The war broke my walls to pieces


by Azarin Sadegh

My memories of my childhood are mostly vague but still I can remember being on the playground of my old school; while other children played hide and seek, I was only hiding, trying to make certain nobody would ever find me. I knew they hated me as much as the teachers liked me.

I was the one with all the answers.

I used to read as many as books I could to maintain my status of a nerd; I was transforming into a huge, mute, lonely devourer of words, and still hungry for anything real.

“With each book you read, you’ll grow,” Father used to say. “In my time, I didn’t have this chance. I’m sure you will not disappoint us.”

But I was already the finest replica of any parent’s dream. Maybe that’s why I felt like a giant or a monster, holding inside me the weight of awareness nobody else cared to carry.

My father, a high school Algebra and Geometry teacher, had always longed to be someone else, and his quest for knowledge became mine. Then one day I discovered I was peculiar in others’ eyes. It just happened in one definite moment.

I was 15, and it was my first day at a new high school. The teacher, a young man with attitude, brought up the subject of the well-known paradox of Zeno; he wished to know if any of us knew about it. This was an easy problem, but to my surprise nobody dared to raise their hand.

I was sitting in the last row, leaning back against the wall. I waited and looked around, perplexed to discover that nobody else had read Aristotle. The look on teacher’s face told me he was going to slam the whole class; he was going to tell us how stupid we were.

But I didn’t appreciate this assumption, so I raised my hand.

I stood up.

All eyes turned to look at me.

“Achilles would have easily caught the tortoise if Zeno had considered the factor of time in his argument,” I said. “In this paradox, Zeno focuses primarily on distance, but motion is a result of both distance and time.”

Our teacher nodded without a smile.

“Achilles shouldn’t have given up so easily,” I said. This was my last touch, a little mockery. I heard the confusing giggles of the girls, but I maintained my serious posture. “Would you like me to write down the formula on the board?” I asked.

The teacher frowned and stepped closer to me. “No, I’ll do it myself,” he said. “Now you may sit down. Thank you, Miss…” His voice was barely audible. “What’s your name?” he asked, his attitude obviously apathetic.

Everybody remembered my name, I thought.

I had become the center of their attention, but at the same time, I was moving beyond their reach, vanishing before their eyes. Unapproachable like a paradox.

They would never be my friends, I thought, succumbing to the illusion of power that also imposed a sense of solitude. My new world – a world of abstractions, composed of what I knew and others either didn’t know or didn’t care to know – bounded me inside its thick barrier.

Gradually, from that day on, I turned into a shadow. A ghost. The ghost of my father’s impossible dream. I knew I was untouchable like a ghost, invisible like a dream.


The war broke my walls to pieces. The war ejected me into a world of flesh and blood. The war exploded my existence into something noticeable as if it had eyes of its own and could follow me everywhere, even inside my closet where I hid while army guards, patrolling our neighborhood, yelled threats that they would shoot at my window, That I must turn off the lights. Suddenly everyone was aware of my existence. As if they could see me. As if I had turned visible again.

Had I become like everyone else? Or was it the world surrounding my room that had transformed itself into a place of paradoxes, a place where each person had turned into a frightened monster hiding in the dark?


I would never forget that night; the first air raid on Tehran.

The electricity was cut, and the whole city of Tehran went dark. To fit in the narrow, deep, messy, and dark space of the closet, I curled into fetus position, taking with me a flashlight and some candles in case I ran out of batteries. My closet suffocated me and my clothes hung against my face and the smell of old shoes and dust reminded me of something dying. If I stretched my arms, I could touch both walls of the closet, and if I stood up, I could reach the ceiling with the tip of my fingers.

No longer could my heavy books of philosophy offer a meaning to me, as I sat on the cold floor of the closet, staring at the words, without understanding their significance. Repeatedly, I read the same paragraph, the same line, the same word, gazing at the space between lines. I drifted into a world without a beginning and without an end, a senseless world without a direction or purpose.

I missed the ordinary life.

But I knew. If I opened my closet door, I could have only found the darkness there.

I waited for the sirens announcing the arrival of the Iraqi MIGs. I turned off the flashlight to let my closet float in obscurity.

I could catch any sound.

