We received a long letter from Darioush. With his kind permission, we publish the edited version below.
My last Nowruz in Iran was in 1978. I was the happiest 19 year old of all time. All my papers – passport, flight ticket, admission in a European university – were neatly lined on my desk. I was leaving family and friends only for a few years, as I imagined it then.
My uncle had brought some Samanu for the festivities; I did not like the stuff but couldn’t refuse tasting it.
The seven of us, my parents, brothers and sisters, went to visit my aunt, the eldest of my father’s sisters. She teased my figure –hugging, bell-bottom blue jeans. Her eyes twinkled when she called me قرتی /dandy. I still remember the smells of Nowruz, in the streets, at homes.
I am no more a dandy, receding white hairs are proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I wear large trousers to make room for my love handles. I have seen my son grow, shared his happiness for some years, and shed tears on his grave.
Over forty years, I went back alone to Iran for short visits. My wife was not welcome in the country. I have hated the damned Islamic Revolution from day one. I am not able to bear oppressive Islam ruling my life, my thoughts, my hobbies.
Perhaps, if in past decades, the regime could have evolved in showing humanity, and brought what we missed most in my teens, freedom of expression for all and prosperity for most, I could have put up with the regime.
I have lived in Europe all my adult life. Since my son’s death, to feel a collective warmth, I celebrate Nowruz with other people of Iranian origin. Collective rituals bring us together. Without them, we would be insignificant. At the gatherings, I see an empty shell, mine, having small talk with the hosts; but, my soul wanders in a past that will never come back.
When my son was born, I promised my wife I would soon set up our home for life in my native town, once the people had chucked the ayatollahs out for good. After all, in 1979, who would have believed that the ayatollahs’ reign would last so long?
I could not keep my promise. Today, I am old enough to know that I never will. I am not ashamed though. I put up a fight against our cultural meanness: not only accepting despotism but also justifying it. I was hurt when I was ostracised by my own fellow citizens. The wound might heal one day.
It was a lost battle from the start as sometimes my wife gently reminds me.
Years ago, an Iranian refugee stayed with us on his way to his new home somewhere to the north of Europe. He had survived the 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners.
How did he survive? I will not share his story. But a name has been with me ever since: Ebrahim Raisi, a member of the foursome panel created by Khomeini, called the “death committee”.
Under a blanket of silence, thousands were executed and mass murdered.
Raisi, together with those involved in the episode, was never blamed for the killings and assassinations. To the contrary, he made a success of his career in the damned Islamic Republic. Son-in-law of the influential Friday-Preacher in Mashhad, Ahmad Alamolhoda, and himself being the chairman of Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthiest Shiite foundation, he belongs to the very close circle of the Valiy-e Faqih, Ali Khamenei.
In 2017, when he was a contender in the presidential elections, I remembered his role in the “death committee”. For me, watching him smiling on the TV screen was sickening; in his political rallies, the word کرامت (dignity, benevolence, generosity) was affixed behind him.
At the time, The Economist predicted: Defeat may be only a temporary setback for Mr Raisi. Ali Khamenei, the current supreme leader, is thought to be grooming Mr Raisi as his successor. However, it drew the wrong conclusion: But that might be harder if Mr Raisi has been rejected by Iranian voters. The paper overlooked the fact that in the Iranian theocracy, the people’s voice does not matter.
A Gift to the People for 2019: Ebarhim Raisi
According to article 154 of the Constitution: The Islamic Republic of Iran considers human happiness throughout society as its ideal. “No kidding?!”, I had noted in the margin, many years ago.
Driven by wickedness and/or cynicism, the Supreme Guide has the happiness of the Iranians at heart, by offering them a New Year’s gift: a new Chief Justice, in replacement of the horrendous Sadegh Larijani.
The new man in charge is no one but hojat-ol-eslam Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi. The message of our führer to the population cannot be clearer: You protest, you organise sit-ins or strikes, you criticise the people in charge. You make us feel unhappy. To keep you on the leash, I name a headsman, an executioner, a mass murderer, as the head of the judiciary.
Hadi Ghaemi the executive director of the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) had this comment: Ebrahim Raisi should be prosecuted, not be the head of Iran’s judiciary,[…] The selection of Raisi to serve as head of the judiciary will send a clear message: the rule of law has no meaning in Iran, and those who participated in mass murder will be rewarded.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote an article titled: Iran: Serious Rights Violator to Lead Judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi Oversaw Mass Executions in 1988.
In Raisi’s biography published on his website, the following covers the episode, using the third person: [Ebrahim Raisi] was appointed as the successor to Tehran’s Revolutionary Public Prosecutor in 1985. […] His judicial administration began in Tehran. Following his success in solving complex cases, Imam Khomeini (RA), with special and direct orders, assigned him to address social problems in some provinces, including Lorestan, Kermanshah and Semnan.
