After 1979, while life generally was already bad for most Iranians, things got worse. Before the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power, his predecessor the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ran the country like a colony mainly for the benefit of the Americans and the Brits. Back in the 1970s the biggest contributor to Iran's 32-billion-dollar Gross Domestic Product was oil, bringing in about 20 billion. Oil being the well-known and standard diet for rich and powerful countries. While there were more civil liberties and guise of Western-like tolerance for different ideas back then, the Shah kept steady and sharp attention to the dissidents and political activists, particularly the armed activists, especially the Fedaii.
One day when Arash's dad dropped him off at school he saw political posters on nearby buildings and telephone posts. Eclectic political posters and literature was everywhere. On the walls. On telephone polls. Crumbled up on the street or sidewalk. It urged support for mysterious Fedaii said to be fighting with police and the military for the benefit of the Iranian people, in the cities and in the mountains. And at the bottom or sometimes at the top of the poster appeared an arm holding up an AK-47 or a hammer and sickle (if the poster was in color, it would be yellow) and in the center a star (which sometimes would be red).
Arash didn't know but that morning he was being watched by three other high school students: Jalil, Masoud and Amir. They would walk around the areas where posters were and see people's reaction. Arash kept coming back to the posters to read them. Masoud was the first to go up to Arash.
"Hey," Masoud said.
"Hi," Arash said.
"What do you think?"
"About that," Masoud said and pointed to the poster.
"I like it," he said.
"Do you know about the Fedayeen?" Masoud asked.
"A little bit," Arash said. "You support them?"
Masoud ignored the question.
"What are you doing later after school?" he asked.
"Going home. You?"
Masoud looked around.
"We're gonna go to the university," he said. "Wanna come?"
"Why are you going?"
Masoud again ignored his question.
"Who else is going?" Arash asked, thinking his question would go unanswered.
"We'll be in front of the school if you wanna come," Masoud said. "We can talk more then."
After class ended, Arash quickly walked to the front of the school. He had gotten there first. A minute later Masoud, Jalil and Amir showed up. All four took the bus to the University of Tehran.
Students have always played a role in revolutionary movements. Iran was no different. Both Islamic fundamentalist as well as revolutionary organizations were based out of the university. Political debates were common among students, and sometimes they would turn heated and confrontational. It was a perfect place for organizations to recruit.
Masoud, Jalil and Amir would meet up with a couple of university students who were members of an organization called Pishgam, which was known as the youth wing of the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaii Guerrillas before the split. Although the Pishgam were university students, they looked almost as young as high school students. They, too, were too young to grow mustaches or beards. Instead, they had sparse thin patches of hair and whiskers. Everyone was going for the Che Guevara aesthetic. They all wore Chuck Taylors and sometimes Chinese cultural revolution-style pants and shirts. Sometimes the young, handsome and confident revolutionary can't help himself. Style over secrecy. They would meet regularly and pick up political literature, like posters and fliers, to put up in neighborhoods and to distribute at demonstrations and other political events. Back then, in Iran, that was the main way younger kids would join the revolutionary movement.
Although it seemed benign, any association or even suspected association with the Fedaii or any other anti-government group, would get you arrested, tortured and even killed. Even if you weren't armed. There was no such thing as an innocent or benign dissident who refused to hide their dissidence.
They immediately brought in Arash into the organization. He took up the political work with enthusiasm, joining Masoud, Jalil and Amir at demonstrations and protests to pass out fliers and pamphlets. He attended Pishgam's collective Marxist-Leninist studies. They read the classics: Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. Arash was 13 years old.
But the seed of revolution had already been planted in his mind years earlier. Arash was first introduced to radical politics when he was eight years old in Germany. He and his parents and younger brother were visiting his uncle Omar in Berlin. Omar was a university student and member of the leftist international student organization the Confederation of Iranian Students, known simply as "The Confederation." The organization supported the overthrow of the Shah and led protests in different countries—some of the Confederation's more militant members sympathized with Chairman Mao and armed struggle, particularly the Fedaii. So after spending time with his uncle, his little mind had started absorbing new and radical ideas. His parents warned Omar not to teach Arash those things—it could get him in trouble down the road. A valid premonition. But it was too late. He was hooked and wanted more. When he came back to Tehran he sought out anti-Shah political organizations to join. A few years later, Masoud and Jalil caught Arash at the right place at the right time. The Pishgam continued his political education where his uncle left off, helping to turn a politically-curious snot-nosed 8-year-old kid into the snot-nosed 14-year-old hardened political prisoner that he would soon become.
Facundo Rompehuevos is an activist, writer, husband, father and recovering alcoholic and drug addict born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. He writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. His work has appeared in zines and literary magazines and poetry journals, such as Rusty Truck, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, The Rising Phoenix Review, Red's Not White and Delirium. He has two books of poetry: Irreconcilable Contradictions (2017) and Grabbing the Stars from the Sky (2021), both published by Fourth Sword Publications. He is currently working on his debut novel and a collection of short stories.
Arash Pouyan was born in 1966 in Tehran. By the age of 12 he participated in the 1979 Iran Revolution. Later on he was arrested for his participation and support of the Fedaii. After three years as a political prisoner, he was released and left to Europe—where he continued his political activism against the Islamic Republic. Afterward, he moved to the U.S. He returned, briefly, to Iran in 2009 to participate in the Green Movement. Today, he continues to keep up to date with the popular movements not just in Iran but all over the world.