Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Day that I Hit the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The other day I went to the laundry room of my graduate school building early in the morning where I encountered an Iranian student who, like me, lives in this building. His face was covered with tears. As I did not know him well enough I pretended that I had not seen him; I did not want him to feel uncomfortable around a stranger while crying. I wondered about the reasons for these tears on his face. As I was lost in my thoughts, he walked up to me and said in Persian, “They killed them. They hung them both this morning. It’s my birthday, too. I hate myself right now.” Clueless and shocked, I looked at him and said, “Happy birthday! Who killed whom?” He said, “They hung the two Iranian prisoners who had participated in the pre-elections demonstrations in the summer. They hung them this dawn in Iran.”

As soon as I heard this piece of news, I felt that my entire body began to freeze from head to toe. I did not cry like he was. Instead, I felt filled with anger and grudge. Instead of sadness, I felt the desire to avenge. I felt that there is simply no reason for being “peaceful” when they hang us for having peacefully expressed our objections. I grew up in a family whose religion is fighting a peaceful fight against injustice. But, in that laundry room and while standing in front of a crying young Iranian man, I felt that being peaceful is sometimes overrated. I was angry. I was not sad. I was enraged.

That whole day, I tried to calm down and to think less emotionally about this devastating piece of news. That night, when I slept, I had a rather insane dream.

In my dream, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had turned into a person. It had turned into a shy, nerdy and clumsy man. For some reason, I knew this man and when I saw him walking out of the Kennedy School, I began to scream at him in public. I told him, “shame on you and your useless existence in the world.” I told him that he might as well die as his presence and rhetoric, more often than not, have no impact on our lives. I told him that whoever and whichever government that wants to violate his so-called thirty articles, goes ahead and freely violates them all and kills those who oppose the ruling power. I grabbed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and began to hit him in tears. He was standing still and watching me hit him hard. I said to him, “you tell the world that everyone has the right to liberty, life and security of a person and that no one shall be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment. Well, tell me, who exactly is listening to you? Can’t you see how awfully useless of a document you are. I am sick of you. All of the scholars and activists in the world refer to you and recognize you as the standard for human rights and yet you just have no power over those who are killing the innocent. Stop being so unbelievably vague and useless! Wake up Mr. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, walk around the world and see how most of the powerful governments and individuals in this world are violating every single one of your principles and are laughing at you.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was looking at me all terrified and was not speaking. He told me that he had to run and that we could talk at a more appropriate time. He embraced me and asked me to calm down. But I was not calm. These men and women(including myself) walk around in nice clothes, refer to this and that international document, human rights organizations release urgent actions and press releases and yet they still wake up one morning and hang the innocent and proudly release the news of these executions to the world’s media.

I woke up that morning thinking that I had a funny and yet miserable dream. It was funny that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had turned into a man that I yelled at for a while right outside the Kennedy School. It was funny that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had to run and wanted to have coffee with me and discuss the world affairs over coffee. But, it was utterly sad that I felt he was the least powerful man I had ever met in my life. He was just as clueless as I am about all of these violations of human rights. His voice was just as low as mine when it came to talking about these leaders who wake up and eliminate whatever and whoever that stands up against them and makes them feel threatened.

They punish our brothers and sisters for speaking the truth, but who in this unbelievably insane world is responsible for their punishment. I sometimes hate this phrase of “Forgive, but don’t forget!” I have become convinced that sometimes you ought not to forgive. Forgiving and healing are maybe for the end of a fight, but not for when they have taken up ropes and guns to ruthlessly kill your kind for their opinions and simple demands that are contradictory to theirs. If we think that we have come a long way in establishing human rights norms in the world, we are utterly mistaken. This road is a long one and we are only in the beginning of this road…


At 12:15 PM, February 04, 2010, Blogger Fadil said...

Azadeh Joon,

This is beautiful. You really need to start working on your memoirs! Your perspective on all of the issues you raise is so unique!

Much love!


At 8:45 PM, February 06, 2010, Blogger Azadeh said...

shokran, foofoo! :)

At 6:15 AM, February 07, 2010, Anonymous Dokhtare Barfi said...

