Posts Tagged War

Mehdi

“Hi my name is Mehdi

It was February of 1981 in Tehran, Iran when my father had purchased a brand new car. On the morning of the 2nd anniversary of the Revolution he decides that he and I will go do some driving tests in the outskirts of the city on some empty roads near a military base. We switched seats so I can drive. Seven or eight minutes later I hear loud noises and realize that my dad has been shot. He opened the door, raised his hands and then fell to the ground and died. I was 14 years old.

We would eventually learn that he was shot by the members of the Basij, a paramilitary volunteer militia who had wrongly assumed our car belonged to the opposition group,  Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK Militia) , just because of the color alone. Eight people fired on our car. All the bullets went through the vehicle without hitting us except for one that hit my dad in his heart.

What transpired in the following year and a half would be a process of negotiations by my mother that ultimately paved a way out of Iran and into Germany and then the United States for my mother and me.

By Islamic law, the father of the victim gets to decide the fate of the convicted, i.e., it’s an eye for an eye.  My paternal grandfather chose to pardon the accused because “it was a mistake”. This led to an unspoken agreement, a deal with the government, that if he pardoned the soldiers it would help in allowing my mom and I to leave the country. My grandfather died about a year later and my mom continued to pressure the government to admit they had made a mistake and with the help of a lawyer was able to acquire a letter from the government that was an admission on their part. She wanted desperately to save what she had and this was our way out legally and with passport as tourists. Had I stayed, I would have been banned from leaving the country at the age of 16 and potentially eligible to become a soldier and fight in the Iraq/ Iran war.

I was thinking of making a stop-motion movie with a scale model car to illustrate what had happened on that day. I did a lot of searches on Ebay and finally found this exact replica of a Renault 5 and in the exact color. I have never shared this story with anyone and not even my wife knows the history of the car.”

Tidbit:
Mehdi graduated from the University of Texas in 1991 and received his Doctoral from the University of Washington in 2000. He currently is employed at University of Washington/Fred Hutchinson Cancer research Center as an Oncology pharmacist. His mom lives a mile and half down the street from his family and is the best grandma ever.



Michael

“My name is Michael. I’m an artist.

I am working on a project as part of the post peace process in Ireland and as part of that I hope to engage thirty thousand people or 1 in 10 who live in the border region. I’ve sent out a series of prompts asking people to respond with what is basically an “I Am” poem so things like “I am”, “I regret”, “I need”, “I see” and “I hear”.

Their responses will be engraved onto stones, a couple of which are with me today.

One of them “I need to leave the countryside”, is a common, very common, response to people living in rural areas there. And you get the flip side of that from people in the cities who “need to leave this country” so people feel really at home and disconnected from home. They long to stay in a place they need to leave. I’m just thinking of this installation as a way of creating some dialog around how we locate ourselves in this concept that we call home and how we can all be in the same place and be ok with it.

Another response I was really struck by, came from a young woman who said in hers “I see through my big brown eyes-I am an Irish girl”.

I think the second stone I brought goes right to the core of the whole project, “I hear best when I listen”. For me as an artist, sort of listening to or taking the pulse of what’s going on in the community is the source for my work so that one has some meaning to me, personally as well.”

Tidbit:
The following is from a press release about Michael’s project. It might be helpful to fully understand the scope of the installation. When completed it will be three years in the making:

This project is titled “The Tonnes: A Meeting of the Waters.” It is a cross-border peace-building public art project in the troubled boundary area between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The project will facilitate a creative dialogue among communities along the River Foyle in the Northwest border region of Ireland. There are three phases:

“In Phase One we will invite communities to make handmade books and participate in writing workshops in order to create a communal archive and an anonymous epic poem about their private recollections, experiences, and prayers during and after “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland.

In Phase Two, stones engraved with these writings from Phase I will become cairns all along the riverbank.

In Phase Three the cairns and books will be gathered from the communities and loaded onto a floating installation of copper and reflected water which will journey from the town of Strabane in the border region to the Atlantic. The stones will be dropped overboard at the mouth of the river in a gesture of reconciliation among diverse communities.”

Michael is the founder of Medicine Wheel Productions.