For Afagh, Whose Spirit, like Her Name, Is Infinite

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[rahesabz]

Name of Publication: JARAS (The Green Path Movement)

Date: April 25, 2014

For Afagh, whose spirit, like her name, is infinite

By Keyvan Rahimian

On the occasion of the birthday of Afagh Rahimian, the perfect exemplar of patience and serenity

KeyvanIn the early morning of April 4th, I go back to thirty years ago, in the late hours of April 3rd or the early morning hours of April 4th, 1984. The time for executing the sentence has arrived. They probably order my father – who is in a “solitary” confinement cell with 9 other people – to go to the execution office. He has very little time to decide whether he will stay faithful or deny his belief. As the officer told my mother a week later:  “He did not agree to convert to Islam, so he was executed”. Therefore, he has a very short time to write his will. His will begins with this phrase: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate! After acknowledging the oneness of God and all his messengers who have appeared to guide humanity… “ and he intended to finish his will with this prayer that he used to recite every day,  for as long as I remember: “O my God, may my life be a sacrifice for Your loved ones! Shed this withering blood in the path of Your friends and make this worn-out frame to be as dust under the footsteps of Your friends, O my God” (1).  Of course, he was not allowed to finish writing the prayer. The last phrase is “shed this blood in the path of Your friends”, and the phrase “in the path of Your friends” has been crossed out but is still legible! The date of his will is April 3rd, and the date of the wills of his long-time friends, Yadollah Saberian and Kamran Lotfi ,is April 4th. That is why I believe he wrote his will in the late hours of April 3rd, and they wrote theirs in the early morning hours of April 4th, and were executed in those same hours.

As I think of the past thirty years, my most distinctive vision of our family is of my mother, who without any exaggeration is infinite and vast like her name, Afagh (2). With the decision he made, my father became immortal, but I am not sure how history will remember my mother and record her legacy.

I remember our family’s past. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, my mother worked alongside my father in his plastics manufacturing workshop at night. In the evenings, in the early 1980s, she assembled medical equipment in her bedroom to earn a living for her family. As I was leaving for work one day in late July 1983 (more than two months after my father’s incarceration, while we yet had no news of him) my mother said she was going out for some business, and that she might not come home for lunch. At that time she didn’t say where she was going and what her business was. A few days later, I found out that they had called her in the middle of the night and told her: “your husband has been executed. Come to the Forensics Office tomorrow to claim his body.” Without mentioning anything to us, she went not only to the Forensics Office, but to a few other places without getting any answers. She concluded that they had lied to her just to harass and annoy her. I don’t exactly know how she must have felt from the middle of the night until she returned home at 3 o’clock in the afternoon; I never asked her. However, I can guess now, because I have experienced the same feelings in the last moments of my wife, Fereshteh’s  life and after her passing; the immense feeling of sadness and worry coupled with the heavy burden of having to raise her children all by herself. This experience – meaning the possibility of losing her husband for ever – was repeated a few more times. Once, on October 2, 1983, when we had just returned from a visit to Evin prison, the agents of Branch 8 of Evin brought my father home to prepare a list of all our belongings. This fulfilled what my father had predicted when we had visited him that morning. He had gone to court on September 29th, when in a matter of a few minutes the deputy prosecuting attorney had requested the maximum sentence for him. My father pointed to his neck, meaning he was going to be executed. This episode was repeated on December 26, 1983. At noon, agents of the Attorney General’s office came to our home. They forced my mother and my brother, Kamran, out of the house with only one suitcase. This was yet another sign of the upcoming execution and confiscation of our property. The next day, we went to Rajai Shahr prison, where my father had been transferred for the second time, since October 15th. He was still there, but was not allowed to have any visitors! By mid-January 1984 we spent every few days at a different relative’s house, because we were homeless. We were at my uncle’s house one day, when my aunt, who was our next door neighbor, called and said a truck had stopped by our home, loaded all our belongings and left! My mother was silent for a moment. It seemed as if all her energy had been consumed. She hung up in utmost serenity and told us what had happened. There was complete silence for a few minutes. She then continued her efforts, and was finally able to have a short phone conversation with Ayatollah Sanei (3), the country’s Attorney General at the time. She described the situation to him. When he found out she was a Baha’i, he said: “you should be thankful you are allowed to breathe the air of this country”, and hung up! In those silent moments, I don’t know what my mother was thinking or how she was exactly feeling! She was probably thinking about the life she had begun with her husband 19 years earlier. Her partner in life was in prison and about to be executed, all her property had been looted and was gone. The next day we went to Rajai Shahr prison again. Conditions had not changed. A few months later, due to my mother’s repeated efforts we were allowed into our home to reclaim our clothes, bedding and dishes that were considered impure, and therefore had not been confiscated or sold. The stew my mother had cooked was still in the pot, and was completely dry! We had another episode on April 10, 1984. This time, it was definite. We were officially notified that my father had been executed by a shooting squad, although they never delivered his body to us or officially announced where he was buried!