To dispel any objection to our translation and the choice of words, we reproduce the Farsi version of his use of euphemism to gloss over his unnameable sense of duty:
حجة الاسلام دکتر رئیسی در سال ۱۳۶۴ به عنوان جانشین دادستان انقلاب تهران منصوب شد و به این ترتیب، دوره مدیریت قضایی ایشان در تهران آغاز شد. به دنبال موفقیت وی در حل پرونده های قضایی پیچیده، امام خمینی (ره) طی احکام ویژه و مستقیم او را برای رسیدگی به مشکلات اجتماعی در برخی استانها از جمله لرستان، کرمانشاه و سمنان مامور کرد.
Tehran Applauds Ebrahim Raisi Nomination
As if it was a formidable surprise, some headlines read: Some Iranian Reformists welcome new hard-line judiciary chief.
Remember the hard-liner/moderate (reformist) divide in politics, a myth so often repeated in Western media?
Although this goes back to the Iranian political scene in which some are occasionally called Eslah-Talab (loosely moderate) and others Ossool-talab (loosely hard-liners), there is no way of providing clear lists in which a man is only printed in one column, under one label. Men could change their label and be written in both columns whenever the opportunities are presented to them to fulfil their ambitions.
Moreover, no one will dare to defy a direct order of the Leader.
In fact, Tehran’s establishment applauded the nomination of Raisi. There are many like him being groomed by the damned Islamic Republic, waiting to be in the limelight. By lining up behind the future potential Supreme Guide of Iran, warmly endorsed by the current leader, they dream of better days in their careers when their services to a potential future leader would also be handsomely rewarded.
Publishing the letter of nomination, the Leader emphasised: The department of Justice vigorously starts a new era, which deservingly fits the second phase of the Revolution […] you have proven your honesty, sincerity and efficiency in different positions you have served.
He ended his letter: I thank and honour Ayatollah Amoli for his valuable efforts.
In the arcane world of the ayatollahs, nothing is simple. Abdollah Javadi-Amoli, born in 1933, is an obscure figure for the international media, but a master player of the gerontic power-play in Iran. If he survives Ali Khamenei (born 1939), he would have the last word in naming the new Leader, Valiy-e Faqih.
What are the hot files left for Ebrahim Raisi from the Larijani era?
The short answer is: everything. As did his predecessor, Raisi will undoubtedly meddle in all the issues of the country: from foreign affairs to local community issues, from international trade to the environment, from petty theft to the crackdown on political prisoners.
All with the flavour of false accusations, and arbitrary decisions, in line with Islamic dogmas, using the means that a totalitarian regime would provide to its Vize-Führer.
Certainly he would not miss the chance to worsen the fates of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a respected human rights lawyer, but a convict in an Iranian jail, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, or the dozens of dual-nationals guilty of spying or awaiting similar phoney charges so that they can be used as bargain chips on the international scene in the future.
I fear for the future of anyone who falls under his claws.
A Happy New Year?
Over the phone a friend in Tehran quipped when giving his impression on Raisi as Chief Justice: What do I think? Of course, I am elated, we all are.
None of us was amused. The shroud of the regime has spread out since 1979 and is not to be lifted. No change is the motto.
As the New Year approaches, the Iranian media have nothing else to write about except the rip-off prices of nuts, fruits and chickens so much needed for the festivities. The number of étrennes / عیدی bestowed generously [sic] by the government to the beloved [sic] عزیزان / workers and lowly servants will be discussed. Whether payments will be made or remain just hollow promises, is anybody’s guess. Later on, I’ll peruse the reports on the young people killed by counterfeit fireworks, or arrested by Islamic Moral force on Chaharshanbe Suri.
Starting on 21 March, Iran will go into its annual two weeks’ general stoppage of all activities, the Nowruz holidays, and I will gladly disconnect from cyberspace… forty years of the same discourses, forty years of the same misery….
Don’t get me wrong. As a well behaved guest, I will say the right thing in the parties. We’ll even invite people home to share a meal.
But my heart will be somewhere else. My mind will remember the jokes of my Ame Merat, my aunt, dead for twenty years now. I will try to find wild spring flowers for my late son. Sitting next to his stone, I’ll tell him stories of my parents, whom he never met.
Then my wife will get me out my misery with her Samanu that I have come to like and a sweet talk I never tired of.
Didn’t I tell you? My wife is a child to the parents of some minorities that the damned Islamic Republic an his valets like Ebrahim Raisi have repressed over the years. I am proud of her and our origins and beliefs combined.
Blessed by the ayatollahs, the coronavirus, covid-19, was allowed to spread more misery, death. Let the year 1399 be the forerunner of a new bright century.