"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Sexual harassment, forced marriage and rape — it’s just par for the course for Basiji militiamen. In a provocative article in the Jerusalem Post, an anonymous member of Iran’s paramilitary details widespread abuses against young women amid the recent crackdown on opposition protests, as well as violence he previously committed against women awaiting execution.
It’s unclear why, exactly, this militiaman agreed to speak with the press — perhaps because he was recently detained for freeing two teenage protesters without permission, or because the recent violence against peaceful protesters has pushed him to his breaking point. Assuming this anonymous source — who was put in contact with the Post by another anonymous but “reliable source” — is trustworthy, Iran is using boys as young as 14 from small and remote villages to help fight the uprising in Tehran. “These kids do anything they please — forcing people to empty out their wallets, taking whatever they want from stores without paying, and touching young women inappropriately,” he says. “The girls are so frightened that they remain quiet and let them do what they want.”
Of course, this anonymous militiaman isn’t an innocent character himself, he’s done his fair share of “touching young women inappropriately.” At age 18, he was “given the ‘honor’ to temporarily marry young girls before they were sentenced to death.” It is illegal in Iran to execute a virginal woman, because it’s believed she would go to heaven instead of hell. Executioners attempt to redirect a female prisoner to hell by first marrying her off against her will, often to a prison guard who rapes her after the speedy nuptials.
Predictably, this anonymous Basiji says female prisoners didn’t respond well to being raped on their deathbed: “I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their ‘wedding’ night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning,” he says. The women often fought back, so the guards took to putting sleeping pills in their food. He continues, “By morning the girls would have an empty expression; it seemed like they were ready or wanted to die.” It gets worse still: “I remember hearing them cry and scream after [the rape] was over,” he says. “I will never forget how this one girl clawed at her own face and neck with her finger nails afterwards. She had deep scratches all over her.”
This horrific story could have easily gone without much notice, but it has thankfully rocketed to the top of Digg’s most-popular list and is now making the media and blog rounds. Here’s hoping that’s because the world hasn’t yet forgotten about Iran’s women.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)