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Far from causal brutality
Zahra Kazemi's murder

September 30, 2003
The Iranian

There is a nightmare experienced by some exiles that unfolds like this: you wake up one morning and find yourself, inexplicably as if in a Kafkaesque universe, back in the homeland you've left behind. You can't get out, can't get back to where you've taken refuge, even though its landscape lies ever so tantalizingly within your reach, just on the other side of the looking glass. It's as if your place of birth has exerted a magical pull on your very body regardless of how far you have gone or how long you've been away. 

This brings us to the beating death of the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi a in a Tehran jail under murky circumstances and in the hands of yet to be determined henchmen. The final jury is still out as to the how and whys of this case. One can naturally speculate. It's quite unlikely Kazemi would have been beaten to death had she been arrested last year or even six months ago. 

She certainly wouldn't have met her fate had she been a non-Iranian journalist, regardless of the veracity of the espionage charges leveled against her. It'sdoubtful a single hair on her head would have been touched if she were in fact a spy. Spies are valuable commodity in international politics, often used as pawns in public relation wars or bargaining chips in hardball geopolitical games. 

Considering Kazemi's international profile and her Canadian citizenship, the perpetrators seem to have done their dirty deed with brazen impunity. Although it may never be revealed if Kazemi's death was in anyway encouraged from higher up, the whole affair looks far from causal brutality of some overeager lackeys pissed off at an uppity hyphenated Iranian bent on letting off steam on all the badmouthing coming down from Los Angeles based satellite TV stations. 

Regardless of the existence or lack of a conspiracy, Zahra Kazemi was beaten to death because she had been born in Iran and had the bad luck of being arrested at a time when Iranians of the diasporic are looked at with highest degree of suspicion by some quarters within the Iranian state. 

The beating death of Kazemi appears to have been a signal to all those outside Iran: do not think that your foreign citizenships provide you with a shield. In the final analysis, your collective rear end belongs here. The Iranian state laid claim to Kazemi's body hence nullifying any other authority including her adopted country of Canada, because of the basic fact that she was physically born in Iran. 

Once she set foot in Iran, she became the property of the state to do whatever it pleased with her. It's no wonder her body became the subject of a tug of war long after life was beaten out of it. Like a stern father exercising the limits of his authority the Iranian state is insisting on having the final say as to her resting place. 
 
In the middle ages, one was either a master or servant. Power was exercised in manner of a pyramid from above often emanating from the figure of a king on down to the most insignificant farm hand. Ordinary folks were subjects of the king, effectively owned like cattle. This order of things was sanctified by the dominant religious order and enshrined in the society's mythology. One had no choice; if you were born a peasant you remained a peasant. If you were born to royalty, you claimed what was your birthright. 

Modernity changed all of that. In place of king and his authority modern nationhood was invented. One was a citizen, an entrepreneur, paid taxes and demanded equal representation. However the citizen's freedom was limited within the authority of the state. The fact of one's place of birth is central in determining the sphere of state's authority. This equally bequeaths privileges as well as perils to the individual. You get the good with the bad. Such is the Faustian nature of the contract citizens enter in with the state. In exchange for the right to your body, you'll get the protection and privileges of citizenship.
 
Much was made of Kazemi's dual citizenship after the news of her death broke, as if she would have been any more worthy of a humane treatment had she been born in Canada of Iranian parents. Canadian authorities threw their hands in the air. There was a limit to what they could do considering Kazemi's dual citizenship; her birth citizenship apparently superceding her adopted one. 

Once the dust had settled, as if putting its final ownership seal on her corpse, like a carcass hanging from a meat hook, Kazemi's body was buried in an Islamic ceremony in Shiraz against the wishes of her closest relative and her son. At first it was reported that the burial was at her mother's request but shortly after she claimed publicly that she had been strong-armed. 

Did Kazemi wish to be buried as a Moslem? Maybe she did and there is certainly nothing wrong with an Islamic burial. But then maybe she didn't. Maybe she had wished to be cremated or be deposited into the sea in manner of seamen. The point is that her wishes didn't matter much. The state decided what was to be done with her and it was done. At the end Iranian earth reclaimed her body.

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