Two Iranian teens, two reactions to their father’s jailing

Apr 14, 20100 comments

From the LA Times Blog

April 01, 2010|By Borzou Daragahi ‘Daddy, don’t you confess!” she implored over the phone, the outburst of an impulsive teen. The jailers listening in quickly ended the conversation. But 15-year-old Scheherazade’s rash words ultimately meant more to her imprisoned father than she could imagine. It was the first time in weeks she had spoken to her father, Saeed Laylaz, a prominent Iranian economist and liberal journalist jailed days after disputed elections last year. For nearly two months, his wife and two children had no idea where the 44-year-old had been taken or even whether he was still alive.

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But the trauma of having their father taken away from them affected each child differently, convincing one that speaking out against tyranny is a losing game. “To me it’s not worth it,” said Mohammad-Hossein, a quiet, reed-thin young man with slight whiskers growing on his chin and upper lip. “I think there’s a better way. I imagine a better life than politics.” For Scheherazade, the jailing only fortified her beliefs, her outspokenness. Outside the gates of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, a guard once asked her what crime her father had committed. “Telling the truth,” she says she told him. At first, Scheherazade and Mohammad-Hossein thought their father was having early-morning guests, some of the dozens of politicians, journalists and activists who regularly visited his home and office at Sarmayeh, or Capital, the now-banned daily newspaper where he wrote articles critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic policies. The teenagers slumbered blissfully amid the commotion, sleeping in late during a break from classes. It was June 17, and the streets were raging with protests in the wake of Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection. “Suddenly I realized they were in my room,” Mohammad-Hossein said. “They were looking for computers. They looked all over the house.”

Scheherazade got dressed and went into the living room. She tried to say something to her father but was told to shut up. Their mother served the plainclothes security officials tea before they took her husband away. Then she served the kids breakfast.

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