Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses

"They Have Deprived Us of a Chance to Grieve by Leaving Us with So Many Funerals"

Hooshang Golshiri / translated by Abdorrahman Boroumand Center
Asoo
December 20, 2021

In the winter of 1998, in the wake of that year's political assassinations, Houshang Golshiri started writing these to use them as material for his subsequent work. In his own words: "What I am writing is not really work. They are simply notes, the raw materials from which the final product is constructed, embellished, or made authentic." But then he decided to use them into an article for publication in 'The New York Review of Books'. I recognized them from several texts in the article. He himself wrote somewhere that after the political assassinations of 1998, he could no longer write novels. The following text was also left unfinished. We publish part of it here with a few amendments. [1]

Barbad Golshiri

 

It is the evening of February 10, 1999, and we are driving towards our house. My wife, Farzaneh Taheri, is driving. We have been silent for some time. I look at her. She looks in the mirror above the driver's seat yet again to divert her mind. I say: You know, every time we reach this area, my anxiety begins to build. I worry lest something might have happened at home.

She replies: My anxiety begins long before we reach this point,". Our house is in west Tehran, and Farzaneh usually opts for highways – for a couple of years now. On the way home, there are ridges and hills on both sides of the road.

This time she took a quick glance in the mirror as she is worried lest we are being followed by another car. We have agreed that in this area, even if a police car turns in front of us, or a police motorcyclist signals us to stop, we should under no circumstances stop. I know that if they decide to stop us in a remote street or alley, we will be helpless. We, therefore, lock the doors the moment we get into the car, and generally keep the car windows shut.

I ask: What are you thinking now?

She makes a throat-slitting gesture with her index finger.

I ask: You mean the kids?

I often see their image.

Four years ago, in a telephone threat, someone said to my daughter: Tell your mother to think about looking for another husband.

A year and a few months later, on hearing the news of Sarkouhi's re-arrest, my daughter suddenly sat on the ground and began to throw a tantrum; she was screaming. I cannot take it anymore. I cannot.

For a moment, it occurred to me that this was the catastrophe I had been anticipating. she would not let her mother hug her, and she pushed my hand away when I tried to stroke her head. She kept saying: I would also like to lead a normal life.

That episode passed, but she refused to stop questioning.

We were aware that for the past few years, she was jotting down in her invented shorthand everything she was hearing or witnessing. Her shorthand was made up of Persian and English letters and numbers.

I asked her: What happens if they find your notebook?

She replied: They will not be able to read it. I said: You must stop that sweetheart. If they see your notebook, they will get curious, and they will coerce you. She looked down and said: They can do whatever they want. I will not teach them my secret code. She would write quickly and then put the notebook in her drawer, night after night.

One day I asked her: Sweetheart, when did we bury Ghazaleh? She went to her room and half an hour later from inside her room she gave me the exact day and hour: May 13, 1996. She then closed her door. Does she still write? We do not know.

She shoulders the burden of these nights, these telephone calls, these occasionally loud sobs coming from me or her mother. She screamed: I want to have a normal life too. I light a cigarette for Farzaneh and ask her again: What image are you seeing now? I see them both with their heads severed, in a pool of blood. Now our daughter is 17 and our son is 16 years old. I tell her: So you are going to keep worrying until we get there, lest…?

We have reached the front of our block. She says: If I see smoke, for instance, I worry lest it is coming from our house.

We arrive and Farzaneh parks the car. I am also worried. Worried for the kids as I have personally come to terms with death. But I know that I will think about it if, for instance, someone touches my shoulder. For now, however, I am just waiting. But the death of people or friends cannot be internalized or left to its moment of occurrence. They are really ruthless. We recently heard that in Kerman, the poet Hamid Hajizadeh and his nine-year-old son were butchered with a knife, on September 4, 1998.

