Tehran Diary Daily Life in Iran, One Year after the Uprising

Part 2: 'I'm Ashamed to Look My Daughter in the Eye'

Saturday, May 22, 2010

+++ A headline in the reformist newspaper Aftab-e-Yazd reads: "Poverty Compels a Father to Kill His Wife, Son and Self." The paper criticizes the mismanagement of the economy by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. With unemployment at 22 percent, and in some regions as high as 45 percent, the suicide rate in Iran is continually increasing.

The newspaper Ebtekar writes: "Iran is the worst nation worldwide for drug abuse." The newspaper cites a high-ranking official: "Because Iran has become a transit land for drugs and has a young population, we are more exposed to this danger than other countries." +++

Mohammad Mostafaei, the attorney. My week begins before the revolutionary court. I have to defend a woman who is accused of moharebeh or "war against God." That's a euphemism our prosecutors use to describe activities critical of the government. Anyone who is found guilty of moharebeh can expect to receive the death penalty. My client is shaking all over when she is brought before the court. The judge seems kind enough, and tries to calm her down. "No one should be afraid of a judge," he says. But Sainab has every reason to be afraid. Her husband and his cousin were sentenced to death by the same 15th chamber of the court.

Their entire "crime" entailed their having been in contact with a member of a monarchist group. Sainab allegedly knew about her husband's activities. That too can be sufficient to receive a death sentence.

Women with a political background who come before the revolutionary court aren't the only ones who must fear for their lives. All it takes, sometimes, is for a man to accuse them of adultery. Then they can be prosecuted, and the trial can end with a stoning sentence. I was able to save defendants from this death on 10 occasions.

Mohzen Sahabifar, the shopkeeper. Today is the first day of the month of Khordad. According to our calendar, this is when the third month of the year begins. I have to pay my rent. I have been putting money aside for 10 days, but I'm still short by $64. I will probably have to ask a close relative for money. He works as a high-school teacher, and he is more than 40 years old and still unmarried, because he can't afford a family. He will help me. But my landlord will terminate my lease if I owe him anything. I've only had the shop for half a year.

I used to earn a decent living as a courier and with a small transport business. But my vehicle was stolen, which put an end to that job. Things also get stolen in my shop. There were two women here today asking for toothpaste. It wasn't until after they had gone that I realized that they had stolen toothbrushes, hidden underneath their chadors.

We only manage to survive thanks to our savings and my wife's job. Laila works at a bank, where she earns $300 a month. We pay $450 for our three-room apartment in a modest neighborhood. And then we pay $50 for water, electricity and the phone. Our daughter Roja's education costs another $100, even though she attends a government school. And then we need $300 for food, beverages and clothing. My wife performs the impressive task of keeping house with very little money. And I'm ashamed to look my daughter in the eye, because she hasn't gotten anything new in such a long time.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

+++ For the 13th anniversary of the election of the so-called reform president, Mohammad Khatami, most newspapers address the political divide within the country. A headline in the hard-line conservative paper Resalat reads: "The Leaders of the Reform Movement Must Be Banned Forever from the Institutions of Power." The newspaper calls the movement radical and says that it has gone astray.

The moderate newspaper Mardomsalari defends Khatami's election. With his election, "the nation initiated the transformation of the historic will of the Iranian people" towards democracy and freedom; this important date will never be forgotten, the paper writes. +++

Ana Ghazwahanian, the artist. I often work with dead trees by the roadside. They are the material for my sculptures. The sight of a woman in work clothing, wielding a saw and a drill, always attracts attention. But I haven't had any problems yet with the morality police, who make sure that we abide by the "Islamic Order."

I leave my house very early in the morning to sketch three trees at Tajrish Square. As always, I am dressed very modestly when I go to work. Nevertheless, a female officer from the morality police tells me that my coat is open too far at the bottom, even though it's buttoned all the way down to the last button. She offers me a needle so that I can close up the last bit down to the seam. I don't want any trouble, so I comply.


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