Samira, life is beautiful

Ali Abani
Photographer: Ali

The story is about a 16 years old girl, in the city of Bam where earthquake happened. This incident happened on December 26, 2003


It was a strange evening.  There was a secret image sitting beneath the nightfall. No one knew of this secret but God. Nevertheless, I wish, God would have revealed this secret to girls and women like Samira so they would do something about it. Perhaps it was better that all of them would die all together in that dreadful earthquake. Yes, indeed these were the wish of a lot of women who could become widow and live in fear of life afterward. God never granted their wish. Perhaps he wanted to show his cruelty to poor. Maybe god wanted to exposed people to the cruelties and crimes of the governor of him on earth. I do not know. Perhaps it was the God’s wish.

Samira was sleeping in their house, made of clay and mud and bricks, was shaken.  It did not take long that everything went under the dirt and smoke. Screaming and yelling did not last long. Quietness covered the whole atmosphere……. The only survivor, Samira, came out of plum of the dirt. She was not thinking about her broken arm or bloody skull, but yelling to her mother and sibling:  “Maman, Maman, Maman, Ahmad, Baba joon, Baba joon where are you?”  None of them answered. The smell of death was capturing the air. Crying and screaming not realizing her own pain, she walked to the street, asking for help: “some one help, someone help. For the sake of the god help. My mom and dad are under the pile of rubbish”. The only noises in the street were crying. Her voice was echoing by the other survivor. Homelessness, loneliness, crying and looking for remains went for several days and finally came the time to pull Samira’s family members out of rubbish.

Samira did not need any help to find her family anymore. She even did not want to have them out of the rubbles. She did not want to see their squished bodies. She would have rather to see their image as she remembered them last…….

They buried the dead without coffin and without stone. They never had ceremonies… Samira lying on her Aunt’s shoulder, watched the situation, she did not have tear to shed anymore….

The burial ceremony went in silent morning.  There were some bearded Pasdar (government police) surrounding the cemetery making sure no protest or riot. Every body was sick and tired of these idiots and was angry that instead of helping people to pull the dead body out of the debris, they were after anyone criticizing the government for doing nothing for people and rebuilding the damages caused by earthquake. Some of these Pasdar had arrived from Kerman or other province. They arrived here to beat anyone who protests against the careless government and its sickened unaccomplishment efforts. They would beat the hell out of any voices and then send them to jail. Unlike all international propagandas that they claimed, the government had done nothing to help.

Samira’s Aunt Family on the other hand was among the rare families that had not lost anyone to the earthquake. All were alive and well. Thanks to the bricks, metal frames and concretes used in their new standard home. Her husband was Pasdar and unlike many people who did not want to support the government, he was able to have good pay and good life. He also took some of charities donated by national and international organizations, selling them to Kerman’s Bazaar.

It reminded Samira of his own dad when he said that he would rather die than to be a “son of a bitch” like these guys. He always told Samira, his oldest daughter, that when you get older, you would understand that one needs to have a moral value; otherwise, life is a worthless commodity. You need to help your kind and other people. She remembered that her dad had a clear mind and conscious with his god. Not only he had never swallowed a stolen food in his life, on the other hand, he had shared his food with others.

Samira knew that his father was loved by others and was proud to have such a father. His lost was felt all over. Now she has to stay with someone who her dad called “extortionist” or “mercenary”, the man who people never respected him or said hello to him. It was better to die than to live with such a monster. She cried all nights under blanket asking god why she should suffer. Why god did not take her life and relieve her from such misery. How could she stand to her father’s honor and at the same time live in the house of a beast? She could not believe living in house of somebody who her family never wanted to visit him even in new year (Norooz). Her dad always said that her uncle he is a disgrace to the family, a thief, and extortionist, but now she was forced to live in his house, forced by the nature with no choice. The situation had been dictated to this little innocent girl and her happy days were over now.

