Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reza Baraheni: "A Minor Mistake in Evin Prison"

If you are anything like me you have read your fair share of really dark literature which outlines the absolute worst in our species.  Often, there is also this stream of light which manages to to break through, but the darkness is very often given the major portion of the story line.  In reality, it seems to me that the kindness in human nature is much more prevalent than the darkness.

I've been reading a book, Another Sky: Voice of Consciences from Around the World.  Though these essays and excerpts from those imprisoned, persecuted and executed for their writings contain unimaginable horror and insight, many of them have such profound moments of compassion.

One essay in particular comes to mind.  Reza Baraheni, the ethnic Azerbaijani Iranian born former head of PEN Canada, and organization devoted to freeing writers held due to their beliefs.  Baraheni was also Professor of English at Tehran University and has taught at a number of other universities in the U.S and the U.K.  He was also imprisoned during the time of the Shah in the 70's and during the Islamic Republic in the 80's.

In this book, he tells a story of a mix-up at Iran's Evin Prison.  Through blindfolded confusion, he ended up in the line of prisoners headed for execution, but he himself had not actually gone to the court yet and was due for further interrogation.  He voiced his confusion to the prisoner walking immediately behind him.  This prisoner realized that Baraheni had no idea he was in the execution line and urged Baraheni to shout to the guards.  After numerous efforts to convince the guards, he was successful.

The prisoner behind Baraheni took enormous risk.  At one point he stated: "Do what you can to stay alive.  We've lost our lives, perhaps for a reason.  But why should you lose yours?" (p. 7).  During this whole event, the guards were continuously shouting for them to be quiet.  The prisoner could have been taken back for further torture or a slower death than the gun would provide.  But, he didn't.

This is an element of human nature worth remembering.  During the worst of disasters, in the worst of circumstances there are always those caring for others.

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