Saturday, April 26, 2008

Explosion of Hatred in Shiraz

The blast at Masjed ol-Shohada in Shiraz, which was a center of anti-Wahhabi and anti-Baha'i sermons, has become a major topic in the newspapers and blogs these days (ranking next to Alami’s speech in the Majlis.) Twelve people were killed and two hundred were injured. The official news gradually announced the casualties, starting with two deaths and a few injured. Within two days, the government announced, prematurely, that the investigation determined that it was due to an “unspecified accident” due to the remnant of explosives left from an exhibit years ago!

Various newspapers and blogs expressed their concern over the issue, voicing their doubts that the government’s controversial reports were true, or just a means of closing the subject. Some tried to challenge the government’s dismissal of alternate explanations of the explosion. Most indicated that there were dissatisfied minorities or elements that might be suspect, while others tried to put the government in a corner by reminding it that their handling of the incident of the Sufis mosque in Khorramabad [.pdf] effectively encouraged “others” to commit similar acts of violence.

Jamileh Kadivar’s article in her blog Maktoub prominently took this line and was republished in various sites. She argued in favor of the explosion theory based on the existence of sufficiently motivated groups such as Wahhabis (I assume she meant al-Qaeda), the People’s Mojahedin, various individuals connected to certain illegal groups (monarchists?), and Baha’is. Were she not a faithful reformist, a devoutly religious person, a mother, a one-time Majlis deputy, a university professor, and a writer, I could have dismissed her writing as just another piece with which I disagreed. But any of the above would lead me to expect a kind of responsibility which was regrettably lacking in her article.

With good intentions and as a politically concerned citizen, she was one of the first to come forth and challenge the government’s hasty verdict. I admired her for that, though mentioning Baha’is as possible suspects was so cruelly irresponsible that it could not be dismissed lightly. It should be noted that Kadivar is from Shiraz, the cradle of Babism and then Baha’ism, where the Baha’i community had a great temple (destroyed after revolution), where Mohammad Ali Bab, rest in peace, was buried, where the Faith suffered its harshestblow after the Islamic Revolution, where innocent men and women were executed simply for their beliefs, a group of them even hung in public. As a deputy to the parliament, she ought to be aware of the situation of the Baha’i community, that they cannot have government jobs, cannot have any trade without having a Muslim as a front, and in many places they cannot even have a cemetery and must bury their dead in someone’s property or carry them to a distant city where they could have access to such property. As a religious person, she should be aware that the business of the truth of a faith is not her job to judge but only God’s. As a mother who is so proud of her seven years old child for having translated a book, her heart should ache for all those otherwise qualified young people who were not permitted to attend universities this year because of their faith. As a teacher and writer whose job it is to touch the people’s hearts and minds, to nurture and to cultivate them, she should know that diversity in society is the cornerstone of anything we might call a rich and healthy culture. But, as a reformist, she is a total failure if this single article were any indication of the kind of reform she wants to bring to our society. Did she ever noticed that since the dawn of the Faith there has never been even one incident of murder, robbery, child abuse, or even domestic violence with Baha’is involved? Did she ever have any experience otherwise?

The Baha’i faith has gone through a massive hardship, particularly after the revolution. In spite of all the abuses and persecution, executions and imprisonments, they never appealed to violence. The teaching of the Faith bars the Baha’i not only from violence but from politics to keep them away from any possible confrontation, and the Baha’is have full-heartedly followed the teachings of their Faith.

The verbal abuse in the meetings of the Rahpuyan-e Vesal Mosque was not an isolated or unprecedented event. The community is used to it by now. Indeed, being fully aware of how unprotected they are, along with their religious teaching, they even refrain from complaining about it. They are fully aware that even if they are murdered, their blood is void of any value according to the Islamic Republic’s laws. Were not tolerance imbedded in Iranian culture and the extreme sense of humanity and peacefulness which has always been a value of the majority of the population, life would have been practically impossible for this community. Indeed, in spite of all maltreatment by the authorities and the religious establishment, the Baha’i community thrives with dignity. Young Bah’is, strengthened in their belief, continue their healthy and peaceful way of life.

