Thursday, June 29, 2006

Iranian women writers on KQED

This Thursday KQED’s live call-in program, Forum, hosted some of the contributors to the book Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been, New Writing By Women of the Iranian Diaspora. From their comments it was clear that these Iranian-American women writers were careful not to fan the anti-Iran flames that have facilitated the Bush administration's plan to invade Iran. For example, one of the guests mentioned that Americans should not judge living conditions in Iran by what they see in Iranian movies. These films are dramatizations of Iran’s social issues, not literal reenactments. I saw her point immediately. Would we take the bleak and gut wrenching Oscar winner “Monster” as a snapshot of American life? Another guest mentioned that while her work does not paint a rosy picture of Iran, she does not wish to leave out what rosiness there is. One guest hinted at similarities between Iran and the United States regarding the erosion of civil rights and its connection to religious fundamentalism.

In response to this careful land-mine treading, American callers phoned in with attacks. Do you not lose credibility when you compare Iran’s theocracy with the influence of religion in American life? Where is the morality police in America? Where are the veiled women in America? Another caller phoned in his support. Michael Krasny, the host of Forum tried to shield his guests by correctly mentioning that these writers and poets are not experts on the policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yet that did not stop the next caller from asking the panel to comment on Iran’s appointing Saiid Mortazavi to lead her delegation to the UN Human Rights Council. With this request the caller, Judy Stone, shelled with devastating accuracy an already hard to defend position. Among other human rights crimes Mortezavi is accused of complicity in the murder of Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian journalist who died while in Iranian police custody. It was a moment of great tension in the show.

Judy Stone is an author and former film reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle. And she is no Iran hater. On the contrary I consider her to be an Iranophile, because her recent book Not Quite a Memoir devotes many pages to Iranian filmmakers. The philanthropic outlook of this book leaves no doubt that its author wishes to see Iranian artists thrive in a country that is worthy of their talent. She does not however seem to have caught on to the concern of the show’s guests: we live in a political environment where too much negative publicity on Iran could lead to the deaths of thousands of Iranians—millions in case of a nuclear attack-- and the destruction of this country’s heritage and infrastructure. How then to respond to the Judy Stones of America?

The best policy is to follow Iranian Noble Laureate Shirin Ebadi’s lead. Go ahead and say what you believe. Yes, Iran’s government must be held accountable for the death of Zahra Kazemi and for countless other human rights violations, but this does not in any way mean that the United States should invade Iran.

Like the baby’s real mother seeking Solomon’s justice we must make it clear that we do not support a regime change that may cost more lives than it saves. The pillars of human rights rest on the solid ground that life should not be sacrificed to principle. Confronted with rights abuse questions about Iran, our first human rights obligation is to make the questioner clarify his/her position on the subject of military intervention in Iran. “Before I answer that, I would like to know where you stand on the subject of the military invasion of Iran by the United States.” This is not an out of place request under the current circumstances. If the questioner approves of such an invasion then clearly his/her human rights concerns need further maturing. If however the questioner takes a clear stand against war with Iran we have succeeded in distinguishing a person of conscience from a warmonger masquerading as one.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ari,
So many comments, I will try to go through my problems with your article in seperate postings.

Your statement

"The pillars of human rights rest on the solid ground that life should not be sacrificed to principle."

appears shallow and simplistic. Every great non violent dissident inherently understood that life can be lost when defending just principles. Even when comes to a real fight, to say that human rights should not be defended against evil to the death is ridiculous.

This statements smacks of an "Ivory Tower" that doesn't want to deal with the fact that people often die when fighting back against totalitarian/evil governments, even when non violent principles are employed. Evil governments often do not simply roll over when people challenge their legitimacy. Something to think about......

I will continue to dissect your latest article in my next posting.



www.regimechangeiran.com


Roberto

Ari Siletz said...

In reply to anonymous:
Thanks for your post Roberto.
I would sacrifice my own life to fight what I believe to be evil, but my conscience forbids me to sacrifice someone else's life, unless that life is offered in sympathy to my cause. Very few of the Iranian men, women and children who would die in a US attack on that country would do so of their own free will. They do not sympathize with the invasion of their homeland and do not perceive it to be "for their own good." Surely you are not suggesting we sacrifice innocent bystanders to indulge our own sense of right and wrong.
Regards.

Anonymous said...

