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Comment | The Courage of Sattar Beheshti

by CONTRIBUTOR

12 Nov 2012 23:59Comments

"It would make me ill, to not write and not speak."

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The author is a political activist and journalist who recently left Iran.
[ opinion ] All I've been hearing these past three days are sound bites of a grieving mother's sobs and a sister's pleas.

Sattar Beheshti hailed from a low-income family in Robat Karim, an impoverished town 15 miles from Tehran. Maybe that's why he was targeted for arrest, torture, and ultimately death. Iranian authorities probably thought news of the atrocity would never get out, given his underprivileged background.

His sister describes their life. "My mother is ill. She has recurrent memory lapses. It was Sattar who took care of her and provided medication. Now she is all alone. She can't last without Sattar for long."

Sattar Beheshti was arrested by the Iranian cyber police two weeks ago. But he had engaged in no online fraud, hacked into no bank accounts, committed no similar crime. He was merely a blogger who dared to criticize the country's ruling system.

After all, this is Iran we're talking about -- a country where even having a Facebook account, let alone a blog critical of state policies, is considered a serious crime.

In his blog, Sattar inveighed against the Iranian government and at times the Supreme Leader himself. His efforts were aimed at uniting opposition activists in Iran and in the diaspora. Amid his pursuit of what often seemed to be a lost cause, he once wrote, "Looks like I have to keep up the struggle by myself."

I click on another sound bite. I hear Sattar's voice saying, "I'm not the least bit afraid of being caught. I am only worried about my mother. If they come up to me right now and say we want to send you to the gallows, I will tell them I will take an honorable death over a pathetic life any day. We are not living a life. We are slaves here. We do nothing but toil away."

These are Sattar's own words, uttered last month. Before the cyber police raided his home and took away with them whatever they could find that he had written.

I lay my head on the table and close my eyes. I think of what one of his friends told me on the phone: "We collected his body from the Kahrizak morgue. They told us to buy a grave and that we are not allowed to hold any memorial ceremonies for him."

A witness who saw Sattar's body at the Kahrizak coroner's office described it as bloody. It looked like blood had gushed out of his nose and head, he said; his kneecaps and feet were bloody, too. An autopsy had apparently been performed as well, offering another explanation for the presence of so much blood. While no independent evidence is available to verify this account, the coroner's office today provided a report confirming that Sattar died in police custody and that his body was bruised in five places, including his foot, hand, back and one of his thighs.

Accompanied by security agents, Sattar's family transported the corpse from the coroner's office to the mortuary, where it was washed and shrouded according to Shia burial rituals. At that time, the body cover was partially unzipped for his brother in law to identify the body.

Security agents lurked around the cemetery as he was laid to rest, videotaping everyone. Suspicious of anyone who pulled out a phone, they would step in to make sure no one was reporting to a media outlet or taking pictures.

They didn't let his family see his body. Only when they had laid him in the grave did they let them see his face.

I could hear his mother screaming through the phone, "I received him from God and now I am handing him back. I am honored to say that Sattar Beheshti was my son."

His entire family is being subjected to tight security measures. Authorities have ripped off all the condolence banners and signs around his home, and his sister's house is under surveillance. They have confiscated his relatives' cell phones and threatened to arrest them if they give media interviews.

Sattar's courage and sincerity can be seen in this sentence that he wrote: "I cannot be silent and refrain from criticizing the government. It would make me ill, to not write and not speak."

Few knew of Sattar Beheshti before his death. He had no claim to fame. He was a pure revolutionary. He was a human being who fought for his society and his people with his pen.

His family has one request and that is to keep alive the name and defend the innocence of Sattar Beheshti.

Photos via Facebook.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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