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Sheikh Ishraq
Part 12: Returning to Iran: 1986-87
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Sima Nahan
May 23, 2006

And yet siyahi is a ploy.

A long-standing National Front member -- blindfolded, his hands tied behind his back, in solitary confinement for eight months -- knows this. He is close to seventy years old with much prison experience during his lifetime, and while his body may not take severe beatings, his spirit is virtually indestructible. The effort to break him takes all the ingenuity the prison system of the Islamic Republic can muster.

They work on disrupting his psychological balance by tampering with his visual and auditory senses and his perception of time. No sound reaches him but the Nuha, on and off erratically for hours or just minutes at a stretch. "Lunch" is not brought to him for a good twenty-four hours after "breakfast," but is followed immediately by "supper." Or breakfast may follow lunch and lunch supper. This goes on in a calculatedly unrepeated pattern. But pattern is not something that can be erased from a developed human brain so easily. Sensory awareness and memory discern patterns.

Mr. A listens to the silence patiently, and in time vibrations and faint sounds of footsteps and faraway activity reach him. A shaky regularity emerges to which he sets his internal clock. He practices visualizing the faces of his children and grandchildren. He tries to recollect the architecture of every house in which he has lived. He recites every line of poetry that he knows by heart and memorizes verses of his own composition. He designs book covers and imagines the most space-efficient layout for articles in the magazine he edited before his arrest. Forms become so vivid in his mind that light is not blinding to him when his blindfold is taken off at the end of eight months.

It is all farce too. Over the years, gray hair and bald spots have slowly modified the pitch-black appearance of brother Pasdars. And the oversize black army boots -- hand-me-downs from the brothers -- sticking out from underneath black chadors and flopping forward with each step, have a way of caricaturizing the overall effect of the sisters of Zeynab.

When I spoke to Mr. A, he said that like squids we throw black ink at our objects of fear and we take refuge in the darkness. "Darkness shelters all sides," he said, and he read to me from Sheikh Ishraq:

“Brothers of Truth, shed your skins like the snake sheds his and transgress like the ant who is heard by none. Like the scorpion, carry your weapon behind you, for evil strikes from the back. Partake of poison so you may live well and love death so you truly live. Be in constant flight and make no permanent nest, for all birds are taken from their nests, and if you have no wings to fly with crawl upon the earth and occupy no permanent space. Be like the ostrich who swallows warm stones and like the buzzard who swallows hard bones and like the salamander who lives in fire, so that you suffer no harm. And like the moth do not come out in daylight so you remain safe from foes.” >>> Part 13
[Part (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17)]

Sima Nahan is a writer based in California. She graduated from Reza Shah Kabir high school in Tehran.

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