19, in 1979

A Guest Post that’s a throwback to another generation, we thank them for allowing us to share this story:

I was about 19 years old, a University student in Isfahan when the Shah’s regime fell. All of us were very excited to be a part of history in the making. Even before they shut down the schools, I had stopped going to classes– why bother? Even in class, our professors talked politics- not math or physics.

The real education was out on the streets, we thought, but that was arrogant and naive. I remember throwing perfectly good University Cafeteria food into the trash as a sign of defiance to the ‘regime.’

Looking back, I wish I had enjoyed the Kabob and stayed in school.

In the time of the Referendum, when people voted for an Islamic Republic, the country had no effective military or police. Each province was divided up into precincts, and each precinct had its ‘guards.’  Who were these guards?

Young revolutionaries, running high on confidence that they were actually changing the country and making people listen.

I was handed a precinct and asked to bring in a few of my friends to work under me. Our jobs were to stand guard temporarily until voting was over, then clean and retire the weapons, and make sure everything in the area ran smoothly.  I was 19, and I was handed the power and responsibilities of a police captain. I rounded up a few of my University friends with whom I was politically active with, and started the job.

It was great- it was a political fraternity, we all hung around a house, but instead of beer there were guns.

And some nights part of the closing routine was that we were supposed to clean the guns, make sure they weren’t loaded, before we headed home. While I had survived beatings and tear gas from the marches and demonstrations I had participated in, I had really never fired a weapon.

Unfortunately to perform this task, you had to fire every single weapon, pointed upward– after you emptied the magazine (place where bullets were stored).

A few nights and many guns later, I was going through the same process while chatting up with a friend who stood across from me. I would unload, re-lock, point upward, and shoot. Again. Again. It was second nature–it became mindless.

Then, with one gun, I forgot to unload, and in a mistake I’ll never forget- I fired the weapon a little lower than upward. Every single guy in the room went quiet, eyes went wide. I was so caught up in fear and shock, that I didn’t even hear my friend yell out.

Luckily, the bullet brushed his arm, but there was blood. Any lower of an angle and I would’ve shot him in the heart.

Sometimes my kids lose their wallets, or forget their cell phones somewhere– and it brings me back to being young and making mistakes. I realize I am accountable for hurting my friend because a gun is nothing to be mindless about. But I also think about how the consequences of being young were so different.

A 19 year old’s mistake in 1979 could easily have ended a person’s life.

My friend forgave me and the rest of my ‘fraternity’ supported my position– understanding the mistake. In fact, years later I found out the same wounded friend lost his life in the Iran-Iraq War.

- ANON

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XX,

THE S&F TEAM
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Comments

  1. sohrab esfandiar says:

    great post but it ended abruptly – and then what? where’s the lesson the punchline? great experience though

    also did you force this person to write using farrah/saaghi voice or conforming to s&f style? it sounds really forced. itd be better if they were natural

    • Hey Sohrab,

      Thanks for your comment. There isn’t supposed to be a “lesson” here or a punchline. We thought this was an unique story and we WANTED to share it with our readers. How many of us have ever had an experience like this?

      To us, when we hear our parents (or anyone from a different generation) talk about the lives that they had in Iran — it is always different than what we experience going back to visit and so we wanted to provide our readers with an inside look to one of their experiences. We apologize if that wasn’t clear.

      — Also, we do not force any guest writers to write in “our voice.” We like to encourage people to be as candid as they’d like– and are comfortable with. The point to having guest posts is for people to share their stories in a way the way that they WANT to. If this sounded forced, then that was not S&F’s intention– and we really doubt that it was the author’s intention as well.

      Thanks for your comment and for reading! We apologize for any confusion :)

      S&F Team

      • sohrab esfandiar says:

        Oh really? This was just a matter of lack of clarity, of confusion? Then why did one of the people below agree?

        It’s fine to respond to criticism in a polite way, but one way for your blogging/journalism to grow is for you to not act so defensively about your work, and admit a small flaw every now and then. This story, while great and interesting, has an abrupt end. so what? big deal? admit and move on. don’t act like me and Sara below are confused or that you made something unclear, that just insults your readers’ intelligence.

      • Sohrab jan,

        We sincerely apologize if you felt insulted. If we sounded condescending and defensive, we are sorry– neither of these outcomes were our intention at all. Of course, we are only human :)

        Our motivation was to defend the sincerity and honor the guest’s story– but differing opinions are ALWAYS welcome and encouraged because they help us grow and make better use of our reader’s time.

