A letter of suffering by Bahareh Maghami, a squished corn-poppy of Iran, a victim of rape in prison
Even though I turned into Autumn I am more beautiful now
A letter of suffering by Bahareh, victim of rape arrested in July 2009 at Ghoba Mosque
“My name is Bahar (Spring in Persian). It’s Spring and I write to you of flowers but flowers with scattered petals. I write to you of the green and of sprouts but squashed sprouts, trampled on by hatred, the hatred towards beauty and whatever is beautiful as displayed by ugly souls, the hatred towards those who seek justice by a bunch of sell outs. I write to you of those who are not real men.
My name is Bahareh Maghami, 28 years old and there is nothing left of me and no reason to hide my name anymore. I have lost all who were important to me one day. I have lost relatives and friends, neighbors and companions, coworkers and colleagues. I have lost them all. Those who pretend to be men stole it all from me so unfairly. They stole my life. Now that I have left the country, I want to share my pain with someone, even if only once. I also like to ask other friends who have experienced a similar painful fate to write. They must write what happened to them. Even if they fear their lives or dignity, they should use anonymous names but they must write. They must write so that history is aware of what happened to our generation; to this grief-stricken generation. They must write so that those who come after us and live in a free Iran know what price was paid for their freedom; how many lives were burnt and how hopes vanished; they must know about the broken backs and bent knees!
When my father found out, his back broke. He was shattered into pieces. My mom aged a hundred years overnight. My brother: I still haven’t been able to look into my brother’s eyes and he doesn’t look at me either; he doesn’t want me to suffer any more than I already have. When he found out, it was like they took away his manhood. When he found out that there are people who pretend to be men but the only thing left of it is their genitals, he began to hate his own manhood. For them dignity, nobility and chastity have no meaning. I was a first grade teacher. I was teaching the little flowers of our country how to read and write. I was teaching them “Dad brought water”, “That man comes”, “That man brings bread”. For me the image of a man was the kind breadwinner. I was waiting for him to arrive. And now that image has changed. He is angry and blinded by his desires. I cannot rid myself of his infectious smell of sweat. I am always scared of him coming back. I jump out of bed in the middle of the night fearing his footsteps. My whole body shakes with the smallest sounds and my heart starts beating faster fearing his arrival. I am always ready to escape. I leave the lights on at nights and I pass the days with tears and grief!
Our house was situated at “Kargar Shomali” street. I had gone to Ghoba Mosque with my brother when I was arrested. They beat me and took me away and they destroyed me. As our old poet Hafez says: they did what the Mongolians did!
Some had broken arms, some had broken legs and some had broken backs. Still others like me had broken spirits. Shattered spirits. As if my whole humanity was taken away from me. I used to be a Spring. I am now dead. I am a squashed corn-poppy.
I would like to ask those who read this letter that if they know someone who is like me, a victim of rape, to be kinder towards them. Sympathize with them. The issue for me and people like me is that in our culture rape is not just a blow to one person. It’s a blow to his whole family and clan. A victim of rape is never healed by passing of time. With every look of her father, the wounds open again. Her heart breaks again with every drop of her mother’s tears. The relatives, friends, neighbors and everyone cuts off their relations. We were forced to sell our house way below market price and moved to Karaj (a suburb of Tehran). But we didn’t last there either. The agents found our new address quickly and were monitoring us. They would stand in the corner of our street and would smirk at my father every time he passed by. We left everything behind and immigrated. At their old age, my parents became refugees at a camp. I can easily say that the cultural wounds were much harder to deal with than the physical ones. Many people smile when they hear about rape! I swear that there is nothing funny about rape! It’s about the suffering of a simple family; it’s about a young girl or boy who loses his or her diginty; breaking the dignity of love is not funny. Those who raped me would laugh! there were three of them. All three were dirty and wore a beard. They had a terrible accent and foul mouths. They would swear at my whole family. Even though they saw that I was a virgin, they accused me of being a whore and forced me to sign admitting that I was a prostitute. I am not ashamed to say it anymore. Not only am I not ashamed, I am even proud to say it: they called me a whore. They said: sign this you whore! I told them that I was a teacher and I wouldn’t sign. They said they had three just witnesses who had seen me sleep with three people in one night and I told them that I have 30 witnesses that I am a teacher and if this is what has happened to me, it was through their own fault. They laughed it off saying: well it’s not so bad for you afterall! your pay has now increased! That’s how worthless the privacy and dignity of people is to them. And that’s how empty words like modesty and chastity are to them. They had not seen these virtues. They didn’t have them. All women were whores to them. It wasn’t only women. They did not even pass up on men. They weren’t human beings. They were suffering from self-subordination. They had turned into perverted animals who knew nothing but to destroy all beauties. Sometimes I see people cursing at the mothers and sisters of these people. These creatures will not even pass up on their own mothers and sisters. I feel sorry for those who have to live with these rabid animals all their lives. My front teeth broke and my shoulder was displaced; my womanhood was destroyed. I know that I will never be able to love a man; I will never be able to get close to a man and to trust him. I realize that my land bears many brave men who have also suffered but for me real men and pretend men are the same. My life as a woman has reached an end and I am like a walking dead. But I write. I write in order to regain my livelihood. I write that I was a teacher, turned into a prostitute and I am a writer now. I write that I was Bahar (Spring), and although I turned into Autumn, I am more beautiful for it. I am a beautiful whore; I turned into the outcast in our neighborhood; I turned into a teacher without a classroom; I became the subject of ridicule; sentenced to loneliness; immersed into the injustices of the oppressors; For the Islamic Republic I became the woman with her hair cut, her arms broken and with her face bloodied. So I am proud to be a whore for freedom. I know that I am not alone. I hear their voices; in the next cells; when my lifeless and useless body was on the floor I would hear these pretend-men display their manhood many times. I ask all people who have suffered like me to write. They need to shout out their sufferings however they can because these are the same pains that Sadegh Hedayat (contemporary writer) referred to as ‘pains that chew at people’s souls’. Let it all come out. Let everyone know. You should realize that you are not alone. There are many like me and you. We all share this pain.
This letter of suffering is much longer than this. But I end it with one sentence. I am directly addressing Mr. Khamenei: ‘You consider yourself as the father of this nation. I was a daughter of Iran. Your sons raped me. Who will pay for my lost dignity?’
April 2010, Germany
Translated by Tour Irani
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