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At war with your people
What good is peace if you have to kill and destroy for it?

August 4, 2000
The Iranian

It's funny how sometimes you decide on something and think that your opinion will never ever change even if you live a thousand years. Even if you woke up tomorrow and suddenly saw yourself on another planet, or found out that Elvis really is alive -- even if hell actually did freeze, your idea never would.

But then some other times when you least expect it, it crawls up on you. And no matter how hard you try to push it away you slowly begin to realize that maybe you were overlooking something. And then you can't make up your mind anymore. The idea is tossed into a part of your brain with a "later" sign on the front door. You figure: If I can't come to a decision then I'll just forget about it for now.

I remember hearing about THEM over and over again. But of course, living in a certain situation is far more different than just hearing about it. It's easy to whine and criticize when you're living a thousand miles away but you start looking at everything from a different perspective when you see it from up close. I don't think anyone could explain it better then Hafez :

Shab-e taarik o bim-e moj o gerdabi chenin haayel
Kojaa daannand haal-e maa sabokbaaraan saahelhaa?

But then came the time to see them with my own eyes. Hearing their name means you should throw your head down, tighten your scarf -- and run for your life. Don't want to get into the mess your cousin's friend got into. Of course a lot of times you might not have seen it for yourself but it's always better to be safe than sorry.

They usually carry worry beads in their hands; they always have really long beards and a ring on their finger. The army boots are also a must. I don't know why but it seems as if the memory of war must linger on and on forever. Some call them basijis, some call them eesaargars and most don't call them anything. The dirty looks on their faces when they see one in the street or talk about one in low whispers is enough.

They're mysterious creatures who seem to be controlling almost everything, if they are smart enough to get themselves into the system. Some are truly terrifying. Anyone who has seen photos of Masoud Dehnamaki's office knows what I am talking about. Pictures of dead people stuck to the walls, dirt and grenades all over the room, exactly like a war-zone. Makes you shudder to see what kind of people are controlling your country.

And then you are constantly being told to "cherish their memory" and to "keep them alive". On the walls in the street, in the mouths of people on TV, in newspapers and magazines. . . everywhere you look. I can only think : "Yeah right, cherish their memory? I can't wait to forget."

Their children might have lower IQs then the average kid and a much lower grade average but they get to go to college so much easier then anybody else. They are paid a lot more and have many special privileges. Maybe they have spent a few years on the battlefields but what they're getting now sure does compensate.

But then I remember Haj Kazem in Hatamikia's latest film or Daniel in Darvish's film, people who seem to be missing out on the prizes, and I'm not so sure anymore. Talking to one of Hatamikia's friends who also helped him with writing the movie script confuses me even more. He talks about how sad it is to see basijis grow more evil in the eyes of everyone. But I really don't see how it could be anyone's fault but themselves.

"I saw those boys out there. I saw them going under tanks and being shot to death to save a friend, " he said. "Even with all that they are doing now - which I completely disagree with - I can't turn back on them completely. You never saw what I did. Your generation never felt or touched it so you just can't understand. Some of them might be violent and ruthless but you saw David (in "The Red Ribbon") It really wasn't his fault. That was the only language he could speak. Like a child who can only cry out. You'll probably get really mad at the kid but at the same time it cries because it knows no other way. Living under those conditions for eight years isn't easy. You forget the language you used to speak. So it comes down to the point where you learn to speak everyone else's tongue or they get tired of hearing your screams after a while and stick masking tape on your mouth."

Why the war started and lasted for eight years is another story but I'm pretty sure that if these people had not decided to fight we would be in even worst condition. For whatever reason they decided to fight - for religion or a 70-year-old man - I guess we do owe them a little bit. But at the same time, how am I, or people my age for that matter, supposed to respect and love someone we've never seen? I haven't looked at a wounded soldier trying to save his mate or one who has carried his dead friend back to his family . So how can I respect him for it?

I can only see what's going on now and it's not pretty.

So am I supposed to hate some of them for ruining the others' reputation or hate them all together ? I used to think that way but now I'm not so sure anymore. Who is telling the truth here? Which side is really right? What good is peace if you have to kill and destroy for it? If you must look at another man in the face and shoot him in the stomach, while all the time knowing that he's only human like you, knowing that he has a mother out there, a father or a woman who loves him dearly, knowing that by pulling that trigger you are not only taking a life, but ruining many other ones as well. Can it be called "peace" anyways? Endless questions to be asked but no one there to answer them.

I remember reading somewhere about how a professional soldier understands that war means killing people, war means maiming people, war means families left without fathers and mothers. All you have to do is hold your first dying soldier in your arms and have that terribly futile feeling that his life is flowing out and you can't do anything about it. Then you understand the horror of war.

Any soldier whose been out in those fields should be anti-war. There are still things worth fighting for. But the question is who determines that? Is a few strands of a girls hair really worth all that commotion? It seems as if these guys are living in the past. The war ended over a decade ago. Why are they still fighting? The only difference is that this time the enemy is not some foreign intruder, it's their own people, their own neighbors, their own countrymen.

The war is definitely over and we are living in a world where things are changing by the day. So no matter what they did for us in the past they have no right to force their beliefs on us now. What good is the freedom that they brought for us if it won't even allow you to read a newspaper?

But even when I'm writing this I remember Haj Kazem and can't help but pity him.

I can only find one answer, only one meaning for freedom which seems to make sense. Only one description for it which goes with what I'm seeing now. I guess Dark Elk WAS right: "I stopped fighting for freedom because it didn't seem to mean much. It only means whatever the winner wants it to mean and nothing more."

Well, I hope the winners are a little bit nicer next time.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to the writer Najmeh Fakhraie

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