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I too feel close to my own death in the same manner that lurk in my mind, in the midst of torture, confessions, sentences, and executions.

Cities & the Executed; Cities & the Dead

Amir Hossein, Saeed, Mohammad. All these years, the number of people I have seen blurred at first on the screen, and one day – that day was mostly a Friday morning, a holiday, the Islamic execution system has a strong tendency to execute on holidays – I read the news of their execution on the same screen, has surpassed the number of those whose faces have not yet been blurred. I think the number of survivors has decreased. I see a picture of someone who is still alive. But in my mind, he only looks like someone who had not been executed yet, and then one day – I think it was a Friday morning – he was secretly executed.

Moradi, Tamjidi, Rajabi. They were told – Amin Vaziri (the prosecutor) told them in court, “Because your place of residence is in the south of Tehran and you took part in the protests in the Punak neighborhood of Tehran (NW of Tehran), you must have intended to gather and collude.” I think how lucky they were, those who live in the east of Tehran and go to university in the west. Those who study in Sharif and, unfortunately, are also named after Amir Hossein Moradi, get caught up with Ali Younesi, because their lineage goes back to a group that no longer resides in any part of Tehran (1), but Islamic Republic still weaves ropes in its name. “We were returning from work and many people in Sadeghieh Square were hungry and chanting. We are human too. We chanted. You blamed us for setting fire to a gas station. Where we were, there is no gas station within a radius of 5 km… »How much Amin Vaziri looks like Saeed Emami in the photo. And Rajabi, and Tamjidi, when the Turkish police handed them over to the Islamic executioners, how much they reminded me of Rouhinejad. Arash Rahmanipour was at his father’s house when he was arrested and there was no gas station in his house and he had not gone to Punak from the south of the city either. He was not yet eighteen years old. He confessed under torture. Children offenders. Executed children. Amin Sedaghat and Mehdi Sohrabifar were also secretly executed in Adelabad, Shiraz. They had not yet reached eighteen. They were fifteen years old when they confessed under torture. Mehdi had a mental disability.

I’m scared to see blurred faces anymore. I am always reminded of one who has been executed and is no longer alive. I know; When someone’s face is blurred, his death is near. One Friday morning. In secret. I too feel close to my own death in the same manner that lurk in my mind, in the midst of torture, confessions, sentences, and executions. Like the imaginary traveler of “invisible cities” by Italo Calvino. All these similarities and allusions are “a sign that I am dead too.”

Cities and the Dead*

Never in all my travels had I ventured as far as Adelma. It was dusk when I landed there. On the dock the sailor who caught the rope and tied it to the ballard resembled a man who had soldiered with me and was dead.

It was the hour of the wholesale fish market.

An old man was loading a basket of sea urchins on a cart, I thought I recognized him; when I turned, he had disappeared down an alley, but I realized that he looked like a fisherman who, already old when I was a child, could no longer be among the living.

I was upset by the sight of a fever victim huddled on the ground, a blanket over his head: my father a few days before his death had yellow eyes and a growth of beard like this man. I turned my gaze aside. I no longer dared look anyone in the face.

I thought: “If Adelma is a city I am seeing in a dream, where you encounter only the dead, the dream frightens me. If Adelma is a real city, inhabited by living people, I need only continue looking at them and the resemblances will dissolve, alien faces will appear, bearing anguish. In either case it is best for me not to insist on staring at them.”

A vegetable vendor was weighing a cabbage on a scales and put it in a basket dangling on a string a girl lowered from a balcony. The girl was identical with one in my village who had gone mad for love and killed herself. The vegetable vendor raised her face: she was my grandmother.

I thought: “You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, tor each one it finds the most suitable mask.”

The stevedores climbed the steps in a line, bent beneath demijohns and barrels; their faces were hidden by sackcloth hoods; “Now they will straighten up and I will recognize them,” I thought, with impatience and fear. But I could not take my eyes off them; if I turned my gaze just a little toward the crowd that crammed those narrow streets, I was assailed by unexpected faces, reappearing from far away, staring at me as if demanding recognition, as if to recognize me, as if they had already recognized me. Perhaps, for each of them, I also resembled someone who was dead. I had barely arrived at Adelma and I was already one of them, I had gone over to their side, absorbed in that kaleidoscope of eyes, wrinkles, grimaces.

I thought: “Perhaps Adelma is the city where you arrive dying and where each finds again the people he has known. This means I, too, am dead.”

And I also thought: “This means the beyond is not happy.”

Translation of this article by Sahar.

(1). Amir Hossein Moradi is also the name of an elite student at Sharif University who has been arrested along with Ali Younesi, another elite student at Sharif. They’re accussed of being connected to MEK terrorist group, because Younesi’s aunt used to be a member of that group.

*: Le città invisibili, Le città e i morti, Italo Calvino, Translated by William Weaver


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