The basement of our building is quite dark. We reside on the very top floor. We also suspect one of the concierge men as he is very nosy. And even worse, by the time we reach the 11th floor, anyone could enter the elevator from other floors. Moreover, there are several places to hide near the entrance to our floor. As we enter the elevator, we quickly glance at the ground floor entrance. A couple of people get onto the elevator. We know them.

When Mokhtari went missing, we thought he had been arrested and that it would probably be announced sometime later. Consequently, my wife decided to reject an invitation from Norway – Norway's PEN had invited her – the evening before her flight. She said: I cannot bear to be away and not know what is happening.

She is here now, cooking something for dinner. For some time now, friends have been taking turns to come to our house every evening. Throughout the funeral and burial of Mukhtari and Pouyandeh, young writers formed a protective ring around me in case anything happened in the crowd. As a result, the killers were unable to find me alone during that period,

At Mokhtari's funeral, I suddenly noticed that a circle of young writers followed me everywhere. Did it mean that there were threats even among crowds?

I don't know at which of these ceremonies it was when I suddenly spotted a pair of eyes staring at me from among the crowd. The man had his head turned towards me and was staring. He had a short beard. I think I had seen him somewhere before. He looked familiar. It is for these reasons, that I am yearning for walks; for sitting in my office, which is next to our house. My wife does not allow it. She has seen them too, including the security agent who had made a habit of visiting our house, playing cat and mouse with us. We spotted three of them as we were returning from Mokhtari's house. They were waiting for us. They followed us when we passed them. They are still here.

A few days after a meeting with the authorities, the president's special envoy, Hajjarian, and the minister of culture and Islamic guidance, some 20 of us writers were returning home late from a party. We gave a couple of them a lift in our car first, then as we were about to drop off the acclaimed poetess, Simin Behbahani, we spotted a white Pride car with three male passengers inside. One of them was on his cellphone. They followed us. When we stood in front of the gates of Vanak Park Apartment block to drop off Behbahani, all three of them turned and looked at us. Then they turned around and parked on the other side of the street. Had we dropped off Behbahani there, they could have reached her as she walked from the entrance gates to her apartment block. We therefore drove through the gate and entered the block's parking lot and escorted Behbahani to her door. We then telephoned several places. The Interior Ministry night telephonist told us: Why do you not call the police?

We had been told at meetings with officials: Do not get into any cars, even if they are police officers in uniforms and marked vehicles. One of us writers, who attended these meetings as representatives, said: How can we refuse to get into their car? The official laughed and said: I do not know. At the very least resist, shout.

What could we say to the night watch; that we are, for instance, even scared to open the door to the police? But I remember trying to explain that we were writers and that those waiting for us in the car parked outside the front of the building were most certainly killers. I asked him to dispatch someone to perhaps arrest them. He promised to send someone. But he didn’t. Someone courageous person in our house went to check the gates. He returned and told us: The white Pride is still there. They had been waiting for an hour or two. This time they seemed to be waiting for us. We spent the night at Behbahani's house.

This has happened to others too. Pouyandeh told a friend: For a few days now, I feel that someone has been following me. How long should one remain watchful? A friend who is to stay the night at our house, arrives. Farzaneh feels more relaxed now. We discuss the day's events. We also talk about the second issue of a magazine - purely literary - whose editorship I have accepted [2]. We also have a general meeting every two weeks, at which we read novels. The association meets once every two weeks, and its elected representatives occasionally meet once a week. We do not go to parties.

I go from the living room to the bedroom like a headless chicken. I cannot read or write. There is nothing to watch on TV, but we watch it anyway. Most TV detective serials are made in Germany. We have some dinner and listen to the radio.

Before noon on December 9, 1998, someone phoned. He said: I am so and so, a friend of Siavash, Mokhtari's son. He could barely get any words out in between sobs. It I were to explain what he said in the orderly fashion of a writer, it would be something like this: Sorry to be calling you. I am calling from the pathologist's office. I am a friend of Siavash, Mr Mokhtari's son. We have identified Mokhtari's body. Siavash is also here. We do not know what to do.