Ari,
Innocents die in War. War should be avoided. The U.S. is not driving the Enrichment program in Iran, their Government is. IF there was a War, God forbid, then it would be against the Government of Iran, not its people. Let's hope that Iranians stop their leaders before we all suffer consequences. This is more than "our sense of right and wrong...” currently Iran is a danger to the area and we currently are in battle with them through their covert support of terrorist in Iraq. You are right to be concerned for the Innocent of Iran, we won't invade, we’ll bomb. May cooler minds bring peace.

More to come.....


Roberto

Anonymous said...

Right and wrong are relative concepts as are good and evil. So the logic that blood must be spilled because “innocent people die in war” cuts both ways. The guys who drive car bombs into check posts and markets talk the same language. War is hell, that’s why one has to be very careful before starting one or getting into one. It's always easy to offer up other people's lives at alter one's righteousness. As the old joke during WWI in Western Europe used go "we shall fight until the last drop of Russian soldiers’ blood." I'm no fan of Iranian government and certainly hope that one day the entire region will be nuke free (including Israel) but why is it the US, the only country in history that has ever used nuclear weapons, assumes moral superiority over all others? I'd be much more worried about unstable Pakistan where Al-Qaeda’s roots are strong than Shia Iran. There is no evidence that Iranian government, whatever one may think of it, has any intention of using the bomb (when it can produce it in the next 15 years) against anyone. Think about it: Iran is going to nuke US or hand it over to terrorists? And what happens next, the US will bomb the hell of Iran? Are you kidding? We’re talking about nuclear weapons not cocktail-Molotovs. These are practical, pragmatic men in power. At best they want to protect their interest against future US interference. They’re not messianic fanatics (David Koresh, Zarkawi, etc). They’ve learned their lesson from what happened to Saddam and what hasn’t happened to North Korea. The only threat they pose is to their own country men. If anything, Iran has been an immense help to US interests in the region since 9/11. Iran’s influence within the Northern Alliance helped smooth over cooperation with American invasion forces and the relative calm in Southern Iraq has been aided by Iran’s influence over Ayatollah Sistani, Iranian born and educated.

Anonymous said...

The advocacy of regime change in Iran in the current geopolitical atmosphere is much like an invitation for the world to dive into an odorous septic tank. Michael Ledeen, one of the conspirators in the creation of the latest global tragedy, is part of a small group of ideologues who brought us more than a confirmed 100,000 Iraqi dead and the death of countless young Americans in the pursuit of democracy half way across the globe, when the American democracy itself was overthrown with the sham election of George Bush in the year 2000 as well as in 2004. Michael Ledeen proudly proclaims on regimechangeiniran.com that the website is an “extraordinarily useful site on Iran.” Why would anyone follow Ledeen’s path into a global septic tank?

Ledeen’s proclamation might as well have been made by John Bolton, a more widely recognized Iran hater and staunch Zionist. In the current geopolitical atmosphere it is of paramount importance that Iran develop the kind of defensive capability that prevents the Michael Ledeens of the world from having a hand in shaping the future of Iran. As for criticisms of social, military, and foreign policy of the Iranian government, it should be noted that Iran is the world’s last bastion of freedom; freedom from US style of globalization which brings with it a multitude of economic, social, and spiritual diseases, diseases would some day make the world wish for the return of economic poverty if god forbid, the new world order truly comes into fruition. China and India will find this out the hard way some day.

Regime change in Iran is the business of Iranians not outsiders. Iran has learned a few lessons from history. She is no stranger to the aims of outsiders and as a result will never again allow them to determine the political course of Iran even if it means that they have to face the kind of brutality and savagery we have observed as of late. Another Lesson Iran has learned well is that her civilization has a critical role in the defense of humanity in the modern world. The world most certainly cannot rely on Rumsfeld or Dick Chenney to provide guidance toward a more equitable and just world. What is for certain is that Iran will never be a satellite or colony. Iran is a cultural gravitational center of global significance, much like the pre-Bush United States. Iran offers hope to the world and for the sake of the world, she must be defended at all costs. Any change in Iranian politics will be a result of a choice made by Iranians and no one else.

LondonCaspian said...

Ari,

Good analysis of the KQED event.

I also agree 100% with the last paragraph in the comment above mine. Iran's politics must remain in the hands of the Iranian people and not foreign states. Foreign influence in our country has brought dark changes that only serve foreign interests, not ours.

I agree with the women on the KQED show that we must be careful not to fan the anti-Iran flame and also understand certain Iranians in the diaspora being upset and angry with this line.

