The Iranian


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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


    June 10, 1999

    Enemy within

As Long as We Have Friends like You, We Won't Need Any Enemies!

I am going to try very hard, not to be rude in my criticism of your article-play: "I must be a Jew". It's been said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and its ten times worst when it mixes with prejudice perception of an issue.

When you talk about Iranian people and their hatefulness and lack of compassion towards other nationalities, races and religions, you should take a moment and try to remember who you are. The people of Iran consist of us. You and I and others like us and if it so happens that some uneducated and ill-informed individual, makes certain ignorant remark about certain creed or belief, it must not be interpreted as a widespread preconceived notion, which Iranians have been passingon through generations. If you get a chance, perhaps in one of those walks, you seem to like to take after ending a conversation with name-calling and insults, you might want to pick up a light history book and try to dig a bit deeper and examine the roots of what appears to be nothing but a kind of irrational behavior on our part (about all of those you said, were being subjected to Iranians' antagonistic maliciousness and hatred).

Let's start with Jews. In your play, which by the way, was going rather well before you jumped in head first and announced yourself a Jew to show your sympathy for them and the contempt you felt for their enemies, you proved nothing but your own lack of understanding and knowledge of Iranian people.

I can't be sure about the new generation of Iranians who grew up under the blistering governmental propaganda and how impartial they could be in their opinions and beliefs, but somehow I don't think you meant them, when you said: "They don't like us either". By the way who is this undefined "us" you mentioned here?

Any way that is not important. I would only like to inform you that you are very much mistaken when you say "Jews are being perceived by Iranians as evil, cunning and greedy creatures" and being "trashed" by them. What is being detested and scorned by our people is not the nation of Israel, it is the state of Israel that was brought to power and established by the West (Britain) to be "a strong fortress of civilization and to defend it from all those savages and barbarians who were surrounding it, at any cost." And naturally the burden of carrying the cost was on the shoulders of Arabs, whose existence seemed to mean less air to breath and less land to build as far as the new invaders-occupiers were concerned. They didn't try to hide it either. The policy of intimidation / evacuation / elimination was put to work from the very beginning and it was proclaimed that the Arabs were unwanted guests on their land and it was time for them to disappear. You know, these are the same Arabs that you accused us of hating (I am drawing a line between you and us, since you made it clear, it shames you to be considered an Iranian). So what are we doing defending those Arabs now?

I definitely have no plans on taking anyone's side. I am only voicing my anger and frustration with injustice and unfairness in the world. We condemn Hitler for what he did to Jews and the anguish he caused them and the excruciating agony he put them through. Do we agree so far? Now, why shouldn't we use the same standards of condemnation here, when Arabs are being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and expelled from their homes, jobs and schools, in a consistent and nonnegotiable manner?

I recall doing some research for my essay about the P.L.O (Al-Fatah) and their struggle to regain power in the occupied territories (it was when universities reopened after being shut down for three year during the Islamic Cultural Revolution!). When I found out that Palestinians had more than 287 Groups and Parties (at the time), all pursuing the same resolution, you know what I thought? Well, you're going to find out any way! I said to myself they deserve what is happening to them. These people are so vain and pigheaded that they can't even reach a compromise amongst themselves for the greater cause of a common goal. I said that because I was angry, not because I truly believed they weren't worthy of living with dignity and to be proud of what they were fighting for. You see, sometimes individuals say things without really meaning them. I agree, It doesn't justify the wrongfulness of the act, but ...

We don't despise Jews, nor hate Arabs or Blacks -- and that is a fact. Some Iranian immigrants, who live in North America or Europe, had to go through cultural clashes and had to deal with unimaginable indignities of being refugees or new comers from a country with that sort of reputation. Pressure forced them to rush into joining the main stream culture to gain acceptance. Western values were adopted by them without question and every thing Iranian, all of a sudden became ancient and senile, and they basically had no use for it. Some of us changed our names. When asked about their country of origin they would mention Italy of Greece or Spain -- anywhere but Iran. I personally know so many families here in Toronto, Canada, who converted to Christianity only to distance themselves from, and denounce "the thing" that -- they believe -- brought them nothing but shame and disgrace in front of the rest of the world by portraying them as a bunch of uncivilized savages.

