On September 21, 2011, Golshahr Villa, a suburb of Karaj, 15,000 people gathered at the break of dawn to witness the hanging of a 17 year old boy, who killed the Rohollah Dadashi, supposedly the strongest man in Iran. The murder was committed during one of the street fights that take place thousands of time a day in Iran. In this instant, the kid was stupid enough to stab an over confident and possibly too arrogant to defend himself, Dadashi. The wound was too deep and Dadashi lost his life while the kid got fast tracked to the rope. I’m personally against capital punishment! I believe it legalizes vindication. A humanitarian and forward looking society never practices the concept of “eye for an eye”, after all that only makes the whole world blind!
It’s September 21, 1978 in Golshahr Villa, a newly built neighborhood consisting a set of villas in leafy alleys on the outskirts of Karaj.
Following the development of nearby “Uber Posh” Mehrshahr by princess Shams Pahlavi, the new Iranian bourgeoisie class has discovered the subtle natural beauty of this area and is rushing to buy and develop properties and possibly even live here. It is conveniently close to Tehran and the newly inaugurated highway makes it less than an hour of commute. My grandparents (together with my unmarried aunts and uncles) are among the families who have made this move.
Alleys are calm and clean and all have beautiful Persian names, Aboushiravan, Farhang, Derakhti, etc. Villas are predominantly white and one story. They have round windows, big and small, and spacious green yards. They are spacious and modern. They all have patios and porches. During the day, men go to work and ids to school while ladies make the daily house chores. In the evenings, kids are either cycling or playing peekaboo, clean polite well-dressed people walk the streets. It’s a neighborhood in all sense of the world; everybody knows one another and they get together in joy and sorrow. Every night sounds of music and laughter can be heard from the houses. Picture of his majesty is hanging from wall in main sitting room in every house and in line with the optimistic over confident late Pahlavi Iran; there is not a care in the world.
I’m a child, old enough to remember things, sitting on my grandparents’ breakfast table. We are having our ceremonial morning bread, jam, and sweetened tea. My granddad drinks his tea and asks for his “last one for the road” bitter tea.
I’m infatuated with Tin Tin these days and ask my 17 and 18 years old aunts to make me look like him. I even have a matching toy pistol. Replays of Iranian national football team match against Scotland in Argentina world cup is on TV, while my grandmother, listens to the music on the radio and dances around the kitchen, preparing lunch.
My uncle is 16 and enjoying his last days of summer before going back to school. I secretly saw him kissing the neighbor’s daughter in the front porch of the house the other day.
The day goes by, as quietly and as innocent as that and the evening comes. Granddad is back home and the house is suddenly full of guests, cousins, uncles, aunts, much of whom who decide to stay overnight. all is talk of summer holidays in Europe and America and laughter and merriment. We sleep in the cool open air of late Karajian summer every night. Mattresses are rolled up all along the backyard porch to accommodate for the guests. This gives me the opportunity to roll up and down the mattresses a few times before people come to sleep, my favorite thing in the whole world. I’m lying between my grandparents and think about tomorrow, the weekend, when my parents are coming back from their week day in Tehran with a toy for me. They do that every week! I get a new toy every week! I fall into sleep with these thoughts.
In the middle of the night, there is commotion in the house. Everybody is rushing to the front door. The neighborhood watch has caught a burglar. They have brought him to my granddad, the voluntary head of the neighborhood committee. The thief is a middle aged man, flimsy and shabby. He begs my granddad for mercy. Neighbors decide to let him go out of compassion.
It’s September 21, 2011 in Golshahr Villa. Villas have been long demolished and gave their place to ugly, poorly architectures apartment blocks. The original neighbors are either dead or have emigrated to four corners of the world following the ordeal of early revolutionary prosecutions. Golshahr Villa, these days, is chaotic, filthy, populous, and crime ridden. The street names have changed to shahid this and shahid that. Like everything else in Iran, nothing is the same no more.
15,000 people have gathered to see the kid hang at 4:30 AM. The atmosphere is of an amusement park. People cheer and clap as the poor sod dwindles from a crane. The scene resembles blood thirsty Romans in the coliseum some two thousand years ago.
Seeing the videos of the hanging, I ask myself, how did the ethical landscape of a nation change so drastically over the course of 30 years? How did a compassionate, fun loving, and easy going nation turn into such a godless barbaric lot? How could a nation, who can never arrive for any appointment on time, wake up to see someone die at 4:30 AM? How did we get to become so fucked up??
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