In Iran, a Janus-faced society, snitching is a national sport. Hypocrisy is a synonym to pragmatism to survive and complies with Amre be Ma’aroof.
In Iran, self-righteous snitching, on almost any private or public domain, is a national sport. The snitch enjoys a private elation, even expecting a pay-off, from the commotion resulting from one’s denunciation. Snitching is morally questionable: one tells the truth, but betrays trust and respect.
The Shiite officialdom, masterful at manipulation, calls for الأمر بالمَعْرُوف والنَهي عن المُنْكَر – enjoining good and forbidding wrong, Amre be Ma’aroof for short.
The inanity and insanity of the Islamic dogmas is used as an excuse to meddle even in the most mundane matters, as it bolsters falsehood. The Shiite hierarchy has codified people’s routine, behaviour and thoughts to the point of becoming invasive and intrusive, thus encouraging people to feel safe in the well-worn grooves of social conformity and confirmation.
It follows a call to repress, with the utmost severity, any breach of the binding rules imposed by the Islamic Republic. Amre be Ma’aroof favours snitches and hypocrites by condemning sincerity and truthfulness.
- You cannot stand the neighbour’s son? Call the moral police and tell them he is listening to corrupt Western music, even if your own beloved son has a CD collection of them.
- You hate your boss? Wait for Ramadan, catch him drinking during daylight and denounce him, even if you had just finished eating from your own lunchbox in a recess.
The case of The TV Presenter
The subject of the latest snitching, in a far too long list of distasteful political and social episodes, concerns a female TV presenter, a celebrity to write about in people’s columns. Azadeh Namdari is also an actress. Young and beautiful, she has become an icon of the professional Muslim woman in chador, a piece of cladding cloth, the wearing of which she advocates zealously.
Recently, she did what the overwhelming majority of Iranian women do when in a Western country: getting rid of the hijab and enjoying a picnic outdoors with family and friends. She was videoed NOT wearing what she stood up for: the hijab.
To make matters worse, bottles of beer, a very common drink in a European picnic, but indicating a criminal act in Iran, were to be seen. The video was published on YouTube, creating a backlash from all and sundry.
Who snitched on her privacy? People have a right to their lives away from the public eye.
Who were the unscrupulous vermin that recorded the video and published it? Was it motivated by jealousy from rivals? Or by rancour and malice?
The snitch made an impact by denouncing a female and a public figure that has made herself a name in the chauvinistic Iranian society.
Whatever the context, snitching on people’s privacy follows the same Islamic deceitful logic that enforces hijab on women, based on self-righteousness, complacency and poor judgement. A hundred years of beliefs in male-supremacy in Iran are not to be easily shrugged off. Worse, it has become an ideological weapon in the hands of fanaticism and Political Islam.
In a healthy social fabric, one that respects ideas and freedom of thoughts and behaviours, no one would pay the least attention to an outdoor family picnic and what was consumed.
The matter is different when one gets to the core of the Iranian society in which hijab is compulsory for women, who are believed to be the cause of men’s lust. And the drinking of alcoholic beverages is forbidden. Full stop.
In fact, the list of forbidden or highly restricted behaviour is tediously long: thoughts, music, books, films, women’s equal rights, religious freedom, cultural diversity, freedom of association… etc.
The Iranian list of proscriptions fosters a climate of fear, with citizens looking over their shoulders in case they get delated for perceived ‘errors’. It creates far too many opportunities for the vermin to snitch on their privacy.
Ms Namdari was on holiday in Switzerland, where spying on personal affairs is a criminal offence. In a country respectful of all citizens, regardless of their beliefs, religion and ethnicity, Switzerland provides powerful means to fight for one’s rights under the heading of complaint for breach of privacy. It deters the snitch from proceeding, and kills the larva of the vermin that only can prosper under the shroud of religious fanaticism.
The backlash to Ms Namdari’s relaxed family picnic, far from the stuffy and ritual Iranian outgoings, brought into light the thousands of comments on social media so as to attract the attention of the mainstream media. As expected, there was a transferral of hatred and deadly sin to the sinner.
In Farsi, many comments on her hijab-less outing were expressed with salacious, vulgar slang, and sexist abuse vocabulary, targeting Ms Namdari. Her stoning (a barbaric punishment codified in Iran) was done with words, unveiling that, whatever the context, if a woman is the subject, lady’s parts are the first target.
If in English, they would have been removed by the moderators and, with perseverance, the commentators persecuted for hate-comment.
