Why were you laughing when you shot me?

By Nadiya the elf
Illustrator: Nadiya the elf

Why were you laughing when you shot at me?

Sara braided her long hair and put it behind her head, drew her eye line carefully and winked at herself in the mirror and sent a kiss to herself, put her head out of the window and told her boyfriend who was waiting for her in front of the door, “Wait! Five minutes, I’ll come.

She picked up her bag and ran out of her room. She hugged her mom who was sitting on the sofa and said in her ear: ”I love my little mom”. She took her shoes from the cabinet and said “I’m going to university, then to school from there. I might come back late at night, don’t worry about me, I’ll return with Hamid
Her mom came after her, looked at her with a smile and kissed her eyes and said: ”Take care my dear. There is a demonstration running outside. These ruthless policemen have no conscience, they are beating everyone.
Sara laughed and answered as she walked towards the door: ”Don’t worry mom, I’m not going to protest.”

Two months have passed since the beginning of the demonstrations of the people in Iran against the Islamic Republic.
The death of Mahsa Amini by Iran’s morality police forced the people of Iran to stand against this cruel regime after forty-three years of suffering the oppression and crimes of the Islamic Republic. In the past years, there were several large-scale demonstrations, but the government always suppressed any opposition quickly. This time things were clearly different. The anger of the people was more and the government could not suppress them even with guns or shooting fires.
People have been holding massive demonstrations in the streets every day. They came to the streets in groups of hundreds of men and women, demonstrated, shouted slogans “Woman,Life,Freedom” demanded the removal of the Islamic regime . The Islamic Republic also responded with arrests, bullets and tear gas to the protests and even into the houses. Every day the news of the murders or arrest of a number of Iranian citizens was spread in the social media .
All this time, Sara’s mother was worried that Sara would join the demonstration and something bad would happen to her.

Sara closed the door behind her and said to Hamid who was grumbling that “You always wake up late”
”Don’t grumble! Arriving late is better than arriving without eyeliner.”
They both looked at each other and laughed.
Sara got into the car and played her favorite song and sang with that on the way.
“And if somebody hurts you, I wanna fight
But my hands been broken one too many times
So I’ll use my voice, I’ll be so fucking rude
Words they always win, but I know I’ll lose”
Sarah always liked this song to the extent that she always introduced it to her students in the English language class, but her interest in this song was greater when an unknown artist assembled it on a video of Iran’s protests.

Half an hour later, Hamid parked the car in front of the university and said: ”Goodbye. Take care of yourself. If the university protests and becomes crowded, let me know and I will come for you. Keep me informed.”
They hurriedly kissed each other and Sara got out of the car and made her way towards the entrance of the university.

The atmosphere of the college was strictly military. As in the last two months, the number of policemen in the university was more than the students, and as soon as a gathering of more than four or five people formed in a corner of the university, they attacked them to disperse.Because they were worried that the students would start chanting and demonstrating against the regime.

Anger was bubbling inside her, but she could not join the protesting students because of the promise she made to her mother. After the death of her father, she was the only person her mother had and if something would happen to her, she was sure that her mother would never be able to bear it.
She did not want anything bad to happen to her mother, but the thought of not being able to shout and protest for her rights made her sad and angry, she wanted to shout against the mandatory hijab that was forced on her since she was seven years old, she wanted to shout for all the women who were killed on the basis of the rule in Islamic regime and no one was punished for killing them because they were “honor killing”.
She wanted to shout for all the women who were forced to have an illegal abortion and lost their lives because abortion is not legal in Iran’s Islamic law.This revolution was “Woman, Life, Freedom“. She wanted to shout for every single right of women that the Islamic Republic had taken away from women on the basis of Islamic regime.
While pressing her teeth together in anger, she cast an angry look at a group of Basijis* and went to her class.

Like all the other classes, her classmates were sitting out and not going to class to show their protest against the arrest of their classmates during the protests. She went and took a look inside the class and grinned at the professor and the only student who was ready to attend the class. Then returned to her classmate. With a voice shaking in anger, Sara said to her best friend, Neda : ”I can’t stay here. I promised my mom that I won’t chant or enter protests. I get nervous when I see these assholes Basijis and I can’t do anything.”
Neda, who was also angry with the security and tense atmosphere of the university, said: ”I’m coming too, I want to participate in the demonstration in the street,but I’m afraid that they will kill us like Sharif University, we have no escape in the closed university. I prefer to protest in the street than to be arrested and killed in the university.”

While they were talking about the protests these days, as they walked towards the exit of the university, Neda, who was about to burst into tears, said: ”Did you know that my boyfriend was also arrested? Yesterday they attacked their dormitory and arrested twenty of the students. Amir was also among those who were arrested.”
She started to cry and continued: ”We haven’t heard from him since yesterday, we don’t even know where he is, I’m dying of grief. Sara, what if something bad happens to him?”