Ms. Kadivar is deluding herself if she thinks she can detach herself from segments of our society, from those who do injustice and those who suffer as well. What happens to any minority, lawful or otherwise, happens to all of us Iranians. We all have to live with that shame, and our children will inherit it as well. It is about time we face the fact that we are going to be the second or third in rank in genocide to German and Turkey. As the Holocaust left a black spot on German history and the Armenian genocide for ever will remain as a blemish on Turkey’s face, the Baha’i genocide will be our darkness.

In answer to a reader, she recommended that he or she should read that paragraph again and pay attention to the words “guessing” and “possible.” As a matter of fact, I read the entire article several times; indeed, both words are the source of the problem. As neither of us are criminal investigators, our guess is just based on our common sense, our reason as well as our biases. I have no idea what possessed her in her guesswork to include the Baha’is and exclude us, the reformists. Yes, we, the reformists, who have been badly beaten, abused, and humiliated by the ruling fundamentalists; we the reformists who are angry, bitter, and well-motivated for revenge, and not only few thousands of us, like Baha’is, but millions of us. What makes us immune from being suspect, from any possibilities, and not the Baha’is? Is it our peacefulness? Our not having a criminal record? Our being victimized? Don’t we share all these with Baha’is?

Also troubling was her further remark that, “I respect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their beliefs and ideas. Indeed, all my life and my writings testifies to this claim.” I’m afraid a little manipulation is involved here, and as teacher she should be aware of it as well. To believe that all the citizens’ rights are respected, regardless of their beliefs, does not automatically imply that the Baha’i’s citizenry rights are respected. I’m afraid that Ms. Kadivar’s record, as well as that of everyone else who had held any position in the Islamic Republic these last thirty years, does not indicate a regard for the Baha’is as equal to others. As a matter of fact, she is not permitted, indeed does not dare to, refer to Baha’is directly in her writings except in a derogatory fashion. No one can do otherwise!

Unfortunately, the situation is as such that no one can acknowledge the existence of this minority in our country. This of course does not mean that everyone agrees with this situation, rather it is the circumstances that require them to behave this way. Unfortunately, this is exactly the problem, the circumstances! What are those circumstances, and when should we overcome them? Is not the twenty first century about the right time to put an end to this close-mindedness and fanaticism? And who should take the first step? And where does the first step begin? It is fortunate that we Iranians have the most magnificent blueprint for our conduct. Good words comes first which leads to good deeds. We should talk. As a matter of fact, there is a general consensus in this regard as the Torah declares that creation begins with God’s word, the Gospels declare the same, and the Koran appears as a spoken revelation to the Prophet, and God’s command for him to recite.

Why after all should I pick on Ms. Kadivar? Should we expect more from her? Well, it is the last statement in Ms. Kadivar’s response to her reader that settles it somehow. “My robe is so clean, I would not be worried about it if people like you would not smear it.” That is why. It is that clean robe that one needs to endeavor to keep pure in words and in deed. As a matter of fact, those with the cleanest robes are the ones that should take the first step because no one would accuse them of anything. (Or I’m wrong on this too?) Is she willing to place “Baha’i” in a positive context such as, “Baha’is are the citizens of this country and all their rights should be preserved?If not, she need not worry; she is in a good and copious company—Khatami, Abtahi, her brother Mohsen Kadivar, her beloved husband Ata'ollah Mohajerani, and all the rest of the religious reformists. I am sure that they are all wonderful people and between them and those in power I do not hesitate even a minute to go along with them. But this is not the point. The point is that sometime in the future when she is gone and I am gone and many Baha’is are gone, someone will go to our records and see that she and I and Khatami and Abtahi and Mohsen Kadivar and thousands more just kept quiet while crimes were committed right under our nose. Even if our offspring gave us the benefit of the doubt and read our records in the most generous way, we still would be convicted of the crime silence. Indeed our children would be dumb with shame even if they speak twenty languages fluently.

There is no hope if our reformist friends, if our intellectuals, if those who want to bring about a better future, those who once had a voice in politics and want to recover it, God’s willing, do not see us all as equals. And worse, it would be a horrifying world if we think that one day we would not be ashamed when we look back to find out that we had kept quiet when injustice, hate, and discrimination had crept into our lives and that we did not even notice.

