"It's happening and I'm not there," I embrace my belly, as if having unbearable cramps of a miscarriage. I hold back tears and move back and forth like a mother on her child's grave. On the TV screen Iranian youth chant, demanding justice. The election has been a fraud and they want re-counting of the votes. They want their elected president, not the little dictator, the puppet of the old despot, the "Absolutist Ayatollah." They march peacefully, some with tapes over their mouths, meaning they are quiet, all wearing green shirts, waistbands, or bandanas, holding flags and banners, arms up, showing V signs. They are millions—men and women, boys and girls, children, babies, sitting on the shoulders of fathers, green ribbons decorating the crown of their fluffy hair. It's a massive demonstration, a reminder of 1979, when I was one of them and we fought for a republic—not an Islamic one. This was before the West aimed the spotlight on Khomeini and he was shipped from Paris with his entourage and the people's revolution was hijacked.
I watch all this, remember my youth, sway like a pendulum, and swallow my tears. But suddenly men in black shirts attack the green sea of the peaceful rally and blood covers the streets of Tehran. Cell phones capture the clubbing and stabbing. Someone's camera records the shooting of a girl. I watch with disbelief. Blood gushes out of the girl's chest, a young man presses his hand over the wound to stop it, an old man screams, "They killed her! They killed my daughter!"
After this scene, I experience a turmoil unlike any emotional crisis in my life. Anger, sorrow, and the worst—guilt and self-hatred overcome me. I sob for a moment, then I shout at my husband, "Haven't I been telling you? Haven't I been writing for years that this is a fascist regime? Haven't I? So why has no one believed me? No one ever believed me! I was right! They are fascists. Look! They're killing our children!"
He rubs my shoulder to calm me down and gently reminds me that no one has ever rejected my books; no one has ever defended this regime.
But this does not help. I'm out of my mind. I contradict myself: "I haven't done anything! Nothing!" I weep. "I escaped and they are getting killed--"
With each new image, each YouTube film clip of beatings and stabbings of innocent people, I go through another wave of rage and sorrow, guilt and self-bashing. I mumble incoherently between tears—either insisting that I'd been right writing against this regime, or lamenting that I haven't done enough.
Have I been suffering from PTSD and have never been diagnosed? Am I remembering the Revolution, my forced exile, the execution of my comrades after I crossed the border, my father's arrest and beating and his subsequent blindness and stroke? Am I remembering the harsh life of the refugee camp in war-infested Afghanistan? Am I remembering everything at once and experiencing a breakdown?
And why such back breaking guilt, such self-condemnation?
"I want to be there!" I demand childishly. "I want to be shot, get beaten up, clubbed, killed! Why am I here?"