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Farah Mawani Headshot

From Iranian Prison to Outdoor Wedding

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I started this 7 Causes in 7 Days blog series last week to mark 7 months that Josh, Shane, and Sarah have been freed from being held hostage in an Iranian prison. The number 7 is significant in many cultures around the world, often considered lucky. My birthday falls on November 7 and I was always told that being born on the 7th day of a month was considered very lucky in my community. So passing the seventh month of freedom feels like an especially significant marker. It feels additionally significant because I recently attended the wedding for Sarah and Shane, with Josh as their best man.

Witnessing the realization of the vision Shane and Sarah had more than two years ago, while still held hostage in Iran, was as surreal as their capture and captivity. The contrast to their captivity was dramatic: ALL outdoors with their ceremony and reception in a field surrounded by mountains, followed by brunch the next day on a beach overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific ocean.

It was surreal but synchronous, foreshadowed by a blog, "Synchronicity Gives Me Strength," I posted in November 2010:

"There are so many parallels between the experiences and feelings of Sarah, Shane and Josh on the 'other side' of those seemingly insurmountable walls and ours on 'this side.' There are so many examples of us knowing what they are feeling and vice versa, so many examples of us communicating across the abyss. We are two rivers of life, with intertwined tributaries, flowing alongside each other. Our rivers will meet and converge into the crashing waves of an ocean of collective emotion when Shane and Josh are freed."

The crashing waves of emotion were certainly present within me. Unbelievable joy celebrating their freedom to finally realize the vision they desired in January 2010, when it seemed like an impossible dream, crashing against deep pain over the absence of people who were central to the fight for their freedom and their final release. I felt additional pain over the inability of others facing grave injustices to engage in similar celebrations of reunion and union.

I thought of Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, a Canadian citizen wrongfully imprisoned in Iran for four years this month, and his wife Antonella Mega, who are unable to see each other let alone celebrate together. Marina Nemat, former political prisoner and author of Prisoner of Tehran, connected me with Antonella, who I discovered was a neighbour of mine in Toronto.

We have now spoken over the phone a few times and plan to meet in the near future. When we first spoke, I was struck by the kindness, compassion and sensitivity in her voice. I was amazed to hear that come through despite her suffering an unimaginable heartbreak for an unimaginably long time. I felt an immediate and deep connection with her because I can imagine her suffering and she can imagine mine more than most. Anyone overhearing our conversations would assume that we have been close friends for many years. When I told her how I felt about our connection, she agreed right away, referring to it as "simpatico."

When I told her I was going to be away for a few days for Sarah and Shane's wedding, she gushed "Oh, that's lovely! Please pass on my very best wishes to them. I am thinking of them as people around the world are thinking of them." I am in awe of her ability to be so genuinely thrilled for them when she has been denied the ability to be with her beloved husband for so many years. Perhaps she knows, more than most people ever will, just how precious love is.

Please speak out for justice for Hamid and support Antonella in her long fight to bring her husband home where he belongs.