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Leila Didn’t Remain Silent: “Wherever I go, I Hold My Son's Photo With Pride”

November 3, 2022
3 min read
The crowd, dressed in black, and the sound of slogans point to Section 327 of the cemetery.
The crowd, dressed in black, and the sound of slogans point to Section 327 of the cemetery.
The tombstone reads “Siavash Mahmoudi, son of Leila.”
The tombstone reads “Siavash Mahmoudi, son of Leila.”

By Simin Farahmand - A citizen journalist in Tehran

Everything is changing rapidly. Autumn is half over but we are somehow stuck at the end of summer. One by one, ceremonies marking the 40th day since the victims’ deaths are approaching. It seems it was just yesterday when we heard the voice of a grieving mother shouting in a street while holding up her child's portrait.

"This is my Siavash. I held a ceremony for him in Aliabad [village], Sahibul Zaman Mosque. Siavash was a child from the town of Beheshti. We've lived there for several years. I raised him without a father. They shot him dead in the the street. This is Siavash of Iran, this is Siavash of Iran. Siavash Mahmoudi.”

Everything is changing rapidly, and we are no longer the same people we were one or two months ago. We saw these pictures and felt pain. We were crushed. No, we are not the same anymore.

It's Tuesday, November 1, in Behesht Zahra cemetery, Tehran. The sky here is overcast and a bitter wind is blowing from the desert. The 40th-day ceremony for one of the victims is being held here, as in other cities.

The crowd, dressed in black, and the sound of slogans point to Section 327 of the cemetery.

On the side of the street and among the parked cars, some plainclothes officers are standing but they stay away from the crowd.

The four of them came by taxi, they smoke cigarettes and laugh carelessly. The ceremony was supposed to start at 3:30 p.m. and last for one hour, but at around 4:00 p.m. the mourning family had to leave the grave of their loved one. The mother was arrested.

Now we know that this mother is called Leila. The obituary letter and the tombstone have her name written on them in red: Siavash Mahmoudi, son of Leila.

In footage that went viral last month, Leila screams: "If you film me, share it. Share it everywhere. Let everyone know. This is my Siavash. Siavash Mahmoudi. Siavash is a famous name. It is an authentic Iranian name. I raised my child without a father. I am proud to be Siavash Mahmoudi's mother. I am not afraid of anyone. They tell me to be quiet, but I don't sit quietly. From north to south, wherever I go, I hold my son's photo with pride."

Leila didn't keep silent, people didn't leave her alone either. The number of people at the cemetery is not large compared to other gatherings we have seen these days. Barely 100 people. But they didn't let Siavash's farewell ceremony be held in silence.

Now the crowd surrounds Siavash's grave, clapping rhythmically and chanting slogans. This is one of the signs of change we’ve seen during these 40 days. Clapping in a cemetery is no longer taboo, and mourners don’t sob or keep their heads down.

The crowd, led by women who shout in turn from every corner, repeats all the slogans heard these days. From "Death to the dictator" to "I swear by the blood of our comrades, we will stand until the end" and "Everyone is killed, a thousand people are behind." Some slogans refer to names that became symbols: "My dear Siavash, I will take your blood back," "Mahsa, Hadis Siavash, Iran is full of fire."

At 5 p.m., as night falls, the crowd ends the ceremony by clapping and chanting in rhythm "freedom, freedom, freedom.” All of them were strangers, but, like Leila, they were mourners and rushed to the city with a glimpse of hope in their hearts.


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