It proved a good move as we were able to spur each other on and during this time we made significant progress.
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Day after day, and often well into the night, we typed away on laptops balanced on knees, drinking tea and trying to comprehend the enormity of what we were doing. We were writing about a serious topic, but we made sure we had fun, too. Once the backdrop to the story had been set, Samieh moved into the heart of the story — her time trapped in Iran with her daughter. Reliving this traumatic period in her life brought up a lot of painful memories and took its toll. Samieh had trouble sleeping.
When she did manage to sleep, she was tortured by nightmares. I suggested we take a break, but Samieh was eager to press on. By the middle of January , Samieh had finished her story. We were both exhausted and bordering on burnout, but the end was in sight. With every 10, words I completed of the manuscript, I felt my spirits lift. As Samieh and I had been friends for almost 10 years by the time we were writing the book, we knew each other well and could be honest with each other. At times I challenged Samieh on certain content she had written….
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Was it necessary? Did it take away from the story? I was under pressure and I did not want to spend time rewriting something I felt may be insignificant.
At times Samieh agreed, other times she was persistent and in these cases, the content was always included. By March, the manuscript was completed. The rewriting had taken four months although in reality it seemed a lot longer.
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I say completed, but that was only the first draft. I sent it back to Samieh and she went through it all again, adding in other information that she remembered. This was then sent back to me, I added in the new parts and we repeated the process again. Attending or hosting a party with both women and men and where music, dancing, and alcohol were present was considered a serious crime. If the Revolutionary Guards were not paid money to stay away — a cash payment could make a corrupt guard turn a blind eye to almost anything — they could show up unannounced and arrest people on the spot.
Everyone was afraid of the Revolutionary Guards. Unless you had money or political connections, getting arrested — even for something minor such as listening to music in public — could result in a long prison stay. Sometimes women who were arrested and did not have money were given the option of having sex with a corrupt guard to avoid prison and a criminal record. A prison record almost guaranteed no chance of securing legitimate employment later on, so for many women allowing the guards to do what they wished with them was a price they paid reluctantly. Of course not all guards behaved this way, but the problem was you never knew what sort of guard was going to arrest you.
My brothers and I had little interaction with the Revolutionary Guards when we were children, as we were always with my parents, who were very careful to abide by the government's rules and not draw attention to themselves. This changed when we became teenagers and were free to roam the city.
Even now I can recall the sheer terror that would rise in me when one of their Jeeps approached. Whoever spotted it first would call out "Gasht, Gasht!
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Everyone would instinctively look to the ground, averting their gaze and desperately willing them to pass by without stopping to interrogate. Although the guards mostly traveled around the cities in their Jeeps, they also patrolled on foot. One summer's day when I was fourteen and out with my brother Sina in Parke Shahr, we were approached by a Revolutionary Guard. I remember suddenly looking up to see him standing there, his severe gaze bearing down on us.
In his hand he held the standard baton wielded by all Revolutionary Guards, and his gun was clearly visible in its holster. All Iranian citizens have to carry ID cards in case they are stopped by Revolutionary Guards, a practice that angered me even as a child. The government should not be controlling people's lives. The guard dismissed me by raising his voice and hitting the inside of his hand with his baton. I nervously dug my hands deep into my bag, searching for the ID card. Finding it, I pushed it forcefully into his open palm. As he read the card, I couldn't help myself — I told him I would ask the next person who walked past if they thought Sina and I looked like we were related and I bet they would say yes.
We continued to fight in front of the guard, who by now had checked our ID cards and realized we were bickering like brother and sister. He explained that he had to check ID cards because too many people were indulging in "inappropriate" relationships. I was enraged but could not say anything. Whom we chose to spend time with should be our own free choice! My brother Salar, the most spirited of us siblings, suffered far more from the new regime during those years.
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Around the age of ten he started borrowing Hollywood movies from his friend for us to watch at home. Hollywood movies were illegal in Iran, but they were smuggled in, and if you knew the right person you could get hold of them relatively easily. My brothers and I loved watching the movies any chance we got. One movie was broadcast on television every Friday, but they were really old black-and-white comedies such as Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges, which I never found funny.
Salar, like my oldest brother, Sina, took classes in karate and loved Jackie Chan movies, so these were a prominent feature in our videocassette player. None of us could understand the words, because the films were in English and not subtitled, but we loved them regardless.
The West was a strange, enticing world to us. Our family looked forward to seeing which movie Salar would borrow from his friend each week. My mother always said she was too tired to watch the films, but my father would often join us. We would sit huddled around the small TV in our sitting room, stuffing our faces with nuts and sunflower seeds, my brothers carefully watching the karate moves, and me collapsing in hysterics. Salar's journey to his friend's house and back usually only took about ten minutes, but one evening Salar didn't return.
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We waited almost an hour until the worry got too much for us and we went out in the streets searching for him. Eventually a man admitted he had seen Salar being dragged off by Revolutionary Guards. My dad became frightened, frantically contacting his friends and eventually managing to locate Salar. He had been beaten black and blue by the guards for being in possession of nonIslamic material.
They had tied his feet together with rope and beat him with sticks. My father brought him home, and upon seeing Salar my mother and I had burst into tears. I was so angry but there was nothing I could do. Hezari's account of her terrible journey will keep listeners [and readers] on the edges of their seats. Privacy Notice Accessibility Help. Skip to services menu. Search by title, author, keyword or ISBN. Sign Up.
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