TitleAn iranian letter to american president

You are Iranian President Obama! aren’t you?

17 Dec 2012

■ Mahmud Farjami
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Dear Mr. President,

A few months before the U.S. presidential elections of 2008, many of us Iranians would say “Yup… I knew it from the beginning… of course he is secretly an Iranian…” while referring to you!

Most didn’t know this claim’s origin, not even the editors of the conservative Kayhan daily who published it as an exposé. Indeed it was a hoax, published on iTanz, a satirical Persian website. And it was invented by an Iranian satirist – me!

You know, inventing a successful hoax has its own rules. Rule number one is to be a bit paradoxical: people accept unacceptable-but-likable stories easily.

Many Iranians liked you and they still do up to this day. This is the testimony of someone who anxiously followed the news on Election Day from thousands of miles away, someone who jumped up in the air upon hearing the results.

And it was the same story four years ago, when you were elected as the President of the United States. Many Iranians were excited and celebrated your victory. We thought good things were to come. In a way, we considered you one of us. I even suspect that Iranians with anti-American sentiments were rooting for you. Kayhan, the supreme leader’s mouthpiece that fell for the Iranian Obama hoax, framed you as the underdog who was about to be overrun by the “establishment”. In this sense, you even had the support of the conservatives in Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad stated right before your election: “THEY wouldn’t let a black person to be elected”. Well yes, he seriously thinks the American electoral system is as good as the Iranian, where a “they” would decide the results of the election. For the conservatives, everything ended with your election; they probably concluded that you yourself were one of “them”. But for us, the majority of Iranians, you were still one of “us”.

Hence, in the aftermath of the 2009 elections, feeling being inadequately supported by your government, we chanted “Obama, are you with us or with them”. As you may know, Obama in Farsi means “he is with us”. And it’s absolutely possible that your wise ancestors chose this name with our situation in 2009 in mind! Oh well, we Iranians are a strange and simplistic people, I often heard people say about us, even more so since, like several hundreds of thousands of others , I was forced to leave Iran. The last time was when I was celebrating your reelection, a non-Iranian friend was puzzled by the fact that it was me who, only a few days before, tried to explain to him how the unprecedented economic sanctions by your government managed to plummet the Iran money exchange rate to one half, and thus made access to vital medications impossible to the people who needed them most. And here I was, fixed to the TV screen showing your campaign HQ, joyfully repeating “that’s it,… that is it”. My friend, in rather impolite words, pointed out how strange and simplistic Iranians were, adding that “I could imagine how shit Romney was”. He was probably right on both counts, and certainly right on one.

We Iranians live with ambivalent feelings, and we often die with them. Every year we spend billions of dollars on a pilgrimage to Mecca or partying in Dubai, and at the same time consider ourselves the superior race, suffering at the hands of “locust-eating Arabs”. And by locust we mean shrimps, which we delightfully have on our tables whenever we can, and consider a sign of opulence. We believe human civilization has started in Persia, and that all good things started in our homeland, and we consider ourselves the most righteous and brightest of all. And yet we bicker constantly about the virtues of the “the outside(-world)”, which could be anywhere from the easternmost islands of Japan to the westernmost states of America. Spend five minutes in a taxi and the conversation inevitably veers toward how things are different “outside” and how there human life is highly valued, honest work is respected, people are responsible, that there is democracy, that there no one throws his waste on the streets and alcohol is consumed in a social and responsible manner. Oh, and by the way, we buy alcohol at a pharmacy, and share our taxis with strangers, much like a bus. Well, yes, we are a bit strange.

But of course it is not us alone, you have done strange things too. Like exacting your revenge about Mr. Ahmadinejads words and acts on the Iranian people, while knowing fully well that at least since 2009 he does not represent the Iranian public. The Iranians’ hatred of him probably surpasses yours or anyone else’s, including Mr. Nethanyahu’s. In the case of Mr. Netanyahu, Ahmadinejad helped more than harmed him when he made stupid remarks about Zionism. “A world without Israel” gave Israel the perfect pretext to rally international support. It is well known that Iranian youth have more important things on their minds than Israel, and as for the elder generation, all they remember of the Israelis are the hot girls. But of course these facts will not garner financial and military aid; a “third Reich” is a necessity, and Ahmadinejad happily provided a caricature of it.

Mr. Netanyahu can do what he pleases, but you, Mr. president, won the Nobel peace prize. And while we are on the subject of the Nobel peace prize, I must say I find it interesting that only four hours after the announcement that the European Union was the winner, a new round of sanctions against Iran was imposed. I hope that they, as well as you, recognize that Iran is not just Ayatollah Khamenei (by the way, he is not an ayatollah; he was declared as such overnight to enable him to claim the role of supreme leader), President Ahmadinejad (again, he is not the president, he was appointed overnight by order of the ayatollah), and the Revolutionary Guards (who in fact are not an army but a gargantuan armed economic cartel), as much as I hope you and the EU – as well as the Nobel selection committee – know what the Nobel peace prize means.

Anyway, I digressed so much that I almost forgot the purpose of this letter. A young female relative of ours is battling with blood cancer. Thanks to the sanctions, chemotherapy medications have not been available for a long time, and even anesthetics for routine surgery are replaced by Chinese products that can easily put you under, but there is no telling where and how you come back. This young patient is in need of care. Do you have a heart to order your administration to issue three visas for her and her parents? Ahmadinejad got 160 visas for his entourage last time he came to the States. If settling scores with Ahmadinejad requires further sanctions, would your Excellency agree to think of them as much as you did of the Ahmadinejad clique, and issue visas for them too? After all, what’s three more visas to you?

With Regards,
Mahmud Farjami

Tehran Review
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