Photo essay: An Iranian in communist
By Jahanshah Javid
I remember in the early years of the Revolution
there was a cleric by the name of Hojatoleslam Lahooti. He was
side and usually in the opposition. Around the same time I had
heard there was another Lahooti, Abolghassem Lahooti, a communist
poet, who fled Iran to the
Soviet Union in the 1940s.
Lahooti the Cleric disappeared from the political
scene in the 1980s and I never heard anything more about Lahooti
the Communist. Until two weeks ago.
Mehdi Jami, a journalist and filmmaker in London,
called to offer some films for the so-called First
Iranian.com Film Festival (my daughter doesn't like the name.
She says who cares if
it's the "first" iranian.com film festival? She underestimates
my marketing genius). When Mehdi said he was going to send a Soviet
documentary on Lahooti
dropped. I wanted it.
Last week, Mehdi's package
arrived in the mail and I quickly loaded "Lahooti".
The sound quality was poor
and I was having a hard time understanding the narrator's
Tajik -- "Shakespearean Persian" -- accent.
Worst of all, I had never seen a picture of Lahooti and couldn't
him in the film.
But how could
I miss him? He's there in almost every frame. When
in fast-play with footage of a short old
man making a rousing speech to a group of peasants, I thought
he was Charlie Chaplin in his later years
of Lenin. I'm not kidding you, half-way through the documentary,
I still couldn't believe my eyes. Is that really Lahooti?
The man I knew only as a communist poet who ran away
from his country, was not only a leading communist in Iran, but
later on virtually
worshipped in Soviet Tajikistan, with some 150 of his poems
turned into revolutionary songs, inspiring Persian speakers in
the Soviet Union and Iranian leftists.
Here was an Iranian revered and honored and glorified
in the USSR, and yet among his countrymen -- except for pockets
and intelletuals -- he's all but unknown. Even among those who
have heard of him, many consider Lahooti a traitor because
of his leadership role in trying to install a Soviet-backed communist
government in Tabriz.
"Lahooti" looks like any other piece of
communist propaganda you may have seen. But its propaganda about
an Iranian; an important and fascinating
historical document of the Iranian left. It's also a telling
sign of the treasures gathering dust in Russia.
I mean, in this
documentary made by Tajik director Dawlat Khodanazar, there are
short footages of Tabriz
under communist rule. I want to see all films and
photographs related to Iran and Iranians in old Soviet archives.
Could someone please
go to Russia and resecue this stuff?
"Lahooti" will be shown in
Berkeley on Sunday
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