For the brave


by Naazer

Today is the tenth anniversary of the date IRI’s Ministry of Information issued a press release charging its own ‘rogue agents’ with master minding the serial murders of Iranian dissident intellectuals.

This is a eulogy for those brave journalists and activists who spoke truth to power, and paid the ultimate price.

An anguished mother – a victim of happenstance – exasperated by her ignoble and ungracious son, was compelled to seek redress from The Shadow-of-God His Imperial Majesty Sultan-e Saaheb Gharaan. The impish son unwittingly followed the mother to the Royal Court. Upon arrival, the mother knelt and kissed the ground while dragging down the son to do the same. The son reluctantly followed suit.

The monarch graciously waved his subjects up. Given permission to speak, the mother spilled her heart out, “Your Majesty, this servant of yours is a poor, dilapidated woman. I have no one, but this son. He is the light of my life. But, he neglects me. He disobeys me. I cannot earn enough for both of us, and he refuses to work. All he cares about is reading corrupt papers and fallacious books.”

His Majesty listened attentively while nodding with sympathy, and then asked, “What does he want to make of himself?” “A writer,” the mother responded, “Your Majesty.” “We have enough writers in our court. We won’t have any use for him.” The King was emphatic.

The mother, however, doubted that King’s assertive, but measured, response would convince her son to change his way. She needed to appeal for a formal reprimand by the monarch. “Your Majesty, may God bless your father’s soul. My son says he wants to write for the people.”

The King appeared perplexed. “The people? What people? Who are the people? We only have subjects, several millions of them. And, they are all illiterate.” After a brief pause to ponder, His Majesty continued, “Unless, he wants to write letters and petitions for our subjects, which is alright.”

The mother sensed that the King was about to lose interest and dismiss them both. And, her opportunity to straighten her son’s affair was about to be forfeited. So, she gathered all her strength, and politely submitted, “Your Majesty, my son doesn’t wish to write letters and petitions. He wants to publish newspapers and books to educate your subjects, to turn them into people.”

Sultan-e Saaheb Gharaan, however, had no interest in relinquishing his God-given right-of-ownership of his subjects. So, sternly declared the King, “My subjects will not be turned into people.” The son, who had been unwillingly watching this theater of absurd in silence, erupted, “Why not?”

The Shadow-of-God maintained his poise, thought for a moment or two while scratching his royal beard. Despite the son’s impudence, no physical punishment was called for. However, some drastic measures were indeed needed to bring this unruly boy to his senses. An indelible lesson had to be etched upon his soul. His Majesty collected his thoughts and all at once shouted “Jal’laad!”

The executioner entered the chamber, bowed to the King, and stood at attention. The King nodded, and with a witless smirk on his face pointed to the boy. “This boy has dishonored his mother. He has been a vile subject. A severe ‘gooshmaali’ (1) is in order.”

Jal’laad reflexively marched to the boy, and grabbed his arm. The boy – crying – tried desperately to free himself and hide behind his mother. The mother – knowing her part in the plot, instinctively – smiled with satisfaction toward the executioner, and appealed ostentatiously, “Please forgive him, Sir. He will promise to be virtuous, from now on.”

The executioner could have none of that. His Majesty’s decree was incontrovertible. And, his mission had to be accomplished, swiftly. Without any hesitation, Jal’laad pulled his sword out of its sheath, and with one stroke beheaded the guilty one.

Jal’laad then dutifully picked up the boy’s body and head, and left them on the mother’s lap to collect, walked backward to the door, bowed to the King, and disappeared. The monarch appeared puzzled. “Did he not understand what we meant by gooshmaali?” He wondered.

The aggrieved and lifeless mother had turned into a pillar of salt, reminiscent of Lot’s wife. The scene was an unsanctified rendition of Michaelangelo’s Pieta: Not a king’s palace, but a mother’s morbid womb.

** **

I first heard an abridged and sanitized version of this story while still in grade school. The moral of the story – as we were to have understood - was “Your parents shall be honored.” (Qur’an 17:23). (2) However, I always felt that there was more to this edifying tragedy.

The storyteller should have had an ulterior motive, a hidden agenda. His narrative was much less about ‘to honor’ than ‘to obey’. And, it had less to do with ‘parents’, than the powers that be. He was warning diligent youngsters not to challenge the authority.

His fictitious characters were far from being realistic, anywhere, in any period: A mother who is willing to go that far; a king who cannot communicate with his underlings; an executioner who is so eager to slay. Of what age was the boy? I could only make sense of this tale in the context of metaphors.

This profane trinity of mother-king-executioner appeared very violable to me, as I grew up. And, some time during my adolescence years, it was expediently relegated to my irretrievable memory. There it was until that gloomy winter day I heard Golesorkhi had faced his firing squad. (3)

My mother uttered in a subdued tone, “He was not the first, and won’t be the last.” Sensing my dismay, she added, “Before him, there was Massoud. (4) And before him, there was Farrokhi. (5) And before him, there was Eshghi. (6) And before him, many others.” Then she ended the way she had started, “Ein reshteh sari deraaz daarad.” (7)

The murders of Ghafar Hosseini, Ahmad Tafazzoli, Ebrahim Zalzadeh, Majid Sharif, Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, Mohammd Mokhtari, Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, and scores of other writers, poets, translators, filmmakers and political activists in 1990s, evince that the ghost of Sultan-e Saaheb Gharaan is still around prowling the ruins of our cultural edifice, stalking his slumbering subjects. (8)


O Mother Birthplace!

Shoulder your children to completion.

Or, give birth to none.

The King’s fiat is heard all over.

And, hired guns comply by nature.

O Mother Birthplace!

Nurture your garden.

January 4, 2009


(1) Discipline.

(2) Similar to “Honor your father and mother” in the Fifth Commandment.

(3) Khosrow Golesorkhi, poet, journalist and political radical, was executed on February 17, 1974. //

(4) Mohammad Massoud, editor of Mard-e-Emrooz newspaper, was assassinated in 1948.

(5) Mohammad Farrokhi, poet, writer and editor of Toufan newspaper, was murdered in prison on October 18, 1939. //

(6) Mirzadeh Eshghi, poet, writer and editor of Gharn-e Bisstom newspaper, was assassinated on July 3, 1924. // To read one of his poems, see //

(7) What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

(8) For more on the serial murders, see //



Freedom Lovers

by Fred on

هرگز نميرد آنكه دلش زنده شد به عشق