When does living in a colony look better than life in an independent nation? An Iranian American woman, educated in the West and now living in Tehran with her two children, is rooting for the United States in its war in Iraq.
TEHRAN, Iran--Why do I support the war in Iraq as I did the one in Afghanistan? Because it scares the hell out of the Muslim fundamentalists, my number one enemies here.
Living in the United States for the past 20 years, I found it easy to define my politics. I was a pro-choice, anti-war, anti-nukes Democrat. I demonstrated at the United Nations for Nelson Mandela and in Boston for Roe v. Wade. I have always been pro-Palestinian. Easy choices for a slightly left-leaning feminist. But now I am in my 40s, back in Iran, my country of origin, and I find myself for the first time on the side of my old enemies: the boys at the Pentagon.
My younger cousin disappeared a few days ago. When we finally reached him, he told us that a party he had been attending had been raided and he was forced to spend the night in jail. Because of the presence of girls and booze at the party, he had been sentenced to 70 lashes of the whip. I know a woman whose husband refuses to grant her a divorce even though he has taken a second wife. The newspaper I read has been shut down three times in five months for expressing mild criticism of nepotism in the government. Those students and journalist who have dared to speak out against the government are mostly in jail.
As I write this piece, my mother is loudly protesting that I, a mother of two, should not engage in this kind of activity. Here, repression is not something you read about in books -- you feel it in your bones.
When you live under the fear that any of your simple gatherings may be raided, when you have to veil yourself before you step into the street, when you need to show your husband's notarized permission in order to travel, when you see rampant corruption, mismanagement of resources and institutionalized hypocrisy and when you witness the ubiquitous hopelessness in the faces of your country's youth, you change. There is no room for cultural relativism, so popular in the city cafes and universities of the West, when your basic rights are denied. Freedom is a universal need, not a Western concept.
From where I am sitting -- a woman, and thus not considered fit enough to be a full witness in the court of law, a writer afraid to write, a wife who needs permission to travel, a mother whose children can be taken away from her -- anyone who fights this kind of totalitarianism is a good guy. Here, unlike in Berkeley or Cambridge, you are not a Muslim by choice, but by force. Here, democracy means a choice between one cleric and another.
How can a thinking woman or any minority or a secular-minded human being have any sense of nationalism toward a state that marginalizes and oppresses her as a way of defining itself?
So what if President Bush is going to war for oil. No superpower is a Florence Nightingale. Throughout history, major powers have had their own self-interest at heart when going to war. What is important is that we in these parts of the world who live under oppressive regimes that terrorize us before they terrorize the world, we women especially, badly need the help of the West to curb these fanatics' fascistic dreams.
What does this government's independence from the West mean to a woman like me, when it denies me my basic human rights? What worth is a sovereignty that uses its newly found independence to oppress its own people? I personally would rather have individual freedom in a colony than be miserably oppressed in an "independent" nation. This "sovereignty" is only for the men in power. It has no benefit for us women, nor for anyone who is not a Muslim fundamentalist.
When women are forbidden from singing in public, when you can be whipped for drinking a beer and tortured for expressing an opinion, what does it matter if you are being ruled by fellow countrymen? Would we fault the Jews in Hitler's Germany if they preferred to live under a more just but foreign rule?
I have heard many people here -- students, artisans, taxi drivers, moderate members of Parliament -- say they want a war against Iraq because it would weaken the theocrats in Iran. When I asked one taxi driver about his fears of American imperialist intentions, he said, "It is better to be ruled by dogs than by these Mullahs."
From the point of view of those of us living a suffocating life under a terrorist regime, the war against Iraq seems like a good thing. I would hate to have my hometown bombed and civilians killed, but American Marines in these streets I will welcome. Sometimes freedom has to be gained "by any means necessary." We who live under these regimes are as scared and powerless to rid ourselves of them as the Jews in Germany were of the Nazis. We need the good guys to liberate us.
Shahla Azizi is a pen name.