Into the horizon
It finally dawned on me what he was seeing
By Nima Behnoud
May 10, 2001
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
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
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