Friday, August 17, 2007


[introduction: the following text has been written originally by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, and was published on her weblog:, I decided to translate it because of its insightful description of a situation where government agents are imposing a policy to maximize social welfare and facing resistance because they are destroying a group of people’s stock and means to survive. At the end some lose jobs because of this shock, here Chicken Flu. It also is interesting to notice the bargaining situation, where agents refusal to bargain costs the elder’s credibility. I also like the emotional aspect of this piece.]

30 years have passed. With Agha Jaan (my father) I go to the farmers’ market in town. It is the very same place where every peddler has set up a booth and yells the virtues of their stuff. It is the very same place where I went with my mother as a teenager with a beating heart worrying if my city friends’ parents show up shopping for the ducks and hens for the dinner. Seeing them I used to stare at them bravely with a scared heart to make them go away. I did not tell Agha-jaan anything but seeing me like that he always pushed a 50 Toman[1] note down my pocket so I could go wandering around and buy myself candy.

30 years have passed. Now Agha-jaan is the elder of this bazaar. The young peddlers greet him with much ceremony. Everyone knows that no one can talk less of religious beliefs, saints, leaders, or anything with any sign of ingratitude or contempt in front of him. The village women who carry their green containers on their heads from the village to the town and make no more than 2000 to 3000 Tomans a day (roughly 2-3 dollars). Seeing him they always say: “Thanks God, we are grateful.”

This gives me confidence. I am not afraid of my city friends and classmates anymore. I am not even afraid of my editor or the editor in chief of my paper anymore. To think of it I am not even afraid of president or the speaker of Majlis[2]. If they show up I am not embarrassed that my father is a peddler. Agha-jaan knows that he can not send me away with a 50 Toman note anymore.

I want to help Agha-jaan in selling his chickens and ducks. I want to insist to that man from city who is wandering around aimlessly to buy something. I want to persist so much that he takes out some cash and buys something. So Agha-jaan could go home with a lighter box.

Wait a minute that directionless man is not a customer, he is not aimless either. He is a health department agent, looking for a remedy to Chicken Flu. His presence transforms farmers’ market to a market of chaos. On one side the chickens on the other side the chicken sellers are struggling to save their lives from health department agents.

Agha-jaan is still standing firmly and asks his colleagues to be calm. Everyone hopes he could help, everyone thinks these agents would listen to him. He has been to the governor’s office as their representative before. This time is different. He cannot stomach that old woman’s helpless screams of despair refusing to hand over her chickens and rosters. No one can. The agents take away her chickens and rosters anyway and put them in a barrel and gas them all. The gas silences her chickens. I am suffocating.

The old woman is choking even biting the agent’s hand does not calm her down. One bazaar and so many villagers crying over the loss of their chickens and rosters, the only means they have to survive. Foolishly I am looking for my reporter’s identity card, thinking it might scare the agents. I should tell them even in our neighborhood in Turkey they pay for these chickens and rosters before killing them.

Agha-jaan is ashamed of colleagues who until yesterday did not dare to say a disrespectful in front of him about authorities or politicians. Like a broken tree I am ashamed of his humiliation. I stare at health department agents who think we would be happy if they lose this battle. Who would enjoy a defeat that humiliates her dearest?

Agh-jaan goes back home with a box lighter than ever. I have a choke in throat, a heavy one seeing my 65 years old father has losing his job because of preventing Chicken Flu.

I am standing like a broken tree and I do not know into whose eyes I should stare to make them go away.
[1] Toman is 10 Rials the official currency of Iran, each 1 USD is 9500 Rials approximately.
[2] Iran Parliament is called Majlis.

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