I was 5 years old, in grade one, and trying to cover my short boyish hair in a black scarf long enough to almost hide all of my naive little body, so that I would be approved for entry to a school a couple of years after the 1979 revolution. It was very uncomfortable to be covered all the time, especially when we were playing in the school yard on a hot day even when there were no men around the girls-only school built like a prison with tall grey walls.
But despite all that, I didn’t mind the Hijab as I loved to go to school. My favourite task was to learn the alphabet as quickly as I could in order to be able to read all the books hidden under my revolutionary brother’s bed.
The Hijab wasn’t the only forced regulation for entering the classroom.
Each and every morning, we had to line up in the schoolyard and scream as loud as we could:
Down with America!
Down with the Soviet Union!
Down with England!
Down with Israel!
We had to chant if we wanted permission to enter to the classroom.
Louder and more enthusiastic chanting also earned us better marks for “manners.”
This naive little version of me never imagined that behind all that hostility and hatred towards the West by us, little Iranian soldiers in a schoolyard, was a dirty political game.
Even as I chanted against America, I had no idea where this country was. All I knew was that “Big Satan” was represented by a few very tall blond American hostages on a TV that most adults were following every night with such passionate intensity that I probably thought it was just another popular fiction action American series.
All I wanted in my childish dreams was to go to school the morning after and learn to write: “Baba Naan Dad” (Father gave me bread). Little did I know how many kids in my school had leftist fathers jailed or executed on Khomeini’s orders.
My wish to quickly learn the alphabet that year never came true. I was born in the wrong place at the wrong time, which meant that a few months into the school year, my beloved (and pregnant) first grade teacher, Maryam, was disappeared. It took a few years for me to recall the word “edam” (execution) and understand what our parents meant when whispering to each other years earlier:
“Teacher Maryam was executed…”
I am an Iranian woman living in exile in the West. I would like to think that I am in a better place now and that the country which has allowed me to express myself freely and to be comfortable with my femininity does not depend on fictions, propaganda, government orders and the fabrication of reality, to portray historic events.
Then I see Michelle Obama present “Argo” with the award for Best Picture, and my illusions come crashing down around me one more time.
For the first time in the history of Hollywood and the Oscars, a member of the White House presented the Oscar while surrounded by American army personnel. It was a powerful illustration of how important it is for the American government to maintain a false image of hostility between the US and the Iranian regime – exactly the kind of antagonistic relationship portrayed in the movie, Argo.
It may appear that Argo makes the Islamic Republic of Iran the villain and the US the innocent victim of radical hatred, but parts of the film spin documented historical facts into fiction:
· First, while Argo portrayed Ayatollah Khomeini as the architect of the revolution, Khomeini and his goons had nothing to do with the people who actually overthrew the Shah’s regime. In fact, in the 1980s at least twenty thousand true revolutionaries were massacred by the murderous Khomeini regime, who highjacked the progressive People’s Revolution with American and Western support. The violent purge dovetailed nicely with the “Green belt” plan conceived by Carter’s aide Zbigniew Brzezinski, who aimed to exploit fundamental Islamist regimes as a counterweight to Soviet power. (Brzezinski’s scheme foreshadowed Western accommodation with political Islam to spread neoliberal economics to the Middle East).
· Second, Khomeini’s regime, unlike what Argo claims, never posed a danger to America. Many documents currently available to the public show that American and Western governments made a deal with Khomeini in Paris for Iranian oil and more before sending him to Iran in order to steal the People’s Revolution in 1979. Later on, America cut further backroom deals with this so-called “enemy”, including postponing the release of American hostages because of an American presidential election – the now-infamous “October surprise.”
For years, the West has portrayed the regime of Iran as a “radical Islamic enemy” in public while making mutually beneficial deals in private with figures who share their fundamental political and economic interests. This keeps the fires going in the Middle East, driving up oil profits and providing growth for American and Israeli military budgets, as well as a convenient bogeyman for the West in the absence of a Soviet competitor.
Meanwhile, the people of Iran live under the very real oppression of monster Mullahs inspired by a medieval theology that is foreign to the kind of Islam traditionally practiced in the region. Their power lies not just in their authoritarian vision, but in their ability to exploit the illusion of an existential clash of civilizations with the West.
Argo does not depict these deals made with Khomeini. Instead, it portrays the Khomeini regime as sincerely “anti-American” – “The Enemy” — reinforcing this long-standing and destructive illusion.
Just like in politics, Hollywood movies demand a familiar bad guy. So who better than the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran? Once a puppet, always a puppet.
The future unfolds
The little exiled girl inside of me still passionately chants for the stolen childhood of my generation and those born after me:
“Down with the murderous Islamic regime of Iran and all its supporters anywhere in this world!”
Lila Ghobady is an exiled Iranian writer-journalist and documentary filmmaker living in California. She has been involved with human rights since working as a journalist in Iran and has continued her work in Canada when she arrived as a refugee in 2002. She has worked as a Producer and associate Director of internationally-praised underground films along fellow exiled filmmaker Moslem Mansouri before leaving Iran. Her recent film Forbidden Sun Dance has been well-received in several countries. As a journalist, she received the title of BlogHer of the Week for her Review piece on Slumdog Millionaire in March 2009. Lila has received her Master’s degree in Canadian/women studies from Carleton University in Ottawa.
Categorised in: Article
This post was written by Lila Ghobady