Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cutting off Their Hands

Let’s set the record straight.

Today I read an article in Emrooz On Line by Mohammad Ali Abtahi. He wrote it after the Conference on the Anniversary of the Constitutional Revolution in Iran, during which he found a chance to chat with Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi
Apparently the comparison between the current Constitution and the old one was one of the unofficial themes among the participants. So, after the conference, Abtahi asked Dr. Yazdi, who was a Cabinet Minister of Provisional Government of Bazargan, why they did not put the original draft of constitution, which had not been drafted by

clerical members of the Assembly of Experts and did not include the principle of velayat faqih in it, for a referendum, as recommended by Ayatollah Khomeini? Dr. Yazdi answered, “Well, see how much trouble we have even with this Constitution, could you imagine who would have accepted a more liberal one?” Abtahi, with his usual dignity, writes that this is not a good explanation. He suggests that Yazdi could have said something smarter like, “Well, we meant something else and what happened was not what we expected.” It was so nice of Mr. Abtahi to try to save an old friend and colleague from further embarrassment in the case someone asked him this question.

I would like to reassure Mr. Abtahi that nothing of that nature will ever happen. We Iranians are not famous for our accuracy, as you might know, and even worse is our lack of accountability, if not responsibility; otherwise things would not be this way. After reading this article, I did send Mr. Abtahi an email asking why he did not ask this question, along with many others, a little earlier or why he did not write about it before. I hope he comes up with a better answer than what Yazdi did, I’m waiting.

Also, speaking of Yazdi, he is very interesting fellow. Right before revolution, he appeared on the scene along with a group of people, Sadeq Ghotbzadeh, Abol-Hasan Bani Sadr, Sadeq Tabatabai, Mehdi Bazargan, etc. Unknown to the public like the rest of them, but Bazargan, he produced or forged a resume full of fictitious revolutionary deeds. He resided on a cabinet seat for a while and then served as an MP and then....

They all are gone, but he is still there. We still don’t know who he is or what he stands for. But one thing is for sure: he is responsible for the most famous expression in the entire brief history of the Islamic Republic, although he has gotten no credit for it: “cutting the hands of foreigners.” I do recall that day in Neauphle-le-Chateau, when an American TV reporter for one of the Sunday morning program (I think it was Peter Jennings), in response to a question by the reporter, Khomeini said in Farsi that his main goal for Iran is its independence, and that he would do his utmost for foreigners to take their hands off Iran. What he said in Farsi, (literary phrase cutting one's hand of something) was nothing strange at all. We use this metaphor in whole range of expressions indicating “to leave one alone” or “ to take hands off something.” Though, Yazdi’s misinterpretation brought such fame to this ordinary phrase.

What surprises me the most is that since that memorable time, Heaven knows how many times this phrase has been the subject of ridicule and laughter here in United States, Europe and even in Iran, but no one ever looked to see where it came from. Whatever we may accuse Khomeini of, speaking English is not one of them, so it was very natural to look for the right source, which we did not; and Dr. Yazdi, who knew very well that he had misinterpreted that phrase, possibly because he was over-excited, could have issued a statement and corrected it and put it to rest, but he didn’t.

We still hear reference to it. The last time I read about it was just two weeks ago in Shirin Ebadi’s Iran Awakening, where she put it down to an awkward statement of Khomeini which would only serve to further offend an offended human rights activist. Moreover, the fact that all this time no one listened to Khomeini when he spoke Farsi is beyond my imagination, and that no one came to his defense or even questioned all this noise about an ordinary expression or why none of all those people who claimed to be his true followers cared enough to tell him what was being attributed to him or even that Yazdi’s son in law, with that impeccable English of his, did not notice it. After all this time, Yazdi still keeps quiet and does not come out with a simple explanation so that the poor Ayatollah could rest in peace.

To make a long story short, the next time if someone sits next to Dr. Yazdi in some conference or meeting, could he please ask him about that. And could he also ask him who he is and what is he doing there anyhow. And finally, why doesn’t he take his hands off the reform movement before someone cuts them?

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