I do not want to believe those who recited this poem of the immortal Saadi many times in private and public

بنی آدم اعضای یک پیکرند که در آفرینش ز یک گوهرند

Human beings are the members of one body since they are born of a single essence.

did not feel the pain already inflicted on Baha’is, and indeed themselves added to their suffering.

To read the rest, click here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Khatami in Spain

Once more, President Khatami gave an elegant, beautiful and intelligent talk not in Iran, but in Europe. I read the speech in Emrooz online. While enjoying it tremendously, I wonder why is it that all these good talks should be delivered outside Iran. As a matter of fact, most of his speeches in Iran, except one that he delivered on the occasion of Hazrat Fatima’s birthday somewhere in Iran, are mostly mediocre.

I can only speculate that

1- He does not think that his Iranian audience deserves better than what they get. I’m almost sure he won’t admit this, so let’s take it off the list.

2- In Iran, he feels he is among friends who love him no matter what, so he goes to various meetings without bothering about what he is going to say, just as when one goes home to visit ones parents, one does not write a speech beforehand. Of course, he is right to feel that way, he is indeed very well-loved, but I’m sure he would not abuse people’s love and understanding. So let’s take off the list too.

3-He does not feel comfortable (or, better, he is afraid) in Tehran, or other parts of the country beyond Yazd, where he spends most of his time when he is in Iran. That makes sense. We Yazdis keep too much to ourselves. Not that we do not like others, but there is “us” with a wall around us and “others” outside the wall, just like Yazd itself. And to defend ourselves, I should say we are right to be so, because we are surrounded by desert; and charming and picturesque as it might be, it is really scary. We are a bit afraid and get intimidated by the outsiders, and we have a right to be that way. If we ever let the outsiders in, they can do horrifying things to us and we won’t have any other choice but to submit. See what the outsiders did to us: Sluggishly, and carelessly, they interpreted all this into our being “cowards” and have commonly ignored how all these natural conditions have turned us into industrious and creative people. Yes, I should say, there are “others” out there that we are afraid of.

I’m afraid that I have to keep this guess on the list. I’m half Yazdi myself and as an insider I can testify to the accuracy of this bit of inside information that President Khatami has this “Yazdiness” in him. See how he talks differently and courageously whenever he is in the vicinity of Yazd, like when he recently said, “People have the right to change their government if they want too.”

4- He feels freer outside Iran. This is true and I’m certain that is the case, and even if he denies it and swears to God or anything else, I won’t believe him. There is more freedom outside Iran and there is no use denying! But doesn’t he get into trouble when he comes back? I hope not, and so far he has not, though after his trip to the United States, Mrs. Elham (Rajabi) called for his being defrocked. That did not happen either. Anyhow he feels free out there, therefore he says more intelligent things, like what he said about liberty, freedom and justice. I personally do not blame him. One cannot talk about those things in Iran. Europeans understand them better. They wanted to be free and have the liberty to decide for their own lives, so they formed their lives and governments on that basis, while we did not. Didn’t we vote for Islamic Republic? Didn’t we choose to be slashed in public? Didn’t we choose to be stoned to death? Didn’t we choose those few unelected people to decide over every aspect of our lives? And justice? Yes, that too. Their notion of justice is based on equality, all are equal according to law and everyone has equal rights to basic human needs. No one is to be denied education or access to health care or the ability to secure ones livelihood. People may have to pay different prices to receive different quality of their needs, but they have the right to have it, while our notion of justice is based on charity and benevolence. There are the poor and there are the rich, and the former must rely on the latter’s benevolence. There are the wise and there are the ignorant and the ignorant should be at the mercy of and guided by the wise. There are the powerful and there are the weak and deprived, and the later are definitely at the mercy of the former. Let’s call this Islamic Justice. The velayat faqih is the embodiment of this notion of “benevolent justice.” So naturally Khatami can never deliver those speeches in Iran saying that “justice is not real justice if it is not coupled with freedom and liberty.” How could we entertain such an expectation?! How could he talk about freedom in the country in which even Google is filtered? Yes, that could be his concern, and he is right. He had better say all these things in Spain and Germany and Italy. So let’s keep that on the list.

