Home is where the fight is

The German version of the article was published in the taz.die tageszeitung

Soheil Asefi at the Reporters Without Borders Germany office in Berlin
© Hussain Alkhal

Me, my mother and father — two generations of revolutionaries, were sitting on a bench in the departure lounge of Tehran’s Khomeini Airport, waiting for my boarding. What if they are come after me? What would happen next? After more than a year of being released on a bail from the jail, I left Iran for Germany to continue my education and work.
Finally, I board the plane. It is then that I realize and think of the country I’m leaving behind. The twilight hours have typically been the moments of executions of thousands of the best children of Iran, before and after the revolution. Somehow I felt more estranged towards the place I was born and raised in, than the place I was moving to. If I can speak the language of a given country, does that mean I belong there? Is home just the place you were born in? Do I belong to a specific ethnic group of my place of birth or by the way I look?

The fact is, after all these years in exile I am still looking for my home and I feel and I hope there is something inside, which materialises as my home. Though when it comes to the issue of language then you feel like if something is a void.
In Iran, there are no dissident and independent publications today. For some time there was a possibility of writing for some of the religious reformist papers. When independent research and analysis of the contemporary history of Iran was rare, numerous articles of mine were published in the history, politics and culture pages of a high-circulation daily and were well received. The “religious reformists”, the people who returned to power with Hasan Rohani a neo-liberal top rank security, never tolerated my company, even though my articles were always laid-out on the front page. For some time, I was allowed to write. However, the hysteria of “religious reformists” against independent, radical and left groups, led to a point when I ran out of the chance to write for printed media anymore.

I then had no option but to start up my own paper. But where? In the virtual space! But it didn’t last long and this project was also disrupted, after security forces raided my house and confiscated my computer, my rough drafts and archives. They even took my poems and my university writings; I was a screenplay student.


A woman being arrested during the Solidarity Sing Along as they were singing Which Side Are You On? After people are arrested, the Capitol Police take them down to the basement where they are given a $200.50 citation for “unlawful assembly” and are detained until after the sing along concludes. © by Jenna Pope/TRNN.

Then there were many days of solitary confinement and interrogation, while a large archive of 10-years of professional journalistic work was on the interrogator’s table in the infamous detention center 209 of the Intelligence Ministry within the notorious Evin prison. Interrogators questioned me word by word about every single one of my pieces and writings and wanted to know my “motivation” to do “this”. I had to explain the reasons for my opposition to the executive order on the Article 44 of the Constitution (Iranian version of IMF “shock therapy”), which deals with the privatization policies of the Islamic Republic.
I am still not in a stable situation. What about tomorrow? This is always on my mind. I have been wandering through the world, looking for a homeland. The fight for survival continues. More than anything I fear falling into what Iranian journalists call “the exile syndrome”. My understanding of Iran would be frozen in the moment of leaving, and I’d be unable to keep up with events on the ground as many of the so-called Iranian political activists.

Soheil Asefi at Blockupy Frankfurt. What began as a protest against the ECB, German banks and the German government turned into a protest against police brutality.
© Nick Jaussi

The struggle for democracy and social justice still continues. Let’s go beyond the banality of LGBT mainstream community and talk about the notion of queerness. Let’s journey together from Evin Prison, where Iranian people under the brutal sanctions of the so-called international community live, where Australian Prime Minister recently stated Iranians suffering under sanctions aren’t ‘economic migrants, to Guntanamo and to California Prison Hunger Strike where 30,000 Inmates refused their meals. And let us remember Rahman Hatefi a prominent Iranian journalist and political activist who was on the editorial board of the Kayhan newspaper at the time of the 1979 Revolution and died due to torture in 1983. Let’s go through the Orwellian times we are living in right now.

When the US is using deprivation of citizenship as a weapon. With Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Barrett Brown’s pictures in the hands, I, the independent unemployed journalist in exile, still agog and exasperated in front of Brandenburger Gate and among the crowd of Blockupy Frankfurt, where, confronted with the police of “democracy” come up the memories of Evin prison. It now seems that home is where the fight is.

For further information:
Akhbare-rooz, Blockupy Frankfurt, spelling of a hope. Soheil Asefi’s report on the event, in Persian.
The Real News, 16 June 2013. Police Brutality Against Blocupy Frankfurt Protest Makes Headlines.

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