The sound of melting candles, and the fall of spiders, the walk of insects along the line of the darkest corner of the closet and the whisper of the dust dancing in the air to imitate raindrops. I listened to the buzz of hungry mosquitoes searching for blood, the sound of the moon shining cold, and the hum of growth of the trees in the yard. I became part of the history, hearing the whizzing noise of gas touching naked skins, the breathings of unborn children bonding with grieving mothers, the beats of stones thrown at innocents, and the gasps of scared monsters hiding behind me in the closet.

Once the raid was over, I left the closet and opened the window to let the breeze touch my face. From afar, out on the horizon, I could vaguely recognize an invisible shadow; like a black sunrise.

Every night.


It was the only thing that never let me down.

The sun always, always rose from behind the dark walls of the city.


Recently by Azarin SadeghCommentsDate
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Omid Hast

از دست دادند

Omid Hast


"برای چی جونشونو از دست دادند؟"

"برای کی جونشونو از دست دادند؟"

"چرا جونشونو از دست دادند؟"



by maziar 58 (not verified) on

thank you but you forgot to add; chera? va.....
thanks again

Azarin Sadegh

Thanks Omid Jan!

by Azarin Sadegh on

Thanks a lot for your translation...I am so relieved! It doesn't mean what I thought it meant (It has to do with my level of English plus my tendency toward the darker side of my imagination...still I loved the sound and the rhythm of this sentence. Its Farsi translation doesn't resonate with me as much.)

Thanks again, Azarin


Dear Maziar

by Monda on

I hope you will write your experiences in every detail. At least until that day, write for us here, we want to read about your tragedies, I want to read about your pain. As Azarin expressed, your pain belongs to all of us. Share it, write it, verbalize it, don't keep it inside anymore. Dont' be silent about it, because it may hurt you even more than it already has. 

Omid Hast

"For whom they have to end their life?"

by Omid Hast on

I believe the commentator is trying to say

"برای کی جونشونو از دست دادند؟"
" برای کی جانشان را از دست دادند؟"

It's an expression of bewilderment at those who have benefited from the war at the expense of those whose lives were lost or destroyed

People in Iran say it all the time

Azarin Sadegh

For whom they have to end their life?

by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear Maziar,

I am so puzzled by your first sentence. Very intriguing!

Thanks a lot for your detailed reply. As a parent, I can and still I know that I can't imagine the pain your family and especially your sister has gone through. I really believe that this story should be told over and over. Her story is part of our collective memories and shouldn't be forgotten. Her loss is also the loss of any of us as a nation and as a human being and it reveals the hidden tragedy of war. 

The first time I read my War essay in my writing class, it was for my writer/classmates (mostly Americans, but there was also an Austrian, a Japanese, two British and a Jewish writer from Israel). They all seemed stunned by the existence of my closet and the deafening silence before a bombing. Some of them even cried and told me that they had never thought about it and then they talked about the Iraq war and how they related my memories to the ongoing war on Iraqi civilian and how I should write about it like a public service. Honestly, until then, I had no clue that I actually had something to say in America.

The stories like yours, much more poignant than my simple description of silence, need to be told, to remind everyone that we are human too, that (the exact same way as they do,) we love our children too and we love peace and we love to see our children grow up and succeed. They need to be told that if we get bombed we will die and there are people who are going to miss us and lose their drive to live, like people you addressed in your first sentence.

As I told you before, it is our responsibility not to forget and we don't have the right to end our lives before telling our side of the story. Plus, dead or alive...what's the difference, if we remain mute?

Thanks again for your reply and Sorry a thousand times for your loss,


PS: Please explain about your first sentence... Please!  


For whom........

by maziar 58 (not verified) on

they have to end theire life?
within the first week of air assault on khorramshahr with LBS. 1000 American made bombs my sister's house was turned to rumbles & ashes allover,as she carried the dead 8 mo old and a crying 2 yrs olds toward ahvaz ,they burried the ...
she also learned that midnight trauma caused her son
half paralised (the right side)body that he lived enough to grow till year 11 of age to get his heart and lungs enlarged enough so he can die in peace in gilan.
according to my sister,they never returned back to khorramshahr and never will.
my brother was pickedup in daylight after checking his ID and fake draft card,was shipped to jail then army's training camp and within 2 month the killing field of hoveyze; his life ended before he reached 21
(the legal drinking age in us of a...) by karkhe.

