By Shirin Saeidi
"Everyplace is dark and filled of sadness; all hopes are hopeless; the whole world has ended. Four tall walls surrounded me; all that was open was the sky, but it was dark. I felt like I was burying myself, my heart could not stay in my chest, I wanted to tear it out, stomp on it, and no longer sense anything." -- Female veteran of war who participated in the freeing of Khorramshahr; describes burying her brother: personal interview, Tehran, Iran.
I had just submitted what has been the most difficult chapter of my doctoral thesis, visited my family in the US to attend my little sister's wedding, and planned a short trip to Scotland with one of my many friends whom I have neglected during my last year of focused study. Slowly I had been recuperating from months of intense fieldwork in Iran and interviews with veterans of the Iran-Iraq war, and coming to grips with the after-shocks that researchers working on violence-ridden topics often experience. I was beginning to accept that the loss of appetite to see friends, desire to be absolutely alone and my overall tiredness as connected to the hundreds of stories of loss, destruction and pain that I had heard from those who lived war. I started to acknowledge that interviewees may have found a permanent home in my heart, to have heightened my sensitivity to social injustice by becoming one with my body and spirit, that no one was at fault for my strange sense of disconnection from self, and that I had to learn to live with this burden productively for the rest of my life.
On Saturday December 27th, I received an email about attacks on Gaza from a friend and long-time activist currently working with the Free Gaza Movement, and started to now have pictures of unprecedented and unanticipated war-the ways I have always envisioned Khuzestan's atmosphere in September 1980 to feel like. I remembered a student from my Master's program in the US who was from Gaza and wondered how her parents were coping on this dreadful Saturday. I remembered how excited she was to visit her family in the Occupied Territories for the first time as a Palestinian born and raised in the US, the way she described the roof tops where she sunbathed, and the pleasures of being present in her land of memories. I remembered our late night discussions at George Mason University about the landscape of Gaza's streets, structures of buildings, how she felt moving under occupation, and many other geographical descriptions that fascinate me about places people call home. I recalled listening to Ahangaran on the nights of military operations when I was a child in Iran, and the gloomy face I shared with the thousands of homeless Palestinian children who were scared and confused that night.
And so began what has been a very painful three days, and a sadness I have not experienced before, not even during the US invasion of Iraq. I have watched various news channels on the internet. I have tuned into coverage's from PressTV, CNN, BBC - yet none of the channels satisfy me. I have read every article I can find, and still I find no solace. I have seen protesters pour into the streets of the United States, Europe and the Middle East but do not feel the same sense of defiance I typically have watching ordinary people express their political wills publicly, vocally. Somehow the crowds seem different too-they don't move like they used to: while together in one space, they seem just as distraught, disoriented and ashamed as me alone in my room. My skin is paler than usual. I don't recognize my own eyes in the mirror. And all remembrances of the joys I have felt the past few weeks seem selfish. I don't want to read Shamlu, Darwish, or Neruda. I want to mourn alone for the people of Gaza, for the terrified little boys and girls isolated through trauma from their equally fearful mothers and fathers.
I am not sure what I'm looking for on the web; probably some form of resistance, some sign of composure, an expression of life's continuation, but all of this has been hard to locate in the poor camera snap shots and photos. I want to call someone, but no one has any more information than this. I want to research the issue, but pictures have paralyzed me. I use to understand the human spirit as resilient, but am not so sure anymore because I'm watching myself grow weary and restless. I have never been one to back away from battle, but am not interested to attend more demonstrations; discussions bore me equally right now. I seem to be only able to watch and continue yearning for another image that will be different from what I see.
 Saeidi, Shirin. Personal interview. Tehran, Iran. June 2, 2008. in "Khod Sakhtah [Self-Made]: Non-Elite Iranian Women and State Construction, 1980-88." PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, Forthcoming.
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