Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4

Anonymous sent me this picture of Neda Agha-Soltan's grave in Iran. She was 26 years old, a student of philosophy and music, killed by government goons for marching in the election protests a few weeks ago. Only her immediate family was permitted to attend her funeral.

As I sit here on Independence Day, drinking my coffee, planning ahead for a day of good food and idle fun with Cheryl and her folks, I'm reading about more forced confessions from Iran, including one from the former vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who has been a critic of current government policies. Many other people, professionals and intellectuals, have been arrested and tortured and forced to make tearful confessions.

In the New York Times today:
The [Iranian] government has made it a practice to publicize confessions from political prisoners held without charge or legal representation, often subjected to pressure tactics like sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and torture, according to human rights groups and former political prisoners. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of people have been detained.

History plays this song over and over: a government, feeling threatened, makes dissent a crime and resorts to imprisonment and torture. Then, in months or years, the people rise up and replace the government.

It's important, on July 4, to keep this in mind. When the government here begins to engage in techniques like sleep deprivation and other torture, for whatever reason, it is time to take notice. When the government invades the privacy of citizens, it is time to take notice. When political demonstrators are silenced and arrested just because they are inconvenient to one political party or another, it is time to take notice. When religious nuts get elected, we need to keep an eye on them. When torture become a solution for anything, we need to examine it closely, make sure that existing laws are applied, and send the violators to jail, especially if the violators are (or were) government officials. Otherwise, history will repeat itself here.

It's time for another cup of coffee and to remind myself how lucky I am to live in a peaceful place, lucky and free to write to write down whatever comes to mind; grateful also, knowing that I have done little or nothing to actually deserve my good fortune. I am lucky and thankful for this moment in time.

I try to imagine how I would feel if my sister or daughter were buried in that lonely patch of gravel and dirt. I wonder if I would write these words if I thought I would be arrested. What, and miss the cookout today?


  1. I thought you'd like my reserch.

  2. Richard B. TurnageJuly 9, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    such a shame, what a lovely person!