Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Why Iranians don't take either side of U.S. vs Iraq war?

On September 11, 2001, I was in the central prison of Tehran when Twin Towers collapsed and the Great Event of the beginning of the 21st Century took place. Not only me whose sin was an insult to the Leader of Islamic Republic in one of my articles and writing articles willing the resumption of relationship with America, there were four other journalists sentenced for the same sin of writing similar articles. On the day after September 11, most of us and the majority of prisoners in the dreadful Evin prison, when in the small yard of the prison talked about the twenty two years when the occupation of American Embassy and Americans taken hostage in Tehran was the most important news of the whole world. The prisoners talked with dread about the collapse of Twin Towers and asked us whether Iranian extremists could have a role in that Event.

There was no reason for the dread that Iranians felt in those days, not because they did not have a role in that event, but because among Islamic nations, none were sympathizing as much as Iranians with those who lost their lives in that event. These days when America and Britain have once again dispatched their military forces to the Middle East and many of peace lovers of the world are protesting against American and British military attack at Iraq, what the young generation of Iran are mostly saying is that at least in this way Iraq and her neighbors will get rid of Sadam Hussein.

Not only my son who is studying in New York and who rushed to Manhattan an hour after the Event of Twin Towers to take a film, but the majority of the children of a generation of Iranians who climbed the walls of American Embassy in Tehran in 1980, such as Samira Makhmalbaf who made a short film on the event of September 11, have no enmity with Americans and in their view, America is not that Devil whose death should be demanded and whose flag burnt down.

Last year, when American and British military forces attacked Afghanistan, Iranian youths watched the humiliating defeat of the reactionary fundamentalism of Taliban and the flight of the heads of Alghaedeh jollily. For all these years, they have been involved in fighting fanaticism in schools, streets and sometimes in their homes. Taliban and Alghaedeh represented that dark image of Islam that had never been manifested in Iranian Shiitism, but signs of interest in it were seen in some of the extremist clergies and political groups.

A month after September 11, when despite the fundamentalists' protest, a group of Iranian youth dared to gather in one of the squares in the north region of Tehran where one finds many expensive boutiques and shops, holding candles in their hands and praying for the peace of the souls of the victims, B.B.C journalist in Tehran said, 'there is no longer any evidence for claiming the young generation of Iran to be the same as that of twenty three years ago who considered America as "Great Satan" in the same way as Americans are now compelled to see the differences between Iranians and Arabs of the Middle East and should take caution in using extremist terms against Iranians.

In the past twenty four days all the slogans and talks mentioned in the speeches of the ecclesiastics and authorities of Islamic Republic were the same and it was only a short time before Jack Straw's trip to Tehran in spring of 2002 when these slogans disappeared, and the huge anti-American paintings on the walls of Tehran were wiped out that the young generation of Iran who demands a better life similar to those of their American and European peers increased their pressure on the religious rulers. Now watching films and TV programs on satellite and exchanging the latest CDs of Western Pop music makes the main part of conversations of Iranian adolescents at schools and universities.

The peak of anti-American hysteria occurred on September 4, 1980. Sixty eight thousand American military men had escaped Iran via an air bridge made hurriedly following Shah's flee from Iran. On that day, students who called themselves followers of Ayatolah Khomeini's path climbed up the walls of American embassy in Tehran and by occupying the embassy situated in the central part of Tehran, created one of the greatest news events of the closing two decades of the 20th Century. For 444 days, they kept 50 Americans as their prisoners and discharged them only when they managed to prevent the re-election of President Carter with their measure. This year on the anniversary day of that event, Abas Abdi, the leader of the students who occupied American embassy in Tehran was put in jail. His condemnation was preparation of a poll that showed that the majority of Iranians welcome the resumption of relationship with US.

After the victory of the Islamic revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, one of the most ardent enemies of the United States invited the leaders of anti-US guerrilla groups from all over the world to Tehran, and through an organization, headed by his son, gave them moral and material support. He was ayatollah Hossainali Montazeri who was later chosen as the deputy leader of the Islamic Republic.

Mohammad Montazeri, his son, together with Ayatollah Beheshti, the powerful anti-American revolutionary were killed in an act of terrorism and it is now years since the Ayatollah himself has been removed from his position and is under siege in his own home.

Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president of Islamic Republic elected in those hot days of hostage taking, giving his speech on the first anniversary day of occupation of American embassy on the Balcony of the occupied embassy for the crowd shouting 'Death to America" while the American hostages were fearfully listening to his speech in the corners of their cells never succeeded in completing the four years of his presidency. He too was removed from office and has been living in Paris as in exile since twenty one years ago.

The small left political groups and Iranian Communist Party who had been the greatest supporters of the students who occupied US embassy and prepared the first public protest against America and in favor of hostage taking were imprisoned group after group in subsequent liquidations and hundreds of them were executed.

One of the most popular organizations of this kind, Mojahedin Khalgh, settled in Iraq since twenty years ago assassinating the second president, the first head of legislative power, the second prime minister and a large group of MPs and clergies from all over the country, lost thousands of its members and supporters in the prisons of the county by the verdict of Mullahs. For taking refuge in Sadam, the first enemy of Iran, this group lost their popularity in the eyes of Iranians and has been enjoying the support of some members of American Congress in the recent years. Mojahedi Khalgh had also killed several American officers in the reign of the past regime and considered it as one of their magnum opus for years.

