If you happen to have grown up in the west, you are certainly familiar with the horror that was the holocaust. You would know about how the Jews were singled out by the Nazis, how they were demonized, how Nazi propaganda dehumanized them, and ultimately you would know that millions of innocent Jews were killed.
As an Iranian who came of age in the west, I abhorred the countless atrocities committed against the Jews under the Nazi regime. I couldn’t understand how an entire group of people could be castigated and treated in that way.
My parents did their best to keep me in touch with my Iranian background and culture, and I came to love being Iranian, despite the fact that in school I had to put up with labels like “terrorist”, “paki” and other slurs. I also came to love my adopted home and people.
The actions of the revolutionary radicals that founded the so-called Islamic Republic after the 1979 revolution stigmatized all Iranians. Images of angry mobs pumping their fists into the air and chanting slogans against America and the west became staples for western mainstream media consumption. And this follows to this day. We are talking about 33 years of non-stop incessant dehumanization of the Iranian people–associating Iranians with the radicalism of the fascists that have held them hostage all these years.
There are millions of Iranians who left Iran after the revolution. For the most part they have lived quiet lives, blending into their newly adopted home countries and contributing positively to their societies. They have refrained from involvement in politics mostly because of the stigma I mentioned earlier.
In 2009, for the first time in 30 years, thanks to the availability of technologies that let people share what was happening inside Iran, in real-time, people around the world saw millions of Iranians rise up and ask a simple question: “Where is my vote?” This was after the incumbent Ahmadinejad was announced as the winner in a highly disputed presidential election outcome. Had it not been for cellphone cameras, Twitter and YouTube, very little would likely have gotten out about what was happening there. In fact, this was the prelude to what became known as the “Arab Spring”, when two years after the Iran election uprising we saw Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria all follow suit with their own anti-dictatorial uprisings, with varying degrees of success.
The 2009 uprising in Iran changed the narrative on Iran. No longer would western media just show angry mobs pumping their fists chanting anti-American and anti-western slogans and paint the entire nation of people with one brush. They had to be more nuanced–separating the Iranian people from the radical regime. Or so I thought….
Also, for millions of people around the world, who now trust news they source themselves through social media over the talking points from bobble-heads in the mainstream media, this heralded a new era–one in which individuals are more empowered and informed. An era where individuals in different countries–like Iran, Israel and the United States, can communicate with each other, bypassing their seemingly crazed politician, many of whom seem intent on taking their respective peoples into another catastrophic, unnecessary war.
Iran is now in the cross-hairs again. And shockingly, the same lazy, fear-based hype is being hawked as news.
Even as I write, I have CNN on the TV in the background, and they are repeatedly trumpeting a story claiming hundreds–perhaps thousands–of Iranian Hezbullah operatives are in the U.S. and that there is a fear in various government and law-enforcement circles that they may “do something bad” (I’m paraphrasing). And what are they showing?
Angry mobs pumping their fists into the air…. stock footage that has nothing to do with even the conjecture-based report they are touting.
On CNN alone, this so-called report has been presented by Wolf Blizter, Erin Burnett and Brooke Baldwin. I am told the same purely conjecture-based story has been on FOX and other U.S. networks as well.
And this gets me back to Nazi propaganda against the Jews. and why I brought it up. This propaganda was used as the basis to justify the actions that ultimately led to the holocaust. The propaganda against the Jews made it okay for the Germans and Europeans to hate them. I am not suggesting that CNN and other outlets are gunning for a holocaust against Iranians. I am saying that what they are doing leads to hate. And this hate can lead to indifference towards Iranians being killed.
I wonder how the many peace-and-freedom loving Iranians today feel about reports like the one I mentioned above. All this fear-based so-called analysis, pointing the finger at Iranians and raising the specter of some kind of an attack–I wonder if this is how some Jews may have felt when the Nazis started ratcheting up the propaganda against them, stigmatizing them and alienating them from their German compatriates.
There is a lot of hatred being generated towards Iran and Iranians.
I am not saying these things in jest. Nor am I making light of what happened to the Jews under the Nazis. With all this talk of a pre-emptive attack on the land where I was born, purportedly being justified under completely dubious charges and premises, there is a tangible risk that many Iranians will be killed. The war-mongers that want to attack Iran are talking about bombing nuclear facilities–as if this won’t impact the Iranian people. Are we to believe this won’t potentially kill thousands of Iranians? Or are we just not supposed to care because, hey, look, they are pumping their fists in the air on CNN, chanting slogans?
We know that the most conservative estimates of the number of Iraqis killed in the unjust war started in 2003, on similar dubious charges as those being leveled against Iran, are in the range of 100,000 people. There are other estimates of the death count that are much higher than that. Think about it: 100,000 people–men, women and children–dead. Because of an unjust war. Think about the number of Americans who lost their lives in that war.
War has tremendous costs associated with it–costs that are paid in blood and treasure for the generation that waged the war, and costs born by their children, grand-children, and even great-grand-children.
For 33 years Iranians have tried to duck and cover, while they have been smeared and stereotyped. The now face the real prospect of a war that has the potential to escalate and drag much of the world into conflict and untold misery.
I think it’s enough. I think it’s time for the people of Iran and Israel and the United States to talk to one and other. Know each other. Make friends with each other. It’s time to tell our politicians we don’t want another war. Its time to hold our media to a higher standard.
In this spirit, I admire the initiative of Ronny Edry, an Israeli citizen who decided to reach out to Iranians and let them know that he is not afraid of them, he does not hate them. His message was parlayed in a simple poster he posted to Facebook, showing himself and his daughter with the words, “Iranians – we will never bomb your country – we love you” (the “love” being in the form of a heart in the poster). The simplicity and beauty of the message has caused it to go viral.
As an Iranian, I can attest to the fact that Iranians and Jews have lived side-by-side in relative peace for about 2500 years. We are friends and we are neighbors. We do not need the politicians to affirm our history and our friendship.
Let us affirm our friendship, at the ground level. I support Ronny’s initiative. Please watch this video, and if you agree with the message, please help spread it far and wide by sharing it, and by reaching out to one and other as citizens of the world.
Our destinies need not be bound by the political hatreds, fears, and squabblings.