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The novel Corpses, Arts and Dreams of is a triptych that hopes to tell the story/history of a people of a place and time, from three different angles, in three different styles. The first book deals with life in the city of Tehran. The second is on the people who have disappeared and been killed in prisons or in street protests in the recent years of the Islamic Republic government. The third is a journal of dreams.
The following excerpt is from The Book of Corpses (the 2nd book). It uses the language of forensic reports and is written based on information researched and provided by journalists, human rights groups, and ordinary people who have been direct and indirect witnesses to these disappearances and deaths. The book is a translation of what remains of these lost lives — their facts and memories and myths — into the realm of literature.
Age: 21 years old
Occupation: student. Last semester, BA of management.
Date of death: 30 Khordad 1388 / 20 June 2009
Place of death: Tehran
Time of death: around 4 a.m.
Cause of death: hard blow to the head
Place of burial: Behesht-e Zahra, Tehran
The father is worried, tells the mother to tell her not to go to school that day.
She has an exam. It is her last exam.
She wears a green headscarf.
In the streets she joins the protestors. She adjusts her scarf. Covering her nose. Against tear gas. Covering her face. Fear of recognition. Only leaving her eyes out.
Hours later she comes back home. She goes to her room.
The father sees her in the mirror in her room wearing make-up. Neither the father nor the mother checks up on her that night before sleep.
Three a.m. And the brother sees her light is still on.
Three-thirty a.m. When the brother goes to have some water in the kitchen notices her light going off.
The next morning the mother calls the father at work and summons him home.
She is dead. Rigid and cold, a corpse is lying in her bed.
In the forensic office, a doctor carrying out the autopsy tells them the cause of death has been a hard blow to the head. The doctor doesn’t write down the cause of death. Official cause of death is stated as natural death. The doctor thus gives the parents the gift of taking the corpse of their daughter to bury.
She danced beautifully. She had thick black hair. She had black eyes. She was tall. She was an athlete.
The parents did their studies in France and came back to be in their home country and raise their kids among family and loved ones.
Her friends later tell the parents about the incident at the protest scene. She had been run after. Someone had brought down a baton on her head. She had fallen down but gotten herself together. She had taken her head in her hands and cried of pain. Her friends had wanted to take her to the hospital. Hospitals were not safe, someone had warned them. She had assured them she was fine. She had gone back home. She had gone to her room.
Security forces give the parents a visit. Security forces ask if they have any complaints or questions.
The parents are to keep silent.
She is survived by her parents and her brothers.
Age: 43 years old
Date of death: 6 Dey 1388 / 27 December 2009
Place of death: Tehran
Time of death: around noon
Cause of death: bullets
Date of burial: 9 Dey 1388 / 30 December 2009
Place of burial: Behesht-e Zahra, Tehran
Nephew of one of the presidential candidates who later became the leader of the green movement.
He was not a politician. He was as a supporter, working in the presidential campaign for his uncle and later taking part in the protests to the election results.
Nephew and uncle had a close relationship.
He fought in Kurdistan, Shalamche area, during the Iran-Iraq war. He had been only 15-16 years old.
Large crowds in the streets. Ashura Day. Mourners and protestors mingle. The sound of religious recitations and political slogans mingle.
A black Nissan Patrol drives by fast. Hitting people. Driver and passengers of the black Nissan Patrol all wear black.
A reporter later describes the driver a man of 30-35, fair-skinned, reddish hair, tick reddish beard. The two passengers wear beards as well. Another witness later describes him a man of twenty and fair-skinned.
He walks to the main street to see how things are. Smiling, he tells his wife not to worry, that he will be coming back soon.
Someone running tells the wife someone has been shot. She somehow knows. She immediately tells her daughter that her husband, their father, has been shot.
Someone later reports the bullet was shot from a colt from a very close distance.
Police forces attack people. The wife and daughter run inside the house.
He comes back. On people’s hands. Shot.
The car follows people around.
Pedestrians flee to the sidewalks.
Sounds of more bullets being shot.
The car runs people over. The car flees the scene.
In the hallway of the house, at the foot of the stairs, lying down on the mosaic floor, he breathes heavily. Family members are screaming and crying. He asks for water. People around him try to figure out what to do.
Someone films the scene. A woman pleads with the person filming not to film. The film on Youtube shows his legs and the legs of the people surrounding him, shows his body only up to his neck.
Black pants and black coat. A white shirt soaked in blood.
A bullet to his chest or neck.
Fears for taking him to a hospital. Fear of him and others being arrested. Fear of him being kidnapped.
He asks for a pillow to be put under his head.
A voice close-by says she is a nurse.
A voice asks for the door to the house to be closed.
A woman’s voice pleads not to take him to the hospital. Crying. She pleads not to take him away.
A man’s voice snaps at her.
He is bleeding. He needs to be taken to a hospital.
A voice mentions his relationship to the leader. More risks for him.
A voice hushes the speaker not to mention names on camera.
A woman’s voice lets out a wail.
Someone brings a car to the door of the house. They put him in the car to take him to a hospital.
Streets are busy. People are protesting. Traffic is heavy. It takes a while to get him to the hospital.
According to some reports, he dies before reaching the hospital, his head lying on the legs of the person taking him to the hospital. According to other reports, he dies in the hospital.
People are already gathering at the hospital. Wearing green signs. Shouting their condolences to the leader.
Police and militia are already at the hospital.
Few hours at the hospital.
His dead body lies in the hospital morgue.
People disperse. Head to the house of his mother and his uncle. People gather.
At the house everyone is wearing black. At the house everyone is crying. The leader too.
The leader is asked to publish a statement for the death. He denies, noting that his nephew is just one among many killed and should not be treated differently.
The body disappears from the hospital.
The police deny the disappearance. Say the body is in the forensic office for further studies because of the suspicious death.
The phone rings. An unknown voice says they can come pick the body for burial.
Three days after the shooting they are given permission for burial. He is buried under strict security measures. Only with family members present.
He was a kind calm loving man. He was trusted by many who confided in him. He did what he could for others.
It is said that he was threatened a few times in the days preceding the shooting.
He is survived by his mother, his wife, a daughter and a son.
The police announce he had not been shot in the protests but as the target of an organized terror attack. They arrest the owner of the car. They announce the car was stolen from its owner a few days before the incident. They announce the revolver and the bullets used were professional assassination material. They announce the arrest of the driver and those responsible for the assassination, claiming the men had been hired by anti-Revolution and opposition groups in order to harm the government image. A newspaper links the shooting to the leader’s camp, their way of giving their unjust movement momentum. A month later two men whom are announced to have been part of the groups leading the post-election violence and assassinations, including his, are hung.
Raha Namy is a writer and wanderer, a translator and a PhD candidate at the University of Denver, Creative Writing program. Her work has appeared in World Literature Today, Guernica, The Quarterly Conversation, The Barcelona Review, Short Fiction Magazine, The Baltimore Review, and elsewhere.