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
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 is an Iranian graduate student currently living outside Iran.