For decades, Iran has been the center of controversy. This week’s headlines about Iran could invoke a picture in the mind of a boiler tank with fumes of pent-up religious anger bursting through the seams.
Here are some examples of the headlines:
Clashes erupt as Iran commemorates embassy siege anniversary
Thousands of people demonstrate in Tehran
In Iran, Anti-Government Protests Join Anti-American Rival
Day of the ‘Death to America’: How Iran trained its youth to protest
Iranian Police Will “Energetically Confront” 4 Nov. Demonstrations
Iran warns of crackdown on any opposition protests
The tank could explode at any moment giving way to the pent-up pressure of hatred, threatening any opposition in its raging path.
Recently, my reading of the memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran, has opened my eyes to the meaning of these headlines. The author, Azar Nafisi, paints a painfully beautiful portrait of her life as an English literature teacher struggling to teach a subject that is contrary to the oppressive theocratic rule of the ruling government. His teachings from the literary works of James and Fitzgerald and Nabokov silently challenge the Islamic Republic and its fundamentalist beliefs with independent-minded characters and individualism; a stark contrast to the image of the ideal Muslim, an ideal that Nafisi and his secret students come to describe as “irrelevant.” Reading your memoirs has piqued my interest in knowing more about what is behind the headlines.
If you look back, you will see that these headlines are just a continuous reincarnation of decades past. Since the sixties, controversy has boiled in two pots; Moujahedin’s modernism and Khomeini’s totalitarian and anti-American ideologies. The intrinsic difference behind the two ideologies is democracy and human rights.
Until 1979, Iran was a monarchy; that is until the monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini received the status of Supreme Leader. Since then, these headlines have dominated many newspapers around the world. The reason is due to the totalitarian principle of velayat-e-faqih, the foundation on which Khomeinism rests. Velayat-e-faqih is the principle of absolute theocratic government. Khomeini believed only in the religious government of the clergy or the Islamic government.
Khomeini won the support of many Shiite Muslims by winning the title of Ayatollah. The title itself, Ayatollah, means “example of God on earth,” and Shiite Muslim fundamentalists believe this literally. This religious fervor and emphatic support made it easy for Khomeini to create an atmosphere that forced his opposition to agree.
Khomeini preached strict adherence to the Islamic government or “government of God.” His word was absolute and disobedience was considered “rebellion against God.” In a talk at the Fayzieah school in Qom on August 30, 1979, Khomeini warned his opponents: “Those who are trying to bring corruption and destruction to our country in the name of democracy will be oppressed. They are worse than the Jews of Bani Ghorizeh, and they must be hanged. We will oppress them at God’s command and God’s call to prayer. ” This threat of oppression was not only directed at the Jews of Bani Ghorizeh, but also at the Iranians. An example is the expulsion of Azar Nafisi from the University of Tehran after years of teaching due to his refusal to wear the veil. Women in Iran were no longer allowed to choose; religion became law. (Wikipedia, 2009)
Reading Azar Nafisi’s memoirs changed my perception of Iran. The way Azar Nafisi was still passionate about literature before his expulsion was my first step in understanding the unrest in Iran. Etched in my mind is the tornado atmosphere that Nafisi managed to dodge for so long. She seemed to weather the storm to this point by standing in the calm eye of the storm, a calm she created by immersing herself and her students in the fantasy world of Lolita, the honest world of The Great Gatsby, and the passionate world. by Daisy Miller. Meanwhile, fundamentalist banners hung all over the walls of the university, protests echoed from outside the classroom windows and the worst image, a student who set himself on fire running through the corridors. Our most humble respect must go to Azar Nafisi for persisting in teaching Western literature in such a turbulent climate where leaders considered such teachings “from the devil.” Nafisi held out longer than any other free person worth his salt could hope for.
