Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Ayatollah and I

47th Street was not as crowded as it used to be around this time of year. The Iranian–Canadian Human Rights Defender and Ashraf Dehghani’s leftists had their stage set at the entrance to the 2nd Ave. table.  The HRD’s dances and comic performances appeared even more avant-garde against the Dehghani group’s outdated leftist flyers published in 1975, five years prior to the Islamic revolution! All I could do was to say hello to my friend Shabnam Assadolahi and run to “Ayatollah Khamenei” to fix his costume.
A little further, in the middle of street towards First Avenue, the People’s Mojahedin had already started their act. John Bolton, speaking to the rally, was projected on a large screen. There was enough room for us to set our stage and wait for them to finish so we could start ours. Monarchists with pretty umbrellas decorated with Iranian flags and the Lion and the Sun emblem on them were gathering little by little. Their rally was scheduled in the interval between Mojahedin and us, the Special Committee to Protest Against Ahmadinejad’s Presence in the UN.
 I started quickly to fix Ayatollah Khamenei’s outfit. It went quicker and better than I expected. It turned out to be even more elegant than Khatami’s tailored robes! But there was a little problem wrapping the turban around his head. The fabric was slippery and resisted puncturing by safely pins. But it was done.  I was so proud of myself that I could make such an aba and ammameh and I walked Mohammad, the first volunteer to pose as the Ayatollah, into the cage. (Not to tire him, few friends each took turns posing as the Ayatollah!) We were not sure which of his hands were crippled, but Mohammad correctly used his right hand and placed it right over his chest exactly as the Ayatollah himself poses. Perfect! All of a sudden, everybody rushed to take photos of him and with him. Oddly enough no one abused him. There were no insults, no beatings, no tortures, no interrogations, and no confessions. Only one gentleman came and posed as if trying to strangle him very gently and softly. We made sure he got plenty of sunshine and fresh air. We even helped him dress and undress. And since it was too hot under all those garments, we gave them cold water every so often. But very soon we noticed that Ayatollah seemed to be enjoying himself behind the bars and was smiling! Oops!
Artoro, a musician from Spain, who plays flamingo guitar, started the program. One of our friends, Fawzy, read Majid Tavakkoli’s letter of from prison addressed to Khamenei. Alan Koushan played the santur. Dr. Sedarat talked about the political prisoners and I mentioned Bahareh Hedayat and Atefeh Nabavi, but since there were not enough people to read the biography of each women prisoner, most of them went unmentioned. The program ended with Sadra and Mary, the masters of ceremony, singing the old fedai song, “Winter is over and tulips are blooming all over the mountains.”

We stayed until five and then packed to go for dinner and chat with our friends Enayat and Marmar who took the trouble to come from California and from Atlanta, Georgia. (No, she was not from Nicaragua (see previous post), she is pure Persian, from Luristan no less!) We went to a Turkish restaurant owned and staffed entirely by Kurds, including a young and handsome waiter serving at our table. Oddly enough, as much as we insisted that they are Kurds with a Kurdish identity and should be very proud of their ethnicity, they refused our generous offer. Our handsome waiter, with a smile, insisted that he is a Turk and Turkey is his country.  Some of our leftist friends jokingly tried to provoke them by saying they are brain-washed, but that did not work either.  I bet later on they would regret not accepting our offer. I do not think they would receive such offers anymore. Well, at least, we did our best.
Back at home checking the television and web site reports, I could not find anything about this action. It seems that the Mojahedin won the trophy of “the only opposition with organization.” The HRD were criticized for being too much of a carnival, too festive and celebratory. We were not mentioned at all, as if we didn’t exist. The monarchists were mentioned only on the Islamic Republic’s press the way they are always referred to. It seems that no one noticed that they were the largest group, well assembled and quite orderly. However, there was no conflict among the participating groups. A few Mojaheds and monarchists stayed for our rally.  We all smiled at each other warm-heartedly, and I was introduced to one of the Mojahedin’s supporters, who immediately showed me the picture of his young handsome brother who had been killed in the recent attack at Camp Ashraf. She insisted that she was not a member of Mojahedin but only a supporter. We shook hands, and Heaven knows nothing happened.
The next day, while I was searching You Tube to see if I might have overlooked something, I stumbled on our 2009 rally, in which four thousand people from all over North America and even from Europe gathered to create such a memorable event. Joined in hope, cheerfulness, energy, passion and optimism, we marched while chanting “freedom, independent, and Iranian government.” I watched the clips of those films again and again, wondering if we had failed. Our humble, sober, and calm crowd this year did not have the slightest resemblance to that monument of desire for change of the post election year. But my dry eyes surprised me. Nostalgia? Yes, indeed, but no tears. In fact, I felt I missed all those gatherings of the past several years, the hunger strikes, the demonstrations, the marches and all, but had no hard feelings or regret over failure. Yes, it is true that those exuberant days are gone, but they left us something more valuable.  Indeed, those days were the turning point in our history. In those crowded gathering, in the midst of the excitement we all found a magical sense of belonging, something that was buried deep under the pain of being in the Diaspora for long. We all came together knowing we belong together. We are walking quickly from those days but holding fast to our sense of belonging to our homeland and to each other through it. 
This year we gathered together in silence and not in a large crowd, but we were at peace. We had come not united, and without any “organization”, or color-matched apparel, for that matter. Indeed we were colorful and varied, but our sense of belonging, conducting  so well, made us act with rhyme and harmony. Walking the Ayatollah in and out of his cage without any disagreement bears witness to our victory.

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