Little I knew how much of a displaced immigrant one becomes every day. It’s like the moment you leave your home—the land to which you belong—, you will always be leaving and departing from one place or another. You will always be walking around with your luggage looking for a home. Sometimes you think you have found a home. But you never will. In fact, you will become displaced everyday a little more than the day before.

Looking around my room, I see a piece of the past hanging from every piece of furniture and my walls are covered with photos and memories. Memories…I miss all the places that I once used to call home: in particular Tehran and Oberlin. I miss loving and feeling loved. I miss feeling safe in the arms of those who meant the world to me. I miss feeling innocently hopeful about people and things. I miss closing my eyes and imagining that someday I will change the lives of many through my hard work and writings.

Nowadays, I simply don’t dream. I go to bed hoping that I don’t wake up to some nightmare about the life that my father miserably lives in Iran. I go to bed hoping to wake up and be able do something so that my mom’s life becomes easier in this exile of hers that is full of cups of coffee and sighs. I go to bed feeling ashamed that young men and women are being humiliated and terrorized in a million ways in Iran while I live my fancy Harvard life. Each one of them deserves to get a Public Policy degree from Harvard more than I do. They are the ones who are courageously changing history; not me. I go to bed thinking about my little friends in Bangladesh who work hard and dream big dreams against all odds. I go to bed hoping that I don’t wake up to a nightmare about how much I miss my best friend and the love of my life. I wake up to the hopeful songs of Darya Dadvar, smile for a few short seconds, try to remember where I am and why I am where I am, wash my face, look in the mirror and decide to be numb throughout the day so that I can successfully take care of my to do list and be a reasonably responsible student and employee. And this has become the story of my life. I never wanted to lead such an elitist and customary life. I wanted to be out with the people who possess little and yet know the value of this life. I am tired of this never-ending journey of working towards a “strong resume” and “the ability to persuade”. It seems the more advanced we get in our career the more we are taught and expected to lie and to design our insincere words and plans with sophisticated ornaments.

Maybe the bottom-line of all of this is that I desire more power in this world in order to, one day, make a difference in the life of a few other human beings. And I somehow unintentionally feel stuck in the part that is about learning how to have more power and how to have a stronger voice. The process of learning about power sometimes feels so unpleasant and artificial to me that makes me miss the times that I had a voice that was insignificant.

Maybe it’s just that I miss writing…I should write more.

Dreamhost Coupons