5- The real face of Islam? Most of President Khatami activity is hooked to that tiny little phrase. All those talks and all those lectures and smiles and comings and goings and fancy cloak and turban and neatness, all those quotations from Leibniz, and Kant and Descartes, all that talk about justice and freedom, all and all are aimed at one end—to show the “true face” of Islam to the world. That is why we do not hear any of it in Iran, where we don’t need it. We are Islam, we see it ourselves everyday and every night. We know how just it is, how fair it is, how humane it is, how free it is, how it respect liberty. We know all that, we live with it day and night. We do not need to hear about something that we have hands-on experience of.

Some of Khatami’s followers have complained about why Iranian television and radio do not broadcast these talks. I think these people are out of their minds. Why should the government broadcast that recent speech, in which every phrase is precisely against all the government’s actions? Indeed, if Khatami himself wants to say any of these things in Iran, instead of all those mediocre talks he usually delivers there, he could go to Tehran University or any of hundreds of universities throughout the country and deliver them his speech in Persian. Or even better, he could go right into the office of the Supreme Leader and say what he has in mind and see if he agrees with him.

I’m afraid I have to keep this on my list and insist that this is the most frightening and disappointing and yet the truest guess in my list, and I dare say it is the one I prefer to be wrong on, but don’t think I am. Khatami is the Islamic Republic’s show case, he is the only presentable character they have. We are not his targeted audience and indeed we are deluding ourselves if we consider him one of our own. It is true that we love him and more than that we need him. But how many times, and with what language should he tell us that he does not need us, he is not concerned with our needs, and he cannot help us. He has a different mission in life and is doing his job fine.

To read the rest, click here.

Innovation and Flourishing

In an speech on the occasion of the Iranian New Year, Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei not only expressed his satisfaction with the last year’s government of Mahmud Ahmadinejad, giving him an A+, but he expressed great optimism about the coming years. He seemed confident that all the efforts of the last year should bear some fruit in the next. He scored the government’s performance well enough to predict that the coming year would undoubtedly be a year of “Innovation and Flourishing.”

As has been the pattern with the Islamic Republic, these kinds of speeches indicate not merely a wishful expectation but a suggestion for a future agenda. Whether this tradition is rooted in Islamic teachings or was introduced by the Iranian revolution I have no idea, but I do know that it appeared from the time of the hostage crisis, when Imam Khomeini would “hint” almost every day how the so called “students” would feel, think, and act, and they would do exactly the same by the evening.

And so, innovation started right after his speech. Ahmadinejad, who himself is always full of innovation, came up with something that surpassed whatever innovation an ordinary human being might have come with, i.e., “being appointed for the Divine Management of the world.” I’m sure there are some people more qualified to explain what he means; and while awaiting an explanation, I cannot hide my amazement at the visual as well as comical potential of this phrase.

While he was busy creating this amazing “Divine Management,” he forgot to mention to his vice president that he would change two of his cabinet ministers!

I do not think anyone would be surprised anymore to hear such statements from Ahmadinejad, or even raise a question as to why a president has so many consultants and advisors if he does not consult with them.

However, I was quite surprised when I read that our reformist friend Mohammad Ali Abtahi had “run over his head” at the Supreme Leader’s “signal.” Trying to explain the embarrassing situation that the fellow reformists face in regard to whether to participate in the second round of the elections, knowing that it is not even meant to be a fair election, he wrote in his blog that well, they decided to “participate passively.” (مشارکت غیر فعال)

But the one who did not hear the supreme leader’s speech, or if he heard it, played deaf, was Saffar Herandi, the Minister of Guidance. Without out any apology, and quite insensitive to the Supreme Leader’s signal, he continued the same outdated, boring, routine rhetoric. He said that all the artists who protested against the outdated, non-innovating system of censorship and who said that the situation is worse than before “must be out of their minds not to see all these achievements. We are not here to help creating cinema and film, but the right kind of film.” He then proceeded to call the artists some other not very nice names. These were exactly the sort of words that have been used over and over again for years. Even the insulting words were all copied from what Ahmadinejad has used many times before. Mrs. Elham (Fatemeh Rajabi) had also used them in the most variety of forms, in fact more elaborately and sometimes more graphically many, many times in her blog. Indeed, there was nothing innovative in Harandi’s speech, neither in form nor the meaning, as if he had not turned his radio or TV on in Norooz.

