Infinite Movement: Reflections of (Post) Trauma

For many years, I wanted to understand the normalization of trauma, relating to those of us who lived under conditions that demanded it. I wanted to know how the most terrifying of experiences became routine, that in a given moment everything became a matter of reflex, your mind not processing anything other than movement. I was born and raised in Tehran between the years 1978 to 1987, a period of time marked by a drastic regime change and war. While the carnage of war happened far away from where I lived, taking the lives of over a million Iranians and Iraqis in eight years, those of us in the capital experienced some of the terror the skies brought. Mostly though, what I remember is the climate of fear and the militarization of our everyday lives. Revolutionary guards walked the streets, clad in army attire, rifles hanging from their shoulders. Images of young men, mostly teenage boys who had died in combat, posted around neighbourhoods and large banners hung from buildings: honoring death in the name of patriotism.

I remember the sound of sirens in the middle of nights, lights going out, my mom grabbing a candle and baba the transistor radio, my sister and I in the bathtub with our pillows as we all sat together in the bathroom, waiting. At times, my mother let us sleep in our bedroom, despite the sirens, lying next to her two daughters, protecting us with her presence, risking possible death over her children’s sanity. They did what they could to shelter us from fear, but the thing about it was that it was everywhere. Fear had permeated into our lives, had become a normal state of being: fear for your body’s safety, for the safety of your loved ones, for shortages of food and basic necessities, for not knowing what’s coming next. A future unknown, yet you still moved on, planning, studying, working, having babies, going to movies, struggling to make money, listening to music, hustling, dancing, mourning, laughing, making love, loving. Living. Those with less privilege, or none at all, were most vulnerable. And yet, trauma carried on backs and shoulders as people continued to walk hard.

Years later, I am no longer interested in understanding how a continuous state of trauma becomes normalized. I’m not interested in analyses of post-trauma and PTSD. What I do know is that when you say Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Haiti, Ferguson, Regent Park and all racialized communities experiencing police brutality and structural violence, my insides begin to twist into themselves, my throat dries up, and I begin to fold into myself. Then comes rage, which no dua, not a single prayer can calm, knowing there are unsafe bodies because of injustices. Knowing that no matter how hard you might resist or try to evade violence, it could descend upon you at any given moment. When you have no control over your body’s safety, when you fear its destruction. No one, not a single person should ever experience this.

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