Brushwood and Thorns

June 19, 2011
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My father went into to vote that day, to express his views on what should occur within our country. My mother stayed at home, tending to my siblings and the household duties. She was not permitted to vote. I stayed with her, helping to cook that evening’s meal on our nearly ancient stove. We were sure it would stop working soon enough but somehow it kept powering through. My father returned home that day, happy that he had participated in changing our country for the better. He praised Mousavi and told us with complete honesty in his eyes that he was positive he would win; he was positive Iran would change for the better.

Father was wrong. Ahmandinejad had won. I believe that the world began to go mad at this point. Everywhere you looked there were protesters, swelling in the streets like a tidal wave threatening to overcome us all. For the first day, Father sulked at home though some of his political friends would come by the house to encourage them to support their protest. He would always shake his head, and tell them that right now his place was at work and with his family. Each morning, he would kiss each of us goodbye before picking up his briefcase and walking through the sea of people towards the university where he worked.

The night after the election results had been announced, Father was working late at the university. That was typical of him, he had papers to grade and sometimes he would sit down to talk with the other professors. But, he did not return home that night. I knew because I had gone downstairs a few hours after midnight to pour a glass of water and I was startled to see my mother sitting in the dark. Her eyes were frozen on the screen door, waiting for Father to walk through it. I drank my water and when I was ready to go upstairs, I walked over to her. I wrapped my arms around her, in a swift embrace. “I love you, madaar” I whispered.

She nodded slightly, but did not turn her head towards me. I suspect there was fear in her eyes. “I love you too, Farrin, now go to sleep”. I followed her instructions, though reluctantly as I went back up the stairs.

He did not return until noon the next day, and when he did my mother hugged him as if she never wanted to let go. Father gave her look that said they had to talk, and we were sentenced to our rooms. I left to use the bathroom at one point, and I could hear them talking in the kitchen. Father said that during the night pro-Ahmandinejad groups had invaded the university. Students had been injured by the attackers. Luckily, he had not been harmed.

I remember covering my mouth with my hand, nearly biting down on the flesh as a way to stifle my cries of fear. I collapsed to the floor, praying that Allah would will his safety. After that day, my father joined the protests on the streets with handmade signs and feverous passion in his heart.

Days later, a vigil was announced through the internet so that people could mourn the protesters who had been killed. My father had only allowed me to go. The other children were too young, and could not yet comprehend the sadness. My mother was required to stay home with them.

I’d followed him through the dark streets, with my hijab concealing my face. When we arrived, the vigil was massive. Thousands upon thousands of people were there with us, and each had a candle lit in their hands. We lit our own candles, and together we illuminated the streets of Tehran and told our oppressors that one light was stronger than the darkest night, and our flame would not be extinguished.

Two days later, my father had agreed to take me to a protest with him. I wanted to fight for my people, not with a rifle but with my presence. He could see that I was set on this, and rather than risking me sneaking out without him; he said that he would take me. I stayed close to him, and we approached Kargar Avenue where today’s protest was occurring. He did not allow me to hold a sign, as he said it would make me a target. Before we’d left home, he’d taken every precaution, making sure my hijab was secure five different times.

The feeling of the protest was beautiful. It was people, coming together and speaking in one voice. Regardless of their flaws, their perfections, their wishes, here they were, together. They were a thousand candles drawn together to make one raging fire. And I was among them, burning as they did.

For the next few days, I attended the protest rallies. I know my father wishes that I hadn’t.

He had seen the riot police approaching with their transparent shields, and shaded eyes. He’d stepped in front of me, attempting to protect me and I’d stood behind him. First came the tear gas, burning my eyes and lungs. Yet we had nowhere to run. We were trapped in a stampede circulating in every direction. Many others were in our situation, deadlocked. And then they lifted their guns to the sky, and, and, I heard the shots. I couldn’t help but cry out in panic, as shots were fired.

And then, I felt the impact when my father’s body seized. His arms were moving wildly, and I caught him as he fell. I helped him to the floor, but when I saw him, I could only gape. A giant sea of blood was blossoming in the center of his shirt. He stared up at me, begging for help. I could only gape. I think I heard him choking out my name, telling me to run.

Somewhere in my ears it echoed, “Farrin, Farrin”

But I could not move. I could only stare at the destruction of my father. And then another shot when off, distinct from the others. My eyes tilted to the side, as a bullet raced towards me. I couldn’t dodge it at this point. All I could do was stare at the man behind his shield who still had his rifle pointed directly at me.

Tehran had swallowed me whole but my fire still burnt on.

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