I called a friend tonight in England. She is Iranian. An activist. A believer in non-monogamy. Bisexual. Athiest. Supremely intellectual. Finished her PhD, she’s launching off to an amazing city soon, one I’ve always wanted to visit. She’ll work for one of the biggest and most influential tech companies in the world. I’m pleased for her.
We had a Skype to Phone chat. I called her. Ran through 20 Euros to catch up, because I fly into the country as she’s flying out. I was home for Christmas, and she was off to Nepal. My friend is good for me. She’s fit. She exercises her body and her mind and her free will. She is also a orchestral violinist. She has a deep concern for the wellbeing of people, though perhaps she treats herself less than she deserves. Or she doesn’t. I feel she’s invincible and of Wonder Woman-like qualities. She sees herself as completely inadequate.
How do we do that to ourselves? She concerned me tonight when she said she’s been feeling depressed, ‘temporary’, between the worlds. Not only that, but a friend of hers in Iran was arrested, and it’s been a few days now. In the life of an activist, in Iran, that’s long enough to die from torture.
“It feels like war in Iran, though there’s no war,” she says. We both know that Iran is on the world’s radar, under sanctions for its new nuclear energy plant and refusal to stop enriching uranium. The war in one’s mind must be something when it’s filled with worry for loved ones. Activist friends, activist parents.
My friend says in her social networks that she’s been writing and deleting. I feel for her. Words over the Skype to Phone connection can’t get across the feeling of the hug I want to give her. I remember sitting in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, in a wonderful café restaurant called Teacup, and pouring over the difficulties and blessings of life with her. Iran is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. “Come!” she said. “You must come.” It was a promise. I would go to Iran when my friend was there. I’ve heard about her father and mother who worry about her, and love her immensely, and I want to meet them. Intellectuals. With powerful people who used to come through the home and sit at the family table. “You don’t get to choose your parents,” my friend once said.
And she will visit them this spring, because they cannot afford with the currency rate fall in Iran to come to England. I’m suddenly thinking about meeting my own parents in Dubai in four weeks. It is so imperative when you are a migrant, an expat, a student abroad, a foreigner to the land you live in…to call home. The older I get, the more I realize this. My woes of the day seem pale suddenly as I realize that my friend has worked for years to satisfy her curiosity about programming and secure her future. Both of us are prone to dissatisfaction and we don’t always know if our lives are congruent, if we are doing what we really want to be doing. I realize that both of us are fighters, strivers, survivors, and we will do more than survive. We’ll go into the next year and every year after that following our hearts. Better to follow a heart than a head any day if happiness is possible.
My heart breaks with the news that my friend shares. Under the current pressures of the Iranian government – under pressure from the world – a man’s life hangs in the balance. He is Canadian. I look into this quickly. He is on death row in Iran for creating software that downloads pictures, and the accusation is that this software has been used to download pornography in Iran.
No surprises. Saeed Malekpour was beaten and tortured to extract an admission from him. I have never personally come across an authority in the act of beating anyone, ever. I know horrible things happen in the world, but not in my world, not by the authorities, exactly. Not to my knowledge.
I see it on television in the 99 to 1 percent protests and in the world of African Americans in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the same goes for Asian, Caribbean and African youth in England. I have never been targeted by the authorities. Nor have I criminally or politcally put myself in a position to be. I am confused by this world.
In Saudi Arabia, I have seen one young Saudi man being beaten by the mataween, the religious police, for harassing single women at a shopping mall. I’ve seen that. But he was in flagrant violation of the law, and I could understand what was happening. The law may not be nice, and it may strain the natural sexual compulsions of humans, but if you know the severity of the consequences, you obey, or avoid getting caught breaking the law.
There are many known regimes worldwide that publicly flaunt their power. They torture and take lives for pleasure. We know about those.
But reading about this, the torture and illegality of Iran’s regime and the anguish of a man swept up in this and given no fair recourse to a proper trial and defense, causes my synapses to explode. I know this happens in the world. But how does this happen in the world of humans with the capacity to reason? How how how? I will write tomorrow to the Canadian government, to insist my nation do its utmost to pressure the Iranian government to stop this madness. The threads of responsibility shatter me.
My night is now into the middle of the night, and I see 3:01 on my clock. It’s midnight in England where my friend is. My parents are seven hours behind that. It’s 30 minutes later in Iran. Everything is connected. But there is a war in my head where there is no war. Signing off from Doha.