Sara, who was shocked to hear the news of Amir being arrested, tried not to lose herself and not to scare Neda even more, she put her hand around Neda’s shoulder and said in the most encouraging tone she could: ”Don’t worry, he will call you and he will be released soon.” But she also knew that many people were arrested and now after two months there is still no news about them and no one even knows if they are even alive .
Neda was shaking from sobbing, said: “I read a news today, it was written (detainees were raped in the detention center in CNN) Sara I’m afraid…” She could not finish her sentence and only cried louder.

Sara was also worried by Neda’s words. She knew that the story of rapes is real and that many political prisoners , both men and women, have been raped in the prisons of the Islamic Republic. She didn’t even want to think about it. She couldn’t even imagine how Neda was feeling.
Reading this news was scary and terrifying enough (CNN hears testimony from women who say they experienced sexual violence by Iranian regime), now the thought of this happening to one of the dearest people in your life can drive you to the brink of madness.

When they reached the exit of the university, Neda wiped her tears and said: “When they told me that he was arrested, I promised myself that I would turn my frustrations into anger, fuel my anger to burn these dishonest regime who robbed us of our childhood and youth. They took our love, they took our lives. I promised myself that I would protest every day. I would scream as loud as I could every day, I would do everything in my power so that these monsters can no longer make any family mourn, they can no longer make anyone cry.
She turned and hugged Sara tightly and said: “nice to have you in my life, I hadn’t talked to anyone since yesterday, I was bursting with grief. So see you later.” She turned and waved to Sara and left.

Sara wanted to go home but she couldn’t, she could see that Neda was not well. and she was afraid to put herself in danger with the amount of anger she saw in her eyes, finally she decided to go with her, Neda was her best friend and she couldn’t leave her alone.
She ran after her saying: “Neda!…Neda!… Wait! I’ll come with you.”
Then they went together to the place where the gathering call was given.

About an hour later, they arrived at the protest spot. Hundreds of protesters were in the streets. During those days, the Islamic Republic tried to destroy this revolution by arresting and killing the leader and organisers of the protests, but the reality was that there was no leader and everyone was a leader, all protests were self organized. People were shouting in the street, “If one person is killed, thousands of us will be behind him” and by killing several hundred people, the Islamic Republic had added thousands of people to the ranks of its opponents. Everyone in the gathering had taken on a task. One would light a fire to neutralize the smoke of tear gas, the other would block the street to prevent government killers from reaching the defenseless people. The most beautiful scene that could be seen from the struggle for freedom was in front of Sara’s eyes. The sound of people’s slogans and repressive bullets are coming from all sides. The smoke of the tear gas that was fired at the people was mixed with the smoke of the fires that the people had lit to neutralize the tear gas, and the visibility became less and less.
People chanted, screamed, and became more angry with each attack of the repression forces. The police were shooting at the people, but the people were incredibly brave. They were fighting with their bare hands against the police who had come to the streets with all their military equipment to suppress the people of the country.
Sara turned her head and realized that Neda was not next to her. They lost each other. She started looking for Neda between the smoke and the crowd. ”Neda?…Neda?…”
Suddenly, her eyes locked on the smiling face of the policeman who was pointing his gun at her. The sound of the bullet was accompanied by severe pain in her face, and she fainted from the pain.
When she opened her eyes, she was in the hospital. The blackness of half of the image in front of her was evidence of the loss of something. She had lost her right eye due to a bullet. Her mother, Hamid and Neda were in the room with their faces wet with tears.
But Sara was just angry. The laugh of the person who had shot her was imprinted in the absolute darkness behind her left eye. She desperately wanted to find the person who shot her in the eye and tell him: ”Hi, I’m Sara. I have a question, why were you laughing when you shot me?”

The characters of the story are completely fictional, but the events described in this story are real narratives of the events that took place in Iran in 2022.The last quote of the story ”Hi, I’m Sara. I have a question. Why were you laughing when you shot me?” is from one of the victims of the crimes of the Islamic Republic named Ghazal Ranjkesh, who was shot and lost her right eye while returning home from work.”

The lyrics from a song by Tom Odell (Another Love)

* Basijis : People who are members of a group called “Basij” are called Basiji led by the leader of the regime in Iran. They defend Islamic beliefs and ideology , and the government of the Islamic Republic uses them to infiltrate people and human gatherings, espionage or direct public opinion, and sometimes even physical repression and murder.
A paramilitary volunteer militia established in Iran in 1979 by order of Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian Revolution, the force consists of young Iranians who volunteer, often in exchange for official benefits. Basijis serve as an auxiliary force engaged in activities such as internal security, enforcing state control over society, law enforcement auxiliary, providing social services, organizing public religious ceremonies, policing morals, and suppression of dissident gatherings.

27 December, 2022