Sunday, 15 October 2006

It won’t wash

For two weeks, while I was in purdah, working from morning till night, the BBC inundated us with programmes about Iran. The series was called Uncovering Iran, and its aim was to persuade us that we do not have to fear anything from that country and its demented leaders.

It was so depressing: Iran was on the way to becoming a great place, especially for women, and then, pouf!, it reverted to the Dark Ages. I once met a young Iranian writer, whose wealthy family had got out of Iran in 1979. A few months ago, Harpers & Queen (for which she contributes from time to time), published a long article about her ­– complete with rather attractive photos, in which she expressed her love for her country (she was a small child when her family emigrated here) and her immense desire to go back as soon as possible to play her part there. As far as I know, she hasn’t left London, where she leads a life of luxury and is free to do whatever she pleases.

I don’t care how beautiful Iran’s poetry is, how marvellous its art and how articulate and imaginative its writers. The Germany that spawned the Nazis was one of the most ‘civilised’ countries in the world and look what happened! So this blatant and cynical attempt to make us see Iran as a wonderful, civilised country didn’t work on me. I cannot forget that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier who has called for the elimination of Israel and thereby of the rest of the world’s Jews (because what do you think would happen if Israel didn’t exist?). First show me that Iran isn’t a country full of people who want the destruction of my race, then I too might ‘challenge some of the perceptions [I] still hold about this intriguing country’ – as the BBC expects me to – and marvel at its achievements in the arts, etc. Until then I will reserve my admiration for more deserving subjects.

Slap! The name of the Iranian woman mentioned above is Kamin Mohammadi.


  1. Hear, hear! You can't exonerate a nation of its flaws just because of a few pretty poems and a nice-looking girl. (Ok, that was hyperbolic, but the point remains.)

  2. Yep. What you said. All too true.

  3. I've known some lovely Iranians. In England.

    I think blind, unrealistic, ungrateful nostalgia for a place you are not in, is rarely a good thing. A lot of my students are infatuated with the idea of Pakistan because all the times they've been there they weren't in school having me nagging them. Something like that. I thnk it's too easy to miss the point that being in England has a lot going for it too, though I wouldn't be so Euro-centric as to assume England is better, per se.

  4. s.m.s and TLP, I'm glad you agree. :-)

    JvS, that woman is a very nice person but she lacks integrity: if she really thought that Iran was the kind of place she said it was, she should be there by now, regardless of what the situation is like in that country. She can choose not to move back there. Millions of women (and men, I expect) can't get out.

    I don't feel nostalgic about the lands of my forefathers - Russia and Poland. I know they were bad places for them and that's why my parents left, and I know they still are in many ways. I get shivers down my back when I think of those countries.

  5. I think the almost-democratisation of Iran, and the attempt to suppress and ignore their own pre-Islamic Persian past, is one of the saddest things. Before the last election there, people really expected it go in the direction of, say, Turkey, which has also many flaws but you have to admire the way it keeps struggling, against the rising clamour of extremists within, with being an Islamic state where state and faith are kept firmly separate.


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