Almost two years ago, I had to flee to Portugal, fearing for my life. I had to leave my beautiful and wonderful country, Iran.

I am a social-political activist who has spent several months in the secret prisons of the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

When I got to Lisbon I had almost no problem communicating around. Fortunately, the majority of people spoke English. When I finally got the temporary citizenship, I realized that learning the language of the country, which became my refuge at first and then my new home, was the least I could do.

 

Welcome to Lisbon
Welcome to Lisbon

 

So, I started looking for language classes on the Internet. I was very excited to learn Portuguese but I didn’t have any income at that time to pay for language classes. Then I found SPEAK. The idea that locals could teach their native language to help others feeling welcome in their new city was very understandable to me. I felt there was a real need for that.

 

My experience at SPEAK has been very meaningful. In July, besides the language sessions, I also participated in the SPEAK Village, a global event that gathered all SPEAKers from around the world.

While I was attending this amazing event, during that night, I understood from the official news on the national television of the Islamic Republic of Iran that a 17-year-old girl, Maedeh Hojabri, was arrested, tortured and forced to confess her guilt of posting personal dance videos on her Instagram profile.

 

This was happening again. I experienced firsthand the cruelty of regime prisons and forced confessions under various forms of torture.

 

I could not sleep until morning.

The day after, before the start of the inspirational talks, I felt the need to voice to my anger and share this story with my friends.

I went on stage to explain to everyone what it was happening in Iran. I shouted out that dancing should not be a crime, nowhere in the world.

Asked my friends to dance in the name of Maedeh to show the world our support. And that’s what we did.

 


We also signed a petition to send to Amnesty International.

 

It’s impossible to describe all the kindness and support received from the people. We ended the dance with a warm group hug. The hug of friends who came to me, one by one, wishing me peace and encouraging me to stay strong.

Less than a week later, I heard that Maedeh Hojabri was released from the regime prison of the Islamic Republic.

 

SPEAK taught me not only the Portuguese language but it inspired me with the power of humankind.

 

 

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Author: Sarah Zeidi

Sarah is a travel photographer and environmental and animal activist from Iran. She loves Persian dance and programming. Her biggest hope is to be able to help as many people as she can during her life journey.

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