In 1982, Zahra Nourbakhsh was five years old. She was traveling on a bus with her mother and her sister, Leila, who was two years younger. They were going to a saint’s tomb near Shiraz. At a turn in the road, two young women stopped the bus, sprayed the seats with gasoline and set them ablaze. Most of the passengers were able to escape through the rear exit and windows. But the flames trapped others, like Zahra and Leila, inside.
Zahra was saved at the last moment by the speedy arrival of an emergency rescue crew. Her body, however, is permanently scarred: burns on her head, shoulders, hands and chest. She is 45% handicapped for life. Her younger sister was not so lucky. Her body was unrecognizable, except for an earring.
Zahra, who still cannot understand the vindictive violence of the four young women, recalls: “we were ordinary peasants. We supported the revolution, but we were not at all politically active”. arrested soon thereafter, the four assailants confessed their membership in the Mojahedin movement. Tried, three were sentenced to death and executed. The fourth is serving a life sentence.
Zahra feels no lingering anger at the four young women who paid for their crime. She says:”when a young man came to ask my parents for my hand in marriage, they had to tell him about my condition. But he accepted me as I am.”.
But she adds: “I am, nonetheless a little unhappy. I would have liked to have brought my husband a body less marked by suffering”. Speaking from her own perspective, her mother, Malhabas Nourbakhsh, recalls:” My daughter Leila was very beautiful. Just before the tragedy, she was asking me:’ Tell me, Mom, are we going to a wedding? she was burned alive before my eyes”.
From the book: The People’s Mojahedin of Iran: A Struggle for what? “By Victor Charbonnier,2004.