A Story of Pain: An Open Letter from Nima Ebrahimzadeh, son of Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, Iranian dissident and imprisoned worker

Nima Ebrahimzadeh lies in a hospital bed with an IV, his parents standing next to him.

In this exclusive Tavaana translation from the original Persian, the young son of imprisoned labor activist Behnam Ebrahimzadeh eloquently and emotionally describes the ordeal of going through leukemia treatments while his father is jailed for working on behalf of Iran's laborers. 

My name is Nima Ebrahimzadeh, the son of Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, and I have a question for you.

Yes, I have a question for you: where do I have to go to find refuge? Where do I have to go to cry out about my suffering, and ask for which crime it is that I am made to suffer so much?

You tell me what I am guilty of.

Hey, you! You human beings, you with the clear conscience, you who have created organizations and claim to defend the rights of children, you who claim to be institutions that support children who are suffering from cancer, you who defend mankind and you philanthropists, you who are workers like my father: I need your help today. Tomorrow may be far too late.

In these difficult days, I turn to you to ask only one thing and nothing else: demand my father’s release!

In these difficult days of chemotherapy, I need my father by my side. I want my father to be next to me as I fight this cancer. Is that too much to ask? You tell me!

I am Nima Ebrahimzadeh. I live in Tehran. About four months ago, the doctors diagnosed me with leukemia. The doctors at Mahak Hospital have already told me a lot about its symptoms and treatment. My treatment will be extremely difficult. This is cancer; it's not as if I have the flu. This isn't a joke. There are times when all these pills and medicines make me anemic. I just feel exhausted, but again, my father, my mother, and my good friends all encourage me to keep going and tell me that I can make a full recovery. They keep recommending that I stay calm, patient, and strong!

Tell me: how could I, in these circumstances, remain calm, patient, and strong?

I don’t know whether I should be describing my own pains or my father's! Is there any difference?

Perhaps you mature and experienced adults might have a better grasp of how difficult these times are for me, and how painful each moment has become. I feel like there is no end to this pain, that there will never be an end to the suffering and hardship imposed on me.

I am constantly on the Web, studying whatever I can find about my disease. It has been determined that shock and nervous stress are one of the main causes of the emergence and spread of cancer. Although researchers cannot be sure about how much excessive stress comes into play in this disease, they know that extreme stress makes recovery longer and riskier.

Let me say this in a straightforward manner: I want to survive. I want to live. Is that asking too much?

I know that life in this world is hard, and even more so for kids like me, but the thought of leaving this damned world like this and breaking my parents' hearts is even harder for me to bear.

I don’t want the grief of losing me to further darken their days and nights. To tell you the truth, there are times when I bury my head under the pillow and sob. I weep for them. I cry because I know how much more difficult losing me will make their days and their lives.

Living through these past few months, dealing with the cancer and bearing the absence of my dear father, has made me grow up much faster and given me more experience. My father has always taught me that no one’s rights should be trampled. He has always taught me about humanity. My father speaks of the pain and suffering of the workers and the poor. He tells me about the children who have bridges for roofs and pieces of cardboard for beds. My dad has always spoken of respecting human beings.

Now I'd like to know why these logical words and this compassion should send him to prison and away from my side. I need my father. I really need my father. Whenever I'm feeling down, he starts kidding around with me, wrestling and playing with me. No matter what it takes, he wants me to be happy. Is jail the right place for a father like this?

I know that we have found many friends during this time, and they have supported us in every which way. I thank them all, because it was this kind of support that made them give my father leave from time to time and let him be by my side, so that I could feel his presence in my bones and in my being.

Every second, I hope the phone will ring and someone will tell me that my father is going to be with me forever as a free man. As if the jailers would leave us alone. Each phone call makes all three of us tremble. Today was one of those days. I don’t know whether I should feel distraught for myself or my father, who sighed into the phone, shouting: “I will return to prison, but not today! I promised my son that I would take him to the doctor!” I feel sorry for my mother, for her tears and for her cursing everything on earth.

I am asking every one of you who hears my voice and reads my words to help me and my family.

Is it asking too much to want your father free and by your side? You tell me.

Nima Ebrahimzadeh, Tuesday, June 4th, 2013, Tehran, Iran.

Reproduced by Nima Ebrahimzadehs Defense Committee.

What Tavaana Students Have to Say

As an Iranian citizen, I might never have even thought about civic institutions if it wasn't for this course. As of now, there is no group in Iran doing this kind of work for us. I give my utmost thanks to you and all of the Tavaana staff.  I hope you offer a greater variety of courses, because our people desperately need it.
- Azar, Iranian Civil Society course graduate

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