The Echo of Injustice

What happens to the world when you wake up one day and get the news that your loved one is in “Evin” prison (The Iranian detention center for political detainees), or worse, that they have been taken off life-support, and buried, without an autopsy? The blogger Amir ( asks this question before interviewing Stephan Kazemi whose mother Zida (Zahra Kazemi), an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, was killed in the Iranian prison “Evin” in 2003 after having taken shots of families protesting over missing loved ones, who have been arrested after having demonstrated against the regime. In the aftermath of the demonstrations in June 2009 many suffered the same brutal experiences, demonstrators were thrown into “Evin” prison, tortured, sometimes to death, families desperately seeking for some information about their beloved ones. Blog-writer Amir asks: What do you do? Where do you seek justice? And he asks, how do you wake up, day after day, year after year and stay true to your vision?

These questions point at a dimension of political activism (including its intimate relation with personal lives) and its relation to history that take us to Walter Benjamin’s thoughts about a weak messianic force. This weak messianic force connects revolutionary action to the past – not to the future. We inherit this past and with it – as Derrida puts it – a task to engage in. As a heritage is never a given. The messiah does not fall from the sky embodied in a supra-natural force but emerges in the experiences of injustices acted out on us or on past generations. It is unfolding an image space of human vulnerability, the possibility of facing violence and death, transforming into force, hatred and devotedness, in order to strike back and expose oneself to the risks that go along with it.

The key to the messianic force and the truth of history is to listen to the echo of “injustice” hidden underneath mythologizing narratives of history but resounding on walls such as those of institutions of justice which detain political activists. Benjamin writes the historical materialist sees what counts as cultural goods thinking in horror of its provenance. And the Iranian people will wake up day after day asking, with what right can this regime kill my brother, my sister and my neighbour – driven by a weak messianic force to fight back.

Meike Schmidt-Gleim

Paris, Mai 2010

Cite this blog post
Meike Schmidt-Gleim (2010, May 3). The Echo of Injustice. ANTHROPOLOGICAL MATERIALISM. Retrieved April 16, 2024, from

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