There is that image of a six-year-old boy holding unto his mother's hand as she holds on to his 11-month-old sister as they step out of the father's car and wave goodbye to face the long red iron door with the marble doorknob. A house with 7 bedrooms for the 7 families that take refugee there: once in the privacy of their lavishly furnished homes that faced the pool, this was his aunt and uncle's last resort.
There is that image of a six-year-old boy weeping outside his grandmother's room, as his usually indifferent aunt gently strokes his hair and begs his calmness. Unlike all the springs of his lifetime, this New Year his father is far away and his mother hasn't bothered to set up the smallest hint of a haft-seen. The flowers, the sabzeh, the pretty goldfish, the coins, … nothing.
There is that image of a four-year-old girl excitedly anticipating a trip to the outskirts of her native city where she is told the family is gathered in a wonderful baagh. She is only four, and outside, on the other side of those doors, the world could be caught up in a glorious picnic, instead of the bloodiest of wars between Iran and Iraq.
In her vocabulary, “war” is not defined. It's just a word in her grandfather's beautifully woven stories. To her, the sounds on TV that came almost every night like a police siren, only meant having access to that big beautiful bowl overflowing with aajil and chocolate. To her, rushing into the basement was part of life — not to protect it from bombs.
There is that image of that four-year-old stepping out of her father's car excitedly waving goodbye, anticipating all the adventures that await her on the other side of that long red iron door with the marble doorknob. All the rooms will be occupied, and they will have to share a room. That too, is reason for excitement… And then there is that fear that all of these images will be no more.
Friends and family always criticize Iranians for holding so much opinion and fervor. “Az bacheyeh fesgheli gherefteh taa piremard, az siaasat gherefteh taa din, hameh khodeshoon ro saaheb nazar midoonan” — from child to adult, from politics to religion, they all see themselves as an authority on any subject. I often hear them complaining, while deeply indulged in a conversation about Bazargan's cabinet after the revolution or Mossadegh.
But the reason I don't believe in such criticism is not their own hypocrisy, but that in the end is it not true that we all have stories? They are not in pages of The Times or on the BBC. We are living and breathing them to a point where it seems as if each person is a story, far more enthralling and vivacious than any of Robin Wright's books could ever be.
Reading books like hers, reminds me of my uncles, grandfathers, cousins, acquaintances, those whose experiences and first hand observations can shock and awe people unlike any bomb. As I hear my father's stories from his childhood growing up in a small town flustering with Americans in the south of Iran, to his high school days, to his days as a college student in a young society full of hope and chaos and war, I see one example.
And yet, while full of fury and fire, we remain a silent bunch in our parties. Perhaps it's because without a firm ground to stand on, individual voices hardly ever go very far. After all, Arash's bow is not an every day commodity. The current system does not encourage that, unwilling to admit that such a process is vital to its own existence. Books and movies are banned even before they are written or shot.
Rasoul Mollagholipour, a war veteran turned filmmaker — not exactly a prodigy, in my opinion, but still, at least he's doing something — had to keep his film Hiva, locked in the hallways of Ershad, the Culture Ministry, for years before he could show it on the big screen because of it's “dishonesty” towards the Basij militia.
What dishonesty? There are many, accordinng to the authorities, but one is that in the movie, the man we see is not sure about going to war. On one side, he believes he should defend his country, on the other is his love for his wife. Where could this untruth possibly be?
Well, according to the officials in Ershad, a Basiji's one and only desire was to become a martyr for the love of God and his revolution; love for another human was never an issue. They willingly went, and their loved ones willingly wanted them to go. That is the truth. Anything different is untruth and therefore forbidden.
But stories come to life with a generation and die with it, unless they are passed on. Much of ours has already begun to wither away. Tales of what Iranians endured two world wars; the villages, the towns, the people who were caught in catastrophes while Iran remained “neutral”… Much of these stories have all died with the people who experienced them.
Unlike the second, Iran's first attempt at revolution did carry voices with it: voices loud and strong enough to be heard, and yet gentle enough to be welcomed. From Malek-o-Shoara to Aref Ghazvini to Nasim Shomal, the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-11 bred some of the most prominent figures in contemporary Iranian society.
Even if not acquainted with the event that was largely responsible in shaping Iran in the 20th century, listening to Aref Ghazvini recall his failed journey to Turkey, or the assassination of Colonel Pessyan, unwillingly leads you to feel the pain, the promise and the defeat that he and the likes of him suffered.
The tulip, one of the more prominent symbols of the Islamic Republic, is taken from Ghazvini's famous poem, “az khooneh javaanaan-e vatan laaleh mirooyad” — “tulips grow with the blood of homeland's youth”. Ironically, the whimsical, early-20th-century songwriter was also known for his strong anti-mullah feelings and had quite a bit of poetry to prove it. But his tulip still reigns in the Islamic Republic.
“Revolution”, “war”, “student riots”, “bloody political murders”: words so foreign and odd to so many in this part of the world, here in New Zealand. “It's like you're telling a story from the French Revolution,” I often hear some friend tell me as I retell a story. But while it is a story to her, for me, it's as real as the chair I am sitting on, a reality that can be twisted and turned a million ways: the ways of the Islamic Republic or CNN.
Where does the truth lie? Are there only two sides to this story? Has even half of it been told? The world still waits to hear from us. We impatiently wait to tell it knowing that the clock is ticking. We sit, silently, impatiently, hoping for our turn.