"I have never been a person who would stoop to self-censoring and will never be," wrote young Iranian blogger Omid-Reza Mir-Sayafi on his blog in 2006. "I'd rather not write at all if I have to stop being frank and honest in my words."
Mir-Sayafi died on Wednesday in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison, where he was serving a two and a half year sentence for allegedly "insulting Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader Khamenei" and posting "seditious" materials on his blog.
The young man's doctor, Dr. Hesam Firouzi (who is jailed in the same prison for allegedly "propagating against the state") described his condition as "not at all fit for confinement." Mir-Sayafi should have been hospitalized right away, according to Dr Firouzi. "All they did was to refer him to the prison's psychiatrist, who gave him some medication with which Omid-Reza finally took his own life."
Dr. Firouzi blames prison officials for the blogger's death. "Despite all my pleas they did not take him to a hospital," he explained while describing the scene after Mir-Sayafi passed out. "They did not even do anything in the prison's infirmary. And I had to wash his stomach and inject the ampules myself. But it was too late."
Mir-Sayafi's blog, like its author, is no longer accessible. But with some searching one can find an archive containing the blogposts that led to his imprisonment. Browsing the archive reveals that Mir-Sayafi's main area of expertise was traditional Persian music. But he also wrote poetry and penned articles for Farsi electronic art journals. He was apparently well known in Iranian intelligentsia circles.
I never knew or met the deceased. But discovering his writings has, for me, brought him to life. There is a poetic melancholy haunting his postings, as in this excerpt: "I feel like a stranger in my own house...Is it really the ancient Persia I am living in? Is it the land of Cyrus the Great?... It must be a nightmare I am having. This is not Persia. This is the Islamic Republic."
In one of his blogposts, he describes a turning point in his life where he stopped being a passive bystander and instead became an active participant in the struggle against repression, a "second birth" as he puts it himself. That birth was only a prelude to the tragedy which ensued.
It happened in February 2000. He had been walking up a street which ran along a famous park in Tehran when he encountered hundreds of people scuffling with the police forces: one of those demonstrations common to the reformers' era.
I was standing around one of the gates beside a young couple when a 17 or 18 year-old Hezbollah boy approached us in spiteful steps.
"Beat it! Disperse!" he spat.
As we didn't pay any attention, the boy raced towards the young couple addressing the young man: "Didn't you hear me, Zan-Jendeh ["husband of a whore"]? Didn't I just tell you to get the fuck out of here?"
The young man was too shocked to give even the smallest hint of a reaction. Obviously he could not simply ignore the insult - yet if he did anything he was sure to get arrested. Having witnessed the scene up close, and without any second thought, I ran at the Basiji boy and shoved him aside.
Of course he was beat up severely by the boy and his compadres with their batons.
He ended up in the Evin prison.
His anagnorisis--when the protagonist realizes the true identities of those surrounding him along with his own--took place in the solitary cell of Evin prison where he spent twenty days. The degree of injustice our protagonist had suffered was devastating enough to radically change his outlook: "I came out of the prison another Omid-Reza."
Mir-Sayafi clearly had too heroic a spirit to survive long. While the regime tried its best to keep him silent in life, in a magical, sad irony his voice still resonates even after his death when reading his July 2006 post on Akbar Mohammadi, a political prisoner who died in Evin Prison. In advance, Mir-Sayafi - though writing about another young man - penned his own eulogy:
Whether he died a natural death or was killed under torture, does not matter. He is no longer among us...Dear Akbar! I Wish you a peaceful journey...trust me, you won't be missing many things in here...We are sorry that all we did for you were just writing letters, chanting slogans or shedding a few tears...Forgive me!
Today the Persian new year started. Although we all know that axiomatic phrase that, hope never dies, ["Omid" in Farsi means hope.] if you hear my voice, Omid, know that we will miss you in the new year and all the years to come, and as you yourself said it about Akbar, your "fame shall never fade."
I end this all too short a tragedy by one of our hero's soliloquies:
Sooner or later, we have to leave our keys and check out. But the question is: Go where?...
The writer, who uses a pseudonym for his own safety, is a university student in Iran.