It is Ayatollah Khomeini’s early days. Marina Nemat is only 16 when they arrest her, after leading a strike in high school. Sent to prison, she is tortured, and sentenced to death. The sentence is then changed for life imprisonment. The payment is to marry her interrogator, lose her catholic faith (become muslim), lose her name, her body, extend the pain. She has no option, refusing means jail or even death to her family and boyfriend. She endures. Days pass by. She requests solitary confinement. She can not look other prisoners directly into their eyes. She is sleeping with her interrogator! Being raped by her interrogator, to be more precise. She feels guilt of having been saved when her friends were killed. She feels embarrassed. She is sinking, only the goodness of few saves her spirits –there’s a birthday cake one day, for her, made of pieces of bread (saved during several days). Time continuous its path, she endures. The interrogator dies. His family helps her. She is released. Her family rejects her… She mentions the word dishonour, and I can only question the pervasive blindness of so many humans.
Marina tells the story with a calm rhythm that contrasts with the brutality of her experience. Marina’s face shows pain, her eyes project the sadness of telling and reliving memories. She says she gave up saving the world long time ago. She now keeps her expectations real. She is part of the panel discussion Women and the Law, organised by the Oslo Freedom Forum 2016. Janine di Giovanni moderates the panel. Kimberley Motley and Irwin Cotler share their experience advocating for human rights in troubled countries, in a troubled world. Kim mentions the dilemma of releasing a woman from prison to send her to prison –her home or a shelter. Kim, as Marina, tries to be realistic. She brings awareness to her clients, represents their interests, works to meet the goal they want. Irwin questions the red line, the times the world has said “never again” (to genocide, for example), and how that red line transmutes into pink advice. He speaks with reality in his words: “we cannot save all political and conscience prisoners, but we need to let them know that we are trying”. A member of the audience questions how much the ICC is really doing; another asks how to get our “human rights” voice passed the Kardashians and US politics. Kim states that it is not only about fighting for a cause, one has to sell it. “Do not lose faith” says Janine. Marina adds that initiating change does not have to be complex: “If 10 small voices speak up and influence to save one person, I am happy!”. Advocacy is much easier today than 20 years ago: it is one click away through social media and the internet. Marina closes the panel with a poem.
I shake Marina’s hand. I try to convey the overwhelming feeling of admiration her words inspired in me. We talk about poetry and blogs. She says how writing poetry is therapy for her, how the process soothes and recharges her. I echo her words, with a smile. With not even a close comparison to Marina’s life experience, her humanity and her way of freeing her mind make me relate to her in a new way. Writing poetry is what keeps me sane through the worst and best of times.
the skies of Oslo cry
— words show the path
Inspired by the real-life heroes, speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum 2016. In response to Again, what do you do to truly rest and relax? –question asked by Toni Spencer today at Haibun Monday #14 – “Too Many Mind…” | dVerse. A Haibun is a text composed with a combination of relatively short prose and a haiku.