|Death of a close friend
The demise of Gol Agha magazine
By Shahin Milani
October 25, 2002
Twelve years ago, on a normal autumn day, my brother, who is 10 years
my senior, came home with a magazine in his hands. The magazine was the fifth issue
of Gol Agha. On the cover was a caricature of the then foreign minister Ali
Akbar Velayati looking at a map of Africa with a magnifying glass to find some tiny
countries or even tribes to establish political ties with them.
In that same week, the leader of Burkina Faso (a landlocked nation in western Africa
which up to that point no Iranian had ever heard about it before) had paid a visit
to the Iranian capital and was welcomed by the Iranian government as if he was the
president of the United States. Gol Agha's cover caricature made a good point
about Iran's political isolation with satire. I liked it, and thus began my obsession
with this weekly satirical magazine.
At that time I was just a ten-years old Tehran. Yet I remember vividly that I used
to purchase the magazine every week --15 tomans at the time. Usually, every Tuesday
on the ride back from my English class, my mom would make a stop by a little newsstand
on Dolat Street so that I could buy my Gol Agha. My mom wasn't the type who
would let me spend much money on candy or chocolate, but she would always make sure
that I get my Gol Agha, Donyaye Varzesh sports weekly, and later on
Shatranj chess monthly.
Perhaps for a couple of years, or maybe three, I used to buy Gol Agha every
week. I loved its satirical content, the political cartoons, short stories and poems.
Through this magazine I learned that the symbol of the American Democratic Party
is a donkey and that of Republicans is an elephant.
I learned that the nickname of the U.S. in Persian is "Yengeye Donya".
It was on the cover of this same Gol Agha that for the first time I saw an
image of Bill Clinton (it was a cartoon, of course). It was through this magazine
that I learned the words "tavarom" (inflation) and " kasr-e boodjeh"
I learned from Gol Agha that Aboonasr Farabi was called Moalleme Saani, and
it was by reading Gol Agha that I became acquainted with names such as Abolghasem
Halat and Jamalzadeh. I could go on and on about the things that I learned from this
publication, even though at the time that I was reading it I was just doing it for
fun. Indirectly, Gol Agha's style influenced my Persian composition and before
long I was getting 19s and 20s on my enshaa school essays.
As I reached my teenage years, naturally my enthusiasm
for Gol Agha faded a bit. I felt that the magazine isn't as funny as it used
to be, and perhaps my hormones were directing my attention to the opposite sex. Nevertheless,
I still used to buy Gol Agha once in a while, especially when hot political
issues such as the 1997 presidential election came up.
In late 1997 I left Iran and came to the U.S., being sixteen at the time I left my
beloved homeland. I was surprised, however, that even in Washington DC area I was
able to find Gol Agha in the local Persian supermarket (Assal Market, for
those of you who live in the DC area). Anyway, after a while the Iranian store stopped
The last time I read Gol Agha was less than a year ago. It was a semi-mehmooni
and I suddenly found an issue of Gol Agha on a shelf. Apparently the hostess
bought the magazine for leisure reading on her flight back to the U.S. from Tehran
and kept it. I was very happy to see Gol Agha again and I read some of it.
But a girl I liked was there too. Unfortunately, (for Gol Agha anyway), companionship
of pretty ladies takes precedence to feeling nostalgic over a satirical magazine.
Since last year I had not thought about Gol Agha.
Today, when I read the news
that Gol Agha is shutting down, my heart suddenly broke. I felt like a close
friend of mine had died and I had missed my chance to say Good-bye. Now if I go
back to Iran, I won't be able to go the newsstands and buy my Gol Agha.
Every little college in this country has its own paper (the student newspaper of
my college has been running for 93 years!), and their pages are often filled with
news about the number of students arrested for DUI over the weekend. Yet my Gol
Agha, which gave hope to a depressed nation for over a decade and made some breakthroughs
in making fun of the ruling class, cannot continue publication.
I declare today a day of mourning. Maybe if people like me had cared more and had
bothered to subscribe, this wouldn't have happened. I am officially sad.