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if freedom is worth more than life



A 27-year-old Russian rapper, Ivan Petunin, killed himself so he wouldn’t have to travel to Ukraine to kill. An Iranian teenager, Nika Shakarami, was murdered for protesting against the requirement of the Islamic headscarf. Two young people and an old man, Abdo Abdelaziz, 82 years old. Who for the first time in his life arrived in Cairo in search of his son swallowed by the jaws of justice.

Russian rapper Ivan Petunin was called Mr. Walkie. Almost 11 thousand followers on Instagram, he was 27 years old and had good success with the public. Like many young people of his generation and of his own country, he did not accept the war. He had not made his own the idea, which persists throughout the world, of “sacrifice for the Fatherland” even when it is the Fatherland that attacks others. Engage and go to the front ready to die regardless.

Ivan Petunin and Nika Shakarami

To then imagine the posthumous dedication of a few minutes of silence to his memory as a so-called “hero”. Or maybe have a picture of your face on a plaque to the dead whose “glory” the living claim to celebrate. Most of all, Ivan Petunin did not accept the idea of ​​​​killing other people, even the enemy in wartime. Indeed just that. In the case of the rapper, every Ukrainian soldier and citizen invaded by Putin’s armies.

“I do not kill for any ideal”

On October 1, Ivan committed suicide in Krasnodar. In a video posted on Telegram and bounced on other social networks, Petunin says he wants to make his final protest. “If you watch this video, I am no longer alive. I can’t take the sin of murder on my soul and I don’t want to. I am not ready to kill for any ideal”. He was sure that, sooner or later, he would be called to arms, following the military mobilization in progress in Russia. Like cannon fodder. Faced with a war for which more and more young people do not understand the reasons and even fewer justify them.

Jan Palach, 20 years old. He committed suicide by setting himself on fire to protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Photo Twitter @Ian_Willoughby

Ivan’s Freedom

Ivan Petunin understood his suicide as an extreme gesture of protest. Like Jan Palach who set himself on fire in Prague in 1969 to protest against the invasion of Soviet tanks? “Let everything fall into the power of a despot – Seneca has Cato the Uticense say in De Providentia – let Caesar’s soldiers (…) also come; Cato knows how to get out of it: with his arm alone he will be able to open a wide path to freedom”. It is the suicide of the republican Cato, celebrated in Roman antiquity as an example of virtue and indomitable freedom, capable of giving his life so as not to fall into the hands of the tyrant. For this Dante celebrates Cato in the first Canto del Purgatorio and makes Virgil say:

Now, please welcome his coming:
freedom seeks, which is so dear,
as he knows who for his life refuses.

Seneca, Cato, Dante, Jan Palach. Noble figures that the end of Ivan Petunin does not only evoke. Because Nika Shakarami, 17, also died for freedom. The freedom of no longer being obliged, as a woman, to wear the Islamic veil. Nika lost her life under the blows of police repression. After other girls had already lost it in protest against the death of Masha Amini, arrested in mid-September for “not wearing the veil correctly” on her head.

Protests in Iran after the death of Masha Amini, arrested for not wearing the Islamic veil correctly. Photo Twitter @Ferula18

Nika, 17 like lightning

Demonstrations are raging in Tehran: many men are also joining the women. The haircut has become a symbol of dissent against the ayatollahs’ regime. And as for Nika Shakarami, family members reported that security forces stole the body to bury her secretly. Nika disappeared on September 20 after participating in protests at the Mahsa Amini memorial in Tehran. In her last message to a friend, she said she was being chased by security forces, her aunt, Atash, told BBC Persian.

After 10 days – just before Ivan Petunin killed himself in Russia – his body was found in the morgue of a detention center in the capital. “When we went to identify him, they didn’t allow us to see his body, only his face for a few seconds,” the aunt said. Security forces have warned family members not to hold a funeral ceremony. And they arrested the aunt, threatening to kill her if the rest of the family took part in the protests.

Tora Prison in Cairo, Egypt. Photo Twitter @goharkhan47

Abdo, Ivan and Nika

If Ivan Petunin and Nika Shakarami are the emblem of young people who sacrifice their lives for freedom, the story of Abdo Abdelaziz tells us a different but parallel story. Abdo, 82, is a fishmonger from Aswan in southern Egypt. In 2018, he waited for days at the police station because they had arrested his son Gaafar Abdelaziz, who disappeared into thin air. He had no answers. So, for the first time in his long life, he went to Cairo: he wanted to talk to the magistrates of the capital, a metropolis he had never seen in his life.

“I thought that the law and the constitution were respected – he confided to the New York Times which told his story – so I went to Cairo. And I found none of that.” Unscrupulous lawyers convinced him to pay $640 in return for a promise that they would see his son again. But nothing happened. But Abdo didn’t not give up. And he went to all the wards in Tora prison, hoping that someone would confirm that his son Gaafar was there. The guards of one of the worst prisons in all of Africa told him that the man arrested was not detained in Tora. Abdo Abdelaziz has returned to Aswan. His thirst for justice has not yet been quenched. He has nothing left to lose because he has unjustly lost his son. For him, the Gaafar’s justice and freedom are worth more than his own life, as for Ivan Petunin and Nika Shakarami.

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