In this I believe

I creep along the wall, feeling my way in the darkness by the texture of the rough stone wall. I know this neighbourhood well but I have never travelled it at night. I feel a strange freedom moving outside the house without my burka. I am wearing dark jeans, a dark sweater, dark running shoes. I feel invisible but in an entirely different way than I do inside the burka. It is an exhilarating experience.

My brother Farzeen is no more than 30 paces ahead of me. He is walking carefully but not as carefully as I am. He makes little scuffling noises and sometimes hums a snatch of a song I do not recognise.

We reach the town square. There is light here, from the fountain, and Farzeen carefully skirts the light. I become aware of another shape across the square. It is his friend Sohrab. The boys greet each other quietly, bumping fists in the Western fashion. They remove something from their pockets, and in the dim light I can see they are spray cans. I feel my breathing constrict. My brother and Sohrab intend to deface government property.

They move to the wall of the judiciary building near the fountain and begin to spray with their cans. I see the characters taking shape. Sohrab writes: “Mousavi fights election fraud.” My brother writes: “Neda Soltan lives on.” I know what else is to come, because I know my brother: “The rights of the people”.

The boys, absorbed in their defamation, do no see what I see. From the side door of the judiciary two soldiers with rifles have emerged and are walking quietly in the direction of the fountain. In a moment they will see my brother. They will swing their rifles to their shoulders, and in the absolute knowledge that they will be protected by the law, they will shoot my brother and Sohrab.

I scream, “RUN, Farzeen. RUN.”

The boys do not hesitate. Nor do I. In seconds, before the soldiers have a chance to understand what is happening and to raise their rifles, the boys have dropped the spray cans, crossed the square and darted into the shadows. Although my heart threatens to jump through my chest, I run like the wind, like a shadow. I am invisible. I do not run directly home. If I am followed, I will not draw attention to our house. I know my brother will do the same.

Long minutes later, Farzeen and I meet at the gate. We slip inside the courtyard. We hug. Farzeen whispers in my ear, “Souri, you crazy goose. You wonderful crazy goose. You could have been killed.”

We go carefully into the house. But all the care in the world does not prevent my father from standing there in the foyer as we glide in, arms folded across his chest and a look of silent fury on his face. We stop in front of him.

He asks what has gone on, and we tell him. He is unnervingly quiet.

My brother says, “Do not punish her. She saved my life tonight.”

My father turns to him and says, “Farzeen, why do you take this risk?”

Farzeen looks at him squarely in the eye, defiantly, and says, “For the love of freedom. For my freedom and my country’s.”

Father switches his inscrutable gaze to me. “Souri, why do you take these risks?”

I look him squarely in the eye and say, “For the love of my brother and the honour of my family.”

My father is silent a long time. But his face is soft now. He says, “My heart bursts with pride, and it bursts with concern. You both will learn from tonight. You are of no use to our country, or our family, if you are dead, or if you are in jail, or if you are in disgrace.”

He finally says, “The fruit does not fall far from the tree.” I look at my father anew, and he instructs us to go to bed.

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