I do not remember what I said. I ask Farzaneh. She says: I do not remember, but after you hung up the phone you quoted him as saying: "This is the third time we have come, and they gave us hell before allowing us to see the bodies." She pauses. Picks up the saltshaker with one hand, and the lid off the pan with the other to put some salt in. She says: Oh yes, and you said: "Why did you go there? What were you doing there"?

We went to their house that night. Several relatives were there. Mohammad Mokhtari's uncle had also identified the body. I am now certain that I will not see Mokhtari again. One or two writers also arrived. I quickly asked Farzaneh: So where is their second son? Sohrab is only 13 years old. He had shut himself in his room. It was then that Pouyandeh's daughter rang to say that her father was missing. She thought that maybe he had come to Mokhtari's house. I told her to call the Presidential Office. They did not, they thought it would be better to wait. His wife waited until eleven o'clock at night. She called again, I said: Madam, call everyone you know.

As we headed home at midnight, I kept looking back to see if we were being followed. I noticed then that Farzaneh kept driving around in the same area. I did not say anything. I realized she suspected a car. I do not drive. I cannot. She was driving fast and kept looking in the driver's side mirror. The streets were deserted. She said: There is no one trailing us. I said: Perhaps it might be better to take the main streets.

We finally arrived. As Farzaneh was locking the car, I heard the sound of a chain. I thought she had dropped her car chain lock. We got out of the elevator a floor before ours and took the emergency stairs to make sure they were not on the eleventh floor. It was semi-dark. There was no one on our floor. As we reached our door, I heard that chain sound again. Farzaneh was putting the car chain lock on the living room table. I asked: What? She replied: Believe me, I was ready to use this chain to beat up anyone coming near us.

Now we understand that none of these manoeuvres would have made a difference. They had taken Pouyendeh away in a car on a busy street in early afternoon. First, two people had got out of the car and asked to see his ID. Pouyandeh had showed them his ID, while shouting: I am Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh.

A shopkeeper on the same side of the street said: Three people forced him into the car and drove away. She had not heard that Siavash and his friend were finally allowed to see the unidentified bodies in the pathologist's office. We have been told that Pouyandeh resisted because they found a kneecap mark on his back. They strangled him from behind. We read in a statement from some bogus organization that three mujtahid judges had issued the ruling. Article 226 of the Islamic Penal Code states: Killing of a person could be subject to qisas [retribution] only if the victim did not legally deserve to be killed. And if the victim deserves to be murdered, then the murderer must prove to court that he had the right to perpetrate the act based on Islamic standards. If he fails to prove that, however, it would be considered manslaughter, based on Note 2 of Article 295 (c).

Mokhtari was laid on the ground with his face down and strangled with a leather strap. And just as in the cases of Mir Alaei, Taffazoli and [Ebrahim] Zalzadeh, his body was left somewhere that could be found in a bid to ensure that we had definitely got the message. In a brief impromptu speech at his funeral, I said: Unfortunately, they have deprived us of a chance to grieve by leaving us with so many funerals. We have received their message loud and clear: 'We strangle'. But we are ready too. Should we not sacrifice lives for the sake of civil society, and freedom of expression?

We have the footage. We could even watch it now. How I have aged! I begin my speech with the name of God: Hova al Baghi [He [God] is Eternal]. I do not refer to God as Allah or the Almighty. There is some kind of aggression in the name Allah that darkens my soul. In the footage, among the crowd, one can see an old man's profile; that is me. A skinny old man with a short beard and dishevelled hair standing at the grave of a friend – A friendship of over 20 years, years of terror, poverty, and homelessness. And he says: Hova al Baghi. Yes. The Merciful God is eternal. I also believe that Mohammad Mokhtari will be eternal. Mohammad Mokhtari, like me, was a member of Iranian Writers 'Association (IWA). In all these years, we tried to establish the IWA. Sadly, they have left us with so many funerals that we do not have a chance to grieve.

