Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Our Mutual Friend (not about the book) (09/15/11)
TITLE: Our Friend Najmeh
By Karen Pourbabaee
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The scent of rose and jasmine ascended from the verdant oasis as I sipped tea with my dear friends Najmeh and Shirin , sharing alarming stories of the past few weeks on the streets of Tehran. Here in my parent’s courtyard we were sheltered from the ominous outside world, where trickling waters from the tiled fountain brought a feigned sense of tranquility. The climate was changing quickly.
“Mariam, this is about more than the fraudulent presidential election. Our generation has seen nothing but this radical, brutal Islamic regime controlling every aspect of our lives, disregarding people’s dignity and welfare…all in the name of Allah, “ Najmeh shared.
“Bali…bali…I am very disturbed too, Najmeh, but what can we do?“ I questioned .
“I hear many women are marching in the streets, too. Have you heard they are calling our cause the Green Movement?” added Shirin.
“Yes, the movement will persevere until it succeeds! My cousin Ali has been on the streets and I want to join him. What do you think? Will you come?” challenged Najmeh , pulling her arm out from her chador to display a vibrant green wristband, a symbol of the movement.
Dusk was falling as shots of gunfire resonated from nearby streets. Soon the smell of bonfires and pepper gas and the sounds of screaming people being relentlessly attacked would infiltrate our oasis.
“It is treacherous out there, Najmeh. Our parents would absolutely forbid it!” declared Shirin.
“Here are your green wristbands…think about it. Call you with the plans, ” Najmeh said emphatically as she exited the courtyard door.
“See you tomorrow, Shirin, at the café on Vali Asr? I will text Najmeh.”
“Enshallah! Hope to see Najmeh too.”
Later in the evening and throughout the night, people ascended to their rooftops shouting “Allah-o-akbar!”, an act of defiance yet a call of assurance that God is on our side. I finally drifted off, wondering what tomorrow would bring.
“Salom, Shirin. Did you realize the government disabled cell phones by noon today? I couldn’t text Najmeh.”
“Yes, cell phones are the only way the movement can organize itself and they know that.”
Shortly after our tea and baklava had been served, we spied Najmeh’s cousin, Ali, rushing toward us.
“I couldn’t save her!” Ali cried out frantically.
“What are you talking about?” questioned Shirin.
“Najmeh has been arrested today… at the march at Sharif University this morning. “
“God help her! How did it happen, Ali?” I asked.
“We were marching silently and suddenly the basiji pulled her from the crowd , beating her with batons. They held me back as she was taken away! I am so afraid to tell our parents. Can your father help, Mariam?”
“Phones are cut off but let’s go quickly. He should be home for lunch. As a lawyer he has dealt with the Revolutionary Guard who operate the prisons. I pray he can free her.”
We reached my father at home and Ali relayed all the details of Najmeh’s arrest.
“There are planned marches this afternoon at Azadi Square and other locations. Promise me all of you will stay here and I will do my best for Najmeh’s release,” my father warned.
“Yes, baba, God be with you.”
We waited anxiously in our sheltered oasis. Not even the sound of trickling waters could bring relaxation. With each passing hour, street noises escalated, compounding our fears. We wondered, what would become of our society? Would Najmeh and so many others be released from the oppressive grip of this evil regime? Would the Green Movement prevail? Could we live one day in a just and democratic land?
I jumped at the click of the courtyard door opening. Father stepped into the courtyard… alone.
“Baba, what happened?”
“I saw Najmeh at the prison. She was shaken, but OK. I initiated paperwork for her release, but it may be a few days.”
“Thanks, baba , for helping our friend.”
“Come , Ali, we will go to speak with Najmeh’s parents and give them report on my work on their daughter’s behalf.”
Twilight transformed into night with its effervescent light display, the stars reminding me of an inspiring proverb.
“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars,” I shared. (1)
“ Beautiful, Mariam…I hope Najmeh will be watching the stars with us soon.”
Chants of “God is Great” pierced the night air from surrounding rooftops .
“Surely our strong God can send us a savior, Shirin.”
“Surely, He can…”
(1) Quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson
(2) Farsi language translations: bali=yes, chador= Islamic female head and body covering, enshallah= God willing, Allah-o-akbar= God is great, salom=hello,
basiji= volunteer militia forces , baba=father
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