In the midst of the days when Americans were taken prisoners in their own embassy the war started with the attack of Iraq army at several Iranian airports and cities near the border. In the fourth anniversary of the War, the ecclesiastics submitted to a deal with American government for the purpose of buying military equipment needed for the war fronts whose uncovering as "Iran gate" made Ronald Regan's government to face the greatest crises of its term. In Iran, Mehdi Hashemi one of the intimate persons to Ayatollah Montazeri who disclosed the case was put in jail and executed later.

Last year, following the explosion of World Trade Centers in New York and the suicidal attack of the high-jacked passenger plane at Pentagon, American forces invaded Afghanistan and with the help of Iran reached their goal. The foreign minister of Iran was the first to congratulate Karzai's government in Kabul for the defeat of Taliban and foundation of the new state and Iranian government approved of allocation of a two hundred and fifty million dollars aid for renovation of Afghanistan. Last month, Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful man of Iran announced that without Iranian help, America and his allies could not accomplish such a victory in Afghanistan. Taliban who is a fundamentalist group manifested their enmity toward Shiite Iran from the first days that they seized power in Kabul and two years before the attack of American forces and their allies at Afghanistan, Iranian military forces arranged themselves along the eastern border for an attack at Taliban who had beheaded four Iranian diplomats. In those days, Western countries and particularly America showed no interest in an Iranian military attack at Taliban.

Among the great changes occurring in the relationship of Iran with the world, one was the fall of Soviet Union in the north of Iran, that was prophesized two years before it by Ayatollah Khomeini in a letter to Michael Gorbachov. In jubilation over the fall of the capital of the world communism, Iran was in the same front with America, for communism was the oldest enemy of Islam.

In the fall of Taliban too, Iranians jubilated and now when they see their old enemy Sadam Hussein under the pressure exerted by the West, there is no reason to hide their contentment, but despite all these common interests, the leaders of Islamic Republic prefer to present America as the great enemy of Islam in their daily slogans. They have their own reasons for that, they can not rule without an enemy, but Iranian youths do not need any enemies.

In the past twenty four years, American governments too have not given up their antagonistic attitude toward the religious government of Iran. Last year, President Bush called Iran as one of the members of the evil axis and recently whether Iranian ex-queen, or Gugush, the most popular Iranian singer who just recently managed to leave the country and go on the scene again had difficulty in obtaining American visa. Abas Kiarostami, the well known Iranian director when wanted to go to US on the invitation of New York Universtity to receive a prize for his well received film confronted a No from American consul in Paris. Many anti-government Iranians with American and British and Swedish passports in their pockets had to wait for hours in American airports to be fingerprinted merely because their place of birth had been an Iranian city.

Last month, in a pre-planned attack, thousands of Iranians were detained by Federal Police with some being deported from the county. Reports show that the detainees were mistreated, but when it was decided to do the same with American journalists in Tehran, that is to have them fingerprinted, Iranian journalists seriously protested against such a measure. Most of these journalists are those who wrote ardent articles twenty two years ago when American embassy was occupied, praising the decision of the students who occupied the embassy, but now in harmony with the rest of people, they are demanding the government to start negotiations with America.

One of the protesting Iranian journalists who has settled in America for some times now calls the rule of Mullahs reactionary and backward in his New-Yorkian notes and believes that the religious government has really fooled Iranians. Majid Majidi has recently written a fiction story in his New-Yorkian notes with the subject of the leader of Islamic Republic being tried in the International Court of Laheh; defending his case, the leader says that he had been against many of the extremist measures, but had been afraid of expressing it.

Iran American relationships that started about hundred years ago has had no fruit except pain for Iranians, but they still hold alive the memory of Basckervil, the American teacher of American school in Tabriz at the beginning of 20th century who joined Iranian constitutionalists, while after CIA's coup against Mosadegh's state in 1953, many Iranians were executed in the prisons on the charge of protest against America.

In recent years the opposite has been the case, that is those who are now imprisoned are those whose charge is their favorable position toward the resumption of relationship with America, with me in the bottom of their list bearing three months of imprisonment for writing an article in which I suggested that we should negotiate with Americans and obtain our assets blocked in American banks.

I wrote in an article that nearly throughout the 20th century and during the reign of the last monarchy, Iranians were busy making love in the dark with Americans bringing them no fruit except loss and now it is about a quarter of a century that they are busy showing enmity toward Americans in the dark. Hasn't yet the time come for the two countries to negotiate under the light? It seems that the fall of Sadam Hussein and the foundation of a pro-American regime in Iraq, with Karzai's government ruling Afghanistan under the protection of American forces, will compel Iranian government to surrender to Iranians' will. Particularly because the recently freed governments in the north of Iran have invited American and European companies for extraction of their oil and gas resources and Iran can not continue with her anti-American slogans in the midst of all these friends of America.

Despite all this history of ups and downs, Chris Paten who will go to Tehran in two weeks as the foreign commissary of European Union to talk over the subject of continuation of trade relationships between Iran and Europe will see that more than being interested in any kind of antagonism against America, Iranian people are busy in their struggle against the extremists, with some of them thinking like Ben Ladin and some coming from the land where Sadam is and are members of Iraqui party Aldaveh that opposes the reformist movement in Iran. Even though many Iranians know that American and British military forces are now gathered in the western borders of Iran, their main apprehension is lest the war of these forces with Sadam Hussein would make some sparks to fall on the straw houses of Iranians. Nevertheless, in Iran nobody is against the war with Iraq, even if it is over the issue of oil.