Sunday 13 March 2016 Rouhie Safajoo
Rouhie Safajoo is a 20 year-old Iranian student who was arrested on March 8 after protesting for her right to an education. She is a member of Iran’s Baha’i minority, and Baha’is are not allowed to pursue higher education in Iran.
Before her arrest, Safajoo wrote this tribute to 5 year-old Bashir Kushak Baghi, whose parents had been sent to prison for teaching at the Baha’i International Institute of Education, an underground university run by members of Iran’s Baha’i minority.
Be silent, they say.
Speak not; be silent.
And yet I cannot. I have no desire to.
I shall perish if I do not speak. I have always held a pen since I can remember. The pen is part and parcel of my existence. I cannot be silent.
So let me speak of the loneliness of a boy of five.
Of Bashir, a boy of logic and courage.
Bashir, I must ask your forgiveness, ask it on behalf of all grownups.
I ask forgiveness for sending you onto the stage, without instructions, without rehearsal. “Quick,” we said, “Imitate aggressive grownups. Say that you are not afraid. Say that you love solitude.”
Bashir, I am ashamed of the silence of the grownups.
I know what waiting in the visiting room means. I know even if no one else does. I know what one communication from prison means. I know what it means to count the days until visiting day.
I know, Bashir; I know and yet I can do not a thing.
Let the child sit for five minutes, let him sit in a corner, let him sit alone, and it would be punishment enough for him. So say the scholars of the mind. But we are telling the child “wait for days and days before you can see your mother, before we can see your father.”
We tell him to waste his life in the corridors of the prison, waste it from one visit to the next.
I ask your forgiveness Bashir, for killing your childhood, for destroying it.
My heart fills with sorrow when I study. It fills with sorrow for those who waste their lives in prison so that I can understand what Giddens, Durkheim, Marx and…have said.
This BIHE edifice is built of bricks that are made from the moments of your life, and the lives of children like you.
This university is built from hearts.
Forgive us my little boy. Forgive us for taking away your childhood so that we can get an education.
Forgive us for asking you to grow up alone. And you grew up alone. Nobody knows how you spent your nights without the caresses of your mother and tales of your father.
Forgive us Bashir. Forgive us all.
Others may stay silent but I cannot see you and stay silent.
I am tired of listening to lullabies to put my conscience to sleep. Not again. Not ever.
Come little man and let us build many tomorrows. Come and smile, for a smile is the most beautiful kind of courage.