I stand ashamed before Siavash, Sohrab, Maryam (Mokhtari's two sons and wife), Nazanin, Sima (Pouyandeh's daughter and wife), because they should have buried me. It was my turn. In any case, we urged the authorities to arrest the killers, the benighted, and the reactionaries soon. God is eternal, the pure God, the beautiful God, the God of speech, whispers. God of wrath is not God but the devil. It is the devil who has strangled my friends. The message is clear. [We also beseech God to take our revenge on the benighted.]

And Mokhtari's wife, Maryam, said in her soft and commanding voice: Now this land is Rudabeh's madness [reference to Shahnameh]! You said our culture is incontrovertible. You are not here now to see how thousands of whys are being asked. How commanding is this woman's voice. At the funeral, she gave Mokhtari's pen to someone to place next to his body. It can be seen in the footage. Her sister is also in the footage. Clad in a chador she cries out: Who took your pen away from you?

I saw his face before he was buried. The skin on his face was red, dark red. Why? I cannot forget it. We have been close friends for over 20 years; In the last couple of months, the six of us, the association representatives, met one evening a week. And we always knew we were being trailed as we left the meeting. His wife said at the funeral: "A poet who went missing as he stood in line to buy food. His body, with the two unused coupons in his pocket, went missing. He was unemployed and the family's income came only from the publication of this or that book, which have often been published only once, and in limited copies. They said that he had eaten beans for lunch, which, owing to stress, had not even been digested. He would have been alive today had he not been alone or was not forced to go to a shop further away because it was cheaper. Or at least had a car so that he could go shopping with his wife.

They also found Pouyandeh on foot. A friend who was with him at lunch had suggested that he take a taxi. He had said: I do not have the money for such things.

It was at the funeral that we saw we were not alone. Pouyandeh's funeral was jam-packed. There was such silence! Occasionally, as per traditional Islamic declaration of belief in the oneness of Allah, someone would call out 'La Ilaha Illallah' ['There is No god but Allah'], which would again be followed with silence. We followed the corpse in silence, punctuated with the occasional cries of Islamic calls, by someone who was clearly either a security or an Interior Ministry agent, which would be repeated in unison by a few people in the crowd. All those attending knew that it was a religious murder and silence was an expression of loud protest. In all these years, not participating in any government mass movement, from elections to marches and Friday prayers, had been the predominant form of protest. But this time we were not alone; this time, the government-affiliated newspapers did not remain silent. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! For the first time in 20 years the mention of us writers' names is not accompanied by colourful insults and slanders. Although, of course, this is also a source of danger.

In response to the condemnation of the recent assassinations by the President and his colleagues, we agreed to the offer to meet with Khatami's special envoy. The special envoy, who is also the editor of a newspaper, admitted during the conversation that: 'So far, we have received some 60 meters of fax from abroad. This is unprecedented.'

Thank you! Writers of the world, thank you PEN for not abandoning us.

It has been some two months now that we have not stayed out late. Moreover, someone stays with us until sunset. The youngsters have arranged to take it in turns to stay with us every evening. But how long can we remain watchful? My name appears on both lists that have been circulated these days, and Farzaneh's name on the second list of 100 people.

A few years ago, on October 24, 1995, Ahmad Mir Alaei was the first among the writers to be murdered. He had left home at 7:45 am, to make it for an 8:00 am appointment outside the bookshop. But he never made that appointment. On the same day, he was due to give a speech at the Medical School at 2:00 pm. But it was announced earlier that the speech had been cancelled. At 11:00 pm someone from the police station goes to their house to inform then that a body has been found and they must collect it.

 

*     *    *

 

Monday August 5, 1996: Twenty-one writers depart for Armenia.

August 6, 1996, before sunrise. The bus driver tries twice to swerve the bus off the road into a ravine in Heyran Pass, each time jumping out of the car himself. However, thanks to the alertness of a couple of passengers, he fails.

