Do we need hemayat?

Please stop absurdly expecting outside help as a concerted effort


Do we need hemayat?
by Saideh Pakravan

As my novel Azadi, Protest in the Streets of Tehran, takes its first baby steps into the world, moments of frustration at things not happening fast enough are more than offset by rewarding ones. As an example, after my interviews aimed at the Iranian audience inside Iran (VOA, Radio Farda, etc.) people have been reaching out to me to tell me that Azadi is their story. There’s Arya, recently released from prison, and reading one of the smuggled copies of Azadi. “That’s just how it was,” he writes me in an email. “Not in every detail, but close enough that it sent shivers down my spine (tanam larzid).” Or that Facebook message from a woman who writes, “My name is also Raha, like your main character. Did you know Raha is not a very common name? (I didn’t). Like her, I too studied architecture at Tehran University and took part in the student demonstrations in Khatami’s time. But that was ten years ago. I’m older than your Raha.”

Others want to chat when I’m working. I respond. How can I not? When I sit at my computer, I’m working. But to them, reaching out is a lifeline. It means looking through the bars on the windows of Iran at a sky much bluer than theirs—metaphorically that is, for there is no sky bluer than Iran’s.

So I sit and chat, becoming more fluent by the day at reading and writing Farsi transcribed in English. I fidget some, as I need to get back to my work, and sometimes feel bad as I find an excuse to say goodbye. What I share with my fellow Iranians lucky and unlucky enough to be living in Iran is often heartbreaking but occasionally also irritating. When Arya tells me he’s just out of prison where he had two fingers of his left hand broken, when Mojgan writes that wearing a headscarf complicates her on-site work as an engineer, when Abbas says that he was interrogated for writing a poem someone didn’t like, I’m all sympathy. But when Meyssam, writing about the pro-democracy movement, says that the problem is no one does any hemayat (a difficult-to-translate word that can mean protection, support, assistance, etc.) I bristle. Call me too westernized, tell me that I haven’t lived under repression, but I don’t understand him. I don’t consider anyone in control of my life and I wish these brave young people wouldn’t either. Their parents did, as did their grandparents before them. Generations of fatalistic Iranians have seen themselves not only as the toys of an omnipotent God but as puppets having their strings pulled by the malevolent state apparatus of foreign countries who, singly or in a coalition, are engaged in conspiring against Iran. That is not only a miserable way of thinking but an irrational one. It also leads to preposterous expectations. In the Egyptian situation last month, the Libyan one right now, the Iranian one two summers ago, every comment falls into one of two categories: One, why isn’t the United States doing something? Two, all this is the result of meddling, past and present, by the United States. So which is it?

Hemayat, Meyssam, can mean many things. The good hemayat is that the hearts of civilized people everywhere are with you. Iranians know that, as do all the people revolting against decrepit, corrupt, and repressive regimes in our part of the world.

That does not mean that foreign powers should interfere directly or take out the Islamic regime. Look at the unforgivable invasion of Iraq, look at the terrible mess in Afghanistan. No one draws the lessons of History but past experience should at least give pause to all but absolute cretins. I agree, there are moments when major powers must rise and take action to help the oppressed and the tortured, but only in the direst situations. I’m a great Bill Clinton fan—as I am a great Obama fan today—but I cannot forgive him for looking the other way during the Rwandan genocide or moving ever so slowly regarding Kosovo. In those cases, intervening was an absolute necessity and he didn’t or he dithered. (Another case for intervention would be the present massacre of the Libyans by the mad colonel.) But generally, it is not a good idea.

The thing is, we Iranians, like other Middle Easterners, tend to see powerful Western countries, especially the United States and Britain, as having a clear, well-defined agenda, a homogeneous decision-making process, and, most importantly, having only their own interest at heart in dealing with any kind of political turmoil or unrest abroad. Iraj Pezeshkzad’s brilliant Dayi Jan Napoleon confirmed what we knew all along about Britain and its nefarious plots against Iranian sovereignty and wealth since the beginning of the last century. Our problems didn’t have anything to do with the weaknesses and corruption of the last Qajar kings, nor the hesitations and lack of political sense of the last Pahlavi king, nor socio-economic miscalculations, nor the unacceptable rise of Islam as a political doctrine, nor our helpless surrender to the worse conspiracy theories. Oh no! All the bala, the misfortune of Iran, comes from Britain and the United States, not to forget Israel. True Manicheans at heart, we will continue to see the world in those terms.

It might be worth our while to pay closer and for once unbiased attention to the United States and its policy toward Iran. We’d see that as with the Mossadeq episode, as with the pre- and post-Islamic Revolution of 1979, as with the turmoil following the fraudulent presidential elections of June 2009, this policy, when it exists at all, is muddled and pulling in different directions. The White House, State Department, CIA, experts and analysts inside and outside the government, all come up with different and contradictory conclusions. There is no single answer and no single picture, understandably enough, as the world is indeed horribly complicated and always has been. No wonder the stock phrase has become the meaningless “all options are on the table.” No one, for example, knows how to deal with the incredibly corrupt Karzai government and its alliance or lack thereof with various violent groups, or with the baffling situation in Pakistan. No one knows what will happen in Iraq, who to talk to in Egypt. Will all these countries go the way of Sharia or fundamentalism, will democracy still have a voice, will oppressed people be more oppressed and have to toe the line, will intellectuals rot in jail? What about other countries, will Israel still exist in ten years? No one knows or can influence any of that. Everyone is scrambling. So please, stop absurdly expecting hemayat as a concerted effort. Anyway, it would be denounced instantly by just as many people as those who claim they want it.

And who am I, sitting thousands of miles away, to tell you anything except keep safe, stay alive, and decide, once and for all, that if you don’t control your own fate—and no one does—you will at least, starting today, no longer see yourself as puppet, victim, or in need of anyone’s hemayat.


