Frozen butter and the Fedaii

The story of Arash Pouyan

Chapter 13

In 1984, Arash, Masoud and Jalil were released from prison. It was a combination of different factors. There was the pressure outside of the country coming from international human rights organizations and media to release political prisoners. There was even a BBC special on the rampant torture in Iranian jails, particularly Gezel Hesar. But that alone was not enough to bend the regime's will. Another factor was more internal. The Islamic Republic knew it needed a supportive or at least neutral populace to govern. Continued protest, no matter how much the regime can spin it as "outside agitators," does not help the country's stability. Which it needed during its war with Iraq throughout the '80s. War, whether good or bad, demands a nation be united. So the regime would play the part of the wise, benevolent and forgiving government and release some prisoners, even political prisoners. Of course, not without some conditions; the prisoners would plead guilty to their crimes; they would express remorse; they would ask for forgiveness. So after three years under torture and constant threat of execution, Arash, Masoud and Jalil were asked if they were sorry for what they had believed in and done (promoted revolution against the Islamic Republic). They lied and said yes. At the ages of 17, they walked out of prison.

Masoud and Jalil ended up staying in Iran, and eventually Arash lost all contact with them. Arash stayed one more year in Iran, but it was too hot—the state kept a close eye on them. So eventually he left Iran and moved to the United States where he had family.

In the states, Arash learned basic English but didn't become proficient. Still, he was able to land a regular 9-to-5 and get a one-bedroom apartment. He made enough money to buy a car, gain weight and get by. Briefly, he entertained the idea of joining a gym or taking boxing classes. Certainly, he could've afforded it. But he never did. Instead he paid for saxophone lessons because why not.


Arash doesn't know what is suppose to come next. He is cautious of falling back into radical politics. He is not part of any organization, but sort of likes it that way. He is alone, but sort of likes it that way, too. He reads, smokes, drinks black tea and plays saxophone. He has picked up the guitar and painting, too. Sometimes he talks with his niece over the phone. He worries about her. She has become an activist, reads Mao and talks about revolution. If she keeps going, it could be bad. If she doesn't, she would be safer. He doesn't know which is better. But in Iran people aren't safe, especially not the women. But it's supposed to be different in the U.S.

What happens to a guerrilla who gets out alive?

The doctors tell him he needs to watch his cholesterol. They recommend cutting down on red meat and butter. He thinks about reviving his father's tradition of putting the butter in the freezer. But decides against it.




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