Are you one of those people who change to suit others in order to gain their approval? There are other ways to prove your worthiness and gain acceptance. You can make them change their minds about us. We can show them the side of us they are not familiar with (well, as hard as it might sound, we actually do have a good side!). The side which, with great endeavors of the Revolutionary Government of our country, has diminished without trace, as far as the majority of the population of the earth is concerned. We can redeem ourselves and our country by standing proud and stating what we genuinely believe.

We don't have to justify the wrongfulness or injustice done by them and their followers, to be considered a patriotic Iranian. At the same time we don't have to exaggerate the damages just to show an I-am-totally-different-from-the rest-of-them attitude. Why do we have this enormous emptiness inside us, this huge gap, this intolerable void, this lack of identity, that sends us on a crusade to find and grab the first thing crossing our path just to satisfy our thirst for belonging? I think I can see why the need is there, but not the way it is being addressed.

What I'm saying is, some of our people, perhaps not even through their own fault or flaws in their personalities, maybe just because they couldn't come up with a better way to handle the feeling of inadequacy, took-up the attitude you mentioned in your article. But what we must remind ourselves of (and certain others), is that this small group, is not representing our nation as a whole.

And about Blacks. Do you remember the celebrity soccer player, Ali Parvin? Have you ever heard or read anywhere, any reference to his being Black? Have you forgotten about our southern provinces that are mostly populated by our Black-Iranian? Or they are not Black enough for you? Have they ever been called names and treated as inferiors by the rest of the county?

Jewish-Iranians have always enjoyed the open-mindedness of their fellow countrymen and had the opportunity to prosper and live in peace and comfort (at least up until the revolution, I must add), just like anyone else. Now if they had the brains and the will to make the best of those opportunities, it is only to their own credit. Nobody is saying, they should be grateful because of those opportunities, because they had a right to it as much as any other Iranian. As a matter of fact, it is the rest of us who should be thankful to them for enriching our heritage with the qualities they brought with them and for setting examples by working hard, having a vision for the future and sticking together and protecting each other through thick and thin (the last one is obviously the hardest one for some of us to learn). I personally admire them for their endurance and achievements throughout history and some of my best friends here are Jewish, whom I love and respect from the bottom of my heart. But when the state of Israel and its policies are involved and the atrocities being done in Palestine in the name of Judaism, my feelings of admiration takes a different turn.

And about Bahais, I only wish people like you could find the ability to differentiate between the governmental policies and popular beliefs of ordinary people (even that has to be divided into two parts, before and after the so-called revolution and the chaos and confusion it caused in peoples' minds). I am from the north of Iran. I was born and raised in Sari. Some of best-loved and most-respected people I knew were Bahais. Both my parents were educators and in constant contact with their Bahai colleagues and they never said anything but compliments about them. As a matter of fact, most of the time the subject of their religion wouldn't even come up, because of its irrelevancy. Although I have to admit, in my last trip to Iran, I had a couple of visits with some old friends which was quit heart breaking and I realized, how systematically the government was implementing its policies of intolerance.

Iran by definition, is a multi-national county and it always has been. A nation, if I can remember correctly, is defined as: A groups of people, who live on a specific geographical region, speak the same language, share the same back ground, history and culture and believe in a same religion. Iran is consisted of several nations that meet the above criteria: Turks (and Turkmans in the north), Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs and we have large communities of Armenian, Jews, Ismailis, etc., in different parts of Iran.

I think one more thing should be brought to your attention here: We are not a pure Aryan race anymore. The Turkish and Arab invasions made us a mixed race (my condolences to the ones, who - in their quest to gain, recognition- assumed we are still Aryans!).

And please, please, PLEASE stop bashing your own people. Putting them down won't move you up, believe me. Next time you meet someone like the lady you mentioned, try to educate her and correct her mistakes, instead of leaving her in her ignorance and...

Sara O.

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