        Thank you and again, our sincerest apologies,

        S&F

      • sohrab esfandiar says:

        Nice try to change the subject. But no one feels insulted here.

        Bottom line: I really like your blog and want it to grow, and Farrah I want you to become successful in journalism, but I find your defensive actions and unwillingness to admit even a small flaw in a guest post offputting.

      • Hello Sohrab,

        I’m really glad you enjoy the blog :) In terms of our last comment, that -i consider- was far from defensive. In fact, your comment pointed out something that we did wrong, and I believe we took ownership of that, and were more than a little apologetic.
        Also, the comments came from both Farrah and I, if we respond individually we’ll usually leave our name at the bottom. So since the comment did not come personally from Farrah, to point her out is also a little off-putting.

        xx,
        Saaghi

  2. i agree with sohrab it was a very abrupt stop. nice of him to share his experience but what was the moral of the story? eat your kabob?

  3. funky monkey says:

    I don’t necessarily think that the author needs to spell out the lesson. I think in most cases, it is far more powerful and important if we derive the lesson from a story like this ourselves, and try to interpret how it relates to us. Why do we need him to write out exactly what the lesson should be.
    I actually found the “lack of a lesson” to be refreshing. How many times do you hear the story of adults, especially Iranian adults from the time of the revolution, and they constantly hammer home the “lesson”? More than anything I think the story is about how being young is so different in different communities and times. We can all get so wrapped up in our lives these days (I’m only speaking about young people in America who live fairly comfortable lives-so calm down), and not really have as many serious consequences or issues to deal with compared to the people our age during the time of the Revolution in Iran.

    Thanks S&F for sharing this story, I like that you try to keep things fresh and changing all the time.

  4. Mistakes of 19 year olds these days can easily and do easily end other people’s lives too– drinking/texting and driving.

  5. I would be more interested in finding out whether this young revolutionary was an Islamist before / during the revolution, or if that only happened after the shah fell. I’m also curious to know how the Islamists picked him over his other classmates and what other duties he had besides cleaning out the weapons. For example, he alluded to making sure “everything ran smoothly” but I’d like to know, more specifically, what that meant and what he had to do. I would like to know if there were times when he saw what was going on and had doubts about his involvement. I would like to know if he discussed those doubts with anyone and what came of them. I’m assuming that he’s since left Iran, so I would like to know what prompted that decision and whether he supports the Islamic Republic now, some 33 years later.

    Thanks for the post.

  6. sohrab esfandiar says:

    monkey,

    it’s not about wanting to be guided. it’s about a piece of communication having a point. if there’s no point to a piece of communication then it has largely wasted both the writer and reader’s time.

    it’s fine to make a strong argument, give a strong lesson, give a weak/mild lesson/argument, or just to raise interesting points in hopes that the reader will think them over, wo providing an answer.

    but as it stands this piece is just an entertaining time waster. the only interesting pt is that the author says they wished they ate kabobs. which i agree.

  7. those were times that no one can understand unless one had lived through it. tough times and haunting times. I don’t expect the new generation understand it, as it was not discussed, or explained. most people tried to forget, the ones who did not forget paid the price. this piece is at least an attempt to re-live the unspoken past and to relieve a guilty conscience. unfortunately the one who needed to forgive is dead now.

  8. I think it is a great story as is. And I thought the lesson was obvious. When you give young men too much power, they do not understand its importance. Besides maybe it is too personal for him to explain his ideas about the Islamic Republic now.

  9. I agree, there’s absolutely no direction in this story – it’s interesting, but a story like this should make the reader continue to think about it afterwards. this story doesn’t do that because there’s no end point; i’m mostly more curious about lots of things he didn’t say, but not about anything he did talk about. But, I also don’t think it’s necessary to criticize of the owners of this blog considering it was a guest post and not their writing. Lastly, to say “when you give young men too much power, they do not understand its importance” is unfair; it assumes that young people cannot handle the power they have and thus, also implies that older men can, which I think is a much more incorrect assumption to make if we look at our leaders both in the US, Iran, and the powerful men in most other countries as well.

    • I thought that this was an interesting post. I’m 19 myself and I can’t imagine being 19 and having those types of responsibilities at this age. Also, I agree that this story doesn’t necessarily have to have a clear cut message and it’s up to our individual interpretation.

  10. sohrab esfandiar says:

    nilo rocks

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