To people like Roberto, I say that, look at Iraq, look at what has been created. It's a big mess. It could have been done and should have been done a different way, with the support of the International community. An attack by the US/UK on the Iranian government that takes innocent people’s lives will be taken as an attack on the Iranian people unless they have the support of the wider community (must include Muslim countries), that I am sure about. An attack on the Iranian people will be defended, you only have to look at how the country was defended in the Iran-Iraq war to realise that.

Ari Siletz said...

Thanks londoncaspian,

>>I also agree 100% with the last paragraph in the comment above mine.

For a historical analysis in sympathy with this commentor's position please refer to my web article, "Why Iran should not be wiped off the map":
http://www.arisiletz.com/commentaries/2006/04/one-reason-iran-should-not-be-wiped.shtml
Regards

Michelle from Palo Alto said...

For example, one of the guests mentioned that Americans should not judge living conditions in Iran by what they see in Iranian movies. These films are dramatizations of Iran’s social issues, not literal reenactments.

A correction: this point was made by an American caller (me!), after Judy Stone called in and recommended the new movie by Tamineh Milani. But I agree with the main thread of your analysis.

My view is that the majority of Iranian films on the festival circuit simultaneously raise awareness of human rights issues in Iran among foreign audiences (good) and end up contributing to the demonization of Iranian men and Iranian society (bad). Take "The Fifth Reaction," for example, Tamineh Milani's previous film. While Iranian audiences see the male villain as a humorous character, American audiences are, unfortunately, much more likely to see him as TYPICAL of ALL Iranian men. (An interpretation that will be bolstered by watching, say, "The Apple," "The Day I Became a Woman," and "Leila.")

In this context, it is important to resist the demonization of Iranians in American society. In my case, simply saying that I am an American woman married to an Iranian man (as I did on the KQED show) puts forth a positive message that a blending of the cultures is possible.

Ari Siletz said...

Thank you, Michelle, for this important correction. The contribution of enlightened Americans is key in directing US foreign policy towards a more thoughtful global citizenship.
I too find myself watching Iranian movies with two brains, my own and a simulation which I have modeled after a mind exposed to the American mass media. See for example my review of the movie "The deserted station." http://www.arisiletz.com/movie-reviews/2006/03/deserted-station.shtml
Regards.

Michelle from Palo Alto said...

Like many Iranian films, The Deserted Station is vulnerable to absurd interpretations by Western reviewers because of its metaphoric nature.

Great point!

Maybe you can also take on the symbolism in "At Five in the Afternoon"! Given that the characters are starving (one, a mother, has stopped producing milk), why don't they kill their chicken and eat it after it stops laying eggs, instead of carting it around in the desert? Psychological realism, this is not.

Ari Siletz said...

Michelle:
Brilliant!
One day I hope to put together a collection of essays from culturally aware writers re-reviewing all the major Iranian films since the revolution.
Regards

Anonymous said...

It is wonderful to see the exchange taking place on this site.

Regarding Lodoncaspian's comments:

<
To people like Roberto, I say that, look at Iraq, look at what has been created. It's a big mess. It could have been done and should have been done a different way, with the support of the International community. An attack by the US/UK on the Iranian government that takes innocent people’s lives will be taken as an attack on the Iranian people unless they have the support of the wider community (must include Muslim countries), that I am sure about. An attack on the Iranian people will be defended, you only have to look at how the country was defended in the Iran-Iraq war to realize that.
i>

Iraq has been both a major success and a major failing in planning and execution of a war. I completely agree with you that an attack on the government of Iran would also be interpreted as an attack on the people. I understand the ferocity of that Iranians fought to protect their country from the aggressor, Iraq. In fact the first suicide bomber “martyr” came from this defense when an Iran boy rushed Iraqi troops/armor with explosives. No doubts what a horrible day for humanity it would be if we continue down this path.

The problem remains that the international community, the U.N. in particular, is impotent to deal with these types of issues. One only has to look at what all of the most recent tragedies to see how poorly we as a people (humankind that is) does when we rely on consensus building of international consortiums to responds to forming threats: Iran, Iraq 2001, North Korea, Rwanda, Somalia, Serbia/Croatia, and multiple other situations where people have sat by and watched horror unfold. I don’t know the answer, but waiting for everyone to agree will never work too many incentives for too many players in this World Game of Geopolitics to acts as the spoiler. Simply look at the evidence coming out how members of the Security Council were bought off by Sadam (France, China, and Russia).
There is no simple answer, nor can we be the sheriff, but at times we will lead others at drawing lines in the sand.

Pray for Peace.

Roberto

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