|When the day comes
Beware of men with ties, bowties, and Armani suits
By F.A. Ashtiani
June 12, 2002
Sitting in a beachside café with a friend on a sunny California afternoon
drinking a double cappuccino that looks like a single size but at a price of a double.
A nice early spring afternoon and suddenly I lose the track of the direction of our
conversation and fall into a trance, a semi-illusive-self-defacing thought process.
Looking into my coffee cup and suddenly my eyes yield the control to the other half
of the brain. I never figured out which lobe of the brain is responsible for when
you want to kick yourself in the ass?
The music in the café is playing Demis Roussos, the Iranian-favored Greek
singer. In my thoughts I look back to those few innocent months after my college
graduation. When I went back to Iran to see if there was any opportunity for a young
college graduate who wants to go back home and perhaps stay and work in the fatherland
(or is it motherland?).
Not of course such a patriotic move, but mostly because
those days half of the world wanted to go and work in Iran, where money was good,
women were pretty and the Shah was generous. But my generation was that strata and
layer of the baby boomers who got to go back to Iran when as we say in Persian "the
spoon was hitting the bottom of an empty pot" (not a bad translation). Among
my friends we called it bad-shansee, which in English it almost means something like
"my mother-in-law is still alive" -- a fairly loose translation. Let's
In 1979, after a short backpacking trip in Europe, I went back home to be part of
the young and upcoming success stories (don't laugh). And that reminds me of a good
old African-American friend of mine who used to say: "Sheet maan! What U know?"
Soon the reflections on his words of wisdom awakened me and I realized that I was
among the generation X, which then it meant the generation that got the kick in the
ass for being at the wrong place at a wrong time.
I know many of my generation who had the same dream of going back serving their own
country. Actually wait, no, I shouldn't sound so patriotic; no I should make a correction.
There were many that their first priority was to buy and take a car from the United
States to Iran and selling it with their "college graduate" passport and
make a few bucks. Some of you are too young to realize what I am talking about, but
those days that perk was the carrot to bring back college graduates to Iran! And
by using the word carrot here I don't mean the same specie of carrot that Mr. Khomeini
used and waved at us when he promised us free oil, freedom, and self-sufficiency
And speaking of self-sufficiency, it reminds me of a title to an article in one of
the post-Arab-invasion Iranian journals; more of a joke: "Iran became self-sufficient
of dairy products by importing 500 tons of cheese and butter from Holland!"
The Shah wanted to bring back college graduates simply because there was enough oil
revenue to support more improvements of the nation's infrastructure, which mostly
and in majority of cases meant a desk, a telephone, a job title and a monthly paycheck
from the government and all the tea you could drink. Not bad for a few years of college
education in the U.S.
But of all the scenes I saw and documented in many of
my later-published photographs, there is something that remains fixated in my mind.
During my short stay in Iran I taught English at the Air Force Academy in Tehran,
a kind of earn-a-living-see-what-happens type of a life. Well, that gave me the unexpected
opportunity to be in the middle of the November 1979 uprisings by a feisty holiday-loving
nation itching and ready to stop work at a single utterance of the word "strike"
Eyewitness to the full circle of the wrongfully-called a "Revolution" and
what I since have been calling "Second Arab Invasion of Iran" which was
nothing more than a mass civil disobedience rather than a revolution, an introduction
of a package deal by those whom my grandma used to call "az-maa-behtaroon"
and fueled by know-it-all-college-kids and chaos-loving, holiday-seeking, chelokabab-eating,
Vineestoon-puffing mass, upset with each other over petty issues of life.
For instance, they'd say "Why can we afford only a Paykan while our neighbor
drives an Aoudee Kahooee," which in English means a lettuce-colored-Audi! Wouldn't
you be upset if you drive a Ford Fiesta while your neighbor drives an Aoudee piyazee
(onion-colored Audi)? Iranians are very conscientious about the color of their car.
They think twice before leaning against their car in the parking lot.
During my days of teaching at the Air Force Academy and a few weeks before and after
the revolution (pardon me, Arab Invasion II) the most noticeable change was how quickly
the military lost its discipline, organization and ranking system. The sergeants
addressed their senior officers "baraadar" and each other as "darvish".
Words like "chaakeram" and "nokaram" replaced the military salute.
And these were the same military men who not too long ago thought they were the fifth
military power in the world.
Within two weeks they had undone what Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah implemented
in almost 70 years. The uniformed officers soon stopped wearing their ties and instead
started wearing beards. And that's when Gillette's share value took a hit in the
world equity market and we all heard about that one.
The sudden change of the uniforms and down-dressing in the military and immediate
assimilation of Arab attire among most government employees, were reminders of a
blind population following a wrong leader on a wrong path. In the land of the blind,
the one-eyed-man is king. And this is what I meant to forewarn my fellow countrymen:
Beware of the day when the next revolution, civil uprising or military coup happens
When that day comes don't get caught in the revenge rage by going after people with
turbans. You would be wasting your time. If you want to bring the responsible people
to justice, search among the ones who will be wearing ties, bow ties and Armani suits.
By the time you move to find out who was responsible for the mess we were in during
the last quarter of a century, the clergy would change their robes and uniforms and
disguise themselves in Western attire. On the day of the changing of the guards,
when the mullah's mission comes to an end, long-term oil concessions and contracts
are signed and that's when they will receive their visas from the British Embassy
and fly back to their acquired motherland.
When that day comes, please don't be unkind to those in clergy uniforms, as they
may be the true men of God. Instead look for those who pretend to have nothing to
do with religion! And who claim they hate Gheymeh Poloyeh Nazree. Those are the ones.
When the Shah left, in a matter of weeks half of your relatives shocklingly grew
beards and sported rosaries (tasbeeh), whispering incoherent words. I could never
figure out if they were cursing, praying or pretending -- most likely all three.
I realized my coffee was getting cold. Remember, there is always a cloud before every