My earliest childhood memories are when I was five or six years old, in our beautiful village just outside the city of Mahabad in western Iran. My friends and I were playing tag in our front yard. One of my friends at one moment fell on the hard ground. As he tried to get up, everything seemed as though it was a slow motion movie. My eyes were fixed on a big ball of fire that was falling from the sky. The Iranian army was bombing a valley in the southern parts of the village. Our innocent hearts were terrorized. The peaceful childhood games were turned to screams , we were crying out as each of us ran towards our house.
The bombs did not stop. It looked as though it was judgment day. One after the other they kept falling. The Khomeini government was suspecting Kurdish rebels to be hiding out in the valley, but even the government knew that only poor farmers were dwelling there. One can only guess those seconds before hell broke out. Perhaps there were lovers by the water spring meeting in secret and splashing each other with the cool water that is in abundant in the beautiful mountains of Kurdistan. Others might imagine a young mother sitting under a tree and breastfeeding her new born baby. Yet, I imagine an old man who has toiled on his farm all day, taking an afternoon nap in the beautiful brick built huts surrounded by daisies, the sound of waterfalls ,flowing rivers and the singing of nightingales.
Hours after the bombings, not even the Iranian Army who had two bases in our village came to help in the search and rescue efforts. They just stood and watched with their binoculars and chuckling to themselves as though they were very amused by the desperate efforts of the rescuers to search and find their loved ones. I set by my window and watched bodies wrapped in white bed sheets being carried to the Mosque in the village center. The bed sheets were soaked in blood. Villagers rushed to the Mosque to find and their loved ones and identify the victims. The joyful and quiet environment was shattered. Instead of the bird songs and the passionate Kurdish music that was blaring out of the radios, only the weeping and the wailing of the women were being heard. One by one, the dead were ritually cleansed and wrapped in clean white cloth. The villagers then marched towards the cemetery carrying about a dozen coffins along with them.
“Why, for what purpose?” I kept thinking to myself. Earlier that day I was told by my teacher that Imam Ayatollah Khomeini was a man of God, who saved us from the American government and their servant, the Shah. Yet, I could not understand why God Almighty wanted innocent people bombed. We were told that the decrees given by Ayatollah Khomeini came from God.
Due to our age, of course we were not able to distinguish right from wrong. I believed that Imam Khomeini was sent from God to the point where I was even willing to sacrifice my own life for his sake. But that day, my faith and believe in Imam Khomeini was shattered. “If that’s the way God is, then I want nothing to do with him.”
A t school I was Sitting in the front row of the class, I could not get my eyes off the pictures of Khomeini that were posted just above the blackboard. Looking through his eyes, I could see nothing but hatred. An old man with a long beard and an angry grin, looking down at me, as if I have done something to one of his family members. “Oh Imam, what is it that makes you unleash your wrath against the innocents?” I said in my heart as I was looking straight into the Imams eyes in the picture.
The teacher would make references to America frequently. I vividly remember him say “Life in America is nothing but machinery; it has nothing spiritual about it.” Every single day, we were ordered by our teachers to chant “Death to America.” I used to chant along with passion and conviction. But no longer went along with what we were told in the school, and rightfully had my reasons. The horrifying scene of people desperately digging into the ruble to find loved ones was not getting of my mind. I kept having flashbacks and the cries of people still rang in my ear.
One night I was awoken by a deafening knock on the back door of our house. Nobody really dared to go and open the door at tow in the morning. Once the knocking stopped, I went back to sleep only to be awoken by the morning prayers of my mother. As her prayers were ending, the knocking started again. This time it was even louder. My mother went over to open the door. As she was opening it, a group of soldiers pushed their way into the house. With their guns in their hands they all rushed to the room where my father was sleeping. Grabbing him by the hair, they took him out of bed and dragged him to another room.
I was thinking of a way to escape being seen by the soldiers. I slowly got out of bed when a soldier pushed my door and took me out of bed. He took me to the guest room. The rest of my family was also there. My youngest sibling who was eight month old was in my mother’s arms and was crying. He was hungry and the soldiers were hungry and abusive verbally. These followers of “God” would not let my mother go and get his bottle. My entire family was pushed into a corner as two soldiers pointed their weapons at us. The rest of the soldiers were searching the house for alleged weapons that my father was supposedly hiding in the house.
My brother was crying louder, babbling his baby words to get my mother’s attention, but unfortunately it all fell on death ears. Any move by mother, and they would both would be killed. After a good twenty minute search the soldiers came back to the commander and shook their head in gesture that there was nothing in the house. Then they came for my father and tied his hands behind his back and took him out the door. I jumped in front of my father and tried to hold him back. “Don’t take my father, don’t take my father.” I screamed repeatedly. Some of the soldiers started to cry also, but were powerless and were only following orders by their commander that was there also.
