What is right, that is my wish. I am not a friend to the man who follows the lie.
— Darius I, Inscriptions on his rule at Naqshe-e Rostam
About this time last year, I was having tea with my teenage cousin Shirin in Tehran. We were celebrating the good news in the papers that day. Her name had been published among the list of admitted students to her “first choice” university. Her hard work had paid off and it was time to have fun. Iranian fun.
She invited me to take part in some of the leisure she’d sacrificed to a yearlong preparation that was devoted primarily to studying and thinking about her future. Her offer impressed me – neither she nor her friends were the slightest bit embarrassed by my hot pink scarf with sparkly gold embroidery. I wore the Britney Spears of hijab. We shopped, lunched and watched movies. I remember seeing Oceans’s 13, Café Setareh and the newest flick by Siamack Shayeghi.
At no point during our adventures in Tehran did the girls inquire about my university ( where a noose was found hanging on campus last month!), about singers like Sharam ‘Javad’ K, or President Bush. Why would they? They were too distracted by their lives as young women with great educational prospects in a big city.
Health remained a priority, though. Shirin offered to take us to the mountains early each morning to workout. The mountains surrounding Tehran reward the day’s earliest visitors with freshest air and dazzling scenery. Beware though, as they do not have mercy on lazy muscles and minds, though.
This daily routine gave us the opportunity to think and talk with each other. During one of our hikes I described my usual exercise routine for her. It was boring, but it got the job done, meaning it permitted me to enjoy the “evil” carbohydrates contained in my margaritas and 3 olive gin martinis.
I also described the lengths taken by people in DC to be in Olympic condition, despite being non-athletes. Full-time homemakers, doctors, bankers, lawyers and DJs pay specialists to track their monthly protein/carbohydrate/sodium ratios to enable them to do extra squats, lunges and karate-chops. She laughed at this and told me “Americans must be pretty bored” I admitted we do some weird things to “improve” ourselves.
In DC there is a woman who, like the other usual gym rats (I think our flamboyant President includes himself to be in this category as well), loves to exercise and keep fit. In fact, she’s a known brick house. She is also famous for traveling with her treadmill. I realize this may be security reasons, but I still find it a bit ridiculous. The woman I’m referring to is our Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice.
In addition to her passion for challenging exercise, she’s a fierce “freedom” advocate for Iranians on Capitol Hill. I don’t mind Secretary Rice’s demands for her treadmill. I do mind her ridiculous demands of the Iranian government, and the US Government, to a certain extent. I will explain why, because it relates to my story.
Dr. Rice, like the opposition groups in the Iranian expatriate community, assumes Iranians are suffering and that they’ve been awaiting jumbo jets delivering armies of clean shaven occupational “freedom” lovers like Reza Pahlavi and Amir Abbas Fakhravar to rescue them from the weight of their veils. **Special note to Reza Pahlavi: I advise you fly in during the hottest month (August), when the hijab causes the most perspiration/discomfort. Iranian women may have argued harder against mandatory hijab had they been aware of how hot it would get after the December revolution** Back to reality: It’s simply not so and although these groups are permitted to have their views, I object at a certain point.
On February 15, 2006, Secretary Rice “called for $75 million to be spent on advancing freedom and human rights within Iran”. This is a waste of money and a copy of President Reagan’s Project Democracy, which lead to expensive covert projects that result in undermining America’s credibility in advancing democracy in Iran and elsewhere. There are cheaper alternatives – in human currency and dollars. As an Iranian-American, wasting any of these worries me.
Dr. Rice’s argument for funding these projects is based on lies and exaggerations. Her recent concern for Iranians and the arts is more than suspicious. It is despicable that she asked for money to fund illegal American activities in the name of art. The failed covert aspects will not appear until much later, as was the case with Project Democracy and Michael “Liar” Ledeen.
Being the pianist, she lies and drags the master composers of classical music by stating in her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “it is forbidden to play Beethoven and Mozart in Tehran.” I hope Beethoven is deaf in the afterlife too. But Mozart must be so offended that Secretary Rice will be haunted by him for a long time, along with the many dead civilians in Iran’s shattered neighboring states.
Bear in mind, this is the same administration that answered back to concerned peoples around the world, “Stuff happens” when ancient artifacts were stolen and destroyed in the Iraqi National Museum during the American invasion. Suddenly art is valuable and must be of concern.
As for Beethoven and Mozart, they can rest easy knowing I visited them in the music sections of several Tehran bookshops. To completely honest, however, I admit I bought Shostakovich instead because Ali Rahbari was conducting. Shirin and her friends took me to these shops during our many outings. Restaurants and other places of business play classical music in their diverse play lists.
Secretary Rice’s statement was dishonest. She wilily mentioned two master composers who are unable to defend themselves against being tools in her case for why the US must “rescue” Iranians. She could have been honest by using as an example, Britney Spears or Sharam K, against whom I think bans in ANY nation is not such a terrible thing.
Secretary Rice thinks Iran is scary and boring. She’s wrong. It’s just that she’s not that kind of girl –not Iranian. She should use her capacity as US Secretary to advance an understanding of the real Iran, but she probably won’t because that would be a very courageous thing to do in the face of her superiors.
If Condi had the opportunity to experience the real Iran with Shirin and her friends, as I have, she would think twice next time she’s asked to testify about Iran, a country and people she has poor, biased sources to learn by. She should take the opportunities given by her position to learn for herself.
They say exercise greatly relieves stress and tension. This doesn’t seem to be the case in Secretary Rice’s case. Perhaps if she wasn’t as concerned with her treadmill and distorted images of Iran, she would naturally loosen up and enjoy the success yielded by a bit of good will and diplomacy. Because what I learned from Shirin is that even Iranian girls just want to have fun. But not Secretary Rice’s kind of “fun.” Secretary Rice could learn a lot from the Iranian youth.
Another thing that amazed me about Shirin is what she told me when I asked her if she’s considering a future move to the United States, or Germany, places where we have family and would be very lucky to have Shirin contribute to society. She answered that like her dad’s boss (a female doctor) “I have stay here and succeed. Other girls do too. That’s how Iran will get stronger.”
Shirin is a smart girl. Very smart. But that is what Secretary Rice and the expatriate opposition groups do not want the public to know. They deny that young, happy educated people exist in Iran. They want to exploit the large youth population by claiming they are restless but isn’t that the nature of youth everywhere in the world just as facebook and myspace have demonstrated in America? Most politicians won’t admit it, but they too were a bit restless too, as youth, and it didn’t point to a desire for regime change. Not in George W. Bush’s case, at least.
Wisdom is priceless. $75 million dollars may buy a lot of “freedom” from the Bush administration’s “democratic” carte du jour intended for the Middle East, but it will not buy the Iranian wisdom or patience that will make Iran a full-fledged democracy.