During the past thirty years, I have never openly asked her what feelings she had at the time or since, or how she has been able to carry this heavy burden! I have only understood the burden of her responsibility through her sporadic talks since my father’s arrest on May 4, 1983 until now. The more time passed, and I matured and accepted the responsibility of my family and raising my child, the more I realized the immensity of her work. Her repeated words during our farewell as I was entering  Evin prison in September 2012, indicated that she would carry the burden of raising her grandchildren like her own children, even though she is much older, sicker, more tired and worn out. The wrinkles on her face, her grey hair and her ever-increasing various physical ailments are evident proofs of this claim. Those words and her actions in the past 18 months have been a source of strength for me as I thought I should carry the responsibility of raising my daughter, Jina,  alone, after the passing of my wife – naturally I haven’t been able to do it because I am in prison. I don’t know how she feels about visiting Evin and Rajai Shahr prisons again after thirty years. In those days, she used to visit either of the two prisons once a week to get news of my father. (In the 11 months he was in prison, we were allowed only three visits within 20 days.) Nowadays, she visits me and my brother once a week at Rajai Shahr, and Kamran’s wife, Faran, once a week at Evin.

I like to scream that she bravely shouldered her responsibility and devoted all her energy to her children, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. She dedicated not only her love and strength, but her entire essence to us, without hesitation. And she did this not just for us, but for everyone around her, to which of course others can testify.

One can call her a living martyr, but that would stereotype her. I don’t exactly know what to call her. Maybe it is best to call her “the perfect exemplar of patience and serenity”. If my father suffered for one year, was tortured, stayed true to his belief and at the end gave his life, my mother has been suffering for the past thirty years, has stayed true to her belief, and has not stopped fighting for the rights of herself, her family and her community even for a moment. After 4 years of repeated and consistent follow-ups, she succeeded in reclaiming one floor of our confiscated home from the Assistance Committee. This was very rare in 1987. When Fereshteh and I were arrested simultaneously in 2004, she took care of our 4 year old daughter, Jina, and visited the respective officials every day until we were released. After our second arrests, through her actions and follow-ups she managed to secure Faran’s freedom with bail from Judge Salavati after 77 days. She also succeeded in obtaining permission for my brother and me to have personal visits from our children, by repeatedly visiting the Attorney General’s office. While we have been in prison, even though we have been getting loving support and help from our friends and family, it is she who has been expending all her energy to take care of Jina and Artin, despite very difficult conditions such as a broken arm in a cast, severe knee pain and serious problems with her esophagus and heart.

The 30th anniversary of my father’s martyrdom on April 4th, and the 69th birthday of my mother on April 25th, presented an excuse to pay tribute, appreciation and thanks to her glorious spirit, which is infinite like her name!

May her steps remain firm, her arms be strong, her energy be redoubled and her birthday be happy.

Keyvan Rahimian

Rajai Shahr Prison

April 2014

 

1. A prayer by Abdul-Baha in Farsi. Translation by Iran Press Watch

2. Note: aafaaq, the Arabic word which is the source of the Persian name Afagh, means “far-off lands”.

3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yousef_Sanei

Translation by Iran Press Watch

Source : http://www.rahesabz.net/story/82159/

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