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A Nowruz greeting from an Iranian: Our real enemy is ignorance

On the occasion of the Persian New Year, Mehrdad Naderi (pseudonym) pens a letter to Israelis and others calling for unity among mankind, and getting to know one another – despite the ‘fear of the enemy’ fostered and perpetuated by political leaders.

By Mehrdad Naderi

Hello everyone,

I am a 30-year old Iranian, and I want to write and express my feelings toward you. Throughout my life I have witnessed the effects of a religion-based regime that imposed itself on us during the revolution. As a result of the Islamic Revolution, Iranians have had to pay for the many disasters that followed. After the revolution, Saddam Hussein waged an unwanted war against us that caused both sides a great deal of pain. I was born amidst slogans, and grew up within ideologies that were created by leaders to move and mobilized minds and emotions to serve their own purposes. Those who claimed to be the voice of people owned the revolution. They misused their power by established a new dictatorship that was totally opposed to the goals and aspirations of Iranian people. The fundamentalist regime has been trying to make us scared of the enemy, but I and many others have realized that the real enemy is inside our minds. Our real enemy is ignorance. Our enemy is following emotions instead of wisdom.

Dictators, however, neglect the following principle: the search for truth is a natural, God-given instinct inside every individual, a gift. Therefore, when I became an adult, I decided to travel and learn. I was able to meet people and have conversations with them; I lived among both secular and traditional nations. I studied and investigated, and pursued what I believe to be truth and right. In this journey I have been accompanied by many teachers and friends from my own generation. I would like to share some of the main insights I have learned so far.

I learned from Gandhi to be patient and not to harm others, even the supposed enemy. He said: “Whatever you seed in soil then will become a tree.” I learned from Zoroaster to think, to tell and to do the right thing. I learned from Aristotle and Plato to be doubtful of what I see and of what I am told, and not to conclude the truth from images only.

*****

What I see inside Iran is fear of the enemy. Leaders blame them for difficulties and problems in the country; it is the nature of any authoritarian regime to create an enemy in order to prolong its rule. But the people of Iran identified their needs from within. Although the Islamic Republic regime is very conservative, Iranian people became very modern in thought and in action. They fought for years for democratization, and in recent years, their call for rule of the people has influenced the whole region.

However, the outside world also does not seem to have a clear vision about Iran. The Academy-Award winning film Argo is just one recent example that perpetuates an incorrect foreign image of Iran and Iranian history – mainly, the Iranian revolution was not only about establishing Islamic rule and Sharia law. It was also an expression of the fact that Iranian people did not want dictatorship of the Shah (Kingship). Various other groups were involved in the revolution, including socialists, Marxists, nationalists, liberals and of course Islamists; but, later for various reasons, Islamists were simply the most successful, which led them to establish and impose yet another dictatorship.

The outside world’s perception of Iran must be separated from the regime. Iranians have never abandoned their democratic aspirations. This was proved by the disputed election of 2009, and the the Green Movement that followed, which started with peaceful demonstrations and was cruelly suppressed by the regime). Iranians are left living under a radical-totalitarian regime at home, while at the same time they pay the heavy price for that government’s policies, in the form of international sanctions. However, we are hopeful and seek a peaceful democratization process from within, which is the best remedy for every suppressed nation. What we need is the friendly support of other nations on our path.

****

The global village is made up of diverse religions, thoughts and nationalities, and these must not be used as tools for division. By contrast to the past, global citizens wherever they live and whatever belief they possess, now have the capacity to know each other and find common ground. Faith can lead human beings to love others and treat all people equally.

We live in an age that belongs to public opinion. By promoting respect and tolerance for each other, I believe we will gradually find that every human is armed with love toward others. The more we are aware of this love, the more people will say no to authoritarian leaders who exploit the image of differences as a weapon to divide people, for their own interests and gain.

I prefer to view the difference and diversity of people in the world as a symphony created by God. Diversity does not have to mean conflict, but rather it can be a harmony of colors that makes life beautiful to all. The Persian poet Saadi Shirazi wrote a poem seven centuries ago which is on the gate of the United Nations, and it has been sent into space as a message to other planets. Why don’t we use it on earth? Saadi wrote:

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you’ve no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain!

