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To Sadegh, Shoemaker of Flowers of Pain

Poem by Sama Ooryad

Tanide’s introduction: Sadegh Fooladi-Vanda was a socialist worker and shoemaker from Gachsaran, a small, marginalised town in the southwest of Iran. During the first days of widespread Jina revolts all over Iran, Sadegh started to anonymously print radical graffiti and spray revolutionary and socialist slogans on walls of Gachsaran; he painted slogans such as Zan, Zendegi, Azadi/ Socialism or Barbarism/They wanted to bury us; they didn’t know that we are seeds and we will grow…

On February 23, 2023, his corpse was found in the canals of Gachsaran. Those who found him could only recognize his body from his tattoos as his face was beaten up severely before being choked to death. Iran’s notorious local IRGC fascists killed Sadegh because he believed in equality, socialism, and revolution. Sadegh was a shoemaker, a worker. On his little shoebox, it was written ‘shoemaker of flowers of pain.’ Sadegh was a poet too and loved to recite poetry to children-workers. The following poem is written by Sama Ooryad, a poet, feminist and new media scholar who is originally born and raised in the same city as Sadegh’s— Gachsaran— and is dedicated to the memory of Sadegh and to what Sadegh’s activism, passion, and dreams—as manifested through the graffiti painted on Gachsaran’s walls during the Jina revolts—have meant for her:

To Sadegh, Shoemaker of Flowers of Pain

Sadegh, they have found your corpse in one of the canals in Gachsaran after 18 days. 

They say, ‘around his neck, there was found bruising signs of choking-rope, and the intensity of bruises on his face was so much that his face was unrecognizable; they recognized him from his feet and tattoos on his body’.

Sadegh, I did not know your name when I saw the hammer and sickle graffiti, the Zan, Zendegi, Azadi for the first time on Gachsaran’s walls. When I sat behind my desk and yelled in sorrowful joy, ‘This is in my town, Gachsaran!’ 

Sadegh, I did not know your name the minute a friend sent your graffiti to me on Telegram: radical graffiti on Gachsaran’s walls! Who could believe that, Sadegh, who could believe that? 

My eyes? My cursed past? My haunted now? My liberated future? 

Oh Sadegh, your hair is black, and your eyes glow beautifully

 in the pictures that I saw of you! 

And I am writing this poem in English on purpose – I cannot look you in the eye.

Sadegh. Ay, between me and you, there are thousands of ‘flowers of pain’, thousands of non-utterable darknesses. 

I cannot talk to you in Farsi, my ‘yoldash’, ‘manim communist yoldashim san’. 

I cannot talk to you in Qashqai Turkish either. 

My Turkish has vanished in my Mama’s eyes, in my unliberated childhood. I can only read to you from the lines you drew in that town of ours! 

Sadegh, they say you were a poet, and I found your Instagram page. 

The third post is a picture of your shoemaking materials with a caption from Bertolt Brecht:

‘every morning to earn my bread and butter, 

I go out where they buy only lies. Hopeful, 

I stay in the queue with other customers.

Sadegh, did you know that I also write poetry? 

Did you also go to the anjoman-e adadbi-e Gachsaran? Or maybe you had to earn money full-time for the whole family? 

With that small box, on which it is written, ‘shoemaker of flowers of pain’. Is that how you wanted to be remembered, Sadegh? 

I saw the photos, Sadegh. I saw your spray-painted artwork on the walls of my cursed hometown, Gachsaran, and it liberated me. You did that, Sadegh. 

You did it in our little town, where I grew up in agonizing retentions, in feelings of ecstasy over getting ice cream from Mr Rostami.

In love with anything but the nights, boring and poor nights, but also in Farrokhzad’s, Shamlou’s, Huleh’s, Ahmadi’s, and Panahi’s poetry 

in the theatre and failed loves in distress and disaster

Where manim Jeyran Mama still lives.

Furniture has become so expensive, even in that tiny town of ours, Sadegh! Mama says even Khosravi Furniture has started to sell furniture that can be paid for in installments, and everything is unbearably high in price, etc. Maybe I should write this in Farsi, but who cares, Sadegh, who cares? 

You were killed by the fascists, Sadegh, by the fanatics. You wrote on the walls, ‘socialism or barbarism/Zan, Zendegi, Azadi’.

Barbarism rules these days, Sadegh! 

Around the world, all the way from Gachsaran to Gothenburg.

You wrote this, and I didn’t know you then, Sadegh. 

‘Could you please at least tell his first name to me?’, I asked the admins of Blackfishvoice, on whose page I first saw this graffiti. ‘We can’t say that’, they replied. Who could guess that I would eventually learn your name through the news of your death, Sadegh? Who could guess that? 

I wish I never knew this name, as then you would still be alive. 

I wish I had not found your page on Instagram un-updated and left unchecked since September 5, 2022. 

 Mainstream media now denies that you existed or that you were killed. Why do you think that is so? Socialism or barbarism? Are you being a communist? You being from that small town, whose name no one can even find on Iran’s map? From your wooden shoebox, on which you wrote ‘shoemaker of flowers of pain’? Because you were poor and had to sit on the streets and clean people’s shoes? Because you liked Pushkin, Brecht, and Mayakovski? Which of these made you become so threatening and excluded, Sadegh? Which of these, manim mahjoor yoldashim? 

I can’t write about you without your name, Sadegh.

Sadegh means honest, 

and you were honest to the principles of the damned

To the agonies of the wretched poor, 

to the sorrows of Gachsaran’s haunted walls, 

to the feelings of emancipation for your unknown friend, Sama. 

You have been honest, Sadegh. 

You have been painfully honest to all of these, and maybe one day I could tell your story in Farsi, too: that a shoemaker of the flowers of pain once lived in Gachsaran,

loved communism and socialism 

and Brecht and Mayakovsky, 

and they killed him 

for loving these 


for Zan, Zendegi, Azadi.

To Sadegh, Shoemaker of Flowers of Pain
Poem by: Sama Ooryad