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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


October 4, 1999

Basseh digeh

As if it is not bad enough hearing people put down your culture and ethnicity all day long on the CNN, BBC, CBS, NBC; as if it is not enough to see Diane Sawyer willfully try to misrepresent the facts and portray the Middle Easterners as a bunch of wife beating savages; as if movies like Not Without My Daughter are not enough; as if the whole of Western propaganda machinery is not geared towards demonizing the Middle East, and Iran in particular; I have to bear these stabs in the back from the likes of Laleh Khalili ["To live or to be alive"] and this taazeh beh doraan resideh Saghie Zarinkalk ["Khodeti"].

Somehow the pain of insults from the Westerner is more bearable than insults from my ownhamvatanan (no matter how Westernized they are). How fashionable has it become to put down the Iranian culture. In Azari this is what we call "Chorak Aghaji" or the Bread Tree. When in doubt, when you really got nothing to say, when your mine of pseudo-intellectual psycho babble is depleted, harp on the Iranian society. Sure, it is in fashion. CNN will back you up.

What really amazes me, is where do these imminent sociologists get their data? How do they afford this certainty of conviction with which they paint the Iranian society with the darkest colors of barbarism?

Zarinkalk says: "These terrible attitudes exist in every aspect of our society. It is embedded in our minds....I can go on and on about this. There is so much to say. But it all comes back to our backward thinking, even if you are highly educated and living in free societies. If we cannot change things in Iran, the least we can do is make a change in our communities abroad." ["Khodeti"]

And Khalili says: " 'Eshvegari' and 'lavandi' (flirtatiousness and a sort of shy-seductive game playing) of which I know nothing are the 'net' with which the women are to capture men. At the same time, a woman is not to instigate conversations. She is to dance beautifully, she is to entertain, she is to serve fruit and tea and food, but she is not to begin conversations with strange men even at a party of friends. She is the nurturer and the seductress. I fail miserably at these roles. I voice my boredom. I don't hide my intelligence or my interests. I don't dance too well. I laugh too loudly. I am more at home in "male" conversations. I know not how to flirt or seduce in this particularly complex Iranian way where you drive the man away and you call him back, where you look at him from under your eyelashes, where a turn of the shoulder and the motion of hesitant fingertips can be pregnant with meaning. I am something else, perhaps unbecomingly unfeminine, dangerous perhaps, unknowingly so." ["To live or to be alive"]

Let me tell you a little about my background. My mother was born in Tabriz, and my father was born in Ardabil (you can't get more Turk than this). Thirty-fice years ago, my mother had a job in the Telecommunication Ministry (Vezarate Post Telgeraph Telephon) in Tabriz, where she met my father. They married, both advanced in their careers, and had 3 children (meanwhile, my mother consistently made more money than my father. CONSISTENTLY). She is the most intelligent woman I know. She was not a "seductress", for she never had to be. Come to think of it, I remember a certain incident where she beat up the deputy minister in his office. She never hid her talents, and was thus rewarded in her career, and gained the respect of everyone that came into contact with her.

Interestingly enough, although my mother was born in Tabriz, a devout Moslem, a fierce Iranian, and now a Iranian-Canadian, I cannot associate with her any of the traits and characteristics that Laleh and her enlightened Sister-in-Arms Saghieh, attribute to the Iranian society. Neither can I associate those characteristics with my brother, sister, cousins, but very few families that we came into contact while living in Iran (I left Iran when I was 14) and in Canada.

Could it be that Khalili and Zarinkalk have not chosen their friends and contacts with the Iranian community wisely? Or could it be that while conducting this social observation upon a 60 million strong nation, they have sub-consciously succumbed to the abundance of rhetoric, and have tried to justify and validify the propaganda regarding the barbarian middle easterners? For it is much easier to agree with CNN. It takes a strong soul to resist the temptation of agreeing with The Lie. For it takes real courage to stand up for the non-fashionable Middle East and be ostracized in a society where social image is the determining factor of mental health.