But they put him in a jeep and drove away. I screamed “F**k Khomeini F**k Khomeini.” I threw myself unto the dirt road and kicking up dust with my feet. My loud cries and screams had woken up the neighbors. In less than five minutes the entire neighborhood had woken up and was watching me cry after my father. The dust had mixed with my tears. Finally an uncle of mine came and picked me off the dirt road.
“He will come back soon.” My uncle would say. He led me to his house where he washed the dust off my face. My mother came in with my baby brother in her arms. She just sat next to me and ran her fingers through my hair but did not utter a single word. That day I went to school late. All of the students were seated on their seats and the teacher was busy teaching. I opened the door and was hoping that he will just have me go and sit on my seat.
For five minutes I just stood by the door waiting to hear what the teacher would want me to do. As the teacher was finishing his sentence he reached for the “magic stick.” He did not have to tell me what to do. I already knew that he wanted me to stick out both of my hands so he can hit me. I sticked my hands out and was hoping that after one or two strikes I would be able to go and sit down. The two blows were already finished, yet the teacher kept going as he was lecturing at the same time.
My hands were all red and swollen. He then commanded me to raise my feet against the wall and stand on my hands. “Tekrar Kon man Omari hastam.” He said “Repeat I am an Omari.” Omari is a derogatory word that some Persians that worked for the Islamic government used against Kurds. It is a reference of Kurds being of the Sunni branch of Islam while most Iranians, especially Persians are of the Shiite branch. The Sunnis Follow Omar and the Shiites follow Ali.
For fifteen minutes I had to stand on my swollen hands and repeat to the class “I am an Omari, I am an Omari.” Finally I could put my legs down and go take a seat. There was only one seat left and that was the seat that nobody wanted. It was by the broken window where the wind was coming.
By Lunch time school was over. As I was walking out I heard the Teacher sang to himself. “Omari dare Miravad Omari dare Miravad, which means “Omari is Leaving Omari is going.” I knew the teacher was picking on me the most because my father was involved in Kurdish politics and many Persians soldiers were recently killed in clashes with Kurdish rebels.
My father has never made such derogatory statements against anybody. For the Kurdish people did not care what ones religion or ethnic group was. People were all tolerant of others differences. The Kurdish fight was against oppression and was a just cause. I was never thought to hate. Many times when non Kurds, especially Persians and Turkish speaking Iranians were escaping the wrath of the regime, they would come to our areas. Many would stay at my grandfather’s farm, sometimes for months. They would go and pick vegetables and fruits and whenever they tried to pay for them, my grandfather would not take their money. “You have come to seek refuge from us. You might need the money to bribe a Turk or two across the border.” He would joke with them.
As I was walking home that day, I sat on a hilltop that was next to my house. I began to think about the words of my teacher in regards to America. “America is a blood sucker. America is the great Satan. America is responsible for our misfortunes. Life in America is nothing but machinery.” on the hilltop I looked down a road that was coming into the village from the city. I was trying to Imagine America. I had no idea what America was. A twenty foot tall man made of nothing but Iron. I could see it coming to the village with his soldiers, slowly removing branches from the trees the tall trees that were blocking him from seeing the village. I was only imagining. But that image really stirred up my curiosity.
Everyday on my way to school, I was encountering a non Kurdish soldier. He would pick me up and kiss me and cry. My grandparents noticed. One day my grandmother brought her hand out of the window and said “What are you doing with my grandchild?”
“Mother.” The soldier said. “I have left behind a six year old boy. Your grandchild resembles my son very much. Whenever I pick him up, I feel as if I am picking up my own child.” My grandfather already knew that the soldier meant well. Both peoples, the Kurds and the Persians have been affected by the conflict. I always have wondered if Khomeini and his inner circles had a conscience. Deep down I was sure that this “man of God” really had no conscience. Yet millions blindly follow him.
This is the man that gave plastic keys to teenager’s boys and sending them off to war. These poor brainwashed teenagers were being told that if they die in battle those keys are the keys of heaven and they will open the gates of paradise.
One morning my mother woke me up and bathed me. I thought that she was going to send me to school like other days, but a cousin of mine was at our house and was leaving for the city and my mother had decided to send me with him to see my father. We visited the prison. My father was not there. My whole body was numb. My hopes were high and I desperately wanted to see my father. “Have they hanged my father?” I kept asking myself .I thought that my cousin definitely knew where he was, but I did not dare to ask for fear of hearing something I did not wanted to hear.
