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Iran: The Old Cradle of Civilization

By Khorshid

First Name: ...
Family Name: ...
Date of Birth: 1982
Place of Birth: Tehran, Iran

Once again they've put those papers in front of me. Once again I should confess what I did and did not do! Once again I should say: Yes, I sinned. Please, have mercy on me and forgive my youthful follies, while deep down I am furiously screaming: I have done nothing wrong.

I should say and do all that to hopefully escape calling home, worrying my mother and others, or worse spend the night locked up, be sent to the court on the next day if not a holiday, pay a fine, if not lashed and...

But this time I know everything is surely going to be not any greener but worse than ever before and no matter how much I moan and lament, it would be all in vain. Why should I moan anyway, why should I lament for committing such ordinary mundane 'sins', when I have lost several friends and relatives for far worse accusations and offenses.

Once again I should explain to this Mr. Hajji sitting in front of me why I am here. But this time I want to speak out what I really want to say. As the old proverb goes: When water rises over one's head, what difference does it make whether it rises for just a few centimeters or a meter!

The place of birth shows I live in a so-called third country, disregarding the fact that it used to be just the opposite, if not the first, but one of the first cradles of human civilization. But who cares about the past? Now and at this age I am living in a third world country called Iran and struggle hard to adapt myself to the kind of things which for a large part of the people of the so-called first world seem totally absurd and meaningless. Honestly, I don't know what to say. I keep hearing that God is just and fair. Yet, one needs insightful eyes to see that, the kind of eyes which I definitely lack.

While holding the pen thinking how to start my confessions, I remember the blissful years of childhood, when it makes not much difference in which country we are born, who are our parents, whether we are rich or poor, this or that... in one word: we are redeemed of thousands other apprehensions and concerns which catch us later in life as their content begins to change and depend on where we are born, who our parents are and...

I begin to write and jot down Tehran/Iran in front of the Place of Birth.

Forgetting the blissful cradle of childhood past in this Cradle also known as the country of flowers and nightingales (gol-o-bolbol), the first thing we learn at school is to not to speak about our life-style at home because we quickly see that they are not in conformity with what we hear about 'proper conduct' and 'acceptable' life-style preached at school. Otherwise, our parents would immediately be summoned to school for further explanations! Standing either outside the closed door of the headmistress' office more or less trembling, the only thing we could think of and wish for was: would this whole thing end by merely signing those papers of repentance promising not to ever again repeat the same offence, and not our expulsion from the school. In this way, we get our first initiation into the hypocritical world of adulthood, learning from that early age to lie and show ourselves not the way we are and we believe in. To me this is worse than the kind of lies we had previously learnt at home when for example, the phone rang and our mother played the pantomime meaning: "Say, I am not home" and we obeyed while wondering, then who is this person standing right in front of me? A mere apparition; a figment of powerful childhood active faculty of visualization? How can it be? But then we would forget all that and get along with our own life as before, until the next time... As we grow older, we come to understand the reason for those lies. Who knows, perhaps everything goes back to that first repentance paper we sign at school ...

Now god forbid if you are born a woman in this country of flowers and nightingales where I think it is not far-fetched that soon even female nightingales will be forbidden to fly and sing. Again forgetting those blissful days of childhood which is not very dependent on where we are born and what is our gender, now that I have passed that period and accidentally was born as a woman here, I can say those small childhood differences and these wide ones of today have helped us to be prepared, without asking prepared for what because on the whole we should always be prepared for something!

When little by little I came to know that I am different from my brother, my male cousin, in one word, the opposite sex, here and there I heard my mother, aunt, others saying how X and Y or they themselves were arrested on charge of having polished nails or wearing their scarf loose, or worst of all sitting in the same car with a strange man; and after going through interrogation and perhaps a few days of detention and trial, they were either released or just fined or lashed, signing the very same repentance paper at the end. To be fair, it should be said here that actually there is not much difference between the sexes in this regard, except that its cultural social and thus emotional weight is much heavier for women. This in itself shows there is not much remaining from that Cradle of civilization.

It didn't take long for me to have several of the same signed papers in this or that part of the county and when I come to think about it, that is perhaps how we learn not to keep our words.

But how can I say:


I wish I had those insightful eyes to know whether it was by the order of fate or will that we were born on this cat of the world's map which was once life-sized and strong; the abode of courageous knights like Rostams and Sohrabs, Kaveh the Ironsmith, kings like Cyrus the great, but turned into a feeble anemic cat by the time I opened my eyes on its bosom looking quite pathetic as the result of being repeatedly attacked, beaten to death torn to pieces, ... as though metamorphosing from a majestic Persian cat into a skinny stray street cat.

