I have become a Facebook and twitter addict. Today I went online to post a tweet/status about how happy I was to be picking up my son at the airport. My maternal glee transformed into sorrow and horror when I saw the news posted by the women’s rights group, The Feminist School on Facebook. The 54 year old daughter of Ezzatollah Sahabi, an esteemed opposition figure who had served prison terms during both the Shah and the Mullah’s reigns. Haleh, herself a women’s rights activist and member of Mother’s for Peace, had been arrested in the protests after the contested 2009 elections. She was given leave from her two year prison term to attend her father’s funeral. According to reports from eyewitnesses as well as oppositions sites, Haleh Sahabi seems to have died of heart attack after a scuffle broke when pro-regime plainclothes thugs tried to take away the corpse. One account claims that she was punched in the abdomen and chest as she refused to put the picture of her father down. All sources tend to agree that it was the violent conduct of pro-government thugs that caused this mourning daughter’s death.
There is no shortage of horrifying and sad news from Iran. An activist and twitter/ fb junkie, like me, who has followed and written about events in Iran most of her adult life, should not be so upset at yet another piece of atrocious news. But, I can’t help it. I had never had the privilege to meet Haleh or her father but today, the day I have been awaiting for almost a year to see my son, the day I’m supposed to be overjoyed with maternal love, I weep.
There is something especially depraved about beating a daughter up or causing a scuffle at her father’s funeral. This kind of behavior is especially shocking coming from so-called Shiites who have made a religion out of mourning! What saddens me about this news though is not the horridness of the act or surprise at the appearance of a ‘new low’ for the Islamic Republic of Iran. What angers me, what I mourn is my own impotence or rather our collective paralysis vis a vis this regime.
Our failure to unite, our failure to accept our differences and rally under one flag, our failure to create a viable leadership for the opposition, our failure to meet the courage of those who have more of it than we do, our failure as an united opposition is responsible for her tragic death. It is this that I mourn. This helplessness that I feel, this paralyzing distance that separates me from the hallowed ground on which Haleh and others have shed their blood is why I weep.
And they tell me but this depraved behavior of the regime thugs will push people to the point where they will revolt once and for all. But I know better. I know that without an organized opposition putting every pressure on this regime from inside and out we will never avenge the blood of our heroes. The only way that this death will lead to any positive change is if we let it become our battle cry to unite and create an effective force of opposition that can shake the Islamic Republics foundations and once and for all rid us of its poisonous presence.
Now more than ever, we need to create an umbrella that covers our many wishes and ideologies with the fabric of the urgent need for democracy and respect for individual rights. We should be ready to shake hands and join voices; we should slow down or speed up in order to walk in unison so that we may be the formidable force that we need to be in order to fight this shameless foe that is the Islamic Republic. We must be willing to forget the outdated dialogue of the past, the ideological bickering that our children do not grasp only serve to slow us down. We have enough in common. We all believe in some form of democratic governance and respect for individual rights. Let us unite under that. Under the wish to have fair elections, fair trials and equal opportunities we can bring together millions. Every leader and member of the opposition to this regime which, now I believe, includes most reformists, should be thinking today of ways of rallying us into a united opposition front. If we don’t mourn by organizing and reaching out to one another we have not really mourned the death of Haleh Sahabi, the last drop in our bursting at the seams bucket of sorrow.