James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Reading Iran’s hope, fear

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The situation in Iran in recent weeks has offered both much hope and much fear. Indeed, Iran seems to be on the brink of something not unlike the pivotal events of 1979. Those events triumphantly ended the monarchy in Iran … only to usher in a fascist theocracy.
Fortunately, two books have been released this year that illustrate both the hope and the fear. Both books are by accomplished journalists who have deep roots in Iran and mastery of the Persian language.
‘Honeymoon in Tehran’
Azadeh Moaveni’s “Honeymoon in Tehran” describes her experiences as a journalist in Tehran as she falls in love, marries and has a child with an Iranian man. Because her life is intertwined with the liberal modern culture that dominates northern Tehran, her story breathes rich life into the people we have seen in the news standing up so defiantly to the fascist regime that controls their country.
Moaveni shows that many people in Iran, across a variety of social categories, are not mere “moderates,” as that term is so euphemistically used to describe people in repressive countries who have merely suppressed the urge to murder. The people of Iran are largely liberals of the type we identify with in this country. They do not merely tolerate diversity and treat others politely; they embrace diversity and seek out cultural experiences beyond what the regime allows.
In spite of this hope, Moaveni also describes the creeping fascism that penetrates more severely after the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. After a time of living in constant fear of arrest, she is compelled to leave Iran so that she can raise her child out from under the thumb of the fascist regime.
‘The Persian Night’
Amir Taheri’s “The Persian Night” more starkly shows the darkness and fear cast by the regime. He goes into great detail describing the repressive organs of the regime. He describes the morality patrols — known in Persian as Gasht-e Ershad — that oppress women who dress too colorfully, allow their hair to show, or converse with men.
Taheri tells about various horrors visited upon Iranians by the Baseej militia and the Revolutionary Guard. He examines how the regime exports its fascist ideology through the various arms of Hizballah that operate worldwide.
Most importantly, Taheri describes the regime’s insane pursuit of nuclear weapons and its lack of concern for the welfare of the Iranian people.
Perhaps the most troubling parts of both books are those that display the disregard the regime has for human life. From AhmadinNejad to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenehi, the regime’s leaders have expressed the sincere belief that the noblest act one can do for the regime is to die. These men justify the most evil acts with a messianic belief of divine rescue. During Iran’s war with Iraq, the regime most vividly displayed its ideology of death when it sent many thousands of young children to die, running across minefields.
When a fascist regime like this instigates foreign wars and pursues nuclear weapons, it poses a threat unlike any the world has faced. The Soviet Union and the United States were saved from nuclear annihilation because each side loved their children and wanted to see them live. What is the world to do when those controlling the nukes want to see their children die?
As we are forced to deal with this question more imminently in the coming months, Moaveni and Taheri explain that the world must make every effort to show solidarity with the people of Iran.
A small example of how America does this is the president’s Nowruz message to the Persian people. Nowruz is the celebration of Persian New Year that pre-dates the arrival of Islam in Iran. Even as the Iranian people have embraced Islam, Nowruz has remained a major holiday celebrated widely by the Iranian people. Because of its narrow theocratic ideology, the regime has tried to suppress Nowruz and has only failed because of the popular observance of it. When the U.S. president addresses the Iranian people on Nowruz, he sends a strong message that we stand with them against their oppressors.
As the Iranian people pursue regime change through boycotts, strikes, and other disturbances, we must continue to stand with them. Their actions provide an opportunity for us to pressure the regime through targeted policies and diplomacy that can reinforce the Iranian people’s efforts. With an intelligent strategy, we might provide the needed momentum to help the Iranian people change the fascist regime that oppresses them and threatens the world.
Writers’ Group member James Eaves-Johnson blogs often at http://www.press-citizen.com.

[This is my column in today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen.  It can also be found at http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20090726/OPINION01/907260303/1019]

The situation in Iran in recent weeks has offered both much hope and much fear. Indeed, Iran seems to be on the brink of something not unlike the pivotal events of 1979. Those events triumphantly ended the monarchy in Iran … only to usher in a fascist theocracy.

Fortunately, two books have been released this year that illustrate both the hope and the fear. Both books are by accomplished journalists who have deep roots in Iran and mastery of the Persian language.

‘Honeymoon in Tehran’

Azadeh Moaveni’s “Honeymoon in Tehran” describes her experiences as a journalist in Tehran as she falls in love, marries and has a child with an Iranian man. Because her life is intertwined with the liberal modern culture that dominates northern Tehran, her story breathes rich life into the people we have seen in the news standing up so defiantly to the fascist regime that controls their country.

Moaveni shows that many people in Iran, across a variety of social categories, are not mere “moderates,” as that term is so euphemistically used to describe people in repressive countries who have merely suppressed the urge to murder. The people of Iran are largely liberals of the type we identify with in this country. They do not merely tolerate diversity and treat others politely; they embrace diversity and seek out cultural experiences beyond what the regime allows.

In spite of this hope, Moaveni also describes the creeping fascism that penetrates more severely after the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. After a time of living in constant fear of arrest, she is compelled to leave Iran so that she can raise her child out from under the thumb of the fascist regime.

‘The Persian Night’

Amir Taheri’s “The Persian Night” more starkly shows the darkness and fear cast by the regime. He goes into great detail describing the repressive organs of the regime. He describes the morality patrols — known in Persian as Gasht-e Ershad — that oppress women who dress too colorfully, allow their hair to show, or converse with men.

Taheri tells about various horrors visited upon Iranians by the Baseej militia and the Revolutionary Guard. He examines how the regime exports its fascist ideology through the various arms of Hizballah that operate worldwide.

Most importantly, Taheri describes the regime’s insane pursuit of nuclear weapons and its lack of concern for the welfare of the Iranian people.

Perhaps the most troubling parts of both books are those that display the disregard the regime has for human life. From AhmadinNejad to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenehi, the regime’s leaders have expressed the sincere belief that the noblest act one can do for the regime is to die. These men justify the most evil acts with a messianic belief of divine rescue. During Iran’s war with Iraq, the regime most vividly displayed its ideology of death when it sent many thousands of young children to die, running across minefields.

When a fascist regime like this instigates foreign wars and pursues nuclear weapons, it poses a threat unlike any the world has faced. The Soviet Union and the United States were saved from nuclear annihilation because each side loved their children and wanted to see them live. What is the world to do when those controlling the nukes want to see their children die?

As we are forced to deal with this question more imminently in the coming months, Moaveni and Taheri explain that the world must make every effort to show solidarity with the people of Iran.

A small example of how America does this is the president’s Nowruz message to the Persian people. Nowruz is the celebration of Persian New Year that pre-dates the arrival of Islam in Iran. Even as the Iranian people have embraced Islam, Nowruz has remained a major holiday celebrated widely by the Iranian people. Because of its narrow theocratic ideology, the regime has tried to suppress Nowruz and has only failed because of the popular observance of it. When the U.S. president addresses the Iranian people on Nowruz, he sends a strong message that we stand with them against their oppressors.

As the Iranian people pursue regime change through boycotts, strikes, and other disturbances, we must continue to stand with them. Their actions provide an opportunity for us to pressure the regime through targeted policies and diplomacy that can reinforce the Iranian people’s efforts. With an intelligent strategy, we might provide the needed momentum to help the Iranian people change the fascist regime that oppresses them and threatens the world.

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Written by JamesEJ

Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 6:35 pm

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