I was listening to my cellmate’s lullaby, he was singing for his daughters Parya and Zahra. His melancholic lullaby was followed by the sobs of another cellmate, and I burst into tears too. It was the second time that he was arrested. The first time, he was sentenced to one year in jail, and this time he has to serve another 10 years. All his joy and excitement was about seeing his children who would visit him on Monday.
On the day of the visit, the children, without caring that they were surrounded by people and before their parents’ eyes (and in the middle of the seats and chairs of the visit hall), jumped up and down and performed hand stands to show their father their progressing athletic abilities.
The father, who was proud of his children, wore a smile. The mother, with her innocent expression, was trying to deny her pain of solitude and expectation. She was looking at her husband with joy and at her children’s excitement with love.
And I, who had been away from the school environment for months, kept staring at Parya and Zahra, and would tell my mother about them. One of the most memorable moments which has been carved in my mind is the moment this family spent together.
They were as though in a vacuum, in the heavens, in a place outside this world, not surrounded by anyone. They only had their compassion for each other. Without paying attention to the guards, the walls, and other prisoners, they shared their smiles. I always hope to see Parya and Zahra outside prison, or wish that they were able to visit thirty minutes longer. As they said their farewell, I tried not to look at them, so that the spectacular moment of their reunion would be etched in my mind forever. The beautiful girls mocked the fake world around their father with every move and jump.
The fate of children like Zahra and Parya is the story of our time. It has been written for years now, and every day, another Zahra and Parya visit their father. Or a child like “Ava” would sit next to the Haft-Seen table (The table arrangement made by Iranians for Norooz), sing to her fish, and cry,“This year daddy is in jail!”
I saw Parya and Zahra about to depart, still holding on to their father’s hand. They walked toward the exit with a smile on their face as though they were going to the fair.
I wanted to hold their hands too and share their joy. Before the father said goodbye, I turned my face so I would not be able to see his tearful eyes. However, now, I was watching the tearful eyes of my mother who was getting ready to separate from her son. I mimicked Parya and Zahra in my embrace with my mother.
When Parya and Zahra were calling us, I couldn’t keep my eyes away anymore. The two angels waved at me. They are angels, except that they don’t have wings.
Farzad Kamangar Evin Prison March 10, 2010
Farzad Kamangar is a teacher who worked in the poor areas of Kurdistan. He is a human rights and environmental activist. He was arrested, subjected to torture, and sentenced to death in a trial that lasted less than three minutes.