During Anoosh’s stay with Marjane’s family, political discussions occur frequently. Anoosh and Marjane’s father wonder about the contradiction of the revolution. They are amazed that while the “the revolution is a leftist revolution…the new republic wants to be called Islamic.” This is in direct opposition to the expectations of Marjane’s family, who supported the leftist revolution without expectations of it being Islamic as well. Indeed, they Believe that a free and republican government is incompatible with theocracy—that church and state in a republic must be separate, yet the revolutionaries buck this understanding and seem to want to combine both. In order to explain the strangeness of this phenomenon, Anoosh clarifies that “in a country where half the population is illiterate you cannot unite the people around Marx. The only thing that can really unit them is nationalism or a religious ethic.” Marjane is heavily affected by the discussion, though she does not quite understand it, and cries when she realizes the changes in the country remain beyond the reach of her comprehension.
Just as there are many contradictions in Marjane’s daily life and the history of her country, so, too, are there many contradictions in the way that the revolution plays out. The revolution is shifting from the perceived original ideals of freedom and republicanism to include Islamic fundamentalism. Whereas the family once thought these as opposites, Anoosh points out that most people in the country are not like Marjane’s family: they are illiterate and uneducated and therefore do not know or cannot grasp political theory. Instead, they respond emotionally to nationalist or religion. Once again Marjane bemoans that as a child she can’t entirely understand this discussion. Note, though, that Anoosh is saying that most Iranians wouldn’t understand this discussion! The book continually draws parallels between Marjane’s childish romanticization of the revolution and the nationalistic romanticization of the revolution by the all the Iranians, which ultimately allowed the Islamic fundamentalist regime to take power.i
Later, one of Marjane’s friends tells her that his family will soon move to the United States because his parents believe it is “better to leave” than to “live under an Islamic regime.” Much of Marjane’s family also leaves the country, and though Marjane’s mother suggests perhaps her family should leave, too, Marjane’s father points out the family’s limited economic opportunities in the US, where Marjane’s parents would be relegated to menial jobs. He is confident everyone who left will soon return.
The revolution has not ended up the way that Marjane’s family hoped or believed it would, with new leaders perhaps even more problematic for them than the Shah was. But there is a sense here that they can’t bring themselves to leave because they love Iran, both because it is their country and because this is where they have built a life. Yet Marjane’s father’s optimism seems perhaps as romantic as Marjane’s own childish notions.
Marjane’s father receives a phone call, after which he sobs in front of his family. It turns out that his friend Mohsen, who was just released from prison after a long time as a political prisoner, has been murdered: an assassin drowned Mohsen in his own bathtub. Later, Assassins target Siamak, too, though the assassins end up executing his sister in his stead when she opens the door for them, because Siamak wasn’t at home at the time. Marjane finds out some time after the murders that Siamak, Laly, and her mother have escaped over the border by hiding themselves among a flock of grazing sheep. Those who once supported the revolution are now being targeted as enemies of the new Islamic Republic because their opinions about how the new government should function differ from the policies of the new ruling class.
The previous joy that Marjane’s family experienced when the political prisoners were released after the abdication of the Shah has now been overturned by their murders. Though the prisoners had also been revolutionaries, many of them oppose the Islamic component of the new government and are thus re-targeted for their differing opinions. This mirrors the way, in the revolution previous to this one, those who were once favored, such as Marjane’s grandfather, found themselves targeted by the new state. The leaders of the country have changed profoundly from the western-supported Shah to the western-hating Islamic regime, and yet their tactics are exactly the same.
Soon after, though Marjane’s parents try to protect Marjane from the fact that Anoosh has been arrested. Nevertheless, Marjane sees through their attempts at giving her a white lie about his whereabouts—they say he has gone to visit his wife in Moscow—and she guesses the truth about his arrest. Later her father tearfully admits the truth to her and tells her that Anoosh, stuck in jail, asked his jailor to see Marjane, since he is allowed one visitor. Marjane visits him in his cell. Emotionally, Anoosh tells Marjane, “you are the little girl I always wanted to have” and gives her another bread swan, which he calls “the uncle of the first one.” The next day, the newspapers announce the execution of Anoosh as a “Russian Spy.” When God visits Marjane at night, she yells at him to “Shut up!” and to “get out of my life!” God disappears as a character from the book. Marjane feels disorientated and helpless, but at the same time her parents scream for her to run to the basement because they are being bombed. “It was the beginning of the war” between the new Islamic Republic and those who oppose it.
Older than Laly, Marjane does not fall for the white lie that her uncle is on a trip, but rather realizes that her uncle’s life must be in danger. Though Marjane’s parents attempt to protect her, the situation hits the family too directly to keep up the charade as Anoosh is clearly someone slated for execution. Yet the Anoosh Marjane finds in jail is a man who does not appear afraid; instead, the bread swan represents his continued humanity and hope in the face of adversity. For Anoosh, Marjane represents the kind of girl that he always wanted: someone innocent, brave, and loving. It is notable that after Anoosh’s execution, she does not proclaim him as a hero or martyr, instead her faith in God is broken just as the revolution that was supposed to liberate the people now plunges them into another long war.