There is nothing worse than having hamvatans with inferiority complex. Instead of extending a helping hand in this wilderness of North America, instead of at least some emotional support when you are bombarded with "is it true that in your country you have to burp after a meal to show that it was really good?", instead of a loving word, how dare you so immaturely paint a complete nation with the brush of chauvinism? Or is it that really, this whole gender issue is nothing but "Chorak Aghaji" for people like Khalili "keh un ham betooneh yek ezhaareh vojudi bekoneh".

I wish I could make certain. But if Khalili and Zarinkalk really cared about the problems we are having, if they really found the situation and "backwardness" of Iran that appalling, they would look at history, and try to find the causes of this problem. They would be curious to know why our nation has, so to speak, "missed the boat" (in her esteemed estimation) regarding the gender issues? Have they ever heard of Dr. Mossadegh and the Iranian revolution in the 50's? And have they heard of the concerted effort of the West to kill that revolution in its infancy? Have they ever noticed how no real democratic, advanced nation is ever allowed to pursue its course towards modernization (not consumerist Westernization) in the Middle East? And have they ever wondered how developed the Iranian political culture would have been, had the modern North-America which these two esteemed ladies glorify as a sanctuary of equality between genders, left it alone, and allowed it to blossom?

Why is it I never hear about the causes of these problems in your outbursts of intellectual genius? No, you sit here in the West, enjoy a standard of living maintained by the bombs that are dropped over the Third World and the Middle East (to keep the oil prices down, of course), and criticize those nations for their lack of gender sensitivity. For you, Laleh Khalili, Iran has become something which you abuse to gain self esteem. And interestingly enough, this is quite obvious from your tone: "I am something else, perhaps unbecomingly unfeminine, dangerous perhaps, unknowingly so". How you make me laugh. Romanticizing that you are different from these barbarians, a "dangerous" revolutionary to their backward ways. A female Che Guevara, are you? Yes, you ARE "something else". Good for you.

It takes no genius to point out Iran's social ills, or those of the Third World, for that matter. It, however, takes "ensaaniyyat" to look for the reasons and try to devise a cure. It takes "ensaaniyyat" and courage to stand up and repudiate the system that has plunged 3/4th of the world into the depths of social and economic chaos, and not take cheap shots against its victims. Not to take cheap shots against a country that has faced repeated calamities and catastrophes. (Just as a side note, do you ever wonder WHY did all of the Third World celebrate Iran beating the USA in World Cup soccer in France? And didn't really care when Yugoslavia beat the USA? Do you understand? Or am I wasting my keystrokes here?) The Third World, and Iran included, must be in a constant state of underdevelopment (which directly affects the gender issues) so that we in the West can maintain our consumerist standard of living. And believe me, they are not in that state by choice.

I am a man. I am not a sexual predator. I am an atheist. I don't judge a woman as "kharaab", "because she doesn't believe in cultural or religious barriers". I am not apologetic. But lets take a minute and remember those men who believe in the "cultural or religious barriers". These were the boys and the men who mainly came from jonoob shahr, who did not have the money to escape Iran like the rest of us, and stayed back. These were the men who, irrespective of their age, gave blood for our country during the war. I salute them, however backward you may think their ideologies were. The politics of the war does not matter. What matters is that they had real courage, they had love for their country and their god. Imagine where the Iraqi soldiers would be, if it wasn't for the blind zealousness and gheyrat of these "backward" men and boys. Boys who jumped under the tanks.... (you know the stories).

And while all this was going on, all these pseudo-intellectuals, the ones valiantly preaching equality between genders, were getting down in the most en-vogue clubs in town, and miraculously becoming half-Italians. Jall al khalegh. Kholaseh, Laleh va Saghieh khanoom, inaa vaaseh faati tonboon nemisheh. You sound like a bad record, repeating one topic over and over. Can you expand on it? Can you seek out the roots? Do you have the courage to do it? But remember, khod shirini in front of the foreigner at the expense of our culture, by putting Iran and Iranians down, will get you nowhere. You will never be an American; take care so that Iran doesn't disown you as well.

Ali Fathi-Rad

Copyright © 1997 Abadan Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved. May not be duplicated or distributed in any form

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