Friday, September 23, 2011

Zahra's Paradise

Zahra's Paradise by Amir and Khalil

While I might mention books I'm reading, it's not often you'll see me saying "Hey, buy this book!". But Zahra's Paradise, both in story and purpose, are different. Set against the backdrop of the stolen 2009 Iranian elections, Zahra's Paradise, tells the very human story of a mother looking for her 'lost' son, Mehdi, who has been swept up in the reprisals and arrests. The title is a bitterly ironic allusion to Behesht-e Zahra, one of the largest cemeteries in Tehran.* Translated from the Farsi as Zahra's Paradise, Behesht-e Zahra represents the all too often fate of dissenters to the false reelection of Mahmoud Amadinejad in 2009. Those elections saw massive uprisings and terrible reprisals. From the cover of the book we see the remembrance of the Green Revolution and what made for a turning point in Amadinejad's miserable theft of the election: the cell phone cameras that documented what was really going on in Iran. Cell phones which documented Neda's murder and the atrocities against peaceful demonstrators, who were largely students.

Zahra's Paradise is the book version of the long running webcomic Zahra's Paradise, which began in early 2010 and has now been translated into thirteen languages. The webcomic is now in Aftermath entries. I'm not sure if you're still able to access the story itself online, but I encourage my readers to check out Amir and Khalil's links.

Likened to Marjane Satrapi's epic Persepolis series, Zahra's Paradise is an important and accessible work that documents what happened in Iran in 2009 and what it was like for families there. It is a battle cry in the fight for human rights in Iran, which has not, in spite of the regime's best attempts, been extinguished. It is a loud and clear voice against Amadinejad, Khamenei and their repressive regime. It is a moving and often frightening story that took courage to tell, week after week, for two men who still had families in Iran.

You can read an interview with author Amir at United4Iran's website, here.

*One of my longtime readers has just informed me that the title Zahra's Paradise is also a reference to Zahra Kazemi, the Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who was investigating the disappearance of dissidents in Iran. Ms. Kazemi was beaten to death in Evin prison in 2003. In spite of claims that she had a stroke during questioning, Ms. Kazemi's body showed a skull fracture, broken nose, very brutal rape, severe abdominal bruising, flogging on her legs, broken fingers and missing fingernails, upon a very controversial autopsy. Her death represented the first time a death in Iranian custody attracted major international media attention. Both her interrogators were acquitted of her murder. Ms. Kazemi was 54 at the time of her death.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

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