Tuesday, November 17, 2009

'Eternal is the one whose heart has awakened to love...': Dead Kahrizak witness's speech at graduation ceremony

Ramin Pourandarjani, a medical doctor who worked at the notorious Kahrizak detention center died under suspicious circumstances at the age of 26 on Tuesday, November 10, according to Iranian media reports. He had been called as a witness before the special committee investigating the abuse and deaths of post-election protesters and had refused to validate the regime's attempts to whitewash the atrocities. (For a report on Pourandarjani's death, updated at 12:00 PM GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009, go here)

A new video posted on the Internet shows Pourandarjani giving a speech at his medical school's graduation ceremony last year. His youthful idealism and words of farewell take on a new poignant meaning, given his untimely death. A translation of his speech follows the video.

Rest in peace.

Ramin Pourandarjani:

In the name of God. Greetings.

I'm speaking on behalf of all the friends (NB Pourandarjani uses the word bacheha, literally 'kids,' which is a term of endearment referring to friends and peers.) who are present here today to celebrate their graduation in the company of their families, friends, and professors.

I must start by welcoming our dear guests. I begin with our inestimable professors who have gone to the trouble of coming to this celebration where, as a result of their hard work, we will spread our wings and take flight for the first time. Their presence strengthens our hearts. We kiss your hands and will forever cherish your efforts.

Next, I would like to welcome our honorable mothers and fathers who have gone to the trouble of coming here from Tabriz and other parts of Iran. (NB Pourandarjani was buried in Tabriz on Thursday, November 12) We cannot repay you for your efforts. We only hope that we will bring you pride and not shame.

My next remarks are directed at the kids. Kids, seven years have gone by, more or less. We have shared many, many memories over the course of these seven years, some bitter, some sweet. Memories that are perhaps difficult to understand for someone who has not been a medical student. From running in the hallways to delay a biochemistry exam, to the exhausting shifts in the emergency rooms. We've had so many memories.

And now the day of farewell has arrived. Farewell is a bitter word, but we've come together to bid each other a sweet goodbye.

Kids, the emergency room shifts were tough, the shifts as interns were tough. We were sometimes so exhausted. We used to chat with each other. One of the kids said, What did we get ourselves into? And then a long debate would be launched, at the end of which we would reach the conclusion that if we turned back the clocks a thousand times, we would still make the same choice that we made seven years ago.

Kids, we are the heirs of great individuals. Men such as Rhazes, Hippocrates, Avicenna, and Hakim Jorjani. From the start of human history, a great and sacred spirit has been passed down through these celebrated figures to us, in the form of our white coats. Our professors, who are present here, awakened this spirit in our hearts.

And kids, we are here today to say that we will continue on our path, with love.

O wine-bearer brighten my cup with the wine,
O minstrel say good fortune is now mine.
The face of my Beloved is reflected in my cup,
Little you know why with wine, I always myself align.
Eternal is the one whose heart has awakened to Love,
This is how Eternal Records my life define.

(NB The start of ghazal number 11, by the beloved Hafez, 1315-1390. Translation courtesy of Shahriar Shahriari.)