[Translation - M. Aryanpoor]

Let us act for each other, and come to closer. As individuals and as the public we are capable of distributing love and awareness. We are armed with literature, poetry, music, cinema, photography, Internet, media, academies, conferences, NGOs, and with knowledge, knowledge, knowledge.

In conclusion, I would like to wish all a very happy Nowruz (Persian New Year)!

Your brother from Iran,

Mehrdad Naderi

Mehrdad Naderi is an Iranian graduate student currently living outside Iran.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Solon

      “I learned from Zoroaster to think, to tell and to do the right thing.”


      After visiting Iran I too reframed my thinking in accord with Zoroaster:
      Good thoughts
      Good words
      Good deeds
      —-

      “I learned from Aristotle and Plato to be doubtful of what I see and of what I am told, and not to conclude the truth from images only.”

      *****

      Ah, but Mr. Naderi, your next statement indicates that you are overcompensating — the US and Israel ARE assassinating Iranian scientists — Dr. Rashan was only a few years older than you when his life was snuffed out by what was likely a Mossad agent.

      US and Israel ARE attempting to destroy Iran economically– that is no chimera; US and Israel DID plant a destructive virus in an Iranian industrial nuclear facility, violating numerous international laws, and setting a very dangerous precedent.

      —-
      “What I see inside Iran is fear of the enemy. Leaders blame them for difficulties and problems in the country; it is the nature of any authoritarian regime to create an enemy in order to prolong its rule.”

      That may be so, but it is also the primary obligation of a government to ensure the security of its people, and to defend against the unlawful incursions of those who seek to harm the nation and people.

      If you want a secure and sovereign Iran, as I do, best not to rely on the Green movement — as Hillary Mann Leverett and Flynt Leverett argue in “Going to Tehran: Why the US Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Green movement was a candle in the wind.


      I’m afraid I don’t trust you, Mr. Naderi. Methinks you are the 2.0 version of the “Iranian double agent” who speaks at neocon rallies with a bag over his head.

      For Americans truly eager to overcome ignorance about Iran, I recommend Prof. Dan Joyner at http://armscontrollaw.com/; the Leveretts at http://goingtotehran.com/ ; and Iranian-American Nima Shirazi at http://www.wideasleepinamerica.com/
      and http://muftah.org/

      Reply to Comment
      • moshfeq

        Since Naderi is talking about demagoguery and political repression in his home country, I wondered why you consider it valid criticism of him to bring in the assassinations in Iran. After all, by your logic, curtailing of civil liberties in the US since 9/11, and repressive Israeli policies in the OT since suicide bombings, could also be justified. But then you cited your sources of information about Iran & its social movements, namely the Leveretts and N. Shirazi, and the source of your ignorance became obvious. Relying on those characters for information about Iran is as sensible as relying on Richard Perle or Elliott Abrams for the same matter.

        Reply to Comment
        • Solon

          Naderi wrote he learned to be “”doubtful of what I see and am told, and not to conclude the truth from images only.”

          Moshfeq wrote: “why [do] you consider it valid criticism of him to bring in the assassinations in Iran. After all, by your logic, curtailing of civil liberties in the US since 9/11, and repressive Israeli policies in the OT since suicide bombings, could also be justified.”

          Moshfeq names 3 different categories. A strong argument can be made that there is still room to be “doubtful” of the of 9/11 story; was it “Pearl Harbor or Gulf of Tonkin?” Moreover, US pledged to “fight that over there so that we would not have to fight it over here,” yet the US govt has, as you indicated, repressed its own people in response to 9/11. Why is that? I am doubtful of the credibility of US govt. claims & actions.

          Moshfeq writes: “repressive Israeli policies in the OT since suicide bombings …” Israel is by definition a repressive colonizing power in Palestine, and not just since suicide bombings but from at least 1967. Israel acts in violation of international law in controlling the Palestinian people. That is, unlike Iran, which DOES have the obligation to protect and defend its people against incursions such as the assassinations of its young scientists and cyber attacks on its industrial infrastructure, Israel is actively VIOLATING international law and the rights of the Palestinian people by its very presence in the OT.

          In summary: The key issue is consent of the governed. In the first example, it is not yet clear that 9/11 was “what we are told” and “images only;” there is a strong possiblity that “consent of the governed” to the extent it was obtained, was done so through lies. The assassination of Roshan was real and all but admitted by Ronen Bergman in an NBC interview.

