Because Farsi does not come naturally to my lips; I had to get my Nina to stitch “Zan, Zendeghi, Azadi,” onto my tongue so I wouldn’t forget it.
Because when social media becomes a beast with fangs forged from images of bloodied backs and swollen eyes, I decide to turn it off.
Because I forget the 326 names I should be speaking.
Because I fear for my family whose faces I only know from albums, captured by a flashing camera, their smiles surrounded by a halo of hair.
Because I did not count the things I could lose, and now my pockets are filled with the seeds of emoji flowers I used to send to my Ammeh in return for hearts and Fenglish.
Because I don’t think kebab should be the Islamic Republic’s national food, just as violence shouldn’t be its sport.
Because I used to roll my eyes when my Baba asked me to speak to my relatives in Iran on the phone, but now words in English and Farsi sit in the back of my mouth, spoiled and unused.
Because I’m not brave enough to cut my hair in solidarity with those who never got to show the world how beautiful their stylists made them feel.
Because I let my teacher tell me I didn’t know “I-ran,” and I never had the nerve to say where my family came from or how to pronounce it correctly.
Because I still do not have the words in English or Farsi to explain that I never needed to walk the rubbled streets of a nation to grieve the stories of what it once was.
Because I turned on the Wales vs. Iran game, for tradition’s sake, and let the victory drip down my throat, clinging and itching all the way.
Because I still haven’t cried watching videos of tears falling over Zahedan, like heavy rain refusing to leave despite the sun’s bitter heat.
Because I have never felt brave enough to post my own words, so I just tap “Add to story,” and let others speak for me.
Because I’m too stubborn to listen to my family, who tells me it is enough to work hard and tell people you are Iranian, hoping it will get them to cough up leftover sympathy for a country they only know through the voices of newscasters. It doesn’t feel like enough. Nothing will ever be. Our protests and pain are nothing more than dashes on a timeline. Tears, shouts, and aches become nothing more than proof of resilience crushed into nothing. I would be an even worse Iranian for believing this,
Because I have learned that our people are experts at clenching their left hand while grasping the palms of one another with their right. Their fingers have woven together again and again, and in this unity, I believe freedom will be born.
© Celina Naheed. All rights reserved.