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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


October 8, 1999

Love Iran, with its warts

Regarding your letter, "Baseh digeh", I just want to write you a few words to clarify a couple of things. I don't much care to respond to your personal attacks. They say nothing about me; they say volumes about you. I also don't care to talk about what I do or what my mother and father did and do, what they have gone through and are still going through. Nor what my family does in Iran still, how many political prisoners, exiles, hezbollahis, clerics, war and revolution martyrs (in 1950's and in 1970's and then in the purges and wars of 1980's) it has produced. I don't need to validate any of that in order to feel like I can talk about Iran.

What I can do is feel indignation when I see degradation of people in IRAN, sir. When I see an entire society and its legal system sanctioning the beating of women, their unequal position, and their diminution to little private sex objects. When I see the ruin of an entire generation through repressive measures on speech, and religion. When I see the shambles the economy has become (not that I blame it entirely on the IRI. The Shah had to lay the foundations of this ruin).

You say that "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?" How dare you attribute an ignorance of HISTORY to me? How dare you say I belittle the people who died in the war, when you have obviously not read my followup to that same article where I seek answers in our history or the one I have written about the war-torn zones ["Palm groves survive"]? And how dare you say I glorify the United States? Where have i done that in my article? Show me.

And are your for real when you say "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?" What democractic advanced nation in the Middle East? Iran with its political killings and prisoners, with its newspapers shutting down every other week, with its intellectuals living in fear of losing their lives to the henchmen of the conservatives, and with its general population in constant fear of losing their livelihood with no social safety net, with no measure of certainty about the future?

I don't have an inferiority complex about Iran. I don't have to sweep its realities under the carpet, hide its dirty laundry to love its people. I don't sentimentalize the country, I love it with all its warts. Can you say the same thing? I am proud enough of my heritage, of my memories, of my extended 66 million-strong family there that I don't feel insulted or diminished when a farangi asks me whether Iranians burp after their meal to show it is good. That shows their ignorance about Iran; it says nothing about Iran. Nor do I have some warped notion of nationalism, which considers sitting silently and singing Iran's praises, ignoring the destruction, the death, the constant degradation there, just because it is or was "my vatan." Finally, Mr. Fathi-Rad, if I wanted to do "khod-shirni in front of the foreigner at the expense of our culture", I would have found another forum to do it in. I wouldn't have written in a place called "The Iranian."

Laleh Khalili

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