But seriously, a few words with the Supreme Leader. Why not? He called for innovation, didn’t he?

Dear Supreme Leader,

Once, the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, while contemplating, heard God’s Angel’s voice tell him, “Read!” and the Prophet answered: “I cannot.” The Angel then repeated, “Read!” Since it was God’s will, it happened that the Prophet, who was not literate, start reading.

With all due respect Mr. Khamenei, you are not God, and none of those whom you addressed in your speech are the Prophet Mohammad. Innovation is not achieved by orders, even yours. It is a kind of talent given to people by God. Some have it more and some have it less. One can learn to be more creative by various practices, but the kind of creativity that brings about innovation is not achieved even by regular exercises. Look at the former Soviet Union or China, your esteemed models. No art ever came from them since their revolutions except ballet and skating from Russia, and nothing at all from China. As a matter of fact, those arts they had before died away after their revolutions. Forced practices brought about good discipline, but did not produced good creative artists. Their painters are skillful at copying but not at creating. They have good players for various instruments, but not good musician or composers.

Being a tar player yourself, you should know the difference between what Master Ahmad Ebadi or Jalil Shahnaz do and those who have gone to some workshop and training school just to play. I’m sure there was a big difference between Ebadi, even the first time he placed that instrument on his lap, and those who were not and did not become Master Ebadi even after years of playing tar.

As for the flourishing, do you read at all these days? Did you hear of that wonderful article Ahmad Shirzad wrote on his blog and published on Emrooz Online? It was about Imam Khomeini’s project of Jenat, to make a green road from Behesht-e-Zahra to Qom, the multi-million toman project which any student of agriculture could have predicted would fail. The project materialized without proper research and worse without considering the nature of the landscape and soil. Pine trees were planted, dried, planted, dried and replanted and finally the project stopped. The next time you go to Qom, please turn your head to the side and ask your driver about those piles of brown tree logs on the side of the road and ask him how much money was used to “create” that spectacular landscape and ask him why those trees they planted did not flourish. I insist that you should ask your driver and not anybody else. Drivers in Iran are very good and know everything. They are the best sources of news. As a matter of fact, if you need any other information, ask him. Anyhow, I’m sure you know what I’m getting at. Those who executed that project had not even read one of the books that we would study before the revolution called, the Golestan by our wise poet Saadi, to learn that

زمین شوره سنبل بر نیارد، در ان تخم و عمل ضایع مگردان))

“Tulips won’t grow in salt desert, do not waste seeds and labor on it.”

Flourishing, whether human or plant, needs a proper cultivation of the ground and air and proper nourishment. In the present condition, when cabinet ministers obtain their diplomas from shady universities, when their scholarship is published only in commercial encyclopedias whose pages could be bought, when university seats are awards, when students are barred from education as a punishment (yes, this one is really an innovation indeed!), when the main occupation of government is to filter blogs, internets networks, and informational sites, when shutting down newspapers is routine, when rationing seats in the universities on the basis of gender does not bother you, when government decides to publish a different sets of textbooks for boys and girls (who has ever heard of something like that?), you are creating a salt desert in which nothing can grow, nothing better than Ahmadinejad and his cabinet members, and which bears no better fruit than Mrs. Elham’s blog. If that is what you meant by innovation and flourishing, then at least be a little innovative yourself, since they are there already in full bloom and every day open a new bud, so what else do you need?

To read the rest, click here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Welcome to Serioja

Once more we become a large family of four. We adopted a one year old baby boy Chihuahua.

Evan and I would like to reassure Oshrat, Dovid, Menachim, and Levi that Serioja is in safe hands and we both would do our utmost to love him and take care of him.

Serioja came with a pet name, Snoopy. We changed it to Serioja just to avoid undermining his strong and distinguish personality, as well as to be a sweet reminder of this stage of our life.

