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June 21, 2009

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I feel sick.

This is very, very moving. I confess that I am skeptical that the woman who made this post last night happened to be the sister of the most prominent victim today, so I don't take the post at face value. Perhaps the woman who was shot preferred to wear the hijab in public, perhaps what she really wanted was a son, or something else entirely. Howeverm this message makes her seem more human than the mere video could. Perhaps that is enough.

I wish I were better at appreciating poetry, because Forough Farrokhzad seems to be worth that effort.

She's not saying she's her biological sister. She means it either in a poetic, solidarity kind of a way, or else if Iranian culture is anything like Arabic culture, then it is common for men to call each other 'brother' and for women to call each other 'sister', which is theoretically a Muslim custom, but I don't know if it is common beyond the Arab world.

It took me a few repetitions of "my sister" before I realized it wasn't meant literally.

I have to say, the poetical meaning of "my sister" didn't really get through to me until I read byrningman's comment, perhaps because I took it literally when the writer claimed to know about the desires, ambitions, and favorite authors of the victim.

Now that I have read byrningman's comment, the letter becomes much more moving for me, because I was previously having a reaction somewhat like J. Michael Neal's.

The Persian poet Rumi wrote this 800 years ago, and as I read it this morning I thought of the young Iranian woman whose life was stolen yesterday:

"Who is the self? A delicate girl that flows out when we draw the sword of selfless action."

(from the poem "A Delicate Girl").

Thoughts and prayers to the Iranian people.

I didn't know who Forough was. My loss

Me neither, and thank you for posting this.

Because the US govt. has little if any positive leverage in Iran, it is easy to feel helpless while watching events unfold. But there is one area in which we are most definitely not helpless, and that is to use things like these deeply moving letters, and pointers to aspects of Persian culture which we were previously unfamiliar with (such as the poetry of Forough), to humanize the Iranians in our eyes and in the eyes of our fellow citizens here in the US to whom we can forward these things.

Spread them far and wide. Every American who reads this sort of stuff is somebody who potentially may be less inclined to think of "Iran" as an abstract proper noun, and more as a collection of real people, who have lives and culture, hopes and dreams, favorite poems and concerns about the width of their eyebrows (what a very human touch, that).

Perhaps that will not make a difference in future relations between our two nations, but it seems to me that it cannot hurt, and might help. I'm reminded of the incident during WW2 when Secty of War Henry Stimson removed Kyoto from the list of cities on the atomic bomb targeting list, because he knew enough about Japanese culture to make a point of resisting the idea of destroying a place with such deep historical and cultural resonance.

If at some future time and place there is an American who is making decisions that dramatically effects the relationship between us and Iran, and that person knows something of Persian poetry because of the story of this woman and her "sister" and small seeds of sympathy for them spread in the wind, then regardless of what else happens in Iran over the coming days and weeks, perhaps something good will have come of this tragedy to help in some small way to redeem it. Perhaps.

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