Getting to know Iran


Over at Dissident Voice, Reza Fiyouzat offered last month some insight into Iranian society and politics at a time when Americans might find it interesting:

Naturally, a lot of us pesky Iranian socialists got a good giggle back in October when the Iranian government, just before the fortieth anniversary of Ernesto Che Guevara’s assassination in Bolivia, organized a conference with the title, ‘Che like Chamran’, intended to emphasize the similarities between Iran’s Islamic revolution and the socialist revolution in Cuba. Che’s daughter Aleida and his son Camillo were the highlighted guests at the conference ….

…. When it was Che’s daughter who came to speak, the scenario painted by the organizers started to come undone quickly.

Aleida Guevara opened her address thus, “In the name of the people of Cuba”, and swiftly went onto, “We are a socialist nation.” No mincing words for her!

According to the report for Gozareshgaran, Aleida emphasized explicitly her father’s, as well as Fidel Castro’s, belief in communism and socialism, making sure to mention that the people of Cuba were grateful to the Soviet Union and, as to the suggestion of a drift between their two countries, she stated that there never was any discord between them, as mentioned by Ghasemi. She advised that if he really wanted to find out about Che Guevara’s beliefs, Ghasemi had better study the sources in the original language; she also suggested checking the authenticity of the translation in the book Ghasemi was holding.

Fiyouzat also notes that the conference, slated originally to last four days, was quickly wrapped up.

At least they tried.

In a country rich with resources stolen, misspent incompetently or misallocated pathetically, Iranian people’s living conditions are so dire that between a third and a half of the population live under or around the poverty line. Addiction to Class-A drugs, according to conservative estimates, affects four to five million people (in a country of nearly 70 million), and increases in drug addictions are three times the population growth rate.

Iran’s infant mortality rates (38.1/1000) are worse than in India (34.6), Egypt (30.1), Honduras (25.2), and more than twice as bad as in Jamaica (15.7), just to mention a few reference points. By contrast, Cuba’s infant mortality is 6.1/1000, while that of the U.S. is 6.4.

Prostitution, another ‘index’ of healthfulness of social conditions, is rampant, and, in a new survival trend, younger women are finding alternative sources of economic relief in presenting themselves in Gulf countries such as UAE as ‘temporary brides’ (Siqhe), which is legal in Shiite Islam.

One of the things Americans, at least, need to remember is that people are, despite our many differences, very similar in certain ways. Drugs and prostitution are no more to avoid Iran’s theocracy than, say, Ted Haggard’s church.

Er … uh … what, too soon?

At any rate, we ought to take note: no matter how much rope we give the theocrats, they cannot bind the Devil. But Fiyouzat has so much more to talk about than that. Indeed, at a time when some might look at Iran and envision some monolithic “they”, Iranian society seems at present wracked with twenty-first century pangs. Students in October attempted to shout down President Ahmadinejad, and many have been carted off to prison. Transport workers have rallied around the name of Mansour Osanlou, an imprisoned labor organizer, and sent a message of solidarity to their French brethren last month. The women’s movement in Iran is pushing a hard struggle on multiple fronts: advocating equal rights, opposing foreign imperialism, and working against the oppression of various opposition groups:

As reported by Iran Dokht, a newly formed Association of Mothers for Peace, issued a statement on November 4 this year, indicating their opposition to any imperialist attacks on the people of Iran, as well as calling for the release of all Iranian political prisoners from students and workers to women’s rights activists, saying, “We, Mothers for Peace, believe that the inexcusable arrest and imprisonment of those seeking justice and assaults against teachers, university students, nurses, journalists, writers, the clergy, and workers, as well as against activists in the women’s movement, are in fact the kinds of excuses that foreign powers use to attack our country or to impose economic sanctions; while claiming to defend human rights, the foreign powers’ actual goal is the looting of our wealth.”

And in some parts of the world, a sense of solidarity arises. Last month, student groups in Italy and Cuba raised their voices in support of the Iranian people, and as Fiyouzat notes, “This kind of principled solidarity and active international support is the sort that empowers the people in Iran and in the greater Middle East.”

Amen. After all, much of the discussion about Iran among Americans resembles every other woeful attempt to wrap our collective head around such vast concepts as Islam, Muslims, human rights, terrorism, war, peace … whatever. (It’s been a long six years by American standards, though that probably means little to some of those who have endured generations of modern tyranny in Iran. So … er … um … yeah. It’s been a long six years for Americans.)

But let’s review that platform: (1) Equal rights for women and men, (2) No foreign imperialism, (3) Internal political freedom.

You would think that an American politician looking for a cause to justify hostility toward Iran would take quick note of those three planks; as political principles go, we love this sort of stuff. In practice, of course, it’s a matter of degrees. Almost equal rights for women, don’t call it “imperialism”, and you’re free to say nice things about the government. Right, I know. That last isn’t much different except that the Iranians need to learn how to simply discredit or, if necessary, simply ignore the opposition. Just call them unpatriotic, or un-Iranian. Treat them like the Dixie Chicks. Remember, it’s a lot easier to sell the jingoism if you’re not actually cracking skulls and throwing people in jail. Just send the secret service around to harass students about a non-threatening t-shirt or poster, and if you do something embarrassing like accidentally arrest a couple for wearing protest t-shirts to a political rally, just lie about it.

See? Who could disagree with the Iranian women’s three-point protest? All it takes is some tinkering here, some tailoring there … just scale back some hopes and dreams for your daughters and … voila! It’s perfect.

Oh, right. Pile on the DVD players, game decks, SUVs, and crippling amounts of legal drugs like booze and coffee, and you’re set. Since Iranians are all Muslims, they don’t have any black people to deal with. This plan can’t fail.

Er … um … where was I? Oh, right. Anyway, since Iran has been so prominent in the news of late, and since we’re all supposed to be scared of Iranians—a story about watching game shows when I was a kid goes here, but it’s a vague recollection so I’ll skip it for now—I figured we might as well pause to wonder what the hell Iran is. Once upon a time I was led to believe that it is a nation, somewhere overseas, full of human beings called Iranians. But this sounds absolutely absurd, doesn’t it? Couldn’t possibly be.

Right. Something about Reza Fiyouzat’s article goes here. Oh, right … just read it.

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2 thoughts on “Getting to know Iran

  1. Equal rights for men and women eh? What about the inability for women to secure divorce, the requirement of two women to testify when only one man is necessary, and the authorization for the male beating a woman (lightly, I know), when women do not have a reciprocal right?

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