For years we tried hard not to forget our real identity. We read in school history books, heard from our elders how ancient this land, our birthplace is and what a vital role it played in human civilization, and what great poet-philosophers, scientists, physicians were brought up on its bosom, enough to make every Iranian feeling proud, and ...

Alas, as a matter of sheer bad luck, since I was born on it, all that seems like a nice story and as the course of events show may soon be classified as legendary; mere fables. All these centuries and years, we strived to maintain our country's identity, but now when we look at it closely we regretfully can see how we lost our own identity in that struggle. They stole everything and sent them back to us as their own properties, published what our great figures had said under their own names and... simply to gain civilization for themselves. No doubt the next step was to destroy the sources so that nobody would come to know about the great plunder. So having mutilated the cat both physically and spiritually, they then began to aim at its heart. Now the story of that once absolutely gorgeous Persian cat seems just a fairy tale only good to be recounted for small children like bed-time stories, bringing perhaps a noble prize for any author who would write a novel about it.

Gradually we came to be so disheartened by our long futile efforts to maintain the cat's identity that we began to leave the stage. Many left the country or are in the process or are contemplating upon it. Now even we ourselves have forgotten what we were. In pursuit of our forgotten knowledge, civilization and freedom we roamed on other lands, searching for our lost identity. Yet, again we were drowned and forgot why we went there in the first place. Instead we picked up their identity, became one of them. Except those few whose heart still beats for this mutilated cat, the rest have been lured by their civilization, forgetting how hard they have been working to maintain it while we have just been sitting, watching, if not actually helping the perishing process of our country as though nothing is happening.

What a shame I don't have those insightful eyes to understand why from the minute I open my eyes, I have to think what I should wear to avoid being arrested, detained, fined if not lashed, and wonder if that overcoat would be considered provocative or seditious, if I have to wear socks despite my skirt sweeping the pavement; and worse of all what should I do to not be branded for having an illegitimate relationship. In other words, why should I constantly think about 'obscenity,' while in that first world these are the last things the people might think about? This of course does not mean that they are only and always thinking of much higher causes, but at least nobody pokes through their private keyholes. More important, they can plan and work toward building a reasonable life and future for themselves and actually accomplish it, while here we can be forced to abandon our studies, career and life to run after our stolen votes and face a rainfall of bullets instead.

It was as though they dropped the nuclear bomb on our heads. With friends now in jail, brothers preferring a self-exiled wandering life to interrogation, persecution, imprisonment, after all those horrifying daily news of rape and torture, life naturally lost all its meaning with the resulting overwhelming feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. Now the only preoccupation was what are they doing? Do they give them food? Can they sleep? Are they physically sound? Would they be deported, can they find a job? How can I afford this soaring inflation?

Passing the days of winter in continuous feeling of suspension craving for some news from those imprisoned, spring arrived with their temporary release!

Who would be accountable for these deep lines now engraved on their and our faces at such still young age? Is there a way to come out of this abysmal well of chronic depression and anxiety? For what sins have we been condemned to go through such a hellish state of being? Who would be answerable for our shed tears and most important for those lives lost in vain?

Now it seems this cradle of depression, the cradle of fear, insecurity is totally perishing together with us and our youth and that is how we became the third world.

And all I could do these days was just listening to an underground song, singing:

All my strength is used in fighting depression,

Nothing left for work and construction

Trying hard not to show all this, when we see each other, we only ask where shall we gather, tonight? Just to make sure that we still exist and it is in these nightly gatherings, shrinking on a daily basis as some are imprisoned, some have fled, some leaving, we drink the poison hemlock drop by drop in the hope of lightening the agony and grief weighing heavily on our worn out broken hearts, and perhaps forget everything if only for a few hours to be able to laugh at ourselves and others, so that the rest would know that the cat is still breathing. But then again we are condemned by our friends now abroad that we are only thinking of partying and do nothing positive and they hardly answer our e-mails or phone calls because in their own words, they are too busy! Having already forgotten the days when their only soothing place too were these very gatherings, now they see us idle and futile, while they should know better that this is not true and what we are doing is trying hard to keep the cat alive, fearing that they might lose their identity outside this old Cradle of Civilization.

... Payvand News - 07/29/10 ... --

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