Al-Kindi, the great Muslim philosopher once said, “One must not be afraid of new ideas, no matter the source. And we must never fear the truth, even when it pains us.” In Islamic countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia or Turkey those who tell the truth have become the enemy of the state. They are no longer fellow Muslim, brother or sister but people that need to be eliminated.
For those of us who saw Anthony Bourdain’s in Parts Unknown, may recall his friendly chat with Jason Rezaian and his wife Yegi. It was a refreshing and revealing segment of Bourdain’s episode on Iran. Both Jason and Yegi confidently drew a realistic picture of what Iranian culture was like, which helped to overcome the negative image Westerners hold of Iran and its people. Jason said, “People are alive, the culture is vibrant and people have a lot to say.” Yegi talked both about freedom and restrictions that women have in the country. They did not gloss over the oppression of Iranian people by only talking about the highlights but also mentioned what people hoped to achieve.
But the truth is not something the government of Iran is interested in even if it works to their favour. If George Orwell was alive today by only a few short glimpses into countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria he would quickly realise that his dystopian novel, Ninety Eighty Four is not as dark as he would have hoped it to be as a warning to people about the future of their regimes.
After Anthony Bourdain left Iran Jason and his wife were arrested. The film which was edited some weeks later has Bourdain’s voiceover:
“Despite the hopeful nature of our conversations six weeks after filming this episode Jason and Yegi were mysteriously arrested and detained by the police. Sadly in Iran, this sort of things is not an isolated incident.”
Bourdain’s observation is very insightful, it is not an isolated incidence in Iran he commented. His informed conclusion tells the viewer that nobody is safe in Iran even people like Jason and Yegi with no prior conviction or even waring with regard to their works as reporters.
Soon after their arrest some mistakenly thought it may have something to do with what Jason and Yegi expressed to Bourdain about Iranian politics and culture. But in fact, it had nothing to do with it. Rezaian’s arrest was as the result of an international plot already brewing, Rezaian and his wife became only the victims of it. The truth in Iran is very difficult to ascertain but it had something to do with the nuclear negotiations that were going on at the time. However by appearing in Bourdain’s show now Jason and Yegi had faces. Many who had seen Bourdain’s show knew who Jason and Yegi were and the question remained why were they arrested? In an article that Jason wrote about the late Anthony Bourdain after his death he said, “We knew very little, though, about what he [Anthony] did behind the scenes, and we’re still learning about it now, years later. Not once did he seek credit for any of it.” Anthony was working hard to secure Jason and Yegi’s release without them knowing.
Yegi is an Iranian citizen and Jason has dual citizenships, with a permit to work as the Washington Post correspondent but Iranian citizenship or permit does not mean anything in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The government’s track record is a dark history of oppression, many of whom have been members of their own theocratic system. House arrest, imprisonment, torture and kidnapping are their tools of trade when they perceive someone is undermining their authority. If people working within their own system are not safe who then is? No one.
Jason was charged with espionage and held in the notorious Evin prison for 544 days (49 days in solitary) with no evidence supporting any of their accusations. Yegi was kept for 72 days all in solitary confinement. In his recently published memoir, Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison–Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out, Jason talks about his terrible ordeals.
Today Saudi Arabia has sided with America and Israel. Iran has sided with Russia and China. How about siding with their own people in choosing a better path for the future of their countries?
Despite what he and his wife endured Jason is critical of Trump’s administration and their policy toward Iran. He believes Iranian people do not want a theocratic regime to run their country and they want to continue to have a dialogue with America and the West. He doesn’t believe Trump’s administration even knows what their policy toward Iran actually is but their aggressive posture has everyone worried that they are getting ready to go to war. Jason is a wealth of knowledge about Iran and its people. He has talked to many people in Iran whose aspirations he had come to understand and respect while living and reporting from there. Iranians are different from their regime as most people who have visited Iran would tell you.
Jason Rezaian and his wife Yegi dine with Anthony Bourdain in June 2014.
In his recent interview at the New York Public Library Jason said that he read Orwell’s Animal Farm while he was in prison and a whole lot of other prison literature. When he describes his relationship with his interrogator whom he introduced himself to him as his ‘attorney’. It is hard not to see some similarities between O’Brien with Winston Smith in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. There were times that Jason nearly broke down and thought about giving them whatever confession they wanted out of him in order to end the trauma that he was subjected to.
Although Jason doesn’t like labels but he had begun to have certain symptoms that can only be associated with PTSD. He is of the opinion that some of his symptoms would heal with time but he believes he will never be the same. A year and half of his life was stolen from him during which he was threatened with execution and dismembering of his body. This dark and evil atmosphere that Jason describes in the Orwellian Iran continues to be experienced by many innocent people today locked up in the regime’s cold and dark dungeons interrogated by Mr O’Briens, as Jason says in his book who look like pious men if you saw them on the street.
There are more Muslims living today than ever before. If anything Muslims have increased and will continue to do so. So how is it that Islam is in decline or threatened?
According to an article by AlJazeera, which its publication coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Islamic revolution, at least 860 journalists since the 1979 revolution have been killed and arrested. The article further writes, “Whistleblowers passed on 1.7 million official records for the period from 1979-2009, detailing judicial proceedings against an array of citizens, including minorities, government opponents and journalists…”
Are the Islamic governments of today preserving Islam and protecting it against the influences of foreign governments? Or are they about power and control only hiding their motives behind their religious turbans and cloaks? You can easily tell by the way they hate to hear the truth and use violence to silence their critics; it’s not hard to see through them unless people are blind or refuse to see the truth.
There are more Muslims living today than ever before. If anything Muslims have increased and will continue to do so. So how is it that Islam is in decline or threatened? It is time for the Islamic governments in Iran, Saudi Arabia and other similar countries to face the truth and admit to their big lies. They are not only the enemies of their own people but a great manipulator of God and religion for their own selfish gains.
Today Saudi Arabia has sided with America and Israel. Iran has sided with Russia and China. How about siding with their own people in choosing a better path for the future of their countries? How sad these ancient countries still cannot stand on their own feet and like the pagans of the ancient world prefer to sacrifice their own people in order to please their bloodthirsty gods.