Still more etched in my mind is why immersing myself in Western literature would surround it in calm amid the turbulence of a revolutionary Iran, and strike such a universal chord among its readers and students. To illustrate this point, we must go to the Nafisi class where The Great Gatsby becomes controversial enough to be put through a mock trial. Representing the book itself, Nafisi defends Gatsby against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its problem with the morality of the novels. Nafisi’s answer:
“You don’t read Gatsby … to find out if adultery is good or bad, but to find out how complicated issues like adultery, fidelity, and marriage are. A great novel heightens your senses and your sensitivity to the complexities of life. life and people, and prevents you from self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil “. (Nafisi, 2004)
The message I take home from that is the attribute of empathy. All the books that Nafisi studies with his students have something in common. All characters have flaws. There is no clear hero or clear villain. His portraits are in watercolor, blurring the hero and the villain. You have empathy for both. Nafisi’s student Zarrin, after very skillfully defending Gatsby in the mock trial, told Nafisi: “This is an amazing book. It teaches you to value your dreams but also to distrust them, to seek integrity in places. unusual “. Zarrin doesn’t make any sense to act immoral after reading the book. Instead, see through the eyes of the characters and learn from their flaws. And reading these books in the context of a revolutionary Iran seems to wake up the Nafisi students to the fact that morality cannot be imposed on the people. These books have no mystical power to induce someone to act badly as the revolutionaries claim. I am convinced that the reason these books strike a chord with the reader is the freedom of choice of characters. Religious ideals and laws are not things that can be imposed on an individual because the truth is that they will never be accepted, just like with Humbert or the blind censor. Indeed, it is ironic that Khomeini’s supporters consider these books powerful enough to impose on the reader the ideals of their characters. Ironic because that is exactly what the revolutionaries are doing, imposing “morality” on their subjects with their Revolutionary Guards. He is in a true narcissistic way, accusing your enemy of what you are guilty of. But the individual cannot be fooled.
“Neither Humbert nor the blind censor ever possess their victims, they always elude him, just as fantasy objects are always close at hand and inaccessible. No matter how they are broken, the victims will not be forced to submit.” . (Nafisi, 2004)
Nafisi’s memoirs are a call to all men and women that Iranians want democracy. They want the freedom to choose without the fear of death and oppression of Khomeini’s supporters. He wants us to know that despite Khomeini’s death in 1989, his ideologies and oppression continue. In fact, his death only shows how much control he had over his followers. “Iranians went out into the cities and streets to mourn Khomeini’s death in a” completely spontaneous and unorchestrated torrent of grief. ” Since then, the Islamic Republic of Iran has tried to stay true to its ideology (Wikipedia, 2009).
There is a majority that does not agree with the absolute theocratic government. Today their protests against the government are taking place in the streets of Iran. The most active anti-government opposition group Moujahedin, seeks democracy, human rights, freedom and grace and compassion versus violence and revenge; a stark contrast to the oppressive and absolute theocratic rule that is in effect now. We can read the result of their efforts in the statement of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. A summary of the statement can be found in Chapter 15, Modern and Democratic Islam: Antithesis of Fundamentalism from the book Islamic Fundamentalism – The New Global Threat:
“The program of the National Council of Resistance of Iran recognizes the” individual and social rights of all citizens, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “It guarantees general freedoms, including freedom of association, thought and expression, media, parties, unions, councils, beliefs and religions, and professions. The NCR program also calls for “the abolition of military and extraordinary courts, the investigation of political crimes in civilian courts with juries present” and guarantees the “right of the accused to the defense and the choice of defense attorney, and the right to appeal “Emphasizes” the prohibition of torture under any pretext “, and emphasizes” judicial and professional security for all citizens and the abolition of Komitehs and the Body of Guards “(Mohaddessin, 1993)
This National Council of Resistance of Iran has given hope to many Iranians, especially women, who suffer from the oppression of the absolute rule of the Republic of Iran. But will we ever see the end of this battle? Will Iran emerge from the clutches of Khomeini’s terrorist religious tyranny? The Mojahedin think so; in fact, they believe it is a necessity. Maybe it’s in your life, or maybe not. For now, one can only look to the future to see what Iran will become (if democratic liberating Islam triumphs) by reading the words of Mojahedin Massoud Rajavi:
“We will live in peace and coexistence with our neighbors. Democratic Iran will recognize no place for revenge, blind hatred, Khomeini courts or the kind of anarchy. We are responsible enough not to get involved in domestic and international adventures. Theocracy like Khomeini’s. Instead of “exporting the revolution”, we will invite our country’s experts to return to Iran. In democratic Iran no one will be persecuted for their ideology or religion. Tomorrow’s Iran will be free from repression and religious hypocrisy Women, workers, peasants, religious and ethnic minorities will not be oppressed. Kurds, Turks, Jews, Muslims, Armenians, Christians, Zoroastrians and non-Muslims will enjoy the same rights. Iran will become a symbol of peace, stability and friendship in the Middle East. “(Rajavi, 1982)