On Sunday, September 8,1996 at the end of the session, they take 12 of us writers to a location. They sat us down away from each other with our heads down. Then they proceeded to interrogate several of us. Finally, they warned us that Velayat-e Faqih is the redline. Do you not want to leave this country?

Tuesday, September 10, the beginning of the Faraj Sarkohi events.

November 10, 1996: The suspicious death of Ghaffar Hosseini. These days, we know that killers give an injection in the buttocks, which causes heart attack.

December 20, 1996: Faraj's press conference at the airport and his release for a few days.

January 3, 1997: The day Faraj Sarkohi wrote the letter.

January 13, 1977: The murder of Ahmad Tafazzoli. Tafazzoli was an expert in ancient literature. His crime was probably that of collaborating with [Encyclopedia[ Iranica, which was founded thanks to [Ehsan] Yarshater. When they find Tafazzoli's body, one of his arms was broken as well as parts of his leg. They had also broken his back and kicked his head twice.

January 28, 1997: Faraj's last arrest on charges of leaving the country illegally.

February 23, 1997: The disappearance of Zalzadeh.

March 29, 1997: Zalzadeh's body found in Yaftabad, south of Tehran. They had killed Zalzadeh by stabbing him in the chest. Doctors said that Zalzadeh's hands were free at the time of his murder, but he had not defended himself.

Stranger still was that there were more than 200 deep wells near the place where his body was dumped. Therefore, the killer had probably knocked him unconscious before stabbing him in the chest and dumping his body in a place where it could be found, as a warning to others to understand what to expect. That was the first round of these murders. We have only mentioned the ones that we know of and have been proven.

When I return to the living room, I see my wife and daughter sitting together, with our daughter giving her a full account of her day. Out of all these events, the world only heard about Maroufi's flogging and imprisonment, and Sarkohi's letter was published. In Iran we only managed to hold a restricted meeting to mark the 40-day anniversary Mir Alaei's death, and I wrote his obituary in a magazine. Since he was Borges' translator, this time, after his death, he came back to read another story, which was the story of his death, the father of Borges. Mir Alaei was found seated against the wall next to two bottles of alcohol. I saw his body too. They had taken a sample from his left hand. The cause of death was not officially declared, but we know that I was cardiac arrest due to an injection of alcohol; they had filled his stomach with alcohol after his death. Our friend has gone to the next world intoxicated so that if there is resurrection, he will rise up and drunkenly dance his way to the Divine Court.

The security guard, who in all these cases, such as the cases of Maroufi, Sarkohi, and the plot to plunge the bus carrying a group of writers into a ravine, had become close to the victims and visited their houses, often came to our house under the pretext that although he had been assigned to arrest me, he had come to talk instead, or to make sure that we do not say anything against the TV series called Hoviyat [Identity], (a so-called documentary series in which most active intellectual were denigrated). Once, when Mir Alaei was mentioned in passing, I said: Tell me, what had Mir Alaei done to deserve being murdered?

He said: Did you not learn from the plight of Saeedi Sirjani?

Saeedi Sirjani had said many things in open letters, such as, for instance, engaging in witty repartee with senior figures, albeit with Rafsanjani's backing. He was charged with smuggling of alcoholic beverages, opium and even "homosexuality". And finally, they forced him to appear on TV and confess to whatever they had asked him to. In the end, he died in prison. On the day of his death, they summoned three of us writers to the Intelligence Ministry: me, Barahani and Sarkuhi. They told us he had died in prison and we must not breathe a word about his death, not even a message of condolence. Did they also kill him in prison by injecting him in the buttocks?

Now we have to shoulder his corpse too. So many corpses.

