PART II: If you want the ultimate pleasure step on a landmine

Throughout 1982 and 1983, silence was my language at my new school. I studied hard, I made one or two friends, I didn’t participate in any of the collective or extracurricular activities unless I was forced to. My family really wanted me to take up sports; so I enrolled in a karate class near school and took lessons three afternoons a week. Something within me had died. I had lost my ambition, my motivation, my drive to change the world and my appetite for socializing. Karate was the one thing that gave meaning to my life. It was an individual pursuit and no teamwork was involved unless there was a competition and our club was participating. I think I made quite rapid progress. I learnt how to master my body and thoughts, how to be tough and to withstand—as well as inflict—punches and kicks, I learnt how to study my opponent and how to be patient until he showed his weakness, and I learnt how to play with the fear I could sense in my opponent, no matter who and how strong he was. I was promoted to yellow belt and then to orange belt but a blow below my abdomen put me in hospital for two days. Thereafter my parents, concerned about the lack of safety precautions in class, wouldn’t let me continue. That was the end of my martial arts life though not of my enthusiasm for them. I practised at home for a while but it was difficult without an instructor and soon I gave up; although I did watch every single martial arts film I could get hold of, no matter how mindless it may have been.

At the time, the only outlet left to schoolboys for an expression of our individuality was our hairstyles. But the following year, at the height of the 1980s’ craze for fancy hair, we were suddenly told by the headmaster that we had to shave our heads. I resisted for a few days; I loved my hair and thought of myself as a little Samson, much more secure with my long locks. But after I was prevented from entering school one morning I was forced to give in: I went to a barber’s shop and surrendered myself to the razor’s edge.

The loss of my hair had a devastating effect on me. It had been the last sign of my individuality, and its absence pushed me further into my corner of solitude and isolation.

Meanwhile, Mum’s troubles were just beginning. She had been transferred and was now working as a librarian at a girls’ high school. There, she was facing the same problems I had with my small class library but on a much bigger scale. She was given a list of the books that needed to be ‘purged’ from the library— books sentenced to the flames—and she was trying hard to save a few. But this wasn’t the only thing that was destroying her. The primary cause of her suffering was the periodic police raids carried out on the school and the arrest of students who were branded ‘anti-Revolutionary’, either communists or supporters of the People’s Mujahideen. She began to object to the arrests but only succeeded in further compromising her own situation. Her actions raised the suspicions of the Islamic Department and they began to exert pressure. Had it not been for the reopening of the universities that allowed students to return to their courses, she would have been in even greater trouble. As it was, she instantly resigned and returned to her studies.

By the end of 1983, we moved to a new and much smaller house. We could no longer afford the rent on the large house and, in any case, the owner had returned from abroad.