29 Jun 2009 18:36
From Iran | 29 June 2009
I was nine and we were watching a movie on then-banned VHS. It was a harrowing tale of a woman and her daughter's escape from a savage country. I remember asking my father, "Where is this?" "'Iran,'" he said. I couldn't believe it; the Iran I had grown up in was nothing like that movie, Not Without My Daughter, which painted such a demonized picture of Iran that I couldn't even recognize it.
In later years, while living in London, I found myself explaining my culture to people all the time. Some didn't even have the slightest idea where Iran was. My conversations at the local pub usually went like this, "No, not Iraq -- Iran," or, "No, we don't speak Arabic; we speak Farsi," or even worse, "No, we don't live in a tent!" For some, Iran was summarized in jokes and myths about the "Ayatollahs." It really disturbed me when it occurred to me that the general perception of Iran was not that different from that of Not Without My Daughter.
Ever since the revolution and especially after the hostage crisis, the western media, unconsciously perhaps, pictured Iran as a hostile, threatening country with uncivilized people. The western media were not alone in this; they had an accomplice in the Iranian government, who embraced this villain-ized picture of Iran. To them, the more alienated the world was from the true Iran, the less they cared about what goes on in the country. In fact, it was not until its secret nuclear facilities were discovered that western governments took a real interest in Iran.
I remember September 11, 2001. I remember watching TV all day worried and sad. I remember holding candlelight vigils with my friends for the victims. Then George W. Bush went on to declare us as one of the "Axis of Evil." I remember asking myself, "Why?" Not a single one of the terrorists was Iranian, and I wondered why he didn't bother to make a distinction between the government and the people. In fact, in all of the Middle East I don't think there is a more pro-American nation than Iran, but no one made such a distinction. Consequently, the Iranian people were viewed with an aura of suspicion in every airport and embassy around the world for the rest of the Bush administration.
But all of that unfounded negative stereotyping came to an end when, in the aftermath of the elections, the nation stood up to the manipulative authorities and separated its account from that of the government. We shattered the stereotype with the amateur photos and videos taken with our own mobile phones. We captured the true picture of the Iranian nation and relayed it to the world, a picture of a young and highly educated nation yearning to be free.
Now I must tell the people of the world: Thank you! To the western media: Thank you for believing in us and in our cause. To the drinkers in the pubs of London: Thank you for supporting us and for lending us your voice.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau