Tonight will surely be a sleepless night as I listen to Dariush on youtube and follow Twitter, helplessly occupying my racing mind by reading messages of support from across the world to the people of Iran. My boss asked me today about basijis and whether they were always as bad as they now are being portrayed as being. I told him the last time I had been to Iran was 2001 and that my sole memory of a basiji was as follows:
August of 2001, crying as I entered the departure gate, waving my last goodbyes to my aunts, uncles, and cousins, not knowing when I would see them again; handing my passport to the basiji at the window while I wiped my sniffles with my sleeve. He looked to me like any other basiji: stubbly beard a couple of days old, stern frown on his face, a look of indifference as our teenage fingers awkwardly brushed and the passport exchange took place. Then, his voice, soft and displaying a hint of light-hearted humor as his eyes glanced over my name, “Khanomeh Assal, mamoolan oonayee ke miresan Iran intori gerye mikonan; shoma ke dary miri America bayad labkhand rooyeh labaton bashe.” I remember smiling through my tears at him in awe. As a teenager, I didn’t understand the significance of the gesture. Today, it is one of the only memories I think about as I hear people talking about the basijis with hate. I wonder how many of them are like that young man who tried to bring a smile to my face. An entire group of men cannot be pure evil, can they?
Of course, although I don’t want to talk about it, a close member of my family was involved in the basij during his youth, and later, served during the war (the actual front). Many who know him don’t know he was ever involved in most of the things he was involved in because he’s quiet, lives comfortably as an American, and loves this country and it’s ideals even though he once believed in the Revolution of 79. I think of my relative, and the basiji who made me smile, and about how the men in Iran in their 40s and 50s now, are the ones who served our country through eight years of war. They spilled blood for it, to protect the integrity of their families, their women, their country. These men were real men; made of solid material. I doubt that a man willing to give his limbs to protect his nation would be so willing to hurt his own people, especially those unarmed.
Tonight, I pray my feeling is true. I pray for those protestors and I pray for those who are afraid of protesting to let go of their fear just once and support this movement in any way they know how. Most of all, I pray that those who are ordered to stop these protests remember that tomorrow the streets of Iran will be filled with their mothers, brothers, sisters and children. The country will forever judge them based on what they do tomorrow.
Hopefully, the young man who once made me smile will be in charge of leading a group of men tomorrow and when they see girls crying in those streets for freedom, being attacked by savages, they will protect them with their hearts and lives.
I’m sorry for rambling. Maybe these words are worthless. My heart is so full and I feel so helpless tonight.