Tehran now becomes the direct target of Iraqi bombings. Everyone turns their basements into shelters. While the sirens ring in the city, Marjane’s family hides in the shelter built in the basement of their building. After the bombings end, they call their friends and relatives to make sure everyone is safe. The continuation of the war also means the tightening of the regime’s rule. Someone anonymous informs the police about Tinoosh’s family’s infractions—Tinoosh is one of Marjane’s neighbors—and Tinoosh is arrested and lashed after the cops find forbidden party items such as cards and cassettes in his house. Marjane’s mother subsequently tapes up the windows of their home, both to protect against flying glass from the windows should explosions go off nearby, and also to protect the family from neighbors’ prying eyes. Marjane’s family does not want to undergo the same punishment that befell Tinoosh’s family.
As the war comes closer to Marjane’s friends and family, everyone draws closer together, checking on each other’s safety. And yet at the same time the regime uses the war to further put in place their own rules, and in so doing set the population against each other. Informing on someone becomes a way to “move up” in society, and so people do it and justify it as serving their country. No longer can Marjane and her family trust their neighbors as they might have during peaceful times. The tape over the windows of their house indicates their ever increasing isolation within Iran.
The riotous parties that people in society held before the war continue with the same fervor, or even more fervor. People justify these parties by saying that they remain the only way to psychologically bear the traumas and stresses of the war. At one party that Marjane attends, thrown to celebrate the birth of Marjane’s baby cousin, the lights go out just a moment the siren goes off and announces the dropping of a bomb over the city. The baby cousin’s mother wails and hands Marjane the baby before running to protect herself. Marjane is shocked at this selfish and spontaneous behavior.
People attempt to preserve a semblance of the same life that they led before the start of the war. The parties, though dangerous politically, continue as a way to allay stress and also as a way to feel normal. And yet that normality is tenuous, at best. The way that the terror of the war frays and damages relationships is here symbolized by the mother who abandons her baby in order to saver herself.
On the way back home from the party, a young policeman, a boy who looks about sixteen years old, stops Marjane’s father as the family drives home. Because Marjane’s father wears a tie, the policeman assumes he is westernized and therefore has been out drinking. The policeman follows the family back to their house so that he can inspect the house for the forbidden alcohol. Marjane’s family does have a secret alcohol-making operation in their house, but Marjane’s father manages to stall the policeman as Marjane and her grandma get rid of all the evidence. Marjane’s father soon comes inside irate but without the policeman, who has been successfully bribed, after which he disappeared without a trace. “Their faith has nothing to do with ideology!” Marjane’s father complains, disgusted with the people who police the populace into complying with the rules of the regime. “A few bills were all he needed to forget the whole thing.” Still, everyone is relieved.
The incident with the police man is an interesting one. First, it demonstrates the way that the government is increasingly cracking down on personal expression, and using whatever tools it can (however circumstantial) to try to root out anyone who is at odds with its fundamentalist Islamic ideology. Yet what infuriates Marjane’s father in the end is not the intrusion on his private freedom (though that upsets him too), but rather the sheer hypocrisy of the policeman who gives up his investigation for a bribe. The point here is that despite its supposedly pure ideology, the regime and its followers are corrupt hypocrites. That many of those who carry out the regime’s ends do so not out of piety, but because it is a way to make money.