Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Lullaby Cracking Prison Walls

May 9, 2010 was supposed to be a happy day.

I was recently engaged and was happily putting together an application for a job. A radio station I don’t usually listen to was on. I can’t remember what motivated me to go to the Radio Farda website and click on “listen,” but that’s what I did.

The first thing I heard was that Farzad Kamangar—whose letters and news I had been following—  was executed, along with four others: Shirin Alam-Holi, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili and Mehdi Islamian.

Iran said they had to die because they were enemies of God.

Khalil Bahrami, Kamangar’s lawyer said there was zero evidence brought against Kamangar, that the summary trial was held behind closed doors and lasted less than five minutes.

An electric shock went through my body as I am sure it went through millions of people around the world who had followed Farzad’s news and letters.

My tears had no reason to roll down since I did not know any of these people and they were neither the first, nor the last Kurds executed by the Iranian government.

But the injustice towards Kamangar triggered the historic pain-body in me, a painful history of oppression that lives within every aware Kurd. I gave in to hours of incontrollable sobs and my tears smudged the words I had been trying to write.

Later I met one of Farzad Kamangar’s inmates, Arash Alaie, also a Kurd who now resides in the United States. His tears rolled down when he remembered Farzad. Arash said that he was teaching Farzad English, that Farzad was full of hope and was making plans for when he was released. He said nobody expected that he would be killed.

Kamangar has been truly influential. His letters were widely spread on the internet and moved many people. 'Is it possible to carry the heavy burden of being a teacher and be responsible for spreading the seeds of knowledge and still be silent? Is it possible to see the lumps in the throats of the students and witness their thin and malnourished faces and keep quiet? Is it possible to be in the year of no justice and fairness and fail to teach the H for Hope and E for Equality, even if such teachings land you in Evin prison or result in your death?'

So, what are you and I to do with the unbearable pain of so much injustice against our people?

What should we do when we don’t want to turn a blind eye to the atrocities happening around the world? How are we to read the bitter narrative of this world?

 Is what happened to this Farzad and many others, part of a bigger narrative that can provide context and offer meaning? Justification? In a world of contradictions, the sublime and the hideous, how are we to face the complications, adapt, and yet again recover the eagerness to push on towards creating a better place?

Art and literature. That is the answer that came back to me.

Artists and writers disrobe the fully-dolled-up-world, cultivate senses by exposing the magnificence and the repugnant, humanize the “other” and encourage people to reflect, to negate the negative. Art fuels us to become humane, to stay humane.

Embittered by the writing industry, I had given up writing for a few months when Farzad was killed but that day I picked up my pen again and have never put it down since.

Shortly after, Novel Rights, an online publishing house that utilizes literature to raise awareness published my story, “Lullaby,” written based on Farzad’s letters from prison. “Lullaby” is my fictional account of how Farzad felt and what he did before and during the execution,

This is what Novel Rights does: when they want people to learn about Kurds, rather than giving them a soulless account of facts, they present the audience with a strong story or poetry about Kurds.

“Can you hear it?  That is the sound of the secret history of the Kurds. It sounds just like a lullaby passing through cracks in concrete walls. 

Farzad Kamangar, a village teacher labelled terrorist, counts those cracks, argues innocence and shares the hopeful sweetness of homemade chocolates with his fellow prisoners.  

“Under ropes, the chocolates melt in our mouths...”and we, the readers hear through the cracks.”

Hear it here: the lullaby of legendary:

The article was originally published at

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