Lively conversations during afternoon tea
Decembe 19, 2005
An Iranian friend invited me over for an early afternoon tea. Their backyard holds a beautiful pomegranate tree. They placed comfortable chairs under the tree with a ceramic-covered small table to serve the tea and fruits. The rest of the yard, although small, holds a very nice collection of aromatic and colorful plants. The young couple and their little five-year old daughter created a beautiful setting to share with their friends.
After having a cup of tea or two the subjects of our conversation started to take their own complexity and color as usual.
My friend believes that the recent British Museum’s exhibition of Iranian ancient artifacts under the name “The Forgotten Empire” was nothing more than a ploy to permanently smuggle a lot of priceless items out of Iran under the disguise of a cultural reciprocation! A more appropriate name according to my friend should have been “The Forgotten Hoist.” For the regime in Iran exchanging the ancient art and heritage of pre-Islamic cultures with money is the best deed rewarded both on earth and in heaven and of course the British agree no less.
While we were chatting about this clever trick by the Brits, my friend’s wife brought up the issue of human rights violations in Iran and the lack of any respect for gays and lesbians rights in Iran as has been discussed by the BBC -the voice box of the British government.
A bit puzzled I asked her why is it that BBC wants to promote the gay rights in Iran, and how come nobody is advocating the heterosexual rights in Iran? Are Iranians guaranteed civil rights so much so that we can now shift our focus to gays and lesbians?
This did not go well with my friend’s wife and she said that heterosexuals are the majority so they don’t need protection.
Well, her husband interrupted and changed the subject to the issue of ethnic unrest, and his wife immediately voiced her opinion on how she believed that Kurds should be given a chance for self-rule. He disagreed and pointed out that Kurds are not the most oppressed minority in Iran and indeed if a group deserves self-rule and secession from the central government, it should be the people of southern part of Tehran who have been putting up with four hundred years of despotic governments.
“While people of central and north Tehran live in a semi-affluent stance, those in the south have been in deep poverty receiving the sewerage from the north of the city and having to put up with the worst pollution on earth, the proliferation of graveyards everywhere and all of these while Kurds live in the most fertile and green part of Iran getting the best air to breathe, best dairy and far from central government.” My friend continued.
“Even if we assume that the Kurds get independence from Iran, Turkey and Iraq, within ten years they will have a tyrant and a dictator in place with a three-inch mustache (that is just the width) covertly supported by the British who are basically there only for the oil. Smuggling opium and drug trafficking will become the main source of per capita income leading to give the U.S. military forces an excuse to attack the country to install democracy in exchange for oil! So, what’s the big deal about “independence” as Kurds already have more clout as things are? As a land-locked nation Kurdistan will hardly taste a true peace even with full alliance with Israel.”
I thought instead of defending the gays why not defend the entrepreneurs of Iran of today? And speaking of that let me tell you about the two US-educated friends in Tehran who decided to use their talents to start making money. So they started promoting themselves in the same fashion as the celebrated movie critics Siskel & Ebert style of “Two Thumbs Up” hoping to become a marketing authority capitalizing on their name brand. Well, this almost cost them their lives!
Each time they rated a good movie with two thumbs up or in certain occasions just one thumb up, they received barrage of four-letter words from people and neighbors, and ended up with broken car windshield. For a while they thought these hostilities will eventually lead to their fame but they were dead wrong.
Finally after being arrested and charged by the agents of the Information Ministry they went through a summary trial and were convicted of indecent acts (hence showing their thumbs upward in the public and in print publications) and each was sentenced and received a hundred lashes in a public square during the Friday mass prayer. Raising thumbs in Iran is like raising mid-finger in America! So this somehow shows that just because gays and lesbians fight for their rights in America this should not mean a silly sequel to be conducted in Iran as well. Not every definition of “freedom” in USA should have an equivalent in a Muslim country and vice versa.
My friend agreed while his wife was in full disagreement. He believes that the Discovery Channel should discontinue its biased and unfair practice of showing African tribal women with their breasts exposed but not the women in Polynesia or in Hawaii! It seems that African tribal breasts are rated G but breasts from other continents are X rated and their nipples digitally blurred over. Where is Kofi Annan when we need him most?
Another one of our grievances circled around the documentaries that from time to time are made about Iran. Recently Public TV showed the documentary “Mystic Iran.” It was appalling how the focus is always on the wild side, most of the documentary was focused on an ugly deranged woman with substantial facial hair somewhere in Northern Iran, whom under the influence of rituals of dervishes and recitation of poems from Rumi, started a trance that made her produce sounds which was like a cow, a wildebeest or a badger and kept touching fire with her bare hands while others where dancing around her! What the hell is “mystic” about that?
Why in the world should anyone focus on this part of Iran, the animalistic rituals that 99% of Iranians neither participate nor even care for? It is like if someone wants to make a similar documentary about USA put most of her focus on snake dancing and voodoo practices conducted in some churches in the Deep South? Would that be a true cultural representation?
If I had a choice I would want to make the Iranian version TV series “Desperate Housewives.” Just like the American version of it the Iranian production most likely will break television audience record in Iran if not all over the world. Don’t you agree?
One other comment I brought up was that since 1979 every one of the documentaries made about Iran must at least have several minutes of coverage of bearded angry-looking men using chains for self-flagellation in the name of martyrs of Islam. While the rest of the world use similar chains on their automobile tires on their way to ski resorts to have fun, the Iranians on the other hand promote the use of chain as a means of purifying their soul by beating the crap out of themselves and make themselves bleed each year during the religious ceremonies of Moharram. Can you imagine if the French had a similar ceremony every year for the war that Napoleon lost? Gathering around Arch de Triumph each year and beating themselves with chains!
To put it in a nutshell self-flagellation is what you can call “Extreme Sport” in Iran! The sad thing is that those martyrs never conducted such animalistic rituals themselves, but thanks to the British and other western documentary makers the eyes and cameras of foreigners should constantly be focused on these rituals.
No one makes a documentary talking about the mathematicians in Iran, the thousands of Iranian surgeons inside and outside of Iran. To interview the great engineers and technicians and scientists who are in top positions in many companies in America, many of them founders of such corporations. Instead, every documentary has to show the negative traits of Sheism and ritualistic masochism that has produced an ugly portrayal of Iran.
Back to our afternoon tea at my friend’s house let me tell you how it ended.
As we talked about all these nonsense, my friend kept laughing wildly and his wife kept arguing and her anger became more obvious as her husband continued with his laughter. I saw her hand going for the crystal dish full of Persian Baklava (hey Greeks eat your heart out) and she was clearly getting ready to throw the dish to his face. Like a horrible accident rolling in front of my eyes in slow motion I was waiting for the crashing sound of glass and facial bones.
But boy were we lucky! And thanks to an undoubtedly divine intervention such accident did not take place. You see, as she lifted the crystal dish and aimed at her husband, suddenly the five year old daughter rushed to the backyard and yelled: “mommy jeesh daram” (mommy I have to pee!)... Her good timing and her urge to urinate saved our afternoon, saved a crystal dish and perhaps prevented a visit to the hospital. She is a true angel.
Farrokh A. Ashtiani is the founder of PersianParadise.com