It has not been long since the first time I saw you. It is as though in these short few years great events have taken place.
Dear Shiva, that day in Siah o Sepid café, when we sat across from one another for the first time, and you were, in your words, interviewing me for a job in the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, no reformist had yet heard your name, nor were they ready to work with you. I remember those days when I suggested we enter talks with members of Tahkim Vahdat (one of the major student unions in Iran), and explore the possibility of cooperation with them, you said that they will not let us into their circle, and that we are strangers in their eyes.
The simple blog of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters with the same address in Blogfa was a place where you practiced human rights. When the number of blog viewers would go up, or when the news first published by the blog was cited elsewhere, you would be overcome with joy. There was you, the blog, and the meetings where the absence of each of us would make you angry. You used to say, “The cause is serious, don’t take it as a joke.”
The page turned after the death of Akbar Mohammadi [sentenced for his role in the 1999 student protests, died in detention in 2006]. It was you who recounted the minute-to-minute story of his hunger strike. It was you who did not let his name die in the midst of the month of Mordad (July-August) and its ruckus. When we headed to his hometown to attend his funeral, we were in one bus, and the activists of Tahkim Vahdat were in another. This was where the first steps of cooperation were taken.
Later, and because of the new people who joined the Committee, this tie became stronger, and bore a lot of fruit. You were a women’s rights activist, and Zahra Rahnavard, then president of al-Zahra, an all-women university, had never heard of your name. She never knew that you were sent to solitary confinement for lighting a few candles. Karroubi, the speaker of the parliament with whom you were trying to meet for saving the lives of the prisoners, didn’t know your name.
Akbar Ganji had not heard your name; he who sees you now in the stature of his own daughter, Rezvaneh. He had not heard that there are women who transcend ideology and creed to spend their days defending the rights of prisoners whom they may never greet after release, because they fear of being accused of ties with hostile opposition groups.
Now, Rahnavard cries out your name, she who built the sculpture of “Mother” that sits in the centre of Mohseni Square in Tehran. Many times when you were around the statue, you talked of the mothers who were breastfeeding their children in the prison and were crying blood and cleansing the wounds of the torture they had born. I do not know whether Zahra Rahnavard was thinking of the mothers of those executed in the summer of 1988 when she was making this sculpture, but I do know that every time you saw this statue, you had a lump in your throat. Now, the creator of that sculpture sees herself as a Shiva Nazar Ahari and is ready to be tried in your place. Can you believe it, Shiva?
Can you believe that the very same people who had a position within the ruling establishment and were ignoring you and your ideals are now crying your name? Do you see it Shiva? This change has not come easily. You should be proud of yourself, girl!
Fakhrolsadat Mohtashamipour, whose “Turquoise Girls” was her creative approach to non-violent and reformist resistance, did not know you. Ms. Mohtashamipour now writes for you. Her Turquoise girls carve your name. Shiva is not a strange name to them anymore. Now, the students at Iranian universities call your name.
Remain strong, Shiva! Many have new-found strength through observing your resistance, girl….
Shiva, can you believe that your name is now everywhere: From Senator McCain who was beating on the drums of war with Iran to myriads of private organizations devoted to defending the rights of women and children. When I read McCain’s letter, I thought to myself of the stir you caused by lighting candles and by walking along the highways of southern Tehran where you were coming back from the classes for the children in labour. When I see an American woman who has a hard time pronouncing your name and cannot believe that you are spending days and nights behind bars for defending and supporting women and children, when I see a man on this corner of the world who never knew you [but still] hung your picture on his wall after reading your biography, I realize how much work can be done…how great one can be, how one can become eternal without making common commotions…how one can become the voice of the voiceless and take the hand of the one in need…how one can ridicule interrogators such as Alavi and Mortazavi, and how can one guard and protect the humane virtues and purities in the face of their obscene and nasty looks and stares.
I do not intend to sanctify you, to throne on the highest. I just want to set a reminder for many, for those imprisoned yesterday and today, for the exiled of the past and the present, for the 30-year long memory of this land, for your mother who gave you to the world as a gift on a morning in June, that I will not leave you, that we shall not forget that you are called the mother of human rights in Iran.
Long live, girl. Keep it up. A world is looking up to you!