A week before news broke out about the shocking and illegal executions of five political prisoners, Farzad, Ali, Farhad, Shirin, and Medi, I had written a message for National Teachers' Day: "...My thoughts and prayers are with Farzad Kamangar, a beautiful person in prison awaiting execution because he cares about Iran's youth. We will fight for your freedom because your freedom is our freedom."
I didn't mention Farzad's name again until I received the news of his death early morning on May 9, 2010.
I was numb, heavy, and my head was weightless. I couldn't move. I had been beaten and used unexpectedly. I was filled with guilt.
I had cried, but eventually stopped. I didn't want to give the oppressors any satisfaction. I had remembered Majid Tavakoli's letter from prison. Majid wrote that Farzad had always said that he would "never allow the hatred of tyranny to break his spirits by removing the stool under his feet [during execution]."
I gathered my thoughts in a daze and concluded that, no matter what I think or feel, Farzad and the others were just five more pawns in the Islamic Republic of Iran's string of games to sustain power through fear and terror.
Perhaps the intention behind killing the five was to make Iranian citizens think twice about protesting a month later for the anniversary of the 2009 rigged presidential election. Or, perhaps, the five were killed as revenge for the protests that occurred less than two weeks earlier for International Worker's Day. University of Tehran students had chanted during that time last year, "Down with the traitor regime" and "Workers and students are united." On the streets, citizens had clashed with security forces. I was so pre-occupied with the daily news that I didn't see the signs that had hinted at Farzad's imminent murder.
An excerpt from a Washington Times article published after the executions stated that Farzad "secretly taught his Kurdish students their banned language and told stories about their culture and history. He was arrested in July 2006 and subjected to beatings, whippings, electric shocks, malnourishment, sleep deprivation, and solitary confinement in cold, squalid cells..."
Farzad had given hope to Kurdish children; so the Islamic Republic of Iran forces killed him. They labelled him an enemy because he longed to keep his heritage alive. He was locked up because he was a danger to the dictator who is unable to survive with people like him alive. Farzad was a liberator; so oppression tightened its grip on him until he choked to death.
In the world of Iranian politics, reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi had taken a bold step by condemning the executions. The Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi was not pleased by this action. He issued a statement and threatened Mousavi, "...When the time is right, much like a fruit that has ripened, action shall be taken."
But what the Tehran Prosecutor didn't consider was that, today, tomorrow, and in our history books, Farzad's memory, like the trees in Kurdistan, will always bare the ripest fruits and provide protection from the heat.
Farzad was a teacher who taught for the love of teaching. He was able to transcend borders and boundaries. He became my teacher when he was locked up in Evin prison. It was the passion and presence in his letters which gave me the hope to strive for a worthy tomorrow. Today, his letters continue to tell the stories and share the pains of our time.
Now, a year following the executions committed by a group of people who have no understanding and respect for humanity, I know that it was never possible to kill a person like Farzad. I know that, a year later, even those who were silent then, due to shock, indifference, or fear, cannot avoid Farzad now.
While overcome with guilt once again, I can't help but to think sadly that Farzad had to leave for the "burnt generation" to be free one day. And although Farzad possessed an abundance of will, an imprisoned person will always be limited. Yet, around the world, free people in love with humanity take for granted their will that they voluntarily imprison until it slowly rots away.
I'm certain that Farzad is finally free now. And no one is able to deny that tomorrow's freedom will be guided by Farzad's vision. And although I believe that freedom in Iran is inevitable, I think the amount attained depends on how effectively we ratify that "we are people too."
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