This evening I was reading to my grandmother – part of my continuing but not wholly consistent attempts to study the Farsi language – and the story happened to be about exactly this – the annual ta’zieh plays which reenact Imam Hossein’s death.

I’d already caught her crying in front of the TV a couple of times over the last few days. This month the retelling of stories of the bravery and goodness of Hossein, along with the injustices and evils he suffered at the hands of his enemies seem to be a big part of the schedule. The first night of Moharram kicked off with the annual screening of “Mohammad – Messenger of God” the 1976 movie starring Anthony Quinn. At Press TV, all the night shift studio staff were watching it in between broadcasts. I still haven’t seen it myself.

As I read, more tears. Just as fresh as every year. At points she adds important details. How loyal Abbas couldn’t bring himself to drink the water of the River Forat because he knew that his fellow warriors were thirsty in the desert. How Hossein’s killer, Shemr, was born with seven nipples because of his mother’s over-friendly relations with dogs. I suggested that Shemr’s father may have been one of those dogs but she denied this, though she did say that his body had been found so the seven nipples story was grounded in scientific proof. Shemr is so hated that actors playing him in Ta’zieh plays actually curse themselves during performances. It’s not uncommon for members of the audience to physically attack the actor playing him out of rage and grief.

When I finished reading my grandmother turned the TV back on saying she was in the mood for a good cry.

I’ll be looking for somewhere to see Ta’zieh next week. Hopefully I’ll have some good pictures to upload.