Iran: two sides to the story

Jafar Panahi’s “This is Not a Film” provides an important glimpse into the extent and nature of the Islamic regime of Iran’s oppression and the injustices of Sharia law.

His entire film-making career has been – in his own words – “constructed around the notion of restriction, limitation, confinement and boundaries”.

Take any week in the life of this regime and its true nature becomes as clear as daylight.

This past week, at least 22 people were executed in Tehran, Shiraz and Kerman. Every single one of them – as WH Auden has said – was someone’s north, south, east and west.

One of those killed under torture was 35 year old blogger Sattar Beheshti who was arrested a week earlier on bogus “national security” charges and whose parents were called yesterday and told: “prepare a grave; your son is dead”. His parents were not even allowed to prepare his body for burial – the regime did it for them – to prevent his tortured body from being seen.

Under totalitarianism and dictatorships like that of the Islamic regime of Iran, one eats “fear for breakfast, fear for lunch and for dinner, fear” as Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano says. That’s how the system works; how it maintains itself. You cannot rely on anything; and you can never be sure if you will survive a run-in with the authorities.

The best way I can describe it is that it is how things are under an Islamic inquisition

But fear and repression are only one side of the story.

It is in Panahi’s film. If Panahi is forbidden from making a film, them he will be filmed describing the film he is banned from making. And this refusal is as much a part of Iranian society – and even more so – than the repression.

There are countless examples – from the protests post 2009 fraudulent elections; the constant battle over the veil; regular labour strikes and sit-ins; the fight back from political prisoners and mothers of those killed or imprisoned…

And I think that is the very human and inspiring other side to the story that’s visible in Panahi’s film. It’s the refusal to submit and the extraordinary courage of sometimes very ordinary people. [Read more…]