Frozen butter and the Fedaii

The story of Arash Pouyan

Chapter 12

Arash overheard prison guards talk about a recent battle between the Mojahedin and the Sepah. Both sides had suffered casualties, and although the Mojahedin fought bravely they had loss several of their top leaders. So the guards were happy. A prisoner next cell over to Arash asked what the guards were talking about.

"Mojahedin leaders were martyred," he said.

The guards laughed at Arash, entertained by the childishness of his politics, and walked away. But a few minutes later they came back, no longer laughing. They had reported Arash to their superiors and were instructed to handle the situation in the standard method.

"Who said that word!" a guard said "Who said 'martyr!'"

Arash was the cell's volunteer for the night. He was getting water for his cellmates to drink.

"I did," he said, without thinking, as a reflex with no desire to be brave.

The guards rushed him and immediately knocked him to the ground. The guards kicked him in the ribs, legs, then his face. He covered his head with his hands to cover his head.

"I am a socialist!" Arash yelled. "Not Mojahedin!"

He was trying to reason with them. He wasn't Mojahedin. He didn't even like them, really. He had hoped saying he was a socialist would stop them from beating him.

"I am a socialist!"

"Shut up!" the guards yelled. "Hit neck down! Not in the face!"

The guards would try to avoid leaving marks on the faces of prisoners but sometimes—often—they couldn't help themselves.

The more Arash yelled, the angrier the guards grew and the harder they kicked. But he kept yelling.

"But I am a socialist—a socialist!"

When you're being beaten, time stands still. Your mind is still active. It wanders. Sometimes with random thoughts. You think about food, shoes, birds. But, at that moment, time is incomprehensible. And then everything becomes incomprehensible, and then soon you stop thinking altogether.

When he regained consciousness he was lying on top of his bed. But his eyes were swollen shut. He couldn't move his legs. A prisoner put a cigarette in between his lips and lit it.

"Smoke, Arash," a prisoner said.

He inhaled and tried opening his eyes.

"Keep your eyes closed, comrade."

It took Arash three days to start walking again and three months for all the swelling to go down. His wounds were left untreated and became infected.

From that moment on Arash felt different.

The guards continued beating Arash and the other prisoners. The only variation in the beatings were their severity and regularity. But they never stopped.

But from that moment on, after being beaten unconscious, Arash gave up.

But there are two types of "giving up." The first type is when they smash your spirit. You have no control or say in what happens to you. They have full control over you and you do whatever they tell you to. But there is another kind of giving up. They could kill you, beat you, torture you. They could even, after years and years, finally release you. But none of it would matter. It would be all the same. Because you aren't scared anymore. Because you don't care about yourself anymore. They can't control you any longer. This kind of giving up is to let go of the fear of reprisal, the flinching in the face of the coming violence. Go ahead, beat me, kill me, cowards! Arash said to himself. I don't care! I don't care! You've already beaten and tortured me, and thousands before me and thousands after. Amir is dead. The others are dead.. Kill me, you cowards!




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 AnxietyThe 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.

You can find him on Substack at

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.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Wednesday, January 10, 2024 - 06:31