PART VI: I am the one, ask the Hidden Imam

I arrived in the UK in September 2008 and Maryam and Kay joined me two months later. I was one of the oldest in class since most of the MA students were between 22 and 28. Living with these young students who had never experienced any of my horrors had a cathartic effect on me. We thought about nothing but our classes, and then about going out in the evening, sitting in a pub for a couple of hours, playing pool and teasing one another. Then we’d go to a nightclub or a bar where we’d dance and enjoy the evening. Our only concerns were about delivering our assignments on time and recovering from our hangovers. I had never had so much fun in my life. It was as if I were living the years stolen from my youth. And on many a night, when I returned to my room in the dorm, I would begin to cry as I thought about the youth in Iran who would never have a chance to enjoy their student life in this way, who would have to spend their lives in fear. While my classmates in the UK were having the best time of their lives, I had been persecuted for my long hair and for giving a speech on ‘the healthy personality’!

When Maryam and Kay joined me, we rented a small house in Oxford and I spent my energies on my dissertation on censorship in Iran. I had decided to document everything. The government continued to deny it was practising censorship and Ahmadinejad had claimed on several international occasions that Iran was ‘the freest country in the world’.

I was determined to go back after I completed my course although I wondered about whether I wanted Kay to grow up in Iran. I knew it would be hard for me to live away from my people. I was part of the culture and, despite all the problems, I felt it was my duty to be there. Living outside Iran would be fatal for me. Or at least I thought so at the time.

But when the presidential election campaign began, I was drawn out of my dreamlike wonderland and hurled back to reality. Everyone believed it was going to be a staged election. Everyone knew Ahmadinejad would run for a second term and the Guardian Council would disqualify any prominent rival reformist candidate. Everyone knew that the people wouldn’t really have a choice, that the results were predetermined. Ahmadinejad was going to be the next president.

Everyone knew . . . until Khatami announced he was running for the presidency in February 2009.

This was it. This was a determining moment in the history of Iran.