I chose the name Serioja in the memory Anna Karenina’s little boy whom Anna was forced to abandon, as a reminder and as a token of my compassion for all those who, under circumstances, are forced to make an “either /or” choices to which no one should ever be subjected. Anna and Serioja’s last meeting, and their last good-bye, is an amazing and memorable event in the world’s literary history. The choice of name was not only the memory of that great loss, but also to acknowledge Oshrat’s pain as well as her courageous decision to make the choice she made.

Serioja is a very special little one, though shy and a little nervous like most Chihuahuas. He is not a pretty dog like Mercutio and Ginger. He is not as handsome as our previous dog, Bill Clinton, though he has some of his Doberman look. As a matter of fact, he looks like a little devil, with his pointed ears, his tail curling up, and his urge to stand on his feet. He is also extremely smart, like a devil, and likes attention like a devil too. Within just a few days, he became house-broken and already knows the way home. He is very mischievous and wants to play all day.

Omar Khayyam, on the other hand, is extremely alert and I hope very soon will learn that we love him even more than before, only he needs to learn to be more compassionate. So far, no trace of anything even close to love and compassion, but gee, something like an extreme jealousy, if you know what I mean! But I’m sure the miracle of love will eventually work.

And on a final note, he does not like Evan at all, and growls at him when he comes close. That is very strange since Evan has been very popular with children and pets.

To read the rest, click here.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Iran-American Relations Conference at Columbia University

On Friday March 28, a conference on Iran-US relations, past, present and future, was held at the Columbia University School of International Affairs. Participating were Ervand Abrahamian, Ali Ansari, Ibrahim Yazdi, John Limbert, Gary Sick, and Wayne White; it was chaired by Richard Bulliet.

I ran into Dr. Yazdi in the hallway during one of the coffee breaks. I could not believe how old he looked. He must be over seventy now, and that reminded me that I’m not that young myself either. I hung around to say hello and ask him about the Iranian elections. I remarked to him (in Persian), “It was a disgrace; why did it happened that way?”

“What way? What are you talking about?”

His red face betrayed him, and he uttered both sentences without even thinking. Surely he knew what I was talking about. Still, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and said, “I mean the elections. It was an embarrassment, wasn’t it?”

“Not really, they should be embarrassed.”

“You cannot dissociate yourself so easily…” I was still talking when three people arrived simultaneously as Ajal-e-Mo`allaqs. My husband wanted me to meet one of his old Iranian leftist friends he knew from before the revolution. Another fellow wanted to know if the weather outside was cold enough and if I knew where the bathroom was. A third came and dragged me aside to tell me, “Show me twenty Iranian intellectuals who could unite,” and proceeded to bombard me with comments about Iranian culture this and Iranian culture that.

“Please don’t put down our Iranian culture like that, there is nothing wrong with it. If twenty Iranian intellectuals cannot agree with each other (and I disagree with this premise) perhaps it is because they did not grow together intellectually. Each of them had grown intellectually independent from the others in separate domains and in separate fields in different part of the world since there are so few of them, and as a result, they do not speak the same language. Unfortunately, our modern educational systems, both before and after the revolution, neglected the cultivation of intellectualism; that is why you don’t see them around a unified pole.”

“True,” he said. “But Yazdi is an old man; he is over seventy years old. I wanted to talk to him about the elections also, but then I thought what I would say to an old man like him.”

Well sir, you do not need to tell him anything, and you did not. I was the one talking to him; I do not think old age a good excuse for mistakes or misleading the people, particularly if you are a political person with Dr. Yazdi’s record and his claims. I do not mind respecting my elders enough to treat them as responsible beings and expect them to respect us as well and not to manipulate us.”

We all walked back to the lecture hall where the speakers were delivering their concluding remarks about how they saw the future of Iran-US relations. I found interesting Ali Ansari’s comments that the international community has to live with Iran as it is, including with its nuclear energy, and should accept it with the hope that it will not willingly endanger their security and that of others.

