Please join us for a special evening with journalist and former SF Chronicle features writer Meredith May whose new book tells the incredible story of two extraordinary men.
An epic story of war, redemption, and hope. I Who Will Not Die tells the incredible story of two men—one from Iraq, the other from Iran—who were destined to be mortal enemies, but instead found in each other mercy, kindness, and hope.
Najah Aboud was conscripted in Iraq, in 1980, shortly after Saddam Hussein sent troops sweeping across the border—a disastrous attempt to overthrow Tehran’s new government, led by Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1982, at age thirteen, Zahed Haftlang fled his abusive home to join Iran’s Basij paramilitary in Tehran’s fight against neighboring Iraq. The two young men found themselves fighting in one of the twentieth century’s most brutal wars, a conflict that left more than 700,000 dead.
Zahed was among the first Iranian troops in Khorramshahr after Saddam’s invasion. He was ordered to clear the bunkers and execute any surviving Iraqis. Zahed prayed he would not find anyone alive, but, in the third bunker, he heard a sound. In the beam of his flashlight he saw six dead Iraqis and among them, was Najah. Zahed could not kill him, instead he secretly kept him alive, bringing him water, morphine, and blood. He hung an IV drip from a bayonet jammed into a wall and eventually brought Najah to a field hospital.
Nearly twenty years later—after surviving war, torture, imprisonment, and heartbreaking loss—on the other side of the world, the two men found themselves sitting beside each other in the waiting room of the Vancouver Association for the Survivors of Torture. And, as the two men told one another the story of how they’d come to this country and found their way to this waiting room, they realized that their paths had crossed before.
This profound story of survival, resilience, humanity, and friendship will stay with you long after reading.
Meredith May teaches digital journalism and podcasting at Mills College in Oakland, and is a fifth-generation beekeeper. She spent 25 years in newspaper journalism, 16 of them as feature writer at the San Francisco Chronicle.