What would you do if you came face to face with your ex-boyfriend whom you once loved and adored for many years and who let you down in so many ways and betrayed you with another woman? Would you fall to his feet and ask him “why”? Would you “accidentally” spill your hot coffee on his lap? Or would you just stop and listen and try to understand his (of course) unreasonable point of view?
My ex-boyfriend is called The Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years I loved Iran, cherishing its beautiful memories and stories it provided me. But knowing all the terrible things it did to us and many others, makes my ulcers boil up in my tummy. Iran Casanovaed his way into my heart and ripped itself out it again leaving a bleeding hole in my existence.
There were many sleepless nights I stayed up screenplaying our encounter when we'd haphazardly meet, on some rainy day, thinking of all the perfectly formulated accusations I would make to him and visualizing my flat right hand slapping his cheek in slow motion.
But now, today, I ran into Iran, here in my own home town, on an ordinary evening, without any pre-practiced rhetoric artillery ready for the final showdown.
I was invited to a debate of which I knew it would concern the dominant position of The Islamic Republic of Iran in the Middle East region. I didn't have the time to read exactly who would be speaking during the debate. So it did come a bit as a surprise when it was the actual ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to The Netherlands. My companion who was surprised to see my bewilderment, reacted with a joke saying I looked as if I just saw my ex-boyfriend!
And that was exactly how it felt. Never before did I have the chance of sitting under one roof with the representatives of the regime that I passionately criticized on a daily basis. I had meat Shirin Ebadi last summer and her being an Iranian coming from Iran was the closest I had come to someone who worked closely with or for the Iranian regime. And now I had the ambassador in a 4 meters distance from me, smiling and chatting with the present guests as if his life depended on it.
The ambassador looked slightly different than the shabby, unshaved, badly dressed Iranian officials I had previously seen on the news. He wore a dark grey suite that actually fitted him and had a friendly, outgoing and shaved face. When he started his speech I noticed an unmistakable Iranian accent, but spoken in good English using correct grammar and elaborated vocabulary. I decided to listen carefully to what this man had to say.
He started his speech by giving a summary of Iran's historical and cultural background emphasizing how the Persians always had an influential role in the region. My companion and I both noticed his calm tone of voice and proud eyes while he told these historical facts that obviously were undeniable and true. After giving his introduction he elaborated on the present position of Iran and its relations with other countries in the region.
He then continued by calling Iran's main asset its human resources, of whom for a great deal the women of Iran. He bravely stated that the women of Iranian did have some difficulties in society when it comes to equal rights, but that they were surely developing themselves by their participation in higher education. He stated several times that Iran's regime has its shortcomings, but that the Iranian people will find a way to solve their issues themselves.
His calm tone of voice and the proud glitter in his eyes evaporated once the questions were being posed by the guests in the room. There was a Dutch member of parliament who had been on a parliamentary visit to Iran a couple of years ago and who had a “mixed feeling” about it. She pointed out to the many human rights violations, the lack of democracy and the worrying position of women. His frown deepened and a grave expression took over his face. His arms crossed on his chest and he stood behind his table staring at the floor in a stressed and defensive manner. His replies were the same old clichés that we already had heard as a reply to such questions, like a broken record that gets on your nerves after a while.
At one point he even lied by stating that Iran had never denied the Holocaust! At that point his face had turned into a robot that was programmed just to repeat whatever was typed into his system.
After the debate, there was a drink at the bar of the hotel where the debate was organized. My companion and I looked at each other both with the same question stubbornly rubbing against our brains, should we talk to the man or not? Should we walk out quick avoiding any social “hello, how do you do?” or should we behave as we otherwise would do with any other human being and go up to him for some more indepth questions? We thought it over a glass of wine and socialized with the other guests.
As much as we were interested in knowing how the man really thought “off the record” and how it was possible for such a polite and well educated person to reproduce such ruminated and irrational rhetoric. Examining his psyche would have been something I would have enjoyed unfolding.
Nevertheless, it was clear to see that when he spoke out whatever he was “supposed” to, he showed no emotion or passion, as the otherwise fire with which he spoke about Iran as his country containing his fellow countrymen who struggled but who were going to get there on their own power. That said enough for us. A regime that forces everyone in it to have two faces, one for private and one for business, gives Iranians no other choice than to be two different people at the same time.
My surprise encounter with my ex-boyfriend had come to an end and as we walked back home, I felt a certain peace after seeing Iran face to face and seeing his beauty and his weakness that makes him human and allows me to forgive him. I cherish the loving memories and am only happy that he proved to me again why it was that it never would have worked out between us. His betraying two-faced personality would be something that would always get him into trouble. I can only hope that he either one day finds a new girl friend who would straighten him out a little or otherwise change his own silly ways and start behaving like a mature person.