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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Undesirables

Pedram Moallemian • May 14, 2003

By the time I was finally able to go for a visit back to Iran in 1995, my grandfather had already surrendered his life for over a decade. I never got a chance to say goodbye to him when I left Iran, as I departed under rather temporary intentions. A brief trip that turned into a lingering existence. He passed away shortly after I left, although the family kept the news away from me for a year. I was never particularly close to my grandfather. By the time I had started to develop a personality and find out who I was, he was rapidly deteriorating as a result of worsening Parkinson's disease along with aftereffects of a major stroke. Most of my memories of him consist of him trying to remember who I was and me getting so excited when he remembered I didn't like salads but loved plain cucumbers with salt sprinkled on top.

Naturally one of the first places I wanted to visit was his burial place. I needed to tell him that despite our distance and disassociation, I loved him oh so much. So, shortly after arrival and despite other relative's grumblings about the short trip, I went there.

However, the experience turned into something completely unexpected very quickly.

After visiting his grave we went to my great-grandmother's site (another very important person in my life whom I will write about when appropriate) as well as a cousin's. They are both buried in one of the newer sections of Tehran's main cemetery. A busy part with plenty of people around, fancier headstones, flower pots and lots of "professional prayer readers" looking to bless your beloved's graves for a small donation.

Off to the one side, was the "martyr's section". This is an even fancier sub-section with flags and picture frames and tons of rose-water washed headstones, sweets and dates left as offerings by families and a sizable audio speaker system broadcasting mostly Koran readings and other prayers. This is where mostly the victims of the awful 8 year long Iran-Iraq war are buried.

On the other side though the picture was very different. Another section almost entirely void of any headstones, just markers with numbers and letters, no flowers, no tiled walkways and no families or other visitors. I knew what it was but I still started walking that way. My uncle nervously caught up to stop me. His voice was shaking as he pointed to a couple of revolutionary guard types who had noticed my move towards there and were starting to head towards us. "This is the monafeghin section" he said, using the derogatory term regime uses for People's Mojahedin Organization (also called MKO), as one of the guards was close enough to hear him. I just pointed to him to go back to be with everyone else and continued walking over to this gravelly section.

I was trying to take as much in as possible before being interrupted. A few modest headstones that were put on certain graves a long ago, had been vandalized, damaged and broken. Some had only a first name scribbled on a small rock. One had left a small flower pot, but the little plant had died many days ago. I could feel both guards getting closer and closer but was trying to zigzag my way around, not making eye-contact and going as deep as I could.

One finally reached me asking rather politely "do you have someone buried here?". I played stupid saying I don't know, I was just coming back to Iran after so many years and am looking all over the cemetery for relative's names. He said "you won't find anyone here". I continued playing dumb and asked why?. He said "these are all e'damies (executed ones)". I kept a straight face asking "e'damie?". The second guy that was older, maybe 20, said in a harsher voice "yes them". I briefly looked at the submachine guns they had swung over their shoulders in a somewhat relaxed fashion and decided to dig deeper. "have they executed anyone?" I asked. The second guy said "of course baba (a friendly slang term, meaning father but used variably), where have you been?"

I knew neither one was old enough to have been part of or even remember the bulk of the executions in the 80's, so I asked "how many?". The second guy was obviously starting to get irritated and said "how do I know? but I tell you this much, I heard on the days of executions, there were piles of executed prisoner's sandals stacked up to the ceiling". I looked down. On a small stone somebody had scribed "Sasan S.". A few other white stones had outlined a square around my feet. I was standing on Sasan S.'s grave. Suddenly I remembered one Sasan I had gone to school with. He was also of the "monafeghin" and had disappeared right after the crackdown on political groups. I'm certain it wasn't him, his last initial wasn't 'S' but then again it might as well be. For if it wasn't our Sasan, it was another Sasan. A young man, full of love for his people and country, now buried amongst the "undesirables".

I must've gone into a long period of silence with the flood of thoughts going through my head, as the first guy grabbed my arm and said "come, you need to get out of here. If our superior sees you, we'll both be in trouble". I started walking away still in a comma-like state of numbness. I will never forget that day.



What reminded me of that day was a series of pictures by a fellow Iranian blogger, published on a Persian bi-weekly webzine called 7sang (or seven stones). They are of Khavaran Cemetery outside Tehran. This is the burial place for "undesirable" non-Muslims. There is a section for Bahai's for example. But this is also where the "infidel" execution victims, mostly communists and non-religious ones are buried. It resembles ruins of an old yard more than anything, no flowers, paved sections, proper headstones. No fanfare at all. See the complete set here and here.

You can read more of Pedram Moallemian at his weblog, the eyeranian



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I have spent
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in opposition, and
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Index: Current Articles

19 May 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Disappearing the Truth
Anthony McIntyre


The Undesirables
Pedram Moallemian


Shadowy Forces

Eamonn McCann


The Adventures of
Steak Knife
Brian Mór


The Death of Cu Chulainn
Brian Mór


Henri Lefebvre - French Marxist Humanist
Liam O Ruairc


What They Say
Annie Higgins


15 May 2003


Who Knew - Who Knows - Who Will Tell?
Anthony McIntyre


'Stakeknife' cuts both ways
Brendan O'Neill


Be neither shocked nor awed

Mick Finnegan


Stake Knife Logo
Brian Mór


SAS Stake Knife
Brian Mór


Super Stake Knife
Brian Mór


How Stakeknife paved way to defeat for IRA
Anthony McIntyre


'Palestine: It's hell'
IPSC Event




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