Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who Tolls the Bells?

I finished the ayatollah’s costume and rushed to see the Mojahedin when I remembered I had left my camera behind. To tell the truth, I simply had not thought about it. I’m not in the habit of taking photographs. Indeed, with all the Iranian journalists around, who needs my photographs? Anyhow, I walked across the fence that had separated the demonstrators from the passers by. I saw the faces that did not have that familiar Iranian look in them. With whole range of light black, brown, and white, some with some trace of Latino-Oriental in them, it was much harder to guess their ethnicity. (Last year it was less confusing, with some 98% black, a majority of whom were kids from elementary school to junior high, plenty of elderly men and women who appeared like homeless people right from the shelter, and lots of anti-abortions signs on their chest, sleeves, and backpacks, one could easily locate their Catholic Philadelphia or Baltimore base.) A huge man wearing yellow jacket with a big laminated placard hanging over his bulging big belly was walking outside the main crowd as if guarding them from outsiders. Shyly I tried to see what was on the placard besides Maryam and Massoud and that famous while liberty bird, without appearing to look at his big belly, when with a thick Spanish accent he asked: “Where are you from”

“From the moon. Where are you from?” I answered gravely.

“I’m from Nicaragua,” he said

“Did you come from Nicaragua for this demonstration?“

“No, I came from Atlanta, Georgia, but I’m Nicaraguan.”

“Then what are you doing here?”

He turned the placard to show me the other side, which had a picture of Daniel Ortega with a ban sign over it, and said, “Do you know him?”

“Yes I do. Daniel Ortega! What about him?”

“He is the worse! I hate him. I’m against him,” he declared furiously

“But what are you doing here?” I asked again not knowing what the relevance was.

I’m against all of them, Sandinistas, Communists, they all are fascists,” he said, with a few Spanish words and turned the placard back to its original position where I could see Maryam and Massoud triumphantly gazing back into eternity.

All the benches on the two sides of the street were occupied by rows of elderly men and women wearing yellow jackets and carrying the same laminated placards. None of them was Iranian, though. The main body of the crowd, in the middle of street, were mostly younger and middle aged, with the same sort of outfit, waving a huge yellow flags towards the screen that showed John Bolton talking.

A little further away, Ahmad Batebi was standing and talking with few people. I patted him on the back and asked him if he took any photos of these Nicaraguan friends. He said he takes photographs of everyone. Then he said that he is just a journalist and takes photographs from all, just making sure that I knew he is a journalist and takes photographs of all. And that I did; of course I knew that he is a journalist and should take photos of all. I also know that once he was a student courageously waving the bloody shirt of his friend at the camera, and placed his life in danger and made himself so famous. Yes indeed, he is a journalist, and I bet a good one, and doing his job just fine.

Late at night, I rushed to the TV news, VOA and BBC Persian to see the coverage, to see my Nicaraguan friend protesting against Sandinistas, and fascist, and for the Mojahedin, cheering for Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. Alas, there was nothing of the sort. All the comments indeed mentioned that they are the most organized, the most established opposition group. I have no idea what they meant by being organized or established. If it means busing a few hundred people to one place under false pretenses, yes they are the most organized opposition group, otherwise they are hardly any opposition, let alone well established or organized.

This quasi-political masquerade happens every so often with a display of color matched vest, shirts and scarves, recently supplemented by hats and other flashy apparel, chanting slogans and waving flags, balloons, and streamers, and throwing confetti. A few bankrupt politicians, such as Giuliani, John McCain, Patrick Kennedy, and John Bolton, practically nobodies, give reactionary speeches to an organization that is placed on the terrorist list by presidents from their own parties. Well, how organized are they? What do they do? What they have achieved so far? What advantages they have gained by these colorful rallies? And what is their goal anyhow? Their base supporters change from one rally to another, and from one year to other. How could a group with fluctuating participants as such be organized?

Of course no one expects clarity and transparency from such dubious shady characters and groups. However, it is reasonable to expect the media, VOA or BBC Persian, would provide some information about these rallies and their purpose. Even considering their positions as American and British governments sponsored media, we still expect them to act as media should, provide some information to the audience. Am I the only one who ever notices the presence of hired participants at these rallies? Is that not interesting at all to the media that this so called “most organized opposition” operates this way? What is the meaning of such  rallies when the participants are totally irrelevant to the cause that the demonstrations are about?

But the worse is the absence of our own independent journalists even here in the United States or in Europe. We never hear from these demonstrations and their constituency. We hear the numbers, mostly inaccurate though, but never the breakdown of the groups. And how hard could it be if a reporter attends one of the rallies and interviews the participants as who they are, and what they stand for, and why they are attending any particular demonstration? Should not we know what each individual raising his/her voice for?

As far as I’m concerned, political groups are free to bring thousands of Martians to their rallies if they can afford to. However it is our rights as citizens to know why and how Martians became interested in our cause. While we appreciate the sense of orderliness and organizations of our Martian comrades, we would like to know how we are supposed to pay them back. Does an air or a bus ticket and a tour in the capitals of the world suffice their labor?

But seriously, what is the purpose of these fake demonstrations, fake opposition, and ultimately fake government and fake democracy? What about those seventy five million real people back at home? Shouldn’t we break the news to them?
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