My feelings are resemble yours, but I always thinking about a thing that I can do for it and havnt done yet. Sometimes when I think about it for few days, I feel that I will go crazy.
What should we really do aazi? Most of the time I think that I'm dying of this sorrow.

At 6:22 AM, February 07, 2010, Anonymous Dokhtare Barfi said...

ما چند نفر

در کافه ای نشسته ایم

با موهایی سوخته و

سینه ای شلوغ از خیابان های تهران

با پوست هایی از روز

که گهگاه شب شده است

ما چند اسب بودیم

که بال نداشتیم

یال نداشتیم

چمنزار نداشتیم

ما فقط دویدن بودیم

و با نعل های خاکی اسپورت

ازگلوی گرفته ی کوچه ها بیرون زدیم

درخت ها چماق شده بودند

و آنقدر گریه داشتیم

که در آن همه غبار و گاز

اشک های طبیعی بریزیم

ما شکستن بودیم

و مشت هایی را که در هوا می چرخاندیم

عاقبت بر میز کوبیدیم

و مشت هامان را زیر میز پنهان کردیم

و مشت هامان را توی رختخواب پنهان کردیم

و مشت هامان را در کشوی آشپزخانه پنهان کردیم

و مشت هامان را در خیابان آزادی پنهان کردیم

و مشت هامان را در ایستگاه توپخانه پنهان کردیم...

باز کن مشتم را !

هرکجای تهران که دست می گذارم

درد می کند

هرکجای روز که بنشینم

شب است

هرکجای خاک...

دلم نیامد بگویم !

این شعر

در همان سطر های اول گلوله خورد

وگرنه تمام نمی شد

At 3:24 PM, February 09, 2010, Blogger Babak Talebi said...

azz, a long road it is indeed... but at least we (humanity) are on the right road no? imagine... 100 years go... (not even 500 or 1000) what was the 'road' humanity was on?

like Michelangelo carving David out of a block of marble, each generation must chip away just a few hammer strokes at a time...

At 11:45 PM, February 09, 2010, Blogger Azadeh Pourzand said...

dokhtar e barfi and babak jan, thanks for both of your kind and thoughtful comments and poem. Babak, you are absolutely right. I think the people of Iran are fearlessly and tirelessly carving David out of a block of marble as we speak...Don't they make you proud to be Iranian with all the courage that they have shown the world? They certainly have made me ralize how proud I am to be considered an Iranian and a member of this amazing young generation....

At 11:50 PM, February 09, 2010, Blogger Babak Talebi said...

az, you know full well I've always been proud (maybe too proud) of my Iranian heritage... The Green Movement has just taken it off the charts ;)

if I was the praying type, I'd be praying for all of our fellow Greens this coming Thursday.

keep up your great writing, I enjoy reading each post as I'm sure many others do.

At 12:16 AM, February 10, 2010, Blogger Azadeh Pourzand said...

Miss you, Babak joon. I hope your new life is treating you well. You are right. You have always been proud of being Iranian and have worked hard to make the voices of Iran heard in the world. You have almost been too proud for my standards ;) Miss you!

At 1:08 AM, March 02, 2010, Anonymous hossein said...


At 12:58 AM, March 13, 2010, Blogger Naush said...

I think we should be happy that such a document even exists. It was a revolutionary declaration that was crafted by human rights advocates under intense pressure, who really represented voices from around the world (among the most important people being Elanor Roosevelt, Charles Malik, Gu Weijun, and Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, and Rene Cassin). It was later used as the basis for the important 1960s international conventions on economic and social rights, civil and political rights, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination. And although it has been championed by (mostly) western ngos and HRs activists since the 70s, it is important to remember that the clarion call for the universal Human Rights was most aggressively advocated by third world intellectuals/leaders from the 1940s through 60s. Just because this past decade has seen an ebb in the HRs movement, there is a still a glimmer of hope. After all, HRs advocacy has once again become internationalized and (hopefully) will regain political clout in the coming years and decades ahead.

At 12:11 PM, March 24, 2010, Blogger Nadia said...

Intense. Great piece. Illustrates the criticism that the document is powerless (and thus might do more harm than good) in a way that will stay with me.


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