What is good and what is bad? Who is immoral and who is righteous? What is ethics and who is unethical? Is there justice or is it just us? When I look back at my youth and the path that I am navigating, I ask myself if I was right then or am I right now? What have I gone through and what has happened? Did I intend to follow a path for a better life and explore the dynamics of human life? By doing so did I attempt alter another group’s comfort zone or disturb their way of life?
In pursuit of equality and justice, I was imprisoned then banished; prohibited from following path of a normal life. One may ask if I had the right to pursue what I thought was right and if not, did I deserve to be punished so severely?
Once Galileo Galilei was tried by the Inquisition, and was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”. He was forced to recant. He then spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Was Galileo immoral to attack the Church and believers? Could he question God’s authority? Did other people and the Church have the right to silence him?
Do we have the right to tell people how and what they think? If not, one may ask if we exist. Is it true what Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am”? While living on the planet earth, do we have the right to think? Do we have the right to own and control our minds and bodies? If one cannot tell others how and what to think, can others tell us how and what to think? If we can be silenced, shouldn’t everyone else also be silenced?
Many students, political activists and intellectuals came out at the beginning of the new regime in Iran protesting the new law of forced head covering. The question is: “Can one mandate what other do?” What gives one authority to mandate how people dress, talk and think?
Three years after the installment of the new government, there was chaos and turmoil in the land: a devastating war with Iraq, implementation of Islamic laws, unemployment, etc. There came the time when all in opposition were accused of attempting to overthrow the government. To stop them, the government began massive arrests. The arrestees overflowed the jails cells. Overcrowding and the unsanitary condition of the cells were obvious: Only a half square meter per person and we were allowed to use the bathrooms only three times a day and for only 15-minutes a time. In the cell I was placed there were 72 prisoners. The bathrooms were outside of the cells in a hallway. Bathroom had four stalls with 2 separate showers. We could go out to the court only once a day for half an hour. Sometimes we were punished and subsequently banished from fresh air.
Eleven days, blindfolded, I heard many people of all ages and genders being beaten and tortured. Crying for God and parents, they tried to stop the torturer beating them. The interrogators were asking them to spell all the names and give information of on others opposing the regime. There was no limit to the torture. No time limit and no specific style. The wire cables could be thick or narrow. Each one had its own quality of inflicting pain. Dull pain or sharp burning pain. They could be interchanged during the interrogation period. Both cables could be used to make one speak or recant. Afterward we were forced to stand on our feet to make sure blood moved through our lower extremities. Sometimes we were hanged from long-shanked bait hooks from the ceiling like animals on meat-hook. What had happened in the Buchenwald concentration camp was happening decades later. The differences between butchered animals and us was that our toes barely touched the floor and we were alive. This could go for hours. Later on, out of captivity, I learned that many people died while they were tortured.
If humans have agreed to abolish torture, how is it that we still have the continuation of the worst methodology of interrogation since the time of Galileo Galilei? What makes one force others to obey their rules and regulation? Can we all agree to disagree? What allows one group of people to justify their action and call themselves right? What is right and what is wrong? Who can make the decision that I am wrong? If I am wrong why do we have to be right and at what price? What do I have to do to satisfy others? Do I have to?
Who is “we” and who am “I”? When defining the existence of ourselves, do we have the right to deny others? What if they deny our right to be who we are and who we want to be? Do we have the right to defend ourselves and fight back? What gives us the right to be right? How do I know I am right?
By Ali Abani 2017 USA