The To-do list, the Myths and the Iranians
An Ayatollah’s To-do List
- Expanding: Nuclear technology, arming the Pasdaran, and their mercenaries. Building public libraries with uncensored material is not part of the expansion.
- Persecuting: Baha’is, Kurds, Sunnis, Women; i.e. everyone except a male Shiite and born yes-man.
- Executing: Drug traffickers, including political prisoners, journalists, bloggers; i.e. everyone except the certified bootlicker.
- Jailing: Artists from musicians to cartoonists and social-media users; i.e. everyone except their own henchmen.
- Hostage taking: Naive dual nationals living in the West, as a source of additional revenue and trump card in any political bargain. They are facile prey for the regime, since they are unwilling to question the ugliness of the Islamic theocracy and fantasise about Iran.
- Hacking: Phones, websites, internet accounts and injecting malware into citizens’ devices. Unless the user sticks to the Iranian Internet Halal, the “.ir” domain.
- Lying or post-truth: A dozen lies per day for 37 years (>160,000). The latest: signing the JCPOA.
- Breeding Green-Penguins: The Islamic Republic of Iran has set up a large network of operatives from all walks of life. Cynically some are dual nationals working for the theocracy; thus their Western passport serves as an open sesame to access places otherwise off-limits to an Iranian travelling on an Iranian passport. These green-penguins, as some like to call them, are paid to lobby in Western parliaments, defame the regime’s critics, write about the moderate president, attract attention to the chimeric “Iran’s business opportunities”, and troll the websites hosted in the West by posing as the natives.
- Hate-list:Too long to mention.
- Love-list: Me, My, I and the Leader, Ali Khamenei. A very short list.
- Friends: Bashar al-Assad and Putin heading a catalogue of dictators and bought warlords in the Middle East. Easy to populate the list.
The Shah’s propaganda, endorsed by the United Nations and later by the Islamic Republic, namely the ex-president Ahmadinejad, presented the Cyrus Cylinder for its advocacy of human rights principles, justice, and liberty. Since, the Cyrus Cylinder has become an object of national pride and many Iranians love to claim themselves as “the daughter or the son of Cyrus”.
Out of context, the notion that Cyrus introduced the concept of human rights is nonsense. Indeed, Cyrus demanded that his subjects kiss his feet, as the ayatollahs ask today.
Less attention is paid to what is actually written on the Cylinder and its message of “who and how” the victor, Cyrus, takes charge of the Empire. Since the brutality of the text displeases staunch nationalists, forged translations are popular. Boasting about this old script to the rest of the world as being the one which bears the very first human rights principles has become a cliché routinely served to foreigners. A myth is built to cover concepts and words that we are pleased to repeat, parrot-like, but we refuse to think about, analyse, and implement; that is human rights, the freedom of thinking and expression. Our ways are those of Ketman – dissimulation by silence or omission – a perfect excuse to accept the edicts of the mighty all the while swearing to our close friends to the contrary.
In 2016, the guidebook of Iranian social and political life is the Koran and the free interpretation of it by our rulers at their pleasure. For them the Koran is the ultimate book for peace and prosperity.
We have to accept it, because we are told to do so, unless we are suicidal. However, what is happening in the Middle East, the brutality of it under various double-talk dictators, the oppression of people and the annihilation of minorities and weaker forces contradicts the Koran’s peacefulness and harmony.
Whatever is written in the Koran leaves enough grounds to vehemently refuse to live in peace and tolerance with others having different views of the world. This is similar to the Shah’s propaganda of the Cyrus Cylinder, albeit taking another turn.
This time there is no talk about the text itself and forgeries of the translations. It is about how one reads it to be a “True Muslim”. A “true Muslim” is the one that kisses the hand of the tyrant and follows him even in darkness and barbarism. All others be they followers of Islam or believers of other faiths are either “Mohareb” – enemies of Islam – or “Kafer” – unbelievers – and must be punished or converted.