I wash a few dishes, make some tea, and go to the living room. My wife is reading the newspaper. I turn a few pages. We usually buy four newspapers these days; papers that are more affiliated to the President's faction. We refuse to buy right-wing newspapers. Friends often call me to say that 'Kayhan' - the newspaper that regularly subjects us to all manners of insults – has written... (ellipses as published). They say: You should read these too. I cannot. They depress me and leave their bitter taste in my mouth when I go to bed at night. Right-wing newspapers' comments could also be found somewhere in the pages of these four newspapers too. My daughter reads the newspaper. My son pays us a quick visit and goes downstairs, which is also my office. I have not been there for a while lest I worry him. If I use the stairs, even if it is to take out the garbage, either my wife or a friend who is spending the night in our house follow me.

We repaired the window locks on the advice of the agents who came to see us. The two windows have locks in fear that they get in through the neighbour's vacant house. They are the ones who suggested that, especially when they heard that the neighbour's house had been vacant for years. One of the officers said: they have undoubtedly installed a bugging device in that house. A security agent told Maroufi: We have even a video of your bedroom. While he was making love to his wife?

I have been embarrassed to kiss my wife in the bedroom for a while. We are sure that Mokhtari was laid on the ground face down and strangled, because they found pebbles embedded in his skin and flesh of his nose. He did not resist. Pouyandeh had resisted because they found someone's kneecap mark on his back. Has he been strangled in a seated position? Perhaps my wife knows all this.

How can you kiss your wife?

If we return home even half an hour later than usual, our daughter moans: Why are you so late?

Farzaneh hugs her: It is your beloved dad's fault. He does not write down his appointments so that we determine when we should leave.

You could have at least phoned?

I say: Phone?

Yes! Yes!

She must remember that they traced Pouyandeh through the phone call he had made to his house. An official had told an IWA representative: Do not make your appointments by phone. My son also comes and shows us his latest painting; it is very ambiguous. He has been monopolizing the phone every night for some time. I said: My dear, you do know that they are listening to your every word?

Well, so what if they listen. We are just friends.

I know dear. But they will not believe it.

He screams: You don’t believe either.

 

*   *   *

 

We know that if we had been silent after Khatami's election, this cycle of violence would not have occurred. But should one not be able to write and publish without any censorship? We, members of the IWA, remained silent for a while after Khatami was elected, because Faraj Sarkohi was in prison having been handed down a one-year sentence. We wanted to see what they would do with him. As mentioned, Saeedi Sirjani had died in prison. So if Sarkohi was released from prison at the end of his sentence, then it would be a sign that we could operate freely. When Faraj was released, we resumed our meetings on May 11, 1998. Our first task was to write a letter to the new president urging him to give Sarkohi a passport so that he could travel. Once Sarkhoi had left for Germany, six of us were elected to organize the general meeting of the association. On 28 September 28, the six of us were summoned to the Revolutionary Court and asked not to hold the general meeting on October 1st.

In the wake of these interrogations, which extended to several sessions, the following events took place:

November 18, 1998, the disappearance of Majid Sharif.

November 22, 1998, Parvaneh Forouhar and Dariush Forouhar are murdered. They are killed between 8:30 pm and 9:00 pm.

November 24, 1998, Sharif's body is found.

Thursday, December 3, 1998, Mohammad Mokhtari goes missing.

Wednesday, December 9, 1998, Mokhtari's body is found and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh goes missing.

December 11, 1998, Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh's body is found.

 

*   *   *

 

Since October, I have written one short story only: Prisoner of Baghan. I had a dream. It was early evening; one of those days when we went to the magazine office. All four of us, me, my wife, our daughter, and our son. We had a house on a mountain slope and were eating dinner under the starlight. Someone who resembles one of the passengers in that white Pride came towards us, looked around, conducted a thorough search and left. Then another one came. I told him we do not have anything; that we had neither drank any alcoholic beverages no engaged in any immoral acts. This one is really ballsy and says: Why did you not just pay off the young man so that he would leave you alone?

I go down some stairs in the darkness and find the young man. I walk alongside him until we reach a place that resembles the Revolutionary Court. In the same dream, when my head hits some door, the young man says: Be careful.

I am no longer sure whether it was a dream or a story that I had written.

