Tehran Diary 'We Drink to the Freedom that Will Come One Day'


Part 3: 'Reality Is Like a Hammer Falling on Your Head'

Monday, June 27, 2011

Oil Minister Mohammed Aliabadi acknowledges differences of opinion with Saudi Arabia within OPEC, because Riyadh , unlike Tehran , is willing to increase production to avert further price increases. Iran's parliament, the Majlis, votes to summon President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad within a month so that he can account for his controversial policy before the members. The director of the renowned Sharif University in Tehran announces that male and female first-year students will attend separate lectures and classes.

Kouhyar Goudarzi, the activist. I made phone calls on the Internet all night long. It's very cheap and the advantage is that it isn't so easy to listen in on conversations. There is a lot to discuss, and we want to keep it to ourselves.

Today is visiting day at Evin Prison. The family members return at around noon and report that the prisoners have ended their hunger strike. Now I can eat something again. I treat myself to a hamburger.

I still have to prepare a few workshops I plan to give. In the seminars, fellow human rights activists learn how to behave during interrogations and how best to survive solitary confinement. Some friends and I are also preparing an event on the death penalty. This is important in a country where more people are still being hung than elsewhere in the world, often in public.

We celebrate in the evening, even though I don't have the time. I urgently need to earn some money by translating articles about information technology. But we are so happy about the hunger strike coming to an end. We drink to the political prisoners, and to the martyrs of our movement, like Neda and Hoda. We drink to the freedom that will most certainly come one day.

Massih Talebian, the engineer. There is trouble in the office again. A company in Europe is refusing to ship us a device for a gas facility. The company is not allowed to ship it to Iran, but then it agrees to at least ship it to an address in Dubai. Everything has to be paid for in advance, however. The Iranian company doesn't want to pay until the product has arrived in our port city, Bandar Abbas. What on earth can I do? My Iranian customers are in denial about the embargo.

I forget about the problem for a while and look forward to spending the afternoon in a literature workshop, where the Japanese poems known as haiku will be read. I am comforted by verses like one by Kobayashi Issa: "In this world we walk on the roof of hell, gazing at flowers."

Ghazaleh Zarea, the social worker. I apply for a permanent job at various companies. As soon as the men discover that I am a civic-minded woman, my prospects disappear. At home, I am writing my screenplay project about three generations of women. I paid for the printing costs of my last book out of my own pocket. But as an author I'm not giving up hope.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On state television, the military shows underground silos for missiles, including the Shahab-3, which, with a range of almost 2,000 kilometers, is capable of reaching Israel . The government refuses to meet with the new UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran . It views his appointment as a "political measure" by the United States , claiming its sole purpose is to criticize Tehran .

Massih Talebian, the engineer. My wife's real estate company will probably sell an apartment in Niavaran, a very upscale neighborhood where the palaces of the shah, who was deposed in 1979, are located. The 500-square-meter (5,400-square-foot) penthouse is priced at the equivalent of €3.5 million. I'd like to know who has that much money and how you make it. In any case, it'll yield a handsome commission.

I'm worried about our company. My contacts at the government-owned companies are constantly sending me lists of equipment they urgently need. But they really ought to know that we can't get many of these things because they fall under the embargo. These lists go to so many Iranian companies, who then all try to get the equipment, that our business has become very tough.

Samaneh Ahmadian, the artist. Reality is like a hammer falling on your head. Now they want to hold lectures separated by gender at our university. Either only men or only women would attend lectures on certain days of the week. This is supposed to happen throughout the entire country. I can't believe it.

Ghazaleh Zarea, the social worker. On the way to the bank, where I plan to apply for a loan for our charitable organization, I look at the faces of many mothers and fathers whose children aren't getting enough to eat. I talk to a nine-year-old girl who doesn't go to school at all. She helps her mother with odd jobs in a restaurant. The father fell from scaffolding while on the job. Now the mother has to support all four children, and none of them is going to school. They have no money to buy the books.


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