          2. Israeli & Israeli governmental presence in and control over Palestinians in OT is in violation of international law; the Palestinian people have not been afforded basic human rights much less the “consent of the governed.”

          Unlike the Palestinians, Iranians have elected their leaders and it is their right to change them as they see fit. Neither US nor Israel are enfranchised to change Iran’s govt to suit US or Israeli interests. As well, Iran’s government has the right and OBLIGATION to defend the Iranian people against attempts by outsiders to kill, destabilize, or overthrow its culture and government.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >Israel acts in violation of international law in controlling the Palestinian people.

            That’s a lie. There is no such law.

            Reply to Comment
          • moshfeq

            Your argument can mostly be summed up by the maxim of every totalitarian state: What’s in the interest of the security state is by definition in the interest of the society. You’re not sure if 9/11 was an inside job or the work of foreign saboteurs, but if it was the latter then the US gov’t is justified in curtailing civil liberties through the Patriot Act and the like. Israel may not be justified in its policies towards the Palestinians in the OT, since that population didn’t vote for that gov’t, but its discriminatory practices inside Israel are not to be questioned, since the majority of Israelis approve of them. Similarly, Hitler’s policies in occupied Europe may have lacked local legitimacy, but given that he rose to power through elections and was quite popular in Austria-Germany at the height of his power, his extermination of German Jews and gassing of the disabled Germans were justified, and any German who objected to those policies at the time must have been an enemy stooge.

            And in a related, though separate, vein, when you state that “Iranians have elected their leaders,” surely you mean the top decision maker and Supreme Leader, Khamenei, who was appointed for life by a group of his clerical associates known as the Assembly of Experts. Or maybe you mean the president, who has to be approved by another group of clerics & Khamenei loyalists, the Guardian Council, before running for the post, not to mention that the most recent presidential election is suspected by many to have been fixed.

            Such logic inevitably leads to Naderi being “the 2.0 version of the “Iranian double agent” who speaks at neocon rallies with a bag over his head.”

            Reply to Comment
    2. AYLA

      thank you for this beautiful letter. –Ayla (in Israel).

      Reply to Comment
    3. Zephon

      You know I always resent the notion of being accused of ignorance when the individual insinuating ignorance is ignorant to who is actually ignorant. Implying we’re ignorant or they are ignorant; is in itself an obnoxious conversation to have.

      It would have been more helpful if the man provided at least some references to all the issues he highlighted.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        You need some reference strictly due to your ignorance.

        Go, burn another Israeli flag. Inhaling it’s fumes might make you smarter.

        Reply to Comment
    4. bk

      Thanks for your thoughts Mehrdad. The only thing I would add for you is that Newroz is celebrated by non-Persians as well (Kurds, Azeris, Georgians, Armenians, and others).

      Newrroz pirozbe!

      Reply to Comment
    5. “I prefer to view the difference and diversity of people in the world as a symphony created by God.” : There are statements in the Qur’an which support this (and statements which do not).

      ‘I learned from Gandhi to be patient and not to harm others, even the supposed enemy. He said: “Whatever you seed in soil then will become a tree.” ‘ : This is a very difficult path to actualize. To hit back gives an apparent immediate effect. This path requires one to perhaps grow old and die without knowing if one’s refusal to destroy has positive consequence. Perhaps as much faith here as in salvation.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Arieh

      A nice person, I wish him well. Alas, he is a minority. Very minute minority. So the rest of us have to be practical about defending ourselves and our families from those amongst his people who are not just imaginary haters. You know … the ones who “somehow” succeeded in hijacking the Iranian revolution and created a tyranny …

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        We’ve had a fair bit of hijacking in Israel too, Aryeh. And a fair bit of ignorance about what is going on around us. That ignorance is really the fact that we cannot but fall victim to the explanations of “experts” in a country in which information and education is narrow and strictly controlled.

        There’s no real reason to suppose Mehrdad Naderi is a minority. There’s no reason to suppose Israelis are mostly pro-occupation either.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Since there is no occupation de-jure, Israelis technically can’t be mostly pro-occupation.

          Reply to Comment
    7. David

      “Iranians are left living under a radical-totalitarian regime at home…”

      Surely you mean reactionary, not radical.

      Reply to Comment

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