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Worth living for
Birthday party at the height of war



February 28, 2006

Last Saturday, I was talking to my son about my birthday party on February 28, 1988, back in Tehran, Iran.

The war between Iran and Iraq had been going on for almost 8 years and there was no sign of peace. My brother, the only sibling I have, had been stationed at the frontline for his obligatory military service for one and a half years by that time. I had been excused because of my student status.  The whole country was depressed from war and brutal acts, which had been running us for a decade. Under their relatively new religious rules, every type of fun had been banned, from music to love!

That February, my birthday party of 1977 was mesmerizing me. The world had turned one hundred eighty degrees for us since then. I took out my eight-millimeter projector and watched the film of that birthday party. My parents joined me and we got very emotional watching the film. All of us were happy and dancing around the cake in the film. Every one looked bright and rosy back in 1977. The past was gone and the future, with all the turmoil, was not promising at all.

I had invited some of my close family and friends to my birthday party that night in 1988. We used to keep up our spirit by having parties at our houses. There was always a high risk by having those gatherings. The Islamic police could break in to your, without any courts note, and arrest all who were participating in, from teenagers to parents and grand parents. Jail, torture, humiliating and many other punishments were a few consequences to name for that simple act of fun.

Later on, you would be repelled from your governmental job, school or university by having that type of criminal/immoral record in your file.  Most parents were extremely understanding by letting their kids having or even going to those parties. I was not planning to have a big party, just a gathering to escape from the war and the outside world. My family used to have a party whenever my brother was coming back to home from war field for his off days. It was very hard to have one without him around and being far in that hell.  I had been helping my mom to cook and make the room ready all day.

My cousin and my aunt showed up early and they joined us in the preparation. My cousin suggested having music and dance for the night, too. She said that it would be insane to not having fun for my birthday with all the people coming there! I accepted the offer in a heartbeat! I set up my stereo in our dinning room and made the dance floor by moving our huge dining table. 25- 30 people showed up by 8 PM, mostly young and desperate to have fun.

Our house was filled with colorful flowers and dresses, right after they came in and the girls took off their black robes. That night turned out to be one of my best birthday parties. We danced, joked, sang and had fun for five to six hours. Unlike many other parties in town, I was not serving alcohol, since I do not drink, but everyone was drunk from happiness and joy! 

They all called to thank me the next morning. The leftover happiness did not last too long. The horrible missile attacks started that afternoon and a week later many of our windows were shattered by two missiles, which landed half a mile from our house. It took almost four more months of death and destruction for Iran to accept the United Nations ceasefire offer ending the eight-year brutal, aimless war between Iran and Iraq. We had lived with sirens and missiles for all those months. By that time, we had acquired many other bitter memories from the previous years of war and repression. We had not given up on hope had its rebirth every second. Hope to what, whom, or for when?

There are moments that make life worth living for.  My birthday party on February 28, 1988 was one of them!

For letters section
To Alireza Tarighian

Alireza Tarighian


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