Iran: Last Man Standing

After spending years inside various prisons across Iran due to my opposition against the regime, in 2008 I was transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran. Entering ward 209 I saw three middle-aged men with long beards and very wooly hair, with a difficult accent that made it hard to understand what Farsi they were speaking. However, very soon I realized that all three were young men in their 20s and 30s from the province of Sistan & Baluchistan whose locals have suffered much.
The name of one of these young men was Behzad, and he was very quiet and calm. When I first met him he welcomed me very kindly and with his small and not-so sharp scissors he began cutting my hair. On that day I began talking with Behzad, and it was then when I realized that behind this very calm and quiet face there was actually a large wrath waiting to roar. Behzad Narouie was a local of the brave people of Baluchistan in southeastern Iran.

“Do you know that I am the last man in my family and the entire tribe?” he asked with a smile.
I looked at him in shock.
“No! I am not kidding. I am involved in an all-out war against the regime. Not many actually know what is truly going on in Sistan & Baluchistan. Everyone thinks there is a group that is fighting the regime. It is not like this at all. There is an ongoing war of survival between the people and the regime,” he continued.
“What do you mean?” I asked very curiously.
“People in my province have to fight to have an ordinary life, because the regime has literally declared war on the people, and they have robbed us of everything… take me for example,” he explained.
A small tattoo on his hand came to my attention: “Uncle Farrokh, you live on”
“I was still a little kid when the Revolutionary Guards opened fire on my father as he was driving a truck and transferring goods to Pakistan. On that day I was a very small child and I don’t remember much, until it became my uncles’ turn. I remember teasing my little sister, Maheen, as she was playing. I said I am going to tell on you to our uncle. Then she looked at me with a deep face and said, ‘But we don’t have an uncle anymore. Uncle Taregh was our last uncle,’” he continued.
As he was telling his story Behzad’s back was to a prison guard who had now entered the ward and was staring at us.
“However, it was a completely different story in 1988. On a spring day Uncle Farrokh came to our home. He was staring at me and my sister, Maheen… My mom had brought him some tea and sweets as he had travelled a long distance. Maheen and I loved our uncle very much because his was the only male voice we heard in our house. I didn’t want to play at all, and I was trying to focus on the whispers I heard between my mother and uncle. Suddenly this thought came to my mind that what would we do if we didn’t have Uncle Farrokh? I don’t know, and all of a sudden my eyes were full of tears. Little Maheen wiped away my tears with her small hands. Then I rushed to Uncle Farrokh and began hugging his strong legs with all my might. Oh God! How would it be if I was this strong? All of a sudden the door in our yard opened with a loud noise, and the agents with their green uniforms raided our home. My little sister began screaming. My mother began weeping and I couldn’t tolerate it anymore.
“My uncle began shouting, ‘You bastards, take me, what have they done?’
“A rifle stock blow to my strong uncle’s head forced him to the ground. He was smiling at me while his head was bleeding. He wouldn’t say a thing about his pains and they began cuffing his hands. He looked at me and Maheen, closed his eyes and we could still see his smile. When he was being taken away he shouted, ‘Behzad! You are now the last man of the family.’
“My mother began hugging me and Maheen.
“I said, ‘Mom, don’t worry. We will go and visit Uncle Farrokh as we did in the past. Again he will start making funny faces from behind the glass.’
“Mom didn’t say anything. My emotions truly wouldn’t let me breath. All of a sudden we heard a gunshot very close to us. Mom rushed to the door. Maheen began screaming and my tears started pouring down again. We reached the nearby alley. Uncle Farrokh was there. The agents had gone. My Uncle Farrokh, with his eyes blindfolded, was lying on the ground. Right on his blindfold was the spot where he was shot. Right next to us in that alley. Our neighbor, an old lady, was pulling her white hair and screaming, ‘The killed our champion.’”
This is where the story ended. Behzad had finished cutting my hair.
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I could understand his emotions.
“And what did the last man of the family do?” I asked.
I couldn’t hear his voice as Behzad was deep in his thoughts.
“And what did that last man do?” I asked again.
I didn’t receive an answer, and when I looked at Behzad he was wiping off his tears…
After being released from prison in 2008 in a state-run newspaper I read that three “terrorists” were hanged in Zahedan, southeast Iran, and Behzad Narouie was the third name on that list.
All of a sudden I remembered his words when we were saying goodbye before my release from prison:
“If I go, my sister Maheen will follow my path. This is our destiny.”
And this last man guaranteed his eternity in such a way.

By: Assadollah Nabavi

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