Mohsen Emadi: Report from the Besieged City

The translation of the interview with Mohsen Emadi published in Slovak newspapers SME on 2 February 2012.

What is the project “Report from the Besieged City about?”

The title “Report from the besieged city” comes from a poem by Zbigniew Herbert, the great Polish poet. This poem describes the nature of the project. It is about war and a besieged city. In this project we are bearing witness to the discourse of war against Iran through the lens of all the wars of the world. Therefore, it is a project confronting the war against Iran and also against all the world’s wars. My country is besieged. Ringed around Iran are the military bases of the USA.

Why have you started working on this project?

I was in Spain working on my new book of poetry. One day an old friend of mine, a good poet, who lives in the south of Iran, on the Persian Gulf, sent me a letter: “Mohsen, everywhere is in ruins. You are not in Iran to see it, to feel the threat that lives in all the corners and secret places of your life in every moment. I know you have also your problems. Being a Middle Eastern is like having a cancer, especially now, when everything is getting worse. When I am living beside the Persian Gulf and the smell of the oil and petrol reaches my room, I can understand where the danger lies. That year, when the American Navy attacked the passenger jet aircraft , I was 16, working on an island helping people. Just two years before I met you. It was around 12am, we said “God is the greatest!” when we were informed about the attack and near sunset on the boats we were gathering body-parts of people, the innocent passengers, from the ocean. We were casting fishing nets into the water and we were gathering body-parts, they were mixed up with the fish in the net. Here, in Iran everything is worse than before. I miss you.” The incident he is referring to is that of Iran Air Flight 655 which was a civilian jet airliner shot down by U.S. missiles on July 3, 1988, over the Strait of Hormuz, toward the end of the Iran–Iraq War. 290 innocent civilians died then. After the event Newsweek quoted Vice President George H. W. Bush as saying “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America! Ever! I don’t care what the facts are.” Then the poem of Herbert came to my mind where he says “we look in the face of hunger, the face of fire, face of death / worst of all – the face of betrayal / and only our dreams have not been humiliated”.

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