Burial of an aristocrat
Houshang Vaziri, 1931-2003
September 20, 2003
Houshang Vaziri, the Iranian journalist
and editor of Kayhan newspaper in London died in Paris
on earlier this month at the age of 72. He was buried
on in Montparnasse
Cemetery. Arriving early for the funeral, I walked around the celebrated
graveyard I knew so well. Many times before I had wandered amongst
the tombstones of Sainte-Beuve, Jean-Paul Sartre, Eugene Ionesco,
Maupassant, Larousse, not to mention Shapour Bakhtiar and a growing
number of other fellow Iranians.
The ancient grounds embrace
many moral and intellectual warriors. They are the resting place
of numerous heroes of a knightly order who have battled against
darkness, ignorance and inhumanity. On this particular Saturday
afternoon, hundreds of Iranians had gathered together to bid farewell
to one of their valiant men of letters. The erratic Parisian weather
was exceptionally bright and the whole atmosphere was charged with
felicity. There was no place for gloom in honoring a life brimmed
After the burial, everyone was invited to attend a memorial ceremony
in the Hotel Lutetia where the family and friends of Houshang
Vaziri assembled to pay their respects. Listening to the tributes
of Shaheen Fatemi, Dariush Homayoun, Fereydoun Khavand, and Vaziri's
daughter Katayoun, it was clear that Vaziri had left a strong impression
on whomever had crossed his path. He had
enriched and illumined a great many people who had come into contact
with him and partook of his wisdom and humanity.
In his tribute, Dariush Homayoun pointed out how on this occasion,
friends and relatives of Houshang Vaziri were gathered together
not only to mourn a terrible loss, but more so to celebrate a wonderful
life. He paid homage to a friend and an ex-colleague whose judgment
and conduct was never marred by extravagance. His actions were
consistently governed by 'balance' and 'moderation'.
Houshang Vaziri was an ambitious man said Dariush Homayoun. "His
ambition was to reach the highest possible point in informing and
enlightening his public." Calling Vaziri
a true 'intellectual', Dariush Homayoun went on to say that there
been so many different
interpretations of that term and he himself subscribed to Vaclav
Havel's definition, which he believed best described the
character of this outstanding journalist:
"An intellectual is a person who - thanks to the range of his
interests and his education - perceives things in a broader context
is usual. It is someone who attempts to get below the surface,
to grasp the deeper meanings, relations, causes and effects,
to recognize individual items as part of larger entities. And more
than that, an intellectual, conscious of the broader and deeper
connections, also derives from this awareness a broader or deeper
sense of responsibility for the world."
As the spokesperson for Vaziri's family, his daughter went
to the podium to say a few words. Although obviously overwhelmed
with grief, she never faltered in her words and carried herself
with a superb comeliness and composure. She related her memories
of a father who always, even from a young age treated her as
an equal. His loss has made me very lonely she said, and recalled
how as a child she used to accompany him on his mountain hikes.
My father, she continued, loved the mountains, he took me with
him on his walks from the time I was eight years old. While
we climbed he never humored me with childish talk. With his wonderful
memory he recited poetry and spoke of music and literature.
we reached the teashops at he top we sat down to a meal of
eggs and pomegranate juice which he loved best.
At the end, as everyone was leaving the hall of the sumptuous
hotel, I saw Dr. Shaheen Fatemi, the man who oversaw the
organization of the whole ceremony, walking towards the exit.
flower had fallen from a huge bouquet standing on the table
in the entrance. He picked it up and held it in his hand
What was he thinking I wondered? Leaving the hotel we all
left with a strong scent of life in our minds. Vaziri
an unfading flower from a magnificent bouquet that comprises
intellectual life of our nation. He will have his due
our national consciousness and will be cherished in our
Vaziri recognized the root-cause of our political and
social problems in the dearth of a true rational outlook.
no illusions about reforming the regime of the Islamic
Republic which is founded on ignorance, violence and
transgression. He believed that the Gordian knot of our political
could be untied only
by the dint of reason and by an informed and judicious
By helping to open our eyes to the reality of what we
are faced with in our country he did a lot to educate the public
make us cognizant of a true and noble alternative.
D.H. Lawrence wrote: "If a man, whether by thought or
action, makes life, he is an aristocrat. An aristocrat
is a person
who puts his fellow human beings into a new relation
with their universe."
In the world of our contemporary journalism Houshang
Vaziri has triumphantly accomplished this task.