To Yahya

The fourth in our mini-forum on critical methodology and narrative (the full series is here). This entry is authored by A—, a student and activist who shall remain nameless, the political realities and personal dangers of our world being as they are.

To Yahya,

I remember your eyes, your fearful and tired eyes. Your shaking voice is in my ear, repeatedly asking “do you think they want to kill me?” And my desperate answer “no they won’t; we will not allow them”. I am sorry Yahya. When I came to Canada there was no information about you, they had removed you from the…. And took you to an unknown place. We had tried so hard to find you but we could not. I am sorry. I know you thought I forgot you, but I did not. After I heard you were executed I was devastated. Your and other political prisoners’ (who we were trying to help) death embedded in me an incredible pain and weakness. I lost everything that I had believed before, my power, my self-esteem. Everything seemed hollow and reasonless. I lost my faith in humanity, International Law, NGO’s, the UN, Human Rights, the media… and all the places I wrote to and never got any response or any practical help. I see my weakness and I understand that beyond that hollow propagandas nothing actually exists that can do something. After that, I hated all of them, I hated the government and I hated the world for not seeing your pain, for not hearing your voice. Yahya, I hated myself as well. You were such a young and bright man that I could not tell you the truth: that we could do nothing to stop them. That our effort is useless, a waste of time, a waste of life and it does not come from power it only came from the fact that we wanted to make the world see what is happening here. “So what?” you might ask and I do not have any answer for you except to say I am so sorry, I am so terribly sorry.

When I came to Canada, I deliberately tried to keep you and the memory of other prisoners in the distance to avoid the pain. However, your face, your eyes, your fear, your anxiety, are embedded in my mind and will not leave me alone. It creates such a guilt that even If I feel that I am happy for a second, I feel terrible afterward. You come to my mind and I nag myself “shame on you!” and then I think: ‘how afraid were you when they were taking you to hang? Did you scream? Did you cry? How did you feel, Yahya? Because I feel an unimaginable pain in my chest when I think about it. Then everything goes black again and nothing remains to make me happy. Afterward, I feel good about myself, “you had better grieve, A–” I tell myself, “you did not do anything, you deserve to grieve”. Yahya, do you hate me? Do you hate me that I am still alive and you are dead? Do you hate me that you were being tortured but I have not?

When I talk to my fellow students about political prisoners in Iran I try to be so mature and rational to not make them think I am wounded or emotional. However, I wonder if you guys would hear me in that moment and think that I lost my emotions about you. Sometimes I curl up in a corner of the room and start to create creepy voices as if I am dying, pretend to be dead, just to see if I understand you and others’ feelings when you were being hanged and could not breathe. I am not saying these things to you in self- pity. I am just saying them to make you understand that I did not forget you, I won’t. Your voice is here, all over my head, and I do not want it to disappear, I want to yell and cry out your words, but they stick in my throat and only tears come out.

I am writing this letter to let you know that I am so sorry, that I am in pain as well, that I want you to stay and have a voice. I left my loved ones, Yahya. I know it is not comparable with your pain. But I was punished as well. I forced to be alienated from all that is familiar to me and isolated from all the kindness of my loved ones. I remained breathless like you did Yahya, but my breathlessness was only emotional while yours was both physical and emotional. I was punished like you, for seeking my rights, for helping you, and for having a voice. How odd it is for the people here, you know? How odd it is for an eighteen-year-old boy here to do what you have done. To sacrifice his life for a political purpose. When I see a young boy in my school I remember you. Then, I feel terrible for so many beauties in the world that you did not see, for all your ambitions that you could not achieve, and for all your dreams and lost opportunities. How cruel was the cord that took your breath away and how cruel is the world to not care about that action.

I want to shout, Yayha, that you are always remembered, that you are always part of this world and that you are always part of a beautiful chapter of my narrative. I could not save you but I can save your voice. At least I promise you this time…


I sit on my coach, lean back with a pen and paper on my hand, staring at my white piano that I have not touched for few months. “Where should I start?” I think. I am repeatedly asking this question of myself but every time I try to write I find myself overwhelmed with a painful ache in my heart and tears in my eyes. “Let’s try looking through some pictures,” I think, they could inspire me. I take my phone from the table, and I start looking at my pictures. “I did not take very many pictures in Canada,” I wonder why; maybe I do not have enough time. Suddenly, I stop by the picture of Sahand (a mountain in the northwest of Iran, near the city that I used to live). I took the picture from the airplane while I was coming to Canada, it is the picture of its highest peak surrounded by clouds. My eyes get wet again. When you are being forced to leave a place that you were born and raised, everything about that city or region gets a sacred place in your heart. When you understand that you might not see them again you start missing them so much. Sahand is the highest mountain in the province where I lived (East Azerbaycan) and it is called ‘the beautiful mountain’ because it is full of shaghayegh (Anemone Coronaria) in spring. Shaghayegh is the symbol of dead people in Iran. People in my region take a full fist of the soil of the graves of their dead and spread it on the Sahand to turn their loved ones to flowers, so they can be born again all over the Sahand’s body. My tears start to drop again. Yes, I missed Sahand, but it is something more. Something is digging at me from inside. A sense of being useless, or being guilty. My purpose here is to narrate my own past activism to free political prisoners who were sentenced to death, but something is preventing me. Guilt, this is the emotion, I could not let go. Will I be able to finally forgive myself? To stop punishing myself and to truly justify my deeds? Maybe I am starting from the wrong side, maybe I should justify myself to you, may be I should beg forgiveness from you. Then I could rest, then I could forgive myself…

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