Archive Sections: letters | music | index | features | photos | arts/lit | satire Find Iranian singles today!

I still remember...
I can't hear the word war without losing my hands, my legs, my eyes, without decomposing into pieces


Azarin A. Sadegh
March 27, 2007

Every time I hear the word War I remember a closet.

I am always afraid of darkness. As if there is always someone in there waiting for me, someone who looks like myself.

It was a long time ago, the end of the summer of 1980, and I was 20 years old. It was right after Iranian Islamic Revolution. The time when the government closed all universities for cultural cleansing purposes. This meant that people like me, people who weren't like them, could never go back to university.

My life as a mathematics student was on hold. Feeling almost like a hostage, I was wondered what was going to happen next, until the day I heard on radio that Iraq had invaded Iranian borders and war had started. The radio announcers also said that all borders were closed. Nobody could leave Iran.

I still remember the first night of the war. Everyone was supposed to go to their basement, if they had one, or to the public shelter, though these weren't yet built. They also advised people to take a shovel with them, in the case they were trapped under the ruins.

I chose to stay in my room.

Police and Islamic Pasdars guarding the streets would screamed threats to shoot at any windows with lights on. Everyone rushed to stores to buy foil papers to cover their windows. I chose not to because I wanted the light to come in. I loved the dawn.

This is how I ended up in the small closet of my room. This is when the period I call my „closet period‰ started.
That first night electricity was cut, and the whole city of Tehran was in pure darkness. I curled into fetus position so that I could fit in the full, messy, deep, dark space of the closet. I sat on the cold floor reading a big, heavy philosophy book about a parallel world where there was no war. I had a flashlight and some candles in case I ran out of batteries. I had a notebook, too; I loved to write back then.

The air of the closet felt heavy, and my clothes scratchy against my face and heavy on my shoulders. The smell of old shoes and dust reminded me of something dying. I stared at the words in the book without understanding their meaning. Over and over I would read the same paragraph, the same line, the same word, staring at the space between lines, dreaming about an imaginary world where bombs didn't exist.

I missed an ordinary world.

But I knew if I opened my closet door, I would find only darkness.

The frightening sound of the sirens announced the arrival of the Iraqi MIGs.

I still remember...

I stopped reading, turned off the flashlight, trying to catch a sound, letting my closet go with the flow of the world.

I could hear the sound of melting candles, the fall of invisible spiders, the walk of creepy insects hidden somewhere in the darkness, the sound of dust dancing in the air, imitating raindrops, the sound of hungry mosquitoes, the strange noise of a possibly paralyzed man dragging himself to hide under imaginary autumn leaves, the sound of the growth of the not-yet-seen flowers on a faraway island, the sound of the betraying moon, shining cold on a fall day, the echo of the passage of the history in reverse gear, the sound of unborn children in the womb bonding with grieving women, the whizzing noise of gas touching naked skin, the sound of a lullaby moving enchained hands, the sound of stones thrown by innocents, the prayers of despair of non-believers to non-existing gods, the sound of the monsters, scared, gasping, hiding with me in the closet.

I could hear the void of the world wrapping my closet and carrying it to the farthest corners of its deep solitude, whirling around a godless world that mad, angry messengers, drowning in their sorrow, had refused to resurrect, where heaven no longer existed.

I still remember choking, suffocating in the small space of the closet, but still somehow feeling as if it were expanding, stretching its walls to end of the universe, immense, reaching to the point where parallel worlds finally would cross each other, meet, contradicting all definitions.

I still remember that night, after sirens announced the end of the Iraqi raid. I left the closet and stood at my window. I opened the curtains and looked at the city sleeping. I opened the window and let the cold breeze touch my face. I waited as if in a dream. And then, I didn't know the time, but far away, out on the horizon, I vaguely recognized a kind of invisible shadow; looking almost like a sunrise it was shining, brightening the dark city.

At that moment my closet, my room, became the center of the world, the place where I was born, the place I first opened my eyes, and the place I never left, almost.

Three years after that night I left Iran.

Now I am afraid of darkness because I always know somewhere, someone is afraid and hiding in an obscure closet, deep, under bombs, between two worlds, still believing in something, still hoping for the compassion of the world, still waiting.

Now I can't hear the word war without losing my hands, my legs, my eyes, without decomposing into pieces, as if I am nobody other than this desperate, strange creature, who looks like anyone else.  

As if the waiting has stopped, the silence is broken and the closet is dispersing into space. As if time has no more meaning and the cruelty of the world, finally, has triumphed. Comment

This essay was first posted on

For letters section
Azarin A. Sadegh

* Advertising
* Support
* Editorial policy
* Write for
* Reproduction





Iranian Cinema
A Political History
by Hamid Reza Sadr


Copyright 1995-2013, Iranian LLC.   |    User Agreement and Privacy Policy   |    Rights and Permissions