‘Bahaar’, She could distantly hear her name being called off. It was the most beautiful village in Tehran. She used to love it being there. Lush green playfields and the street was both joy and gloom. She loved playing football with other girls of her age.
She could easily identify that her Abu was calling her.
‘Abu, coming’, She shouted and ran towards her home. It was the last gate at the corner of the street.
‘Salaam, Abu’, She said.
‘Salaam, angel. Why don’t you listen to your Abu? Bahaar, how many times I have told you this, play inside the house. It’s not safe outside’
‘But why Abu?’, She asked innocently.
‘Because everyone is fighting outside’
‘Who are fighting Abu?’
‘People are fighting with the Government and I don’t want my powerful and rebellious daughter to go outside and hit them with her superpowers’, he said tickling her. She laughed.
‘See, Ammi has made Khoresh for you. You like it, no? Go and have some’
One year later, 1980
It was so unreal for the 10-year-old Bahaar, what was happening in the country. For her, the Iranian revolution was not the movement to overthrow the Government constitution into Islamic constitution but a movement which had separated most of her friends. She was ignorant and so were her friends who fled the country along with their families as a choice of not converting into Islam. The country was experiencing a mass exodus.
She didn’t know that there were far more drastic changes she had to face. It was one of the bright mornings of March, 1980, when Bahaar was dressing up for her school. Her Ammi asked her to wear the Hizab to school.
‘See, I got a scarf for you. It is called Hijab. Isn’t it beautiful?’, her Ammi said.
‘Ammi, but I don’t like it’, she said.
‘Bahaar, you have to wear it. I will wear it too. You will look beautiful in it. All your friends will also wear it’, Her Ammi said.
‘But I don’t like the color. It’s black. I like colorful scarfs’
‘Ha Ha. This is part of the school uniform. I will get you colorful ones to wear at home. Alright?’, she laughed at her innocence and said.
‘No, I won’t wear it at home’
Little did she know that this would become a part of her life forever. It wasn’t just a Hijab which was compromising her beautiful hair but her freedom also. According to new laws of the constitution, every girl above the age of nine had to wear a Hijab. Renouncement of which will lead to repercussion such as denying of education right, work right and in all right to live. A lot of things have changed after the Iranian revolution. A country which was supposed to be the epitome of freedom for women was being talked about for all the wrong reasons.
Present Day, Evin Prison.
It was the first morning since Bahaar was held captive in the infamous Evin Prison. She was sitting on the same floor where she was asked to sit. Blindfolded, she could not see the face of man interrogating her. She didn’t even know her crime then.
The first round of questions was too basic. She didn’t have any problem answering about her name and here whereabouts. No one even could guess that the events following up are the ones which can’t even be compared in the same weighing machine as of the word ‘BASIC’.
She was put in the block no. 246 and still unaware of her crime. It was around 10:30PM in the night when she was called for the interrogation once again.
Blindfolded once again.
‘You have committed a heinous crime and you know that. You seem to be not okay with the rights constitution has given to supreme gender that is males of the country, right?’, He asked. The answer was very simple for her. She only had to say, ‘Yes’.
In 1983, Life was almost normal for Bahaar. At least, she considered it the new normal for herself. She was enjoying her life in 8th grade. She was good in the studies and loved to go to school. The school had separate classes for girls and boys. In recess time, she used to meet her younger brother Izaad, who was 3 years younger than her. She often used to ask her Ammi.
‘Ammi, why only I have to wear Hijab and not Izaad’, She knew the answer already, but all she wanted to hear lame reasoning which her mother used to give. They both used to found each other innocent. Both were not.
‘Because only women look beautiful in Hijab. Don’t you think so?’, her Ammi said.
‘No. I don’t think so. I think we are different. At least here in this country’, She said.
She loved him, but her concern was something different. She didn’t want her brother to become like other men. At least, she hoped.
‘I feel, we are not equal. We, as in males and females. At least, here in this country’, she answered.
‘Very true. Isn’t this a fact?’
‘Yes, a sad fact’, she said.
‘Are you married?’, He came up with his second question.
‘Yes, I am’, she said.
‘What is his name. Where is he now?’,
‘His name is Shehzad. He is in England right now’, She said.
‘If you have so much problem with men, why did you marry?’
A lot has changed after the Iranian Revolution but something remained the same. One of those things were the famous Friday Tehran Picnics. It was a bright shiny afternoon in 1987. Bahaar loved to spend time with the family. It might be her last picnic with her family before she would join the ‘Tehran University for her graduation. Her Ammi has also called her close friend Shamina for the picnic. She wanted Bahaar to meet Imaan. Within no time, Bahaar was married to Imaan. The marriage was a failed marriage. She went into England on a scholarship where she met Shehzad.
‘I don’t have problems with all men. I have problems with a certain type of men. You know, I am talking about what type of men’, she said.
‘ I don’t think, you love your family’, he said and laughed. She knew the seriousness behind his laughter. After that, started the real torture. The torture was not designed to get any kind of information, it was designed to kill the soul of human. Forget the human soul and they try to kill the soul of your family. Bahaar was there in the cell for almost five days before the judgment day. In those five days, she has seen it all. From sexual abuse to lashes, everything. The big thing is no one talk about any of these tortures.
‘The crime committed by Bahaar is the most heinous of it’s kind. We have informed your brother Izaad, your husband and your kids in England. It is a crime against the government. We give you a punishment of 3-year prison and 100 lashes.
Bahaar moved to England 20 years back on a scholarship for the doctorate. It was a whole new life for her. It was like a rebirth. She could breathe for the first time in the last 15 years. She met Shehzad there. They both were happy. He didn’t have any problem with her first marriage. It was a whole new start. Writing blogs was pretty popular in England. It started with one of her blogs on the fashion morality in Iran which became viral among the protesting women of Iran. The rage spread like a wildfire. She was asked to come back to Iran to inspire women. She came back to her country for a small program. Like her name, her blog started a positive movement in the country. She was giving a small speech in a small townhall when two members of the police came. They put her in a car and drove her to Evin Prison.
‘Cover her head’, they said, before blindfolding her.
Hijab: In Iran, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Hijab has become compulsory. Women are required to wear loose-fitting clothing and a headscarf in public
Iranian Revolution: The Iranian Revolution was a series of events that involved the overthrow of the monarch of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and the replacement of his government with an Islamic republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a leader of one of the factions in the revolt. The movement against the United States-backed monarchy was supported by various leftist and Islamist organizations and student movements.
Khoresh: A type of dish very frequently used in Persian cuisine. It consists of pieces of meat, fried with chopped onion in cleared butter , butter or vegetable oil, some herbs or vegetables which are first sautéed and then added to the meat; other ingredients may consist of legumes and dried fruits.
Note: The story was inspired by the Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who defended women who removed their hijabs sentenced to 38 years and 148 lashes
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