My cousin and I left the prison. My hopes of seeing my father were dashed. Every day we would hear of Kurds who were being executed by the clerical regime. I wanted to know if my father was one of them. With a voice filled with sorrow and grief, I turned to my cousin and asked “Where is my father?” He turned to me and said in a very calm voice. “Do not worry; your father has been able to escape.” I was overjoyed by the news. I wanted to get out of the car and jump around for joy. I longed for my mother to be here and hear the good news.
I have not been this happy in a very long time. We drove back to the village. In the center of the village we stopped. A Kurdish man, a local butcher shop owner was running through the neighborhoods. He was being chased by some soldiers. I saw the men’s mother and wife were also running after them and begging the soldier to not harm him. I saw faraway a beautiful girl was also running. She was about twelve years old. As she got closer, I recognized her. She was the butcher’s daughter.
The man came to a long street. There was no way out. Not a single street where the poor man could turn to. As he was running towards the end of the street, the soldier aimed at him. Right in the front of a mosque which was at the end of the street the soldiers shot the man.
His mother, wife and daughter all ran towards him. His mother held his head in her hand and placed it on her lap as they wept the senseless murder of their son, husband and father. His daughter was a dark curly hair raven. Her face was flawless and her eyes big and dark. Her tears were coming down her strong cheek bones and her big dimples. My heart was pounding as the entire neighborhood had come to stand still.
People wanted to go and comfort the family, but nobody dared. Without any remorse the soldier walked back to the base. He had come to the house to arrest the butcher on charges that he had allowed a Kurdish rebel use his horse to get away from the village. But the butcher had such a good heart that he even would help the soldiers too. During holidays he would take fresh meet for poor and the widows of no charge.
My cousin and I turned around a corner and went back to my house. We walked by the house of the local cleric which was a big and beautiful stone house. In the front yard under a tall pomegranate tree was the cleric and a local commander. I could only imagine what they were talking about. How they could get the local population accept the Islamic government. Instead of trying to bring services to the people and try to ease the misery, they were just going to tell them that God demands that authority must be respected and that Khomeini was a God-sent holy man.
“Sons of bitches; what trick are you cooking up now.” I heard my cousin say. He then stopped and was looking directly as the cleric’s house. I looked too and saw money changing hands. The commander handed many stacked bills to the cleric. They were clearly buying the cleric.
“Worshipers of God, ha! What a f**cking joke.” My cousin was furious. His face was red and if he had gotten his hand on that cleric at that moment he would have hanged him in his barn.
“Why is it that everybody wants to do God’s work and yet is causing so much heartache?” I asked my cousin. “God’s work? Who is this God? Did he call this government and told them what he wanted? Never believe these God worshippers. They want to use God in order to make an obedient servant out of you. But we are going to fight back. We are going to bring an end to God’s republic. This is Islam? F**ck it then. I rather go to hell then worship such a misery loving God.”
Islam was being exploited among the population. But very few people bought into it. “Listen, you must go home, I have to go somewhere and do not worry about your father he is in Iraq.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“They told me at the prison that someone has helped him escape, so I am sure that he went over the border and now is in Iraq.” I was relieved.
My mother came to the door and was in higher spirits. It seemed as if someone had already told her where my father was. My cousin left our house, not telling us where he was going. But we suspected that he was going to find some smugglers to smuggle us into Iraq. Three days went by and there was no word from him. One week went by and we did not hear from him. We did not know where he was and what he was doing.
The spring new year of Nowroz (Norooz, Newroz, and New day) holiday was approaching. March 21st the first day of spring is a day of celebration. It is a celebration of nature. People go out, picnic, sing, and dance and reconcile with one another. It was not a religious holiday, just one beautiful and special day signifying the beauty and sweetness of life in general.
It was very sad that my father was not around. The same joyous holiday feeling could not be felt in our house. My mother raised chickens, lots of them and during this time the less fortunate would come and ask for a chicken so they can have some meat for the holiday. She never charged, just like my grandparents. That was her small way of bringing some joy to the joyless hearts of those that have fathers in the prisons of the Islamic Republic and those that have suffered enormously from the hands of those that are trying to keep Allah happy by making the lives the ordinary people a living hell. The people were all descent and everybody tried to be here for one another. But the parity’s of God were changing all of that. They were trying to find the smallest problem among the people and exploit it.
When my cousin finally did not show up, many villagers gathered together and went out to look for him. Finally there came the heart wrenching news that a body has been found in a village about fifty miles down from where we lived. My grandparents did and other family members did not hesitate to go to the village and see if it was him. They came back with the body. I did not see it but I was told that that it was filled with bullet holes. He had apparently tried to strangle a soldier that had tried to rape a girl that was taking a bath in a pond. The government tried to tell the people that he was actually tying to rape the girl so that soldier shot him. But the people knew better. It was the other way around and sad thing was the girl told my grandmother that when my cousin raced to help her when he saw what was happening and she set eyes on him, she had fallen in love with him at on instance.
