I will never forget that September in Autumn 1972, when our new Physics teacher walked into the class. She was very young, lively and joyful.
All the students were silent. We were all eyes and ears to see what the new teacher has for us. What would she say on the first day of the new academic year, and what is she like?
We were expecting to hear about her teaching methods and the exams. But contrary to our expectations, she started by saying, “Don’t worry about physics. We will finish the course by the end of the year and all of you will pass the course. I would rather speak about other things.”
Then, without losing time and after a brief introduction, she went on, “Do you know what ‘worldview’ means? Do you know that each and every one of you has a ‘worldview’? Do you know that every one of you has an ‘ideology’?”
And after a serial of questions, she finally asked us, “Now, do you want me to teach you about these things before I teach you physics?”
Speechless but curious, we were looking at this young teacher whom we came to love in the first encounter. We replied, “Yes!”
It seemed like this was the whole reason why she had come to our school. She began by simple words. It was the first time we were hearing these issues and it was difficult for us to understand them. But she was so serious and so earnest in her efforts to make us understand, that we all felt it was something very important that we must learn. So, we carefully listened to every word of hers.
On the following days, she continued to teach us similar philosophical terms. Like every other course, she had a lesson plan. We had also prepared a separate notebook to write down everything she explained to us.
The concepts were difficult but she had simplified everything such that we enjoyed learning them. All week, we were waiting for her class.
Our enthusiasm turned the physics class into a class of philosophy, and gradually we stepped into a new world. At that young age, we came to learn issues that belonged to the world of adults.
We could clearly see each other setting aside our childish ways and starting to get serious about the life of our people and our country. Within a month, young girls who used to follow new fashions, were secretly speaking together about political issues of the day.
One day, she told us about the destitution of poor people living in south Tehran. Another day, she talked about the Shah’s White Revolution and his celebrations of the 2500 years of monarchy in Iran.
When she talked about the poor, tears welled in our eyes. I remember that at the end of her class, everyone, without exception, brought our savings to school so that she could take them for the deprived children she was telling us about. We loved her so much.
While in other schools, students had finished several lessons in physics and preparing for the first exam of the year, we had only studied the lesson on vectors.
We were thirsting to learn more from our favorite teacher, and she used every opportunity to enhance our emotions about what was happening around us.
I will never forget the day she came to the yard during the break.
Unlike other teachers who never mixed with us, she came and joined us as we were playing volleyball. Suddenly, she noticed one of the kids who did not have a watch. She immediately took off her own and gave it to her.
In the beginning, nobody took it seriously. We were laughing and teasing each other. Our classmate was embarrassed to take the teacher’s watch, but she did not let her go. She insisted so much that the student finally had to wear the watch.
Everyone was so impressed that day by what she did. The news spread even to our neighboring school. Until that day, no one had seen such new relations between teachers and students. In a word, she had conquered the hearts and minds of each and every one of us.
Finally, our high school’s principal who was a member of the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK, found out about our class and our beloved teacher, and decided to fire her.
The day she came to our class for the last time, all of us cried. That day, we found out why she did not lose any moment in teaching us.
Despite passage of years, I can still remember our final farewell with our favorite teacher. On that last day, she tried to use every brief opportunity to tell and teach us whatever she could. She spoke of the devastating impact of the Shah’s White Revolution, and of the root causes of our people’s poverty and affliction.
In the end, with tears in her eyes, she bid us farewell while holding up her hand showing the victory sign.
This kind and sincere teacher was no one but Ashraf Rajavi who became the symbol of women in the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). She was one of the most resistant political prisoners in the Shah’s prison and subjected to the most brutal tortures.
In those dark days of the Shah’s dictatorship, she was the one who opened our eyes to history and revolution and changed the course of our lives. Later, when I joined the National Liberation Army in Ashraf, I saw more of my classmates who had undertaken the path of our heroic teacher, in the city named after her.
I have always remembered Ashraf, in her simple green suit, swiftly moving around. Running quickly up the stairs and walking into the class, she threw her car keys on the desk and immediately started asking about how we were doing. She never lost a moment. She walked as if she was running. She knew she did not have much time for her great mission. She was our teacher for only two months in a high school in downtown Tehran. In those two months, she taught us lessons of humanity and loyalty to our nation, and she changed the face of our school.
Ashraf Rajavi was our generation’s teacher. In those days, we did not realize that she would be leading the way for our people’s revolution.