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more from Saideh Pakravan

Are you willing to go in Harm's Way to obtain your freedom ?

by bushtheliberator on

Mr. Pakravan : " the unforgivable invasion of Iraq ".

I don't want Mr.Pakravan's forgiveness.By any parameter, Saddam's government was 10 times as brutal as anything the Iranians have had to put up with.Iraq now has an open society,and a democratic republic. Some fighting was required.

Mr.Pakravan: " I am a great Obama fan today"

Mr. Pakravan's man-crush,Obama, is partying in Rio while the Libyans are pleading for someone to stand up for freedom> >>>   OBama merely embarrassed Americans with his Suck Up to the Moslems Apology Tour ; now he humiliates Americans by hideing behind his teleprompter as Libyas' revolutionaries die.



What cost Hemaayat?

by Aarash4545 on

The biggets question to ask is how much are we prepared to pay for this hemaayat? Liberation?

We don't want liberation a la Iraq and Afghanistan!  No thanks ..


What benefit Iranian is important

by Siavash300 on

Islamic criminal gangs, who are in power in Iran, will kill any voice of opposition. Religion dictatorship is the worse kind of political regime, even worse than Nazi Germany. They are willing to do any kind of crime under name of God. Nazi Germany didn't rape the women the night before their extermination, but Islamic regime in Iran did. Islamic thugs have guns in their hands and they are in power. They are willing to do anything to stay in power. Do you get a picture?  No way to overthew these bastards without U.S  military help. We have 2 choices:

 1.Wait and see these monsters killing our brothers and sisters on daily basis 

2.Enlighten and convince Obama administration to send troops to Iran and help oppositions. Of course, any establishment is looking for their own benefits and interest. No one need to be Einstain to know about this.  What benefit Iranians is important, not what benefit other establishments. U.S military intervention benefits Iranians and that is important.  


Great piece, enjoyed reading it and agree completely

by Bavafa on



Ali Najafi

Excellent piece

by Ali Najafi on

Saideh, thanks for your thoughtful and well-written article. Iranians have had centuries of learnings, it is important that the masses determine the ideals and axioms that will govern the future. These have to be widely-held beliefs, which will ultimately be reflected in the governance of the nation.

In American history, the Revolutionary War, with the Declaration of Independence, and the Civil War, with the Emancipation Proclamation, set the charter for the ideals of this country. While the experience was tumultuous, the results were enduring.

What this tells me is that in periods of chaos, there are great opportunities for effective societal advancement. However, in my mind, this needs to come, largely, from within. If it is forced from the outside, then the learning process will be short-changed and there will continue to be a high degree of instability.

maziar 58


by maziar 58 on

thanks ms.pakravan

with one generation of 79 gone and the new generation of brights in iran the change is inevitable regardless of west direct or indirect hands.

in my humble opinion we all have to put iran first

no more alaho akbar .


Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime

The only way out of the current predicament in Iran

by Everybody Loves Somebody ... on

is through a massive and sustained bombing of the IRR's infrastructure and assets, period!

Farhad Sepahbody

An Out of the Ordinary article

by Farhad Sepahbody on

WOW! There is  an array of  timely topics in Saideh's "Do we need Hemayat" and her latest book AZADI which I just finished reading is brilliant, informative and a must read. 



Hemayat from US!


US hemayat would be to arm the opposition with weapons so they can fight basijis, you can't remove akhound's regime by green flags on the street, unfortunatly the blood must I know we are all here peace and love but come on, get realistic


well said

by afshinazad on

only reason people are asking for any support from American is for their own self insurance that this regime is no longer supported by American or British,because our people still belief that these akhonds were brought by American and British and if their ( AKHONDS) time has expired those two will remove them from power, for once we Iranian forget that 32 year ago millions of Iranian came out to streets not American or the British and Iranian were who destroyed their own future and the country and as long as we or some of us think that we were not respnsible for what we have done, this problem will never go away. our people always been following some one or some thing called leader and today they don't trust any one and most of people are frustrated and angry but don't know what to do or which direction to go and they are more confused than ever in their life and I don't blame them because of all the double edge news from BBC or VOA and other broadcasts and regimes own lies and harrasments and killing.

If we are smart is we claim we are, we never should ask for any ones help and we should write own history and we should ourselves gain the respect and to get respected, we never should ask for help because no one in this world wants our best interest and no one wants democracy and freedom for our nation and American and British idea of democracy for our country is close to Turkish Islamic democracy and that is why every broadcat and newspapers are interviewing Regime Reformist and no one is asking secular groups oppinion, so we Iranian must be very careful what we are asking from these American.

Anahid Hojjati

Dear Saideh, thanks for your article

by Anahid Hojjati on

You bring up some good points in your article.  For instance, where you write:"It might be worth our while to pay closer and for once unbiased attention to the United States and its policy toward Iran. We’d see that as with the Mossadeq episode, as with the pre- and post-Islamic Revolution of 1979, as with the turmoil following the fraudulent presidential elections of June 2009, this policy, when it exists at all, is muddled and pulling in different directions."

Jahanshah Javid

Perfect pathetic picture

by Jahanshah Javid on

I could not agree with you more: "Generations of fatalistic Iranians have seen themselves not only as the toys of an omnipotent God but as puppets having their strings pulled by the malevolent state apparatus of foreign countries who, singly or in a coalition, are engaged in conspiring against Iran. That is not only a miserable way of thinking but an irrational one."

Others will help one way or another -- or never. But if we, every one of us as individuals, sit around and don't take any steps to change OUR OWN situation, nothing will happen. We beg help because we don't want to take responsibility or risks.