Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A foreword to Hedayat's البعثة الاسلامیه الی البلاد الافرنجیه

Unauthorized translation of Amir Sepehr's foreword to Sadegh Hedayat's...

البعثة الاسلامیه الی البلاد الافرنجیه


Though it may seem that Iranian society is brimming with thinkers, the truth is that during these150 years that we regard as a period of awakening, we’ve had fewer than a dozen individuals worthy of the name. The idea, believed by some, that our society is filled with intellectuals is a misunderstanding and simply false. In our society the term “intellectual” has become so devalued and hollowed that anyone who gets himself a university degree or writes a cookbook or a few aimless lines of poetry is regarded as an “intellectual”, even as these have little to do with intellectualism.

One would have hoped that after the events of 79 our people would realize that the clan known as intellectuals are far less competent in understanding the problems of our society and in choosing the right course than the ordinary people on the street, but unfortunately it did not turn out that way and today, once again, from what we read we gather that our society possesses thousands of intellectuals, thinkers, philosophers and scholars! Very few are troubled by the inconvenient fact that a people with so many intellectuals would hardly find itself under the most backward, bloodthirsty theocratic regime at the dawn of the third millennium. On the other hand, a nation whose “intellectuals” don’t know that the foundation of a theocratic regime cannot be democratic, who follow Mullahs and start Islamic Revolutions, will naturally have a “Supreme Leader of Moslems”-regime, and repulsive and medieval laws such on stoning and human dismemberment.

The harm caused to our country and people by this ignorant clan did reach a climax in 79, but then again, in every move and decision for at least the past one hundred years these “intellectuals” have been on the wrong side. The level of understanding of this stupid and backward clan is so low, and these fake “thinkers” are so ignorant of matters of political philosophy that far from learning from their own mistakes they’ve repeated them a number of times. Their ink on thousands of articles extolling and worshipping Mullah Khatami, and in defense of “secular law in the framework of religious law”, has yet to dry.

All their thoughts too for the past fifty years have been concerned with mourning and chest beating for the “1953 coup”. They will not admit that if from that so-called coup there eventually emerged the literacy corps, the health corps and land distribution, their own “revolution” in 1979 replaced these progressive and people-based initiatives with “the committee concerned with sins” and the revolutionary and Islamic law courts that until today have sacrificed the lives of more than a million Iranians, a revolution that destroyed the fruits of at least two hundred years of civil struggle, one that has led to an entire generation’s seeking foreign asylum and unconditional acceptance of a refugee status, and one that has forced innumerable Iranians to sell themselves or their own organs. At a time when France (the cradle of democracy) and Britain (with 800 years of experience in democracy) remain unable to find substitutes for the likes of Sartre, de Beauvoir and Russell, we comfort ourselves that each day the number of our thinkers is increased by a thousand, and are impressed to find “intellectuals” in every nook and corner.

In reality, the political problems of Iran are not the result of either the cluelessness or the treachery of our “intellectuals”, but of the lack of actual intellectuals. If one hundred years ago alert and responsible intellectuals such as Akhundzadeh, Kermani, Taleb Tabrizi, Ehtesham ol-Saltaneh and a few others were able, by their understanding of the land they lived in and through illumination, to lead a backward and illiterate population to secularism and a progressive revolution like the constitutional revolution, seventy years later another group, who had no other expertise other than spying for foreign states and vilifying the Shah, led a people a thousands times more educated and modern than the constitutional generation into the trap of Mullahs and an ultra reactionary regime. It is regrettable that after the constitutional movement the subject known as enlightenment practically disappeared and our intelligentsia closed shop, so that from the constitutional period to the present we’re at a loss to name a single conscientious intellectual, who felt his or her responsibilities in enlightening the people. After the constitutional period, whatever there was, it was either guerilla intellectualism and the glorification of destruction, or attempts to Islamize the scientific study of the individual, neither of which was useful for our society.

Nevertheless there were a few exceptions in this one hundred year period, but not of the level and stature of those first intellectuals. Seyed Hassan Taghizadeh, Ali Dashti, Mohamad Taghi Bahar, and Ahmad Kasravi, who interestingly enough were all former Mullahs, are members of this group. Although Sadegh Hedayat can too be considered a member of this group, one cannot liken Hedayat to these exceptional individuals.

For Hedayat may be the exceptional figure throughout Iranian history, and for the past one hundred years, an exception among exceptions; a learned individual who remains matchless to this date. He was a modern intellectual par excellence. He not only knew Iranian and Eastern culture, history and philosophy, but was also in touch with the modern world and the historical-philosophical changes then taking place. He knew Iran, knew Islam, and knew of Islam’s domination of Iran and the cultural ravage that was the consequence of that dominance. It was with that deep familiarity that Hedayat---unlike those who, after destroying Iran, have today become Mullaholosists one and all---understood Mullahism and its reactionary and destructive nature some 40 years before the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

Although Hedayat was from a thoroughly political family (he was the son of Mokhber al-Dowleh Hedayat and brother of the wife of Haj’ali Razmara, Iran’s Prime Minister assassinated by the “Fadayeen of Islam”) he never showed any inclination towards politics. He knew that a thinker’s outpost were located far above the dark lair of politics. Like the great Western thinkers Hedayat also knew that an intellectual should not necessarily be political. For this reason he neither played the part of a guerilla nor was at war with the Shah. Nor did he find himself in trouble with the government, and yet he had a great effect on Iranian society.

Sadegh Hedayat recognized the basic reason for the backwardness of our society very well; he knew that the dominating tyranny was a religious, not a political one. This is why it became his target; the same destructive tyranny that would take full advantage of an absence of people like Hedayat and, by holding the reins of an unaware people, would in the end brake the backs of a so-called “tyrannical” King, a renaissance and a heedless and superstitious people all at once, and all that with the direct help of a self-satisfied, ignorant bunch who too regarded themselves as intellectuals!

Although everything Hedayat wrote is valuable and instructive, we who are experiencing a theocratic regime undoubtedly find his البعثة الاسلامیه الی البلاد الافرنجیه his most appealing and attractive work. What a pity that he put an end to his own life, far away from home, precisely at a time when he was at the top of his form and capable of creating other valuable works.

Hedayat was a sensitive soul, no longer able to endure the cultural apathy and lethargy induced by the Mullahs and a population under their influence. We should not hide the fact that during the last months of his life, he was so fed up by his heedless and ungrateful people that he confided to his friend, Mas’oud Farzad: “I don’t even want my corpse to be buried in this wretched land, near these ignorant, damn people.”

He had the right to say so. I myself heard from my father that no one knew his value. My father would say, “Ignorant people aside, the poor fellow was even called retarded and crazy by some of our writers, out of jealousy, and the Mullahs too called him an atheist and a Kafir.”

But Hedayat was not the first victim of such ignorance in Iran. This sad story is a common thread running throughout our history. Either asleep or grateful only towards the dead, we Iranians have never honored our greats while they have lived. Ferdowsi, Hafez, Aref… how they suffered and what hardships they endured. I remember well that before Forough Farrokhzad died, some people would call her a “prostitute” and her good, intelligent and Iran-loving brother, Fereydoun, a “homo”. And Saidi Sirjani too was called “Rafsanjani’s servant” before his death.

May they all be remembered forever!

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