Saturday, June 2, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Watching the Fight

I drank Coors Light when I watched the fight on a t.v. set up outside a garage-lined backstreet off Front Street, Philadelphia. Felix "Tito" Trinidad versus William Joppy at Madison Square Garden. Men got off work to see El Gran Campeon. Men who worked under the hoods of cars with their hands and had hard greasy stubs as fingers. Men with suntanned arms who drove trucks and cranked gears. Men who were detectives who carried guns under their shirts. Men who knew someone that had got shot. Men who married their ex-girlfriend's sister's cousin at Edison High School and when things didn't go well, they went back and married their ex's. Everyone met at baby showers. I cried and looked at my own hands. Soft, smooth, the only thing that they worked on was my jagged nails. I rotated between standing outside the periphery of the men's huddle and swaying off to piss beer water behind the garage. These men were real, what I wanted; I could never belong here, but I could try, pretend to, and drink Coors Light.

-by David Ocasio

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cyros Amiri #66: Bye Bye Uncle Saddam

When I came to the U.S. priority number one was getting a job. My family told me to ask my uncle. I didn’t want to, though. I didn’t want to rely on family, especially my uncle. He knew all about my situation, but I never got the sense he was all that interested, so I sure did not want to ask. He’d been here in the States for thirty years and was pretty successful. He was second in command of a large, respected, national company with many employees. I sure did not want to ask him for help, though. No way.

Then the U.S. attacked Iraq. Shortly after my return, America's military attacked to Iraq. That brought back memories of the Iran-Iraq war I fought in. We didn’t win that war. But Uncle Saddam lost, too, that’s for sure. A lot of my friends were killed in that war. Saddam Hussein was a monster. He committed crimes against us, the Iranian people, but also against the Iraqi people, too. Anyway I tried to volunteer to join the American army and resume my fight against Uncle Saddam. I talked with my friend, Sami, about my decision, and asked that he find out how I could join up. Sami was a good friend. I lived with him for a while. Sami promised that he would find that how I can join the army. A few days later he told me that because I didn’t have my green card yet, I couldn’t join. That seemed weird because I knew that a lot of people joined up in order to get their green card. I thought maybe it was different for me because I was Iranian. I tried to join up two more times. The second time was after I got my green card. Some NGO worker I asked told me I was too old, so I couldn’t join. The third time I tried to be hired as a translator as for an Army contractor. But in the end I decided that I didn’t want to work for a contractor, so quit that process. Anyway, no one loves war, and people die in war all the time.

But to me, the American attitude towards this war seemed really strange. There was a lot of talk about Iraqi freedom, but that was all talk. I didn’t hear anybody talking about U.S. national interest. That seemed really weird. On the other hand, when I talked with people who opposed the war, they said that because U.S. Army did not find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the war was obviously a big mistake. To me this argument was ridiculous! From the time the war started it was clear to me that they would not find this particular type of “WMD” in Iraq because Iraq never produced this particular type of weapon.

But with respect to chemical or biological weapons, it was no secret that the Iraqi army used them. I saw it with my own eyes, used against me. I had lost many friends because of those weapons. Large number of Iranian troops, due to inhalation of toxic gases used by Iraq, were hospitalized in many European countries. It seems that genocide in Hallabcha by Saddam was not enough for people; they still whined about why the U.S. army did not find weapons in Saddam's storage closets, as some kind of evidence for the “mistake” made by the Bush administration. In the meantime, nobody, neither those who supported or opposed the war even bothered to discuss the U.S. national interest. And those who were against the war on humanitarian grounds totally ignored the atrocities committed by Uncle Saddam. The whole debate was nonsense.

Anyway, I was convinced that my world be a better place without Saddam Hussein. I thank the American military and their families for what they did. I wish I’d participated, my own self. I didn’t, though. I asked my uncle for a job as a bartender. Being a bartender was a pretty fun way to waste three years of my life.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lightning Strikes

Check out Bernardo. He walks the streets of Bogota. Sometimes when he's walking, he saves someone's life.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cyros Amiri (Part 55): My Father's Murder

I was repeatedly arrested, imprisoned, and tortured over the years but the authorities could never get any proof of my activities.  But eventually they figured it out, when I hid a fugitive political activist and helped him escape from Iran.

Anyway, then my father was murdered and his dead body was found by his gardener at his home.  That was the last chapter of my life in Iran.

The police initially said that the killer's motive was robbery.  Police identified signs of forced entry and claimed that those signs were intended as a decoy.   They believed the killer was a person familiar with the victim and entered without a problem.

Police showed everybody an old picture of me, claiming I was the murderer. They asked my sister where I lived, but she hadn't known for years!  They told my sister that the neighbors had identified me as the killer.  At that time my sister thought that I was in Germany and so she denied the accusations against me.   She asked the police to continue the investigation and arrest the real killer.

I was informed about this story by my other sister.  This confirmed to me my suspicion that my political activities had been discovered. At the time I was hiding at a secret place called "Shahrestanak". I was hiding because of how I had helped a wanted political activist escape from Iran using my passport. Unfortunately, the regime found out about that, through the arrest and interrogation of that political activist's family, so they were seeking to arrest me, too.

My sister wasn't totally wrong.  I had been in Germany, but I was back.  In Germany I met someone who had dedicated his life to political prisoners in Iran.  His greatest concern was about the families of political prisoners. Because of my past relationships and activities with a number of prisoners' families in Iran, he and I were soon able to trust each other and share information.  Through him, I became aware of  a man in Iran who had political difficulties.  His siblings had been arrested in 1981 and were executed in the massacre of 1987, but he had escaped and went into hiding.  His condition was very difficult, and his family was under great pressure by the regime.  So my friend in Germany was looking for a way to get him out of Iran.  I volunteered to return to Iran and help him.

Our initial plan was to organize a program to take him to Turkey. This is typically the easiest way. Unfortunately, when I visited him I realized that he was not physically fit enough do this. For my plan, he needed to be able to walk long distances and climb across the border into Turkey, but he was unable to do that. The alternative, then, was air travel.  I let him use my passport.

Because of their political background; his family were under surveillance and were not allowed to travel without permission from the security officials. We secretly arranged their travel to Tehran for a last visit with their child.  Unfortunately after that they were arrested.  But because by that time their child had already left the country they said everything.  I was therefore in danger and had to go into hiding.

My father was killed a few months later. They accused me, in an attempt to smoke me out of my hiding place, to pressure my family into giving them information about me.

Anyway, a few years later the killer was arrested and confessed to the crime.  The court sentenced him to death, but my brothers and sisters pardoned him and saved him from the death penalty.

Thursday, January 26, 2012