Samira could not go to school anymore. Her uncle Asghar had said that he does not have money to send her to school.  Knowing he had money, Samira was prohibited to continue education. Furthermore he had added that according to Agha (Khomeini)’s fatwa, girls have to marry in early age so they don’t become immoral! Samira’s cousin also had the same situation. She was not allowed to attend school anymore. She is 13 now and has attended school till 5th grade.

At the beginning of the earthquake, she noticed that her uncle came home with lots of gold and money. The golds were ranged from earrings to necklaces to wedding rings. Sometimes he would not come home at all. Her poor aunt was crying all the time, but would not reveal it to her beloved sister’s innocent orphan her feeling.

One night the husband and wife started arguing. Uncle Asghar, holding on her aunt’s hairs, pulled her around the court yard, intending to through her out of the house. Her aunt was crying and begging him to forgive her. Finally, he gave in and let her go. Samira felt that her aunt is an adult of herself, a copy of the same victim. Her aunt’s face was covered with blood. Samira and her cousin, Azam, took her aunt in the room with her shoulder dislocated. Mr. Asghar while yelling at all of them left the house and stated that he will not be back that night.

Later, Azam went to bed. Aunt Esmat could not help herself, sapping and moaning, she started crying. Samira started crying with her aunt, both crying arm in arm.  Her aunt found herself in Samira too. She started to talk while crying hard: “Do you know where he got all these jewelries and gold after the earthquake?” Samira wondering said “NO” but looked at her aunt, puzzled. Samira knew that there were some strange activities after the earthquake on his part but did not want to know what. Her Aunt continued that her husband, Asghar, instead of taking bodies out of debris took their belongings. She continued that she herself had witnessed some of wrist bands were bloody. She asked Samira if she knows why he is not coming home occasionally. When Samira said that she does not know, her aunt continued that after the dreadful earth quake some women lost their husband so he accepted their guardianship and has married them (under Islamic law men can have four wives and as many Sigeh,  a Shiite tradition of temporary marriage permitted in Iran that allows a couple to specify the terms of their relationship; can last from a few minutes to 99 years; „Sigeh legally wraps premarital sex in an Islamic cloak).

They did not have anybody take care of them, so they preferred to be in a house and have a man rape them in the name of “Sigeh” than all of these wolves Pasdars. Her aunt said that she had protested many times in no avail. “I have to leave in this lagoon. I have nobody or law protecting me.” She said.

Samira got dizzy. She got up and left the room. She left to the yard and looked at the sky asking God why he is so cruel to poor people. She asked God to finish her life so she should notsuffer so much. She wanted God to finish her so she could not witness the torture and suffering of the young and women. She wished the world end with cruelty and injustice and instead equality and happiness nest in people’s mind and face. Her voice did not reach anyone, despair was all she felt inside.

One day, she noticed that his uncle Asghar was looking at her improperly and animalistic. It was mixed with a sexual attitude. Once in yard she felt he was chasing her with his eyes.  She pulled herself together and left the yard but he followed her. He locked the door from inside. Quickly she realized that her Aunt was not home and he was waiting for such day for a long time.

The next day Samira saddened, worst than losing her parents, sat in the corner of the yard. She made her mind, decided what she has to do. Screamed inside at herself to get up and be strong to what she had decided. It seemed that she wanted to take a long trip on a train, a long trip that its train was leaving soon. She wanted to get out of this terrestrial frame and body. She wanted to be free of being a women and homeless.

Very fast, she poured a gallon of gasoline on her body and lighted herself on fire, running outside to the street yelling: “People, Asghar killed me, the filthy and inferior man killed me. Death to this life. Death to injustice and cruel world”. She was running through the street burning in fire. People, wondered and scared were attempting to find water to put the fire down but she was running away from everyone. Her mother’s only sister, Esmat was staring at her yelling at everyone: “Leave her alone. Let her be free from this misery. This is the destiny of all our women who live in this jail called life”.

Someone was crying on the other side of the street: “Samira, don’t die, life is beautiful.”

Aunt Esmat, having a sad smile on her face mumbled: “Yes, it is beautiful but in struggle and resistant not in obedient or giving up.”

Story by: Mehri Amiri

Translated by: Ali Abani 2005

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