Tuesday, September 13, 2016

From ‘Things I've Been Silent about. Memories of a Prodigal Daughter’ by Azar Nafisi

……..a strong part of Iranian culture to never reveal private matters: we don’t air our dirty laundry in public ……..In one way or another we articulate what has happened to us through the kind of people we become.

And so, heartbroken, weeping for the past,
He lived tormented till Death came at least.
O world, from end to end unreal, untrue,
No wise man can live happily in you –
But bless’d is he whose good deeds bring him fame;
Monarch or slave, he leaves a lasting name.

On Naderi Street and in the surrounding area, most shopkeepers were either Armenian, Jewish, or Azeri. Many Armenians were forcibly removed to Iran in the sixteenth century …….Some Armenians and Jews migrated from Russia after the revolution; some came from Poland and other Soviet satellites after the Second World War….it was also natural for some families to shun the minorities because they were “unclean.” The children knocked on their doors, singing “Armenian, the Armenian dog, the sweeper of hell.” The Jews were not just dirty, they drank innocent children’s blood. Zoroastrians were fire worshippers and infidels, while the Baha’is, a breakaway Islamic sect, were not just heretics but British agents and spies who could and should be killed…….the bloody nature of this hidden discord was fully revealed later, after the Islamic Revolution, in 1979, when the Islamists attacked, jailed, and murdered many Armenians, Jews, and Baha’is and forced restaurants to carry signs on their windows announcing “religious minority” if their owners were not Muslims. But we cannot blame everything on the Islamic Republic, because in some ways it simply brought into the open and magnified a preexisting bigotry.

My father describes in his memoirs the prevalence of a certain form of paedophilia in Iranian society, one that arises from the fact that, as he sees it, “contact between men and women is banned and the adolescent male cannot be close to any women other than his mother, sister, or aunts.” His view is that “most lunacies are rooted in sexual deprivations.” He goes on to explain that such deviancies are not limited to Iran or to Muslim societies but occur whereve sexual repression exists – for example, in strict Catholic communities.

There is a pain – so utter
It swallows substance up –
Then covers the Abyss with Trance
So Memory can step
Around – across
-          Emily Dickinson

Some families try to cover up their tensions in front of strangers, but for Mother, a woman otherwise so insistent on social etiquette, no such niceties existed.

[Forough Farrokhzad]
Weary of divine asceticism,
At midnight in Satan’s bed
I would seek refuge in the downward
Of a fresh sin

All day I cried in the mirror.
All day I fixed
My life’s eyes
On those two anxious fearful eyes
Which avoided my stare
And sought refuge in their lids’ safe seclusion
Like liars

It did not take me long to understand that wedding ceremonies are the exact opposite of what they are made out to be; joyous and harmonious celebrations of love and family.

At this point both Shirin …..and my mother were admirers of Khomeini. Mother furiously defended him……She could find no wrong with a leader who practiced her religion, as she put it. “Your religion!” someone shot back. “Nezhat Khanoom, if he could he would have you and your daughter and every single woman in this room wrapped in black from head to toe.”
My mother rejected such conjectures…….”He is firm, he knows how to rule.” Impatient recitations about the latest outrages committed by the revolutionary guards did not move her. She insisted the violence was not Khomeini’s will but the work of a few extremists who would soon be punished.

-          From ‘Things I've Been Silent about. Memories of a Prodigal Daughter’ by Azar Nafisi

“Objects have tears in them,” Virgil’s Aeneas said.

………that’s how it was with her – facts were malleable inconveniences.

When Father left, a great silence seemed to fall over us, like the silence after a major explosion. All around our apartment house there were new craters of silence that gradually gave way to my own muted questions.

Our parents’ old age shocks us in the same manner that our children’s growth to maturity does, but without the joy; there is only sadness. I thought suddenly how vulnerable she was and alone. Then a thought crept in and took root. I will soon lose her.

…….when, at the age of four, I instinctively and with some desperation realized that I did not even have the power to move my bed to my favourite spot in my room, my father taught me to regain control by traveling to that other world no one could take away from me. After the Islamic Revolution I came to realize the fragility of our mundane existence, a sense of self and belonging, can be taken away from you. I learned that what my father had given me through his stories was a way to make a home for myself that was not dependent on geography or nationality or anything that other people can take away from me. These stories could not guard me against the pain I felt at my parents’ loss; they did not offer consolation or closure. It was only after their deaths that I came to realize that they each in their own way had given me a portable home that safeguards memory and is a constant resistance against the tyranny of man and of time.

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