The soldier’s gun was lying on the grass by the pond and my cousin kicked it into the water. Immediately the soldier reached for a pistol that he had hidden under his shirt that was on the grass. The girl’s family was threatened not to tell people anything as to what had happened. But Slowly the whole story became known.
Coincidently that soldier was transferred to our village and as we were having lunch inside our house one day, the roaring sound of my aunt could be heard. We knew it was her by her voice but also by the nastiest words that were coming out of her mouth. She was famous for her language, beauty and warrior like spirit. When we opened the door we could see on her on top of a roof with her hands around a soldier’s neck and they rolled back and forth on the roof floor as they both beat each other up. People started to gather around them. The soldier could not defeat my aunt and she would not let him leave. She had punched him and took a couple of his teeth out and had gotten a few strong kicks in the private part.
“How did these two end up tearing each other up?” I was overhearing people say. From the base came another commander as well as a few soldiers and broke up the fight. My aunt was arrested and taken to the city for questioning. Later that day a number of local girls came to our house to tell what happened.
“We were taking a bath in the pond and that soldier would come and watch us. Your aunt saw the soldier; she got dressed and went up to him. It seemed that she had told him that he can come to her house. She promised that she would sleep with him, but only so she can get her hands on him. It was part of a plan.”
We were all worried as what might happen to her. We knew that this Godly nation raped virgin females the night before their execution just so they don’t send virgins to the next life. Now that I think about it, I can’t find a word to describe how I felt. Either God was a monster or just a tool in the hands of monsters. I might have been young, but I was aware of the rising anti-religion sentiment within my society. People knew very well that if there was a God and he actually created the world, he has done a terrible job. What kind of life is it when it’s nothing but suffering and pain? People in my family did their daily prayers very faithfully. Not anymore. Religion had become a joke.
The next day a bus came into our village and there was my aunt, free and very happy. As she walked down the street to go to her house, people looked upon her as a hero.
“How did you got out? Who helped you?” people asked with wonderment.
“I just told the judge that what the soldier was trying to do go against what they preach. I argued with the judge from using their own laws. What is so godly about watching young girls as they bathe and then try to violate them? So they decided not to prosecute me and let me go.”
People were all in tears. They were impressed by the bravery she showed. They were even more impressed when they found out that the soldier that she fought and pretty much beat up was the same one that killed my cousin and tried raping another girl at a different village. Two weeks later my aunt, who was not yet married and had no children, ran away to be with the Kurdish organization that were fighting the Islamic government. The news about her kept coming, although none of it amazed anybody. She was involved in battles and ceremoniously washed and buried the bodies of her dead comrades.
The Iranian army started to harass my grandparents and all my extended family. Many left the village and one of my uncle’s wife was literally raped in front of her children. My grandparent’s farm was set ablaze and their home was torched down. They were removed by government forces and made to live in another village.
Sooner or later they were going to come after us. So on a pitch dark night, one of my father’s friend brought a few horses and with only the clothes that we were wearing, we set out on a fifteen hour journey across the border into Iraq.
The Iraqi government and the Iranian government had placed hundreds of thousands of mines across the border. There was always the chance that a person might unknowingly step on one. All of the time in the mountains we knew that we could be shot at by border guards or step on mines, but we could not turn back either. We had to go on. We came upon a camp where there were smugglers. There were kids that were smuggling goods between the two countries that were barely older than me. But it was probably the only way they were making money to feed their family. There two brothers that were involved. I will never forget when they described to me how their father was taken out of their house in the middle of the night, being pulled by the hair and shot right there before their eyes. The government never gave them a reason and never told the, why their father was so brutally murdered.
Perhaps if there was a proper government in Iran and “God’s representatives.” Were not in charge, these brothers would have been sleeping in their bed ad home and their poor father would have also been alive now. But no, making Allah happy is the first priority. The clerics kept telling people that if Iran becomes secular, God would bring calamity upon the country. But the poverty in today’s Iran, world’s third largest producer of oil is unfathomable. Prostitution has become the profession of millions of women and young girls. Islam has brought darkness to that country. It has taken joy out of that country. There is death, despair and misery. When we got off the horses in Iraq, there was a car waiting for us. My father was there also. He and his friend had made the plans beforehand. He knew that we were coming. We were so sad that no word can exactly describe the emotions we were feeling. We left a beautiful country, a rich country. But a country ruled by superstitions, institutionalized superstitions.