Thursday, June 16, 2005

Akbar and Nasser in a Joyous City

Tehran like any other city carries a life of contradictions too. While it rocks and dances in one part, another laughs in tears.. During the 8-year war with Iraq, there were times when the city was terrorized by bombs and rockets, while some terrorized others. There were days when the US embassy was shut and the city chanted death. But that too passed away and nowadays it is life and happiness that are the rule of the day. Saddam hatting has changed too. The city even welcomes Saddam’s friends! The “Great Satan” has changed face as well. Now the city asks for relations with it, and whats more: its presidential candidates compete to hold the “satan’s” hand, still under the mirage of its life-long war with the satan.

Last week the city bore another paradox. While it was overtaken with joy over its football victory, in some quarters there were those who wept. When Shamsol Vaezin, a one time cell mate of Ganji, arrived at Akbar Ganji’s house, only to find a little girl from across the street, he turned to the Prosecutor’s representative and asked him to call his boss, Prosecutor Saeed Mortezavi and tell him that while the city is in joy and celebrations, they would be out of step to carry out what they had in mind. His face to the little girl, but speaking into his cellphone, Vaezi said “This is not the time to be playing monkey, Mr Alizadeh. You too should join the masses.”

Tehran is a strange city. As the city rocked and danced as its soccer team moved closer to the World Cup finals, a group of students gathered outside Akbar Ganji’s house. He is now a symbol of pain and suffering for Iranian intellectuals, just as are the tri colors of the Iranian flag symbolising the patriotism of the youth. He is the symbol of thought, not prison.

And while the city jubilated, there were still others who stood by the walls of Evin prison in Tehran to perhaps make Nasser Zarafshan, another prisoner who is now on a hunger strike, hear their calls and solidarity. Amongst them were colorful faces, including Fariborz Reis Dana with whom he shared a cell during the pre-revolution days. Zarafshan and Ganji do not deserve to be in darkness while the nation rejoices at its victory. Zarafshan had battled the authorities by defending the survivors of the official serial killers who killed the Foruhars a few years ago. It is ironic the murderers of the Foruhars should be free and celebrating, while the defenders of human rights are hunger and in hiding.

Every generation rises. Ours called for death. The next one that rises will call for life.