… And The Iranians
Over many centuries we have built a dangerous myth: that of the perfection of Islam – Shiism for Iran – the excellence of its principle, and its divine social virtues. But what we see today is a country torn by violence and hatred, seeing enemies everywhere and ruled by corruption and the lex talionis – “an eye for an eye”.
However, we cannot explain or admit our social paradoxes, our dreams and inspirations being contradictory to our behaviour, and our cultural differences within the same geographical entity, which is today’s Iranian boundaries.
We read the Koran; we even learn it by heart, parrot-like. We do so even though the meaning of the Arabic language, and especially the style of it in the seventh century when it was written once for all and other copies were destroyed, totally escapes us; as does the meaning of the Cuneiform script of the Cyrus Cylinder, which requires specific knowledge and specialists.
As Iranians, we have an innate aversion to Arabic so much so that if a foreigner sees our Farsi as being Arabic, our blood boils over. Only some pressure will bring us round to admitting that our classic writer-poets were bilingual: Farsi-Arabic. Their major works were written in Arabic.
Naturally, our favourite poems are in Farsi from Hafez, and Khayyam, to name a couple. The latter was an ingenious mathematician and writer in Arabic and an exceptional slayer of religiosity and the Muslim hypocrites in Farsi.
Hafez has become our fortune teller with فال حافظ; a few lines printed on a piece of paper and bought on the streets. The seller is usually a street child, hardly able to read himself. None of his Arabic lines is reprinted for the delight of foretelling one’s good (never bad) fortune.
The paradoxical mentality and our unconsciousness of its effects also shape how we take action without questioning, as if we have resigned ourselves to being a comedian that would repeat their lines under direction, never thinking about the meaning and the implications. Collectively, we are inconstant and shallow.
When in Iran, shouting “death to USA” with the crowd is considered “normal”. However, if the occasion is presented, we travel there and become an American citizen or a green-card holder, living by local standards.
When the latest smartphone is produced by a large US company, we would sell our shirt to buy it, just to show we are “in”, even if half the applications are forbidden for use or just useless in Iran. However, the questioning of the propaganda and censorship in depth is not our priority.
We grew up being generous and extroverts. We also grew up in fear, suspicious of our fellow citizens, and used to corruption at all levels. Most of our efforts are spent preventing being cheated on by our close friends and by strangers. In fact, we would grab any safe occasion to cheat on others.
We know little about our country. And the little we know confuses us, be it its history, social issues and the prevailing despotism. We fantasise about Iran. We take what is told by a person we may trust at face value, hardly ever looking beyond the person’s peremptory personal views.
We cannot explain our paradoxes, we cannot even admit to them. We simply adjust to the situation, never bothering to question and hardly ever trying to make a little difference.
Therefore, we have a standard reply to anyone who wants to go beyond our ready statements, Ta’arof and clichés by asking unequivocal questions. All we have to say is: “It is not your fault if you don’t understand, it is the Western media propaganda. We are born to the Persian Great civilisation, we have tamed the barbaric Arabs and bloodthirsty Mongol. You cannot understand us.”
It is always difficult to put one in another’s place. But do we understand ourselves and what we want?
We like things to stay as they are. The “unconventional” ideas, even as food for thought, are brushed aside with a large collection of phrases such as “don’t say it” – نگو – and “everybody knows what was just said is a lie” – همه میدانند که این دروغ است.
We despise those among us who ring the alarm bells. We ostracise them, and if they persist in their ideas, we force them into exile. Many asylum seekers in the West have been persecuted by the regime and were left unprotected and even snitched on by their own close circles. If they stay and later are executed by the authorities, we keep silent and file it under either “bad luck” or “it was their own fault, why did they meddle?”
We despise talking about money and consumerism, good enough for the West. However, we are jealous of those making money, or having the best German car, or the most beautiful nose remodelled by a plastic surgeon.
We are inconsistent, easily influenced, emotional, and hardly ever visionary. We are only humans, the same as billions of others on earth and not the cream of humanity as we would like to be taken for. Sensitive, we are easily vexed if we are the object of mockery, but we take mocking others as our inalienable right.
