When the war between Iran and Iraq broke out, David Danish was drafted into military service and sent to the frontline. His Radio Books story is based, in part, on his experiences.
Born in Tehran in 1966, journalist and author David Danish experienced the Islamic Revolution first hand at an early age. During his time as a soldier he also reported for an Iranian newspaper as a war correspondent and photojournalist.
He continued writing for various Middle East newspapers after the war while studying journalism at Tehran University. But as the political situation became intolerable in Iran, especially for writers, Danish decided to leave the country. He arrived in The Netherlands in 1990, working as a journalist while studying English literature at Utrecht University.
Fiction and real dilemmas
In 2006 Danish had his first novel written in Dutch published. 'Een goede dag om te sterven' (A good day to die) is about eighteen-year-old Barbar Shaul who is arrested by the Revolutionary Police for trying to pick up a prostitute. He suffers mental and physical torture during his imprisonment.
After his release he considers leaving the country. But a friend who fled to The Netherlands tells him: “As a refugee you’re a second-class citizen; you die a little every day.” He decides to stay in Iran and enlist for military service.
“Like visitors to an exhibition we surrounded the dead body of the captain, staring at the corpse of the man we feared. A soldier gently pushed the body with his boot to confirm he was dead. We were afraid that once we turned around the body would jump up behind us and run. It was hard to believe that a man like Rian could die, but the captain was undoubtedly dead.”
“Although I’m a journalist,” explains Danish, “Fiction tells me a lot more about reality than non-fiction because it enables the reader to identify with the main character. I want readers to feel the doubts that go with life in Iran and I want them to experience the dilemmas facing my characters.”
Danish takes a different perspective on his experiences for his contribution to Radio Books. Though it also concerns a soldier who served on the frontline of the Iran-Iraq war, it follows his life afterwards as a political activist and refugee in The Netherlands as seen through the eyes of his young son.
“My father was a political activist. I had often heard that word, but I had no idea what it actually meant. One day my mother tried to explain it to me. She said that a political activist was someone who was against the government. She also told me my father wrote about things he was not allowed to talk about, because in our country you couldn’t say what you think. I could not understand why my father couldn’t say what he thought.”
‘The Lonely Martyr’ by David Danish was translated by Michael O’Laughlin. The story is read by David Swatling.
The series Radio Books is an initiative of Flemish-Dutch Huis de Buren in Brussels, in association with the Flemish radio broadcaster Klara and Radio Netherlands Worldwide.