Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Monday, June 16, 2003

An interesting letter from Iran, that gives a glimpse at life there.

Today is Thursday – the 11th of Ordibehesht or the 1st of May. It is a public holiday here in Tehran. Not, of course, because it’s International Workers’ Day, but because of the anniversary of the death of the prophet Mohammed. But it makes no difference what day it is for those of us who are second-class citizens, or ‘ambulant pieces of flesh attached to legs’, as Mesbah Yazdi describes us, who are of no use to the ‘Islamic Republic’ of Iran.

I was up all night, glued to the computer screen ‘to earn my daily bread’. I fell asleep at 6:30 in the morning and managed briefly to escape my troubles, which I know will spell my end one day: exhaustion, backache, eye strain, headaches, heart palpitations. I was shattered.

At around 10:30 Afshin calls to say that Mahmoud Vakili has been arrested. My brain is still asleep. I try to understand what he is saying. He says that Mahmoud’s sister called him to say that Mahmoud was arrested on Tuesday. She said that we should not contact their house directly. Afshin says that he doesn’t have Ali’s number and asks me to call him and let him know.

Afshin does have Ali’s number. He is too afraid to call him, afraid of getting caught in some kind of trouble. Ali is well-known. Only last week he was telling us that his phone was tapped. Not that he’s a political activist; he’s just a film critic. But like all of us, he can now be found guilty of this new crime.

My brain slowly kicks into gear. I too am afraid, why lie? We are those simpler souls who sought to steer clear of any sort of political fuss in this accursed corner of the planet. We eliminated every shred of ambition from our lives and instead of seeking solace in drugs, money or womanising, we turned to culture – to art and cinema. We chose to step into a dream – the dream of things we don’t have. Now, they are shattering this dream with lashes of the whip, with jail, torture, dishonour and accusations.

This makes us afraid.

The frustrated and unemployed young men who populate the country, themselves the fruit of the revolution, can easily get their hands on any brand of porn movie. At every public intersection and busy square such films are readily available.

Yet a stone’s throw away a uniformed thug will be harassing a young woman whose hair may have slipped out from under her scarf, while some young man walking along with a young woman friend has to answer to the thug to avoid being sentenced to lashes of the whip. Not far from them a prostitute will be stepping into the luxury car of some devout Haji to sell herself for a paltry sum of ten or twenty thousand toman in order not to go hungry.

Meanwhile, the mullahs stand in prayer and mourn Imam Hossein. They take their wives to Mecca and Syria, and temporary wives to the freeport zones and buy stocks. They smuggle, acquire exclusive dealerships, export girls, then attend Friday prayers and chant ‘Death to America’.

We whose lives are plundered often have had occasion to quote Osip Mandelstam who said that everything in this world could be regained except hope. But hope has fled the weak flicker of our gaze. We are in our 20s and 30s, but we are already old. There will be no miracles.

< email | 6/16/2003 02:37:00 PM | link

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