In 1979, our explanation for throwing out the monarchy was its dictatorship and repression. Today, we have a stronger one, thanks to the Islamic propaganda and the digital age, an explosive combination.
In those days, we complained about the Western culture destroying ours. Now we have a shallow culture made of Islamic slogans, distorted facts and counterfeit traditionalism.
Forty years ago, we denounced the gap between the people and the elite, blamed it all on the Shah and cheered our hero, Khomeini. We followed him and his successor, willy-nilly, and stood by him with collective silence and carelessness. Today, the greedy and power-thirsty ayatollahs have thrived so well that the gap has become an abyss.
We shed tears in Emam Hussein (7th century) ceremonies in public, as if he died less than an hour ago. This is an immediate public show of bloody violence. As soon as we are out of the collective hysteria of the crowd, and meeting up with friends in privacy, we joke and laugh, unaffected by the tears shed and the breast beaten so fervently minutes ago.
We severely criticize those who eat and go on drinking their tea in Ramadan. We accept that we pay a bribe to the police to overlook our drinking alcohol. However, we know where to go during the day to avoid being seen with our sandwiches and teas in Ramadan, and encourage alcohol smuggling on a large scale.
Is this trying to fool the ayatollahs or to fool ourselves? It has one name: collective hypocrisy, Ketman/Taqiyah so much praised in Islam.
We are resigned and adaptable, so beautifully adaptable that anywhere abroad, as migrants/asylum seekers, we are successfully assimilated into the harbouring communities. In New York, we are New Yorkers, in Paris, Parisians, and in Shiraz, well Shirazis. I wish we could just be “ourselves”.
We are Iranians, and accustomed to centuries of fear, flattery, despotism, and paradoxical behaviour. We let the Valiy-e Faqih get away with his to-do list, a list belonging to the dark ages and adapted to modern technology developed outside the Islamic dictatorships of the Middle East, Iran included.
We would stand still until an external superior force brings in some changes, hopefully, maybe, inshallah. We are unable to do it ourselves. We are unable to tame our own country, and seal the course of history not by the will of some despots but with the expression of the majority. We had a number of revolts and revolutions in the 20th century. However, we are oblivious to the collective lessons we might have learned from them and careless about their consequences.
These days, after the USA domination and a revolution against it, we are, gently for now, driven by the Russians. They are soft footed but strong willed, looking far into the horizon. They know how to make the most of the opportunities offered to them by the ayatollahs’ demagogy and their blind hatred of the West and the USA. They also know that they face a tamed population, which would accept its fate in silence.
Having an outsider to unite us under any despotic rule is by far more acceptable to us than talking among ourselves as a nation, and – lucidly, peacefully – considering our differences as positive forces, driving to a common aim.
If things go wrong once the new despot has been established, we would blame him and play the victim’s role as we have done so often in our history.
One day we must admit that the only way to bin the Valiy-e Faqih’s to-do list is to bin the Valayat-e Faqih itself, and to not be the Islamic Republic of Iran any more.
There is an idiom in Farsi, «پدر کسی را سوزاندن», literally meaning to burn someone’s father, figuratively meaning to torment someone. Using it in various forms as invective is very common in Farsi. However, its origin is little known. It comes to us from the Safavid Dynasty (circa 1501–1722), which ruled our country and established the Twelve Emams school of Shi’a Islam as the official religion of its empire. The Safavid shahs were known to dig up their enemies’ corpses from their graves and burn them. This is telling and endorses the legitimacy of the to-do list in the eyes of who wrote it; we are to burn not only our father’s corpse, but also ourselves alive.
The Republic of Iran will be sufficient in building a new future. It will break the cycle of dictatorship, monarchy or Islamic rule.
Till then the cosmetic changes we are witnessing and are so eager to talk about in the West give the ayatollahs enough time to adjust to the situation and provide them with more rope to bind us.
As Iranians, we do not know what solidarity means.