But I have drawn on my experience of repeated interrogations. This time the interrogation is made up of scenes that I have written; that you confessed here, that you did such and such here and there.

Finally, the interrogator or perhaps the judge – with one person playing all parts, be it the interrogator, prosecutor, or judge –is saying something that is not from any scene in my books. But this time it is as if the judge is really telling me to write down the incident so that it becomes mine, and he would no longer be guilty.

This story was sent abroad and read out in Berlin, Germany.

We wash the dishes and throw any leftover grains of rice out the window. Finally, for the last time, we check the windows and the door leading to the hallway and go to bed.

My wife is reading something, and I have not picked up a book yet when I realize that my eyelids are feeling heavy. I am even afraid to reach out and rub the white skin of her neck. What if they are recording our voices? I see her taking her heart palpitation medicine. I go to sleep and wake up before dawn again.

The young friend is up before us, awakened by the chirping of the birds. The sun will rise by the time I have made tea. What a glorious site the red disk of the sun is! The whole city of Tehran can be seen from up here.

Another day begins. Again, if we go out and, for instance, want to walk down a street, we look left and right. We cast a side glance at passers-by. If we stay home, our friends' start ringing us again or someone, from, for instance, the BBC or Radio France, may ask for a telephone interview. Sometimes it is a friend from abroad who is checking to see if we are alive or not.

The parking lot in our building is quite dark. We also suspect one of the concierge men as he is very nosy. And even worse, by the time we reach the 11th floor, anyone could enter the elevator from other floors. Moreover, there are several places to hide at the entrance to our floor.

Two young men accompany us to the cemetery. The Mokhtari family chose this small cemetery because it is where Ghazaleh's grave is - a writer who committed suicide some time ago. They did not want to use the land allocated by the government to artists and writers. A procession of other writers is also heading to the cemetery, bumper to bumper. We are taking refuge in each other. Once there, we are astonished at the crowd gathered there. As we approach, people give way, with paths opening up everywhere I turn. They are digging Mokhtari's grave. I hear the corpse is on its way. I am confused. I suddenly ask: Where is Ghazaleh's grave then?

Someone howls in the crowd. It is a girl. She comes forward. She looks like Ghazaleh's daughter. I say: So where is your mother's grave? She walks ahead and I follow. When I reach the howling girl who has fallen on the tombstone of our Ghazaleh, with those Gazelle-like black-eyed eyes, I crouch down and say: We have brought you visitors, dear Ghazaleh!

She had cancer, and lately could not bear to be alone. At the association meetings, she would put her head on her lap and doze off. She used to say: Just hearing your voices calms me down. When she made up her mind, she headed to the vicinity of Ramsar. She had bought a rope and walked to the heart of the forest. On the way, she made a noose with one side of the rope, and tied the other side to a branch of a tree, and then…(ellipses as published)

I bend over the grave and whisper: There are more coming, Ghazaleh. In the next day or two, we will bring Pouyandeh too.

And I think, when will it be my turn?

Someone lifts me from the grave. Seems I was weeping. I turn. They are mostly writers. I say tearfully: let's go to a corner and cry together. When I bent over Mokhtari's grave weeping, again someone lifts me up.

Years ago, a newspaper reporter asked: Do you know why you are alive?

Because some are waiting to read your new story.

And I am worried. I have not written for several months, except for the short story that was faxed to Berlin. What I am writing is not really work. They are simply notes, the raw materials from which the final product is constructed, embellished, or made authentic.

 

*   *   *

 

During the writers' trip to Armenia – when the bus driver had tried twice to swerve the bus off the road into a ravine so that no one would dare file a complaint -one of the writers was forced to confess that he had hidden a packet of opium in the bus's refrigerator. I cannot tell these things to my son. But I am writing it here that one of the interrogators, who is no doubt one of the murderers of our friends, said one day: Arresting agents generally plant some incriminating evidence in houses, then find them themselves, but it is up to us whether or not to start proceedings.