Dr. Yazdi’s remarks were interesting in that he showed a total detachment from the present ruling clerics in Iran as if they did not have anything to do with him and never had. I should agree that Dr. Yazdi is now more pleasant than he was thirty years ago, without that artificial shabbiness, not playing the mullah with half an inch of stubble and a bottomed-up shirt; he was no longer dressed like the hajji aqa he pretended to be when he would sit crossed leg next to the Imam. He looked very Iranian. In his suit and tie, well-shaven, sporting a well-trimmed and very becoming goatee, he did not strike me as particularly Islamic. He even laughed, and when he spoke, he looked into the faces of men and women alike and was quite at ease with people. Anyway, it seems that his honeymoon with the Islamic Republic has long been over.

Wayne White said something interesting about regime change. Along with John Limbert and Ali Ansari, he said that Iran and the US should talk about all their problems and not one by one and that the negotiation teams should be compatible and consist of people of good will who would be willing to solve problems even if they included a desire for regime change.

Although Richard Bulliet had clearly urged the audience to not make speeches, but ask simple question, our friend, Dr. Houshang Amirahmadi raised his hand and scolded the panel of discussants for talking about or even using the phrase “regime change” since it is very dangerous. In the United States, he declared, we mean by regime change that a president goes and another one comes. In Iran, regime means Khamenehi… Fortunately, Bulliet stepped in and stopped him from rattling on.

This was my third experience with an angels of deliverance. Two years ago, I was talking to Ali Larijani who had said that Ayatollah Abol-Qasem Kashani did a lot for the nationalization of oil along with Dr. Mosaddeq. I asked him where he got that bit of information and if I could quote him. He said his sources were some history books whose names he did not recall and he promised to send them to me. While I was giving him my address and exchanging emails with him, another one of those angels of deliverance arrived, a fellow from Canada, and took me away from him and said that Ali Larijani was right and Ayatollah Kashani did a lot. “Like what?” I asked. “Well, he was the only cleric who agreed with Dr. Mosaddeq on oil nationalization, none of the other clerics even did that much.”

“Credit to him for that, but that does not mean he had any role in the process, never mind that he betrayed Dr. Mosaddeq later on,” I said.

The fellow talked a little more about Larijani’s two other brothers in two different high posts of the Islamic Republic and how brilliant they are and so on and so forth and continued until Larijani who was heading to the airport, got into the limousine waiting for him and left. He asked my name and said good-bye.

(Larijani never sent me a book or anything and I don’t think he has ever read about this subject in any history book, but was just following the Islamic Republic’s party line.)

I guess that those two were self-appointed angels of deliverance. I bet they are around everyone who is not supposed to get involved in conversation casually with big-mouths like me. But why did Dr. Amirahmadi lecture six scholars, surely no less than himself, to keep quiet and not speak their mind. Suppose that Ali Ansari and Gary Sick want to even risk their lives to talk about regime change in Iran, so what? Why shouldn’t they? To whom was it dangerous? Oddly enough, Dr. Amirahmadi is the head of the Middle East Studies Research Foundation in Rutgers University. What sort of scholarly work is possible if one decides beforehand to censor his/her ideas? I wonder where this phobia is coming from. What is wrong with expecting Larijani to have credible sources for his claims and what damage is there in telling Dr. Yazdi that he is more exposed than he wishes he was?

Still, I’m puzzled by all these angels of deliverance that drop in on us just at a sensitive time to save “us” from danger. It seems they don’t know of that super archangel above them all who flies from this part of the world to the other in a second, with all his might, and carries the news in all its forms without their help. On You Tube, someone will make a joke of them in a few minutes and millions will laugh at them. Really, life is not like before and people like Dr. Yazdi cannot hide any more under the veil of intimidation, or even worse, denial. And with all due respect, we are not as shy as we use to be some thirty years ago. Also, some of us with a reasonably good memory remember that Dr. Yazdi was one of the cornerstones of the Islamic regime and the one who was present next to the Imam’s elbow (or, better, the Imam’s knees) from Day One. He was part of every piece of the Islamic Republic and no matter how many cravats he might tie around his neck, he has no right to call them “they.” The only pronoun for him is “we,” and he’d better accept it and find a graceful way out of it; retirement may not be a bad idea.

As for Dr. Amirahmadi, younger as he is, I’m afraid he had better think of a good location for retirement, too.

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