October 4, 1999
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
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
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."
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
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.