“What time is it?” The fatigued young man wondered. His brain was foggy from all he had endured over the last few years. Words popped into his mind only to jettison out as quickly as they appeared. His vision was blurry in one eye. Closing it, terror gripped his body as a black abyss sprang in front of him. Was this the first inkling he had about his vision deteriorating? Had he experienced this before? The wrestler could not recall even as he touched the damaged eye.
“What day is it?” Again, the wrestler was unable to decipher time. Slowly, he lifted his head as if he were raising heavyweights. Touching his hair, he felt the caked blood. Images began materializing. The wrestler started to whimper as he experienced the blows to his head. His chest began contracting as if a poisonous snake was coiling around his lungs, crushing! The shallowness of the wrestler’s breathing was distinct. Shaking his head, he started to inhale deeply. “Breathe in, breath out,” whispering to himself. “Pretend you are in the ring.”
The wrestler calmed down. Pleased with himself that the beatings did not rob him of memories from long ago. The wrestler reminisced about his triumphs in the ring. Smiling as tears streamed down his face visualizing his last trophy.
The wrestler examined his body. Long ago, people commented on his muscularity and strength. You could see the ripped display of sinewy magnificence as if a sculptor chiseled a figurine to perfection. He laughed sardonically, “If only they could see me now,” examining his atrophied, emaciated body.
The wrestler shook his head, trying to remember the conversation with his family. “Was it last night?” Intuitively, he felt it, but he could not be sure. Reflecting on their exchange, whenever it was, he tried to placate his parents, knowing their despondency and inertia about his situation. Again, he wiped away his tears as he, again, experienced despair about the turmoil inflicted on them. Did they suffer retribution for their son’s actions, he wondered? Clenching his fists as he pondered this possibility, he bellowed like a wounded animal. He could not fathom his family enduring such agony. The wrestler shut his eyes tight, stomping his feet to avoid conjuring up this abomination.
When would he hear their sweet voices again? None of the surly guards ever disclosed information about these privileges.
Glimmers of that fateful day scattered into his conscience like pieces of a puzzle. The wrestler concentrated, inviting more as the tumultuous events sluggishly materialized. He and his brothers shared their disdain for the oppressive regime subjugating his beloved country. Believing his gravitas would provide impunity, he allowed his arrogance to get the best of him. Naively, the wrestler and his brothers joined the protesters. The spectacle that ensued was unanticipated. The Revolutionary Guards were unmerciful as they arrested everyone present. Some showed recognition but quickly retained their stoicism, using ferocity at his attempts to use prestige.
“How wrong I was,” the wrestler silently proclaimed. “What was I thinking?” He rubbed his eyes as exhaustion crept into his body. The weight of his head now felt massive as it steadily drooped into his lap.
Although he was often chilly, he could taste the salt from sweat drenching him. The wrestler experienced either feeling overheated or residing in an arctic polar vortex, aware that the episodes of torture contributed to this. Wobbly, he stood up, gripping the chair, swaying as a way to retain heat.
“Did I kill that guard? My mind robs me of that recollection.” The wrestler cannot conjure that visual and oscillates to warm his body. Suddenly, clamoring voices are heard, louder and louder, as heavy boots explosively march toward his cell. He hears their arrival outside the door, rattling their keys as they noisily unlock the door of his prison home. Momentarily, they remain static, studying him. Silently, they gesture for him to come forward.
Navid Afkari shuts his eyes, expressing a silent prayer for valor and the protection of his family. With every bit of stamina, he can muster, the wrestler shuffles toward them.
Author’s Note: Navid Afkari, a prominent Iranian wrestler, was sentenced to death and executed in Shiraz on September 12, 2020. I learned about him last year from an article in the Wall Street Journal. He confessed to killing one of the guards, but later, he maintained, coerced under torture.
Appeals by the international community fell on deaf ears. The brutal regime would not acquiesce to requests for staying the execution. No mercy for rebels toward the premier terror state in the world is granted, promulgating abject misery for the long-suffering people.
Sadly, their most fruitful changes in thirty years have long passed as American leaders stayed mum with rhetorical support for freedom. The same thing appears to be occurring in Cuba except for a few tepid words from this administration.
Now we have Afghanistan, a travesty unfolding as helpless Americans watch. Millions of dollars of equipment paid by the taxpayers of the United States, loyal military dogs, courageous Afghan interpreters, and, most disturbingly, American citizens stranded in an archaic country. What could go wrong as our ruling class, including leaders at the highest levels, stagger on drunken power? Need I say more.