Ebrahim Nabavi: Letter to Hussein
by EBRAHIM NABAVI
08 Nov 2009 22:31
[ satire ] Author's note: Hussein is my cousin, who left Iran for America thirty years ago. I have not heard from him since; he's become an American. Any semblance between Cousin Hussein and Barack H. Obama is purely coincidental.
My dear cousin! I yearn to send you this letter, but I don't have your email or postal address. Your mother says you wish to go to Iran because you've heard "everything is changing" there. This vexes me; I advise you to heed my letter before deciding to open an office in Tehran or signing anything with legal relations in Iran; I think you should have an idea what's going on in the country!
Iran has changed since you left thirty years ago. It has changed even from ten years ago when you last visited, back when Clinton wanted to talk to Khatami. It's perhaps more accurate to say things are different even from four years ago when Ahmadinejad became president and proposed to wipe Israel off the map. Better even to say the situation is different from a year ago when Obama took office in the United States.
Let me be precise: things have changed since Ahmadinejad made his fifth trip to New York a month or so ago.
Listen, believe me when I say that the situation in Iran is different from even a couple weeks ago, when Iran and the US were due to conclude an agreement in Vienna.
Ten days ago, the people of Iran were calling for the administration to resign, but by Wednesday [Nov. 4] they were shouting that the Supreme Leader had to step down.
Please don't come to Iran just now. Wait, and let me look out the window to see if the government has changed or not -- I think the [political] situation may have shifted since last night.
It is on account of these changes that I entreat you to consult with me before making any decisions regarding Iran, whether you want to stay away, like in the last thirty years, or decide to stay, like Hugo Chavez, who returns to Caracas only for the holidays.
If you are unable to contact me, you may telephone any Iranian in Tehran, who can keep you up to speed on the latest changes within the past 24 hours. You may not believe me, but since an hour ago when I began writing this letter, the rate of inflation jumped by three percent, and the number of political prisoners went up by 60!
Allow me to recap a few important shifts that have occurred so you'll get a grasp of the extent of the change I speak of. Until a year ago, when elections were held in Iran, vote-tallying was first done, then poll results were announced. But six months ago, the government announced the election results first and counted the votes half a day later.
Until a year ago, the government urged people to come to the streets on Qods Day and chant "Death to Israel," but this year, the government tried to prevent people from coming to the streets to chant "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life is for Iran," and jailed them when they did.
Until recently, the clergy were a respected class, and "hoodlums and hooligans" were arrested by police; now, such thugs work alongside the police while clerics are arrested.
Until last year, a woman who was sexually violated would report to police, and the police would incarcerate the offender; but presently, assailants cooperate with the police to detain women and rape them in prison.
Until a year ago, the government encouraged people to attend Friday Prayers; but this year, police attacked people at Friday Prayers with tear gas, and jailed them.
For thirty years on Nov. 4, the government bussed schoolchildren out to demonstrations, to stomp on the American flag and set fire to it, while chanting "Death to America." But this year, the government unleashed violence against all the people who took to the streets on Nov. 4 to trample underfoot the pictures of the Supreme Leader and the President, while chanting "Obama, Obama -- [you're] either with us or with them!"
In general, I want to say nothing is the same in Iran. People in Iran have changed, too. For example, if twenty years ago someone went to prison they were suspicious characters. But today people distrust anyone who hasn't gone to prison, because all the solid types are jailed at least once!
Even objects have taken on new roles. A year ago, tear gas was used to dispel protesters by causing their eyes to sting; now a tear gas canister is hurled at the face of a cleric leader of the opposition [Mehdi Karroubi]. Previously, people appeared before cameras to bask in the limelight; now people caught by intelligence cameras land in jail. Before, soda bottles were used to drink from; now they are inserted into the rectums of detainees.
I don't intend to convey to you that the human rights situation is terrible in Iran, and I'm not sure if the term "human rights" is important to you at all. I just wanted to say that in Iran, things have changed drastically. That's why I want you to take note of these changes before making any decisions. You can speak to the people for yourself to see what's happening. Do not listen to the reports of official state news agencies in Iran, because those reports are like bikinis, they show everything, except the foremost parts.
I wish you a green day,
Ebrahim Nabavi is a prominent Iranian satirist, currently living in Belgium. In Iran, he wrote for a number of publications, including the high-profile satirical weekly Gol Agha and the daily column Sotun-e Panjom (Fifth Column) for Jame'eh.