the dancing martyr

V.H, 2014. Oil on canvas, 22″ x 28″


Inspired by a friend’s dream regarding the youth in Iran, as recounted by her below:

“I was suddenly walking on a road with two other youth and we decided to walk for many kilometres and not take public transportation because of the persecution. I really felt what it was like to be a Baha’i youth there and the pressure and intensity of it is beyond words. The youth decided to show me what it is like to be in a bus and we stopped one on the road. As I got on, everyone stared in disapproval, especially because I was a foreigner.

 With tears in my eyes I observed Tehran through the bus window. I saw many women dressed in black, very tight clothes, all with hijabs and niqabs. It was clear that the streets were highly patrolled by the Basij and many of them were women. I remember feeling so sad and angry that these women had been brainwashed because I felt that deep down they knew what they were fighting for was wrong, yet they followed orders and had become worse than animals. The people on the street were soul-less and the Basij were merciless. It was scary to look at them, supervising the streets like hungry animals.

The bus stopped and a beautiful youth, a young man wearing jeans and a simple t-shirt ran up to a parking lot, pulled out some rope with orange lights attached and started to dance. He knew that what he was doing was wrong in the eyes of the Basij. The dance had somewhat of a Western influence, similar to that of a Pow Wow. He smiled, jumped to and fro, and waved his lights everywhere and danced fearlessly. It was beautiful and inspiring.

Very quickly, two women in black ran in like military soldiers, accused him of being a Baha’i, and prepared to beat him. I couldn’t believe how lifeless their eyes were. They approached him, arrested him, and three men arrived with weapons. They took out their sticks and batons and it was easy to predict what would happen next. They started beating him but he kept dancing. He knew he was going to be killed but he kept doing it. I ran out of the bus but no one could hear or see me and I started weeping and begging them to stop this senseless crime. All the youth looked at me and told me through their eyes that there is nothing I could do and this is the way things were, that this would be another sacrifice in the path to freedom.

At that point a glass window from the store behind shattered and burst out. The whole parking lot was full of broken glass. It started raining and the water was stained with blood. Interestingly, it wasn’t only the youth’s blood, now all of the Basij soldiers were full of blood. They were all yelling in pain and full of cuts from the glass. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were swimming in blood and glass.

The youth was dying and they kept hitting and cutting him with the glass but he kept smiling. All of a sudden the Basij froze and stood rigidly in shock. I couldn’t understand why and when I looked down I noticed they were all cutting their wrists with the glass and committing suicide. I couldn’t believe my eyes…”