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Into the horizon
It finally dawned on me what he was seeing

By Nima Behnoud
May 10, 2001
The Iranian

The last time I saw him was in a beautiful town north of Niagara Falls called Niagara-On-The-Lake. He was wearing his usual leather hat, khakis, and comfortable tennis shoes. We were standing by the lake and looking out at the farthest point, listening to the sound of the wind blowing inside our jackets. We were looking in opposite directions, but the mood was so intense that it felt as though we were staring at each other.

I remember when I decided to leave Iran, my father was adamant about remaining in the country to fight for his fundamental rights and the freedom to express his political views. When I would ask him why he was willing to stay in Iran and face the unjust oppression of the regime, he would usually reply, "I have to stay and write until these walls are broken down and no one else like you leaves this country." And I would just shake my head in disbelief.

Over the past several years, numerous writers and journalists have been killed, and hundreds of students have been imprisoned for taking part in rallies and voicing their political opinions. Just last week, Iran was identified as the country with the most number of journalists in prison. Every week I anxiously listen to my father's interviews with the BBC and CNN, admiring his resolve and courage, but perpetually fearing for his safety.

Not long ago, I heard in the news that several journalists and writers were missing in Iran. I immediately called my father but was unable to find him. I inquired with several of his friends, but they, too, said they were unaware of his whereabouts. There were rumors everywhere that he and a group of other journalists had been abducted and killed.

Two weeks later, in the middle of the night, the phone rang: I immediately knew it was him, or perhaps some dreadful news about him. My heart was racing. I slowly picked up the telephone -- as soon as I heard his serene voice, it was as if someone extinguished a raging fire within me. As it turned out, my father had decided to leave the country due to the recent wave of brutal crackdowns by the hardliners. Two days later, I was on a plane to Toronto.

As I gazed out the window, I was exuberant with joy and thought that he had finally conceded it was impossible to deal with corrupt clerics, whose only goal is to retain power through any means necessary. It had almost been five years since we had last seen each other. Although our relationship had been strained due to the circumstances, I was elated when I finally saw him again.

We had a great time together in Niagara, laughing and recalling fond memories of when I was back in Iran. It was good to be with him again. One morning we decided to wake up early and take a walk by the Lake Ontario before the heavy influx of tourists arrived. It was very quiet and windy. After walking for an hour, we stopped for a short rest. We were both standing on the side of the lake and looking out at the farthest point.

I could feel that he had wanted to tell me something all morning, but I was afraid to ask. We were looking in opposite directions, and all I could hear was the sound of the wind blowing inside our jackets. Suddenly, he turned to me and broke the silence: "I have to go back; I'm not finished yet."

He said it so strongly and convincingly that I couldn't bring myself to voice my objection. Tears swelled up in my eyes, and he turned to the lake again and just stared into the horizon. In the ensuing moments of silence, it finally dawned on me what he was seeing: a free and democratic Iran.

The next day I flew back to New York, and he returned to Iran. Barely twenty-four hours had passed before he was arrested in his home and imprisoned without bail.

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By Nima Behnoud

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