the political . . . relating to public life ¬
1 ¬ Saha was kept in prison for three years. She saved me from the same fate by warning me about the impending massive arrest that was planned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRG) two nights before it happened. I had already planned to leave. The IRG and the Islamic Revolutionary Committee forces had penetrated the organization we were both members of. They had all the names and addresses, and knew of all the hiding places and most escape plans. The night of the attack, my mother boarded the bus I was supposed to with my ticket, and I was driven out of town by a neighbour. Saha decided not to come with me because of her mother who wouldn't want her to leave. When at four o'clock in the morning we reached a place with a telephone, I called Saha. She was up, dressed and waiting for the Guards. Her voice was shaking. Many of the others had already been picked up including some people on their way out of town. Escape had become impossible. She wanted me to get off the phone before my place was discovered. And she wanted me to stay on the move. I wanted to stay with her until they came but I ran out of coins for the telephone and we were disconnected. -->

2 ¬ I talked to her again many years later, before I left the country. She had been out of prison for a while. She was not allowed to leave the country, and her mother wouldn't let her go. Her mother still blames me for everything that happened to Saha. In all these years, she's done all she can to keep us apart. Except for once, before Saha surrendered to marriage, when she was just out of the hospital after what I guess was a suicide attempt. For the first time, when I called she didn't hang up. She wanted me to do something to get Saha out. I think she had decided it's better to let go of her only child rather than see her die. I couldn't do much, really. I was a refugee myself and stranded too as I was. But for a while before Saha married and for a year after that, her mother would let her get my letters and talk to me on the phone. Then Saha started to write about the marriage which was supposed to be a way out but had turned into a trap. She wrote about the humiliations she was subjected to and the abuse. I wrote back encouraging her to get out, to find a way to leave the country. But she got pregnant and her mother stopped letting her see my letters again. I wrote and wrote, but there was no response. Whenever I called her mother would pick up the phone and pour over me a torrent of abuse and curses. I tried everybody else I could still reach and asked them to take my messages to Saha. But she had been isolated by her mother, her husband and his family so effectively that nobody could reach her. People saw her occasionally because she occasionally took classes at the university but she had shut herself. All I wanted was for her to know that I was still there. I wanted to be a rope she could hang on to even if she couldn't climb out of the pit just yet ... I had nightmares every night. -->

3 ¬ Now, years later, it's her spirit of survival, her own strength and resiliance, which drives her, scaling the pit's walls as she does. She keeps me going too. She got away from her husband's house and now lives with her mother again. She applied for divorce a few years ago but I don't know what her 'legal' grounds were because as a general rule women cannot apply for divorce in Iran. She spent three years in the hallways of the Shar'e (Islamic Law) Courts before her case was heard and turned down. Originally, when she left, her husband kept their son to force her to come back. But he didn't want the responsibility and now her son is with her. She is back in the university for the third time, still trying to get her degree in Mathematics. -->

4 ¬ For the past couple of years we've managed to be in touch more regularly with the help of friends who would pass my letters to her. We also talked on the phone occasionally. We would set a date and hour she could stay home and pick up the phone herself. Or I called her in a friend's house. But my financial situation has changed and I can't afford long-distance calls too often. We had to only stick to letters until the beginning of the summer when e-mail came into the picture. When this project came up, it gave her an incentive to find out about the possibility of having an e-mail account through the university, something I had been encouraging her to do for a while. -->

5 ¬ It's obviously not ideal. She uses a public account; that is, all the students use the same account. So, whoever wants can read her mail. This makes it very difficult to talk openly even about personal matters. Once we got a warning from someone who'd been reading our mail, essentially saying that we could get in trouble for expressing our affection for each other. It was only then that I realized other people could have access to her mail. I have a very distorted and privilaged notion of privacy living here and having my own account. I now try to be more careful. And, at her suggestion, I don't put her name on the e-mails anymore. We make up names which we both recognize because of our shared past. She writes more openly than I do. Mainly because she's always been more open in expressing her emotions and particularly her affection for people, but also because she knows how to maneuver in that environment. Aside from the fact that I'm generally more conservative in showing my feelings _ except when it comes to anger _ I am always afraid that what I write may get her in trouble there. I try to use a language which is full of coded references, particularly when I write about this project. -->

6 ¬ I don't want them to arrest her again for "UnIslamic Activities". Personal is highly political and dangerous in Iran, particularly for women. I am aware that I can't fully imagine the conditions surrounding her. I've been away for too long and whatever image that I construct _ based on the news that reaches out and what I read in Amnesty International reports _ is very bleak. Every time I write something that I think may be interpreted as 'fishy' by those who want _ the paid and unpaid snif agents _ I go through hell until I hear back from her. And if it takes her a few days to respond, I frantically call her home hoping that I can hear her voice and be reassured of her safety. Why do we put ourselves through this? Because we must stay connected. For me, living in exile, this connection keeps me from jumping off the edge. For her, I am a window to open air. We don't need to talk about things profoundly or even slightly 'political' to justify the risk. Maintaining the connection is significant enough in personal terms. And this carries a symbolic political statement. Her courage is a testimony to the strenght and determination of Iranian women who, eighteen years after the revolution we fully participated in, are still fighting for our basic human rights. I say 'our'because this is as much my fight, living abroad, as it belongs to those who live in Iran. This is my reading of it. I don't know what she thinks. I can't ask except in very vague words and wouldn't be able to answer anyway. Since this site became an inevitable reality, I've been asking myself if ethically I have the right to involve her in a project in which she cannot, because of her situation, have a full say particulary if it is to put her in any danger. She has put a lot of trust in me. I have to trust her reasons for this. -->
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