Here, writers, who are under 24-hour surveillance by the country's security apparatus, try not to fall in love and avoid consuming even a drop of alcohol. My wife and I have not been out of each other's sight for a few months now.

My name is on the list of those who have either been murdered or are about to be. My wife's name has also been added to the list given to 'Khordad' newspaper along with a sound bomb. Any country attempting to edify their writers should be given this prescription which has been proven effective.

A few years ago, a woman came to see me on the recommendation of a friend. At first glance, it appeared that she was modelled on Fakhor-al Nisa, one of the characters in my novel, Shazdeh Ehtejab [Prince Ehtejab]. But I asked myself: What if I am wrong? I asked her: Why did you want to see me?

She said: I wanted to make your acquaintance.

Do you write novels?

(If I were to turn this into a story, I would have to mention her licking her thin lips). I asked: Are you writing a thesis?

So why did you want to see me?

I told you already.

She had not read any of my books either (at this point, I could make it juicier by saying that, for example, she began to slowly unbutton her tunic before standing up and saying: May I take off my tunic? It is very hot here.) In fact, she was looking at me with those black eyes like lines in my novel, a smile on her moist lips. Naturally, I got up and said: Thank you very much for coming. Now, please leave.

She got up and I went to my desk and picked up a book, lest she closes the gap between us. I was no longer looking at her, but I knew she was also standing, with that moonlit face - it was as if she had been taken out of a dark cell an hour ago and they had removed her blindfold in the hallway outside our front door. Of course, this is all in my imagination. But I looked at her again. There was a shyness in her smile that sent a shiver down my spine. She was clearly no professional, otherwise she could have started yelling and screaming from that distance, paving the way for a hefty indictment.

I know that even my wife would say that it is all a figment of my imagination. But I know a poet who was an IWA activist for many years and suddenly severed all contact with my ilk. Today, in the wake of these murders, if a woman comes to visit one of us, we have to be careful in case she sprays us with some kind of incapacitant. Or if she took a step forward, we would have to confine kissing those moist lips to fantasy (although of course they do not even permit fantasies).

If the appearance of a woman in my office is a figment of my imagination, the presence of a businessman in the privacy of my home is not. He had made his way into our home through a friend. He helped with the circulation of a hundred copies of an anthology of my short stories, which had been published in Sweden. Or when we wanted to increase the speed of our internet or optimize the computer's RAM, he brought someone who changed parts of the hard drive. Later, we realized that in all likelihood all the data in my computer had been added to my case file, or even all my written work transferred to another computer. The last time I saw him, was when Mokhtari had gone missiong. He suggested: Why do you not go and live somewhere else?

I said: No. No.

He said: Well. How about me asking a few friends to come and live with you lot?

Then they will kill me too.

I have not seen him in a while. I know that the staff of the Intelligence Ministry are also active in the economy. One day I told him: It is not right for you to come to our house. You are a businessman and there is no excuse for you to come and go. But he continued to visit, and these visits always coincided with some incident. For example, a writer was summoned somewhere, or someone went missing. I have not seen him recently. Good riddance!

In all known murders, the killers have usually found access with the help of one of the victim's acquaintances, as in the case of Forouhar family. [5]

Our phones have been tapped all these years. We know there must be a bug in my workplace. We have nothing to hide, nor do we want to hide anything. Sarkohi used to say: They have the minutes of all the IWA meetings, even the silences and coughs.

 

[1]Golshiri's piece did not have a title. This title is the editor's choice.

[2]Karnameh Monthly.

[3]At the time of writing this piece, Golshiri probably did not know that Sirjani was killed with a potassium suppository.

[4]The real name of this person, whose alias was "Dariush", has been given as Ahmad Afghahi in the confession of the perpetrators of the political assassinations of 1998.

This was the top story of the newspapers in that period. According to the files of the political murder of Parvaneh and Dariush Forouhar, they entered their house with a fake police warrant. Golshiri no longer had an opportunity to learn the facts and write about them.