Why the abuse? Was it necessary? No, it was not. Far from it. They broke all rules of decency, in any culture. The filthy comments played into the hands of the regime’s propagandists and revealed at the same time the frustrated minds, ready to unleash abuse of a sexual nature to prove … what? Perhaps to prove to themselves that they are heaven-sent men.
If they were men of honour, we would not be in such a mess today.
Some expanded on “The Veiled Hypocrite”, referring to Ms Namdari’s staunch advocacy of hijab in Iran, and the marked contrast of her outfit and manners in Switzerland. For these, we would have wished to have added an “s” and make it “hypocrites” to have a global view of the issue, if and only if the word hypocrite could be justified in the first place.
She is not alone in binning the hijab when abroad: half the Iranian population wish to have a choice and not live under men’s diktat. Many of the women who have left Iran for good would not dream of wearing it.
I am one of those hypocrites. In Iran, albeit out of choice, I have felt the guilt of my own hypocrisy in wearing the hijab I loathe. I wore it to avoid the hezbollahis, patrolling in a gang, and being arrested by those thugs and further having to answer questions asked by an ignorant, haughty barbed man. This is state repression.
However, the scarf also served me as some protection from the he-passers by. For them, staring and calling me a slut would not be sufficient. Not wearing it would have been an open invitation to sexual touching and molesting.
How would you call this, the society’s pressure? How can I fight back if the fabric of our society echoes the state’s repression?
Mohammad Fazeli, in a post, ‘Crushing the victim is no prowess’, wrote: Haven’t you experienced foreign airline flights and the Iranian women on board? How many remove their headscarves as soon as the plane leaves the runway? Haven’t you seen un-scarfed Iranian women in other countries? Aren’t they the ones who are veiled next week when back at work? […] Wouldn’t the private photos of the Iranians, if they leak out of the Telegram, be similar to Ms. Azadeh’s photos? He concluded: Ms. Namdari’s family pictures, taken by stealth, are the culmination of much degeneration.
The Janus-faced Society
A few writings put things in perspective. They discussed the notion of leading a double life in Iran, in a Janus-faced society.
Leading a double life, being Janus-faced is the common method of adaptation to the constraints of dogmas in the Islamic Republic and is largely practised at all levels.
It is the most effective way of having the right credentials on one’s curriculum vitae. To obtain a job and progress in one’s career, both hypocrisy and the mastering of the art of flattery are essential.
The Iranian citizens have been living in two opposite forms for forty years. In public and in their workplace, they act with one set of manners. In their private life, they behave in a completely opposite manner. When in public, they show interest, even enthusiasm, in a number of issues, while in their backyards, they could not care less.
I had worked in Iran for some time. I was invited to parties where the drinking of alcohol was offered by pushy, aggressive and half-drunk hosts. The next morning, the very same host would wear the pious Muslim mask to run his business and kiss the hand of any turbaned man for favours. Is he a disgraceful hypocrite or a praiseworthy business strategist?
In Europe, how many times have I hosted visitors from Iran, some in an official capacity, that have whispered in my ear, asking for help in an utmost personal matter, usually to buy alcoholic drinks as long as the shopping cannot be traced back to them?
To be Janus-faced on a country scale, is pragmatism and not hypocrisy. A hypocrite has a choice. The pragmatic adapts to the already hypocritical environment to survive, to progress in one’s career, to become somebody.
After forty years of the theocracy, all economic sectors are affected by the plague of clientelism and nepotism. Snitching is encouraged since, as a norm for obtaining information, it permits the system to keep control.
In any country, Iran no exception, there are millions who have to make a living, to provide for their families. They have no choice except to play it by the rules. Ms Namdari is not the icon of hypocrisy as some pretend. Pragmatically, she adapted to her environment even if overzealously.
Anyone, if not half-witted, would easily admit that being without hijab is not a big deal unless a bunch of barbed men enforce it. Any woman who has worked in Iran knows perfectly well that being accused of “bad-hijabi” is the sword of Damocles hanging over her head no matter what her professional abilities. So why not make the most the of it and advocate hijab and chador as an insurance premium?
The Iranian theocracy has no counterbalance. It looks grand and towering because the citizens are on their knees. To progress, they creep and butter up.
The absence of structured protesting voices, the omnipresence of the crass religiosity, especially in Tehran and large towns, have created a shrouded wasteland in which only those with false faces can progress or simply survive. Frankness, voicing one’s mind, is unwelcome and discouraged and the culprit may end up hanging from a cord. Hitting the road for exile is the only solution for one to live up to one’s convictions.
Whoever is without sin should throw the first stone.