Azarin Sadegh


by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear Irandokht, Zion, Jamshid, Monda, Omid, and Niloufar,

Thank you so much for your words of support and encouragement! There are days I am so down, filled with so much time, on such a day, I will come back to this page and will re-read your comments before going back to my daily struggle of writing a meaningful novel!

Thanks, Azarin

Azarin Sadegh

Interested in knowing more about your story

by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear Maziar,

Would you please send me an email with more details about your loss in Iran-Iraq war...I think it is our responsibility to remember (and to tell) these stories, so I am very much interested in learning your story. Thanks, Azarin

Azarin Sadegh

Dear Anony mouse

by Azarin Sadegh on

Thanks for your input! I am going to think about that first it is only one memory out of so many others she has forgotten! But this one is an important one so it is normal that she remembers it so well.

About the ending...Thanks! A surprise is always considered a positive feedback :-) Azarin

Azarin Sadegh

Dear Niki

by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear Niki

No, I am not surprised at all...It is so true that Camus has been a huge influence on me (on my writing, on the way I understood life and the way I refused to feel hopeless or needy) when I was 18-20 years old. When everyone was marching in the streets chanting Death to Shah I was reading Camus that “Ce monde tel qu’il est fait, n’est pas supportable. J’ai donc besoin de la lune ou du bonheur, ou de l’immortalité, de quelquechose qui soit dément peut être, mais qui ne soit pas de ce monde. »! Or « Il n'y a qu'un problème philosophique vraiment sérieux : c'est le suicide. Juger que la vie vaut ou ne vaut pas la peine d'être vécue, c'est répondre à la question fondamentale de la philosophie. » But I haven’t read L’exile et le royaume yet!



The best writing

by Nilofar S (not verified) on

Dear Azarin,
In my opinion, this is the best piece of your writing.
Keep up the good work,

Omid Hast


by Omid Hast on

Very excellent!


de javu'

by maziar 58 (not verified) on

as a war junkie ,I always read or watch clips of that G D war that I never fought but it touches me dearly since losing 2 nephews 1 & 11 yrs. of ages & a brother 21 yrs old to it;so I can claim to be fictionally veteran of that war......
to much talking: I was gonna say gee i'd read that story somewhere till I came across mrs azarin's clarifing that essay was written in mar 2007...
so B+ for my memory
A for mrs sadegh's writting skill. bio not fiction.



Well done!

by jamshid on

Dear Azarin, 

I enjoyed reading both pieces. I specially like your pieces on your childhood memories. I remember them long after I finished reading them.

Keep it coming!


Reading your pieces in madashellclub...

by Monda on

so far your "..Hate.." resonated with me the most. Writing will set you free from some of the trauma you went through. I also think it's so important for our children to someday read our feelings and thoughts about our life before they came into existance. Keep writing, it's a relief and pleasure to read you.


Wrong beginning

by Anonymouse on

My memories of my childhood are mostly vague ... but then you go on and explain in detail your childhood.  The rest was nice and the ending was good, but somehow before I reached it I thought you would not mention the sun.


I know it is strange but...

by niki not logged in (not verified) on

... after reading your piece, I immediately thought of the style of L'exile et le royaume.

Azarin Sadegh

Buying cucumbers

by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear Majid, I think you have commented on the wrong essay :-) Your comment should go with this old essay of mine:


After learning (the hard way) the difference between cucumbers and zuccinis, I realized that actually there is no difference in their taste...both tasted tasteless without lemon and salt!




by Zion on

This was a very intricate and absorbing piece. You are very talented.


Stranger than fiction

by IRANdokht on

Azarin jan

another well written piece!  When it comes to our generation, memories are stranger than fiction. Now I know why when I start telling my stories some of my friends tell me I should write a book! I would if I could write as well as you do.

Just keep up the good work and tell these stories. I think the memories like these are worth writing. Maybe some day, the future generations would find out why some of us left our homeland and how helpless we felt in that turmoil.

Good luck with your book



Have ever found out the

by Majid on

Have ever found out the diff. between a "cucumber and a zuccini" yet?

Azarin Sadegh

Partly fiction, partly memoir

by Azarin Sadegh on

Even though this piece is classified as fiction and it is actually part of a longer work, but I have to clarify that the first section is pure fiction and the second part is my own personal memories from war.

An older version of this second part was my first essay published on