Summer. The season of albaloo and hendooneh. No homework, no school, no waking up early. Just enjoying friends and family. Not this summer. This summer was different. The summer of 1983.
Woke up at 10:30. Mom and dad had already left for work. Checked on my brother. He was half-awake. Turned on the TV. Nothing. Turned on the VCR, and put in my favorite music video tape… the 80's… Boy George, Chris De Burgh, Bee Gees,… love it. My brother and I are both unaware of what was about to happen.
The ring from the doorbell startles both of us. We argue for a few minutes about who's going to answer the door. Finally, my brother picks up the receiver, and says: “Aloo … Baleh befarmayed… Alan meyaam…” and he hangs up. I asked who was it? He said it's the postman. He has a letter from Australia for us. Must be the paperwork for our visa, I said.
My brother runs downstairs to get the letter and a few minutes later, he runs back into the house, white as a ghost. All he could say was, “Komiteh!” KOMITEH? What? What are you talking about? I was on my way outside to find out what he's talking about, but it was too late.
They had walked in. There were three of them. They were wearing green army pants, and kaapshene sarbaazi. They all had beards, and were holding rifles. The first one instructed me to put something “decent” on. I was only wearing a T-shirt and shorts. I grabbed my manteau and roosaree and asked what they wanted.
The first one, which seemed to be the leader, showed me a letter. My hands were shaking, and could hardly see the writing. It was written in faint blue ink. The letter stated that the neighbors have complained about suspicious gatherings in the house!
— “What suspicious gatherings, and who are you anyway?”
— “We are from the Komiteh, and have been ordered to search the house for drugs, books, and political documents, ” the leader replied.
I was shocked and didn't know what to say.
— “We have been in this neighborhood for over 20 years, and know all our neighbors. This can't be right!”
He snatched the letter out of my hand and walked passed me into the living room. I followed him, and from the corner of my eye I could see my brother shaking. He was only 7-years old. I held his hand and followed the leader. The other two men followed behind us.
The leader looked at the TV. Duran Duran were singing. He looked at me and asked, “How old are you?”
— “Then you're old enough to know why we went to war; why our brothers were killed. They weren't killed so that you could watch charandiyaat, and fill your brains with stupid American SHIT!”
He then instructed the other two men to look through the other tapes.
I was getting angry. Who were these men, to come into our house, and order me around? The leader asked where my room was. I told my brother to wait outside, and keep an eye on the other two while I took the leader to my room. As I walked in I saw the posters on the wall. Elvis, Madonna, Boy George. I looked at the leader, and he shook his head in disgust, and instructed me to take down the posters. I did as I was told.
He closed the door, and sat on my bed. My heart dropped. What was he going to do? What did he want? He looked around, and instructed me to open my drawers. With his filthy hands he went through my personal stuff. I could feel the heat in my face. My heart was beating fast, but I was too scared to say anything. I just stood there and watched him. I couldn't take it anymore. I felt like punching him in the face. I didn't think about the consequences, and the fact that he was twice my size. I was thinking about how strong I felt at that moment, and how much hate I felt towards him, and the likes of him.
My brother opened the door and walked in. With young, innocent eyes, he looked at me, and said that the other two men have gone into mom and dad's bedroom. I ran out, and my brother and the leader followed me to my parent's bedroom. Surely enough, the other two men were casually going through my mom's drawers.
I started yelling and screaming. I ran to the phone and said “I'm calling my father. He will come and deal with you!” As I picked up the phone, I felt a cold hard metal against my forehead. My heart stopped. I stopped breathing.
— “I wouldn't do that if I were you.”
I put down the phone, and turned around. He was holding a gun to my forehead. My little brother was staring at me with horror. I tried to calm myself, and said, “What do you want?” The leader instructed me back into my bedroom along with my brother, and started lecturing us about God, Mohammad, religion, the revolution…
I wasn't listening. I couldn't hear anything. I could only hear my heart beat. What did these people want? What were they going to do to us? I looked out the window, and felt a breeze against my face. I could hear my grandmother's voice coming from the hayaat khalvat downstairs. She was arguing with Soghra Khano about not polishing the samovar properly. “If only she would come upstairs,” I though to myself. My legs were shaking, and I felt like passing out.
The leader got up and told us to wait in the room, as he walked out. I held my brother's hand, and told him that everything would be all right. But, would it? Would they just walk out without harming us?
The leader returned, and said that their job was done, and they have taken enough evidence to convict us. He then said that I would have to go with them! I had to go with them to be witness to the things they have taken. I pulled myself together and got up. I told my brother that I would have to go with them, and that mom and dad would come and pick me up from the Komiteh later. My brother looked at me with tears in his beautiful dark eyes, and nodded.
I walked out of the room, and then all of a sudden my brother ran after me, and begged me to stay. He begged the leader not to take his sister. The leader smiled and looked at my brother and said, “We are just doing our job. Your sister will be fine, we won't hurt her”.
Then my brother started crying. Crying and pleading. He pleaded and begged the leader not to take me. I tried to comfort him, but there was no use. The leader was getting impatient, and finally said, “Do you think we like doing this to people? Do you think I enjoy seeing a child crying? I have to do this. This is my job. I have no choice.”
I followed him to the door. I was thinking to myself that when I walk into the Komiteh, I'll give them a piece of my mind! How naive of me. The leader stopped, turned around, and said, “Maybe it isn't necessary for you to come with us. It's not right for your neighbors to see us taking you. Just tell your father to ring us, and we will take it from there! Just make sure you don't come out of the house for at least 15 minutes after we leave. My brother jumped up and hugged me, and thanked the leader. He kissed my brother on the forehead, and said, ” Please forgive me,” and walked out.
I stood there not knowing what to do. I didn't know what to think. What had happened? I turned around to walk back into the house. I noticed something strange. The house looked empty. What happened to our Persian carpets? Where was the stereo? I ran to the dinning room, and the VCR was missing! I went to my parents' bedroom, and immediately though of my mom's jewelry! I ran to open the drawers, and luckily teverything was still there. Oh my god the passports! I looked through my dad's drawers, and luckily the passports were still there. We had alcohol in the cabinet of our living room. All gone. Playing cards, gone.
I picked up the phone and rang my dad. I told him the whole story, and he said he would be home in half an hour. I had to sit down. I was still shaking. My brother and I just looked at each other, and didn't say a word. My parents came home, and after making sure we were okay, I told them the story. When I got to the bit about them taking me, my mom passed out.
The police arrived late in the afternoon and asked questions. They confirmed that there was no such Komiteh in the area, and no one has permission to enter anyone's house under those conditions. The officer asked for descriptions of the men. My brother and I gave them the details. The officer explained that these men were a group of thieves that were wanted by the police for robbery, murder, and rape!
The officer asked me if any of the men smoked, and I remembered that one of the men, walked in holding a lighted cigarette. Apparently after each robbery that man would leave his cigarette marks on women's bodies.
We were robbed. Not just of our personal possessions, but robbed of our privacy. I heard a few years later that they were caught, and the leader was executed. I consider myself lucky, very lucky. But I don't think ill ever be able to forgive or forget.
ALSO By Sharareh Shirazi
Quiet weekend No desire to have kids