We don't need this
By Laleh Khalili
Iran teeters on the edge of war. On Thursday September 10, the country deployed military troops (in addition to the already present Revolutionary Guard divisions) to the border with Afghanistan and the rhetoric emanating from Tehran - even from the soft-spoken Khatami - is increasingly becoming shrill and war-like.
And my heart bleeds. I awoke in a cold sweat last night, terror drowning me, my lungs crushed by distress. I enumerated in my head all those things that would cause me that much anxiety, and among them all, the only insurmountable burden was the thought of Iran going to war. I felt utterly helpless, utterly terrified. I can not imagine any reason sufficient for Iran being engaged in yet another war within the space of a decade. And yet, those of us who live outside Iran, and for that matter, those Iranians who live in Iran, have little or no control over what will happen next.
In the last weeks, as the tension slowly mounted, I have listened to words spoken by both sides. The language has been one I have become familiar with in all my international security classes at New York's ivory tower Columbia University. "National security", "Security Council resolutions", troop movements, and the ever-present American State Department "We are watching the situation closely" -- phrases spoken so lightly by men in power. And I have felt powerless, and as this powerlessness has increased, so has my rage.
I don't want another war, no matter what the excuse. I don't want us to march on Herat or further afield. No reason that has been stated by the Iranian government is good enough basis for an invasion of Afghanistan. I was devastated when I read the Amnesty International report stating that the 11 Iranian diplomats in Mazar-e-Sharif were killed after the fall of the city. The image of the bodies left in the Consulate for two days without burial shattered me. I thought of the rubble, I thought of the sound of artillery in the background and of rivers of blood. But even this atrocity and the humiliation attendant to it is not a reason good enough for a war. Nor is the Iranian government's crying foul of the brand of Islam practiced by the Taleban. It is NONE of their business.
Iran has finally arrived at a place where it seemes it can step out of the dark damp caverns of isolation. Speech can now be heard in Tehran even in dissent. Voices are now a cacophony of ideas, rather than the monotonous drone of a monolithic state apparatus. Investments seemed to be pouring in. Iran seems to even have lain to rest old grudges with its Arab neighbors. And a war shall lay waste to all that. Saudi Arabia and UAE are sure to support the Afghans. The precarious rapprochement between Iran and the West (read U.S.) will collapse. Accusations of sedition and propaganda of unity will be used as a vise-grip to clamp down on the expansion of free speech.
It enrages me when I hear cynical voices saying that a war is good for the economy, but I am afraid that they may have gleaned the truth. And the best solution of a 25% unemployment really has always been a war: all that energy of youth has to be tamed and directed, lest it overtakes the streets, the state buildings, the radio stations. This war may have no other reason than for the conservatives to consolidate their power in the face of ever-increasing openings of the society that threaten their hegemony.
Neither of these reasons, though realistic and in keeping with realpolitik, is good enough for me. Accuse me of womanly hysterics. All I can think of is the havoc wreaked by the war with Iraq. I see, still, the soldiers brought back from the front to Mashhad - the safehaven - with their skins peeled back from the effects of chemical weapons. On the streets of today, there are too many young men maimed and destroyed by the war. There are too many war-dead in the cemeteries of Iran, too many mothers who have lost their husbands, too many brides who have been widowed.
And Mashhad, the city most liable to be hurt in the war, is the city in which I grew up. I can still hear the sound of us children playing in the streets as our parents gathered at dusk at the doors to chat. I have seen pictures of my childhood friends at their weddings, with their children. I have sighed when I have seen how those dear and loyal family friends have grown old, how the ash of time has dusted their hairs, softened their features. I can still smell the cherry and pear orchards of the villages around Mashhad. I can still remember the dusty aghaghia and plane trees lining the Ahmadabad Boulevard. I can still taste the sweetness of mulberries in early morning.
And the Afghans do NOT deserve a war with Iran. For God's sake, this is the only country I can think of that in a space of 20 years has been bombed by both the Russians and the Americans. Their farms pockmarked by mines, their children crippled by war, their society torn by destruction and conflict, they should not have to face another conscious and concerted protraction of hostilities. Enough is enough.
I don't know what we can do. But I will be damned if I stay silent. If for no other reason than to extinguish my nightmares, I shall scream. Neither Iran, nor Afghanistan need this war.
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