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Welcome to my blog! True to my name, Shiva the Spy, I will be your eyes and ears in Iran, bringing you detailed accounts of everyday life from my perspective. You'll have a window into the social, cultural, political, and historical aspects of the country. I will bring you the stuff that American media can't...or won't. So, check back regularly for stories, photos, commentary, and anything else your curiosity calls for.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

President Drag Queen?

Currently, I'm reading Iran Erupts: Independence, News and Analysis of the Iranian National Movement [Iran-America Documentation Group: Dec. 1978], a compilation of various articles written by famous Iranian experts as well as exclusive interviews with Ayatollah Khomeini, all produced during the period leading up to the revolution. I found this jewel, while rummaging through my mom's old college books back in the States. It's interesting how views from 27 years ago can be strikingly different, today.

For instance, the works in this read champion the Islamic Revolution, with the editor, Ali Reza Nobari, stating in the acknowledgements:
We felt it our duty to try to demystify the treatment of the anti-Shah movement in the Western media, which claimed the upheaval was the work of a band of "religious extremists" opposed to the "modernization drive" of the Shah, who appears in most accounts as a "well intentioned" monarch who wanted to go "too far, too fast." We hope this collection will bear witness to the contrary.

And in the preface, he writes:
The intent of this collection is to help explain the economic, political, social and cultural roots of the Iranian revolutionary movement. The long stifled anger of a nation crushed for centuries by foreign invaders and internal tyranny has finally burst into the open. The shouts of Allah-o-Akbar, God is Great, which have echoed in the streets for over a year now, have crumbled the palaces of the pitiless tyrants who presumed to act as earthly gods. The sheer strength of human will revealed by the clashes of barehands with machine guns and tanks have been grounded in a new found faith in the unity fo the Iranian people. The walls of fear--fear of the police, of prison and torture, of neighbors, parents and friends--have disintegrated. Iranians have rid themselves of the SAVAK informer mentality, the psychological legacy of decades of violent and arbitrary rule....
(Does the name "Nobari" sound familiar to any of you Iranian-Americans out there??)

A man, in his mid-40s, who was a teenager during the movement to overthrow the Shah, and went on to fight in the Iran-Iraq War, saw me reading this book, and asked me who some of the authors of the articles were. When I mentioned Abol-Hassan Banisadr, I got the most fascinating bio.

Apparently, Mr. Banisadr was the first elected president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A doctor of economics, and former professor at a French university, he sailed into Iran during the height of the revolution, at Khomeini's side. Since the Ayatollah had explicitly rejected the idea of a holy man as president, he supported Banisadr's ambitions to take the position. Since the economics expert was well-spoken, smart, and charismatic, the people voted him into office. But all was not peachy, especially on that fateful day when Iraq sent 100 planes into Iran to shower the country with bombs. The next day, Ayatollah Khomeini returned the gesture with 170 planes, all of which came back. That night, the war began.

As the story goes, Imam Khomeini had wanted to give Banisadr the full authority to act as Commander in Chief, to lead Iran in its national defense. However, Khomeini began to realize Banisadr threatened Iran's security because of his failure to meet force with force. Khomeini, and Iranians alike, were becoming impatient with Banisadr's attempts to forge diplomatic responses to Iraq's invasion--words, instead of guns. In the meantime, the enemy was quickly advancing.

Ayatollah Khomeini saw Abol-Hassan Banisadr as an intellectual trying to fight a war against Saddam Hussein, an uneducated gangster; the supreme leader believed that Iraq, by coming in with force, would only leave with force, because that's the only language it could understand. Furthermore, the majlis, at the time, wanted to impeach Banisadr because of his inability to order force against an invader. As a result, Khomeini never gave Banisadr the authority to conduct Iran's role in the war.

When the president caught wind of his unpopularity among the majlis, supreme leader, and a growing majority of Iranians, he fled the country a day before his impeachment was scheduled.

Here's the kicker: Abol-Hassan Banisadr snuck out of Iran, undetected, because of a brilliant disguise--he dressed up in women's clothes, threaded his face, plucked his eyebrows, and painted his eyes and lips with makeup, posing as a female Iranian journalist.... What a way to go!

Also, he escaped to France with his buddy, Massoud Rajavi, who was the head of Mujahideen e Khalq (MKO), an organization that still remains on Iran, UK, and America's list of terrorists. MKO was to Iran what the Soviets were to the U.S. Moreover, Banisadr marries off his daughter to his country's greatest enemy, but is humiliated further when Rajavi divorces his daughter, in order to marry the head of MKO's women's division--a political union, at best.

The ignominy!

Meanwhile, Dr. Banisadr, Abol-Hassan's brother, is a highly respected cardiologist in Iran who maintains no discernable affection for his runaway sibling.

True story, one which came to me by accident, all because I happened to be reading an old book. This is exactly what I like about Iran. I may never have learned about President Drag Queen and his terrorist son-in-law without getting the untold tale from the mouth of someone who watched the whole drama unfold.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

so what is there to like iran for about this story?

also, you link to "Human First, then a Proud Iranian." he is not based in iran. he is based in canada.

3:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Anonymous,

Thanks for visiting my blog. This story serves as an example of the kind of interesting tales you get from people within a country, when it comes to their history. I get random bits and pieces of juicy info all the time, but I can't always write about it, due to various reasons. Therefore, if I wasn't in Iran, I wouldn't have gotten this first-hand perspective from somebody who witnessed--and was deeply involved in--the events prior to and after the revolution. In short, you can't learn everything from a book. I thought Banisadr was a great thinker, and based on his intellectual pieces in this book, a dignified and highly reputed person in politics and econ. Then, I was stunned to learn that he was a president; and based on his actions in Iran, it soon became clear that he was a man who talked the talk, but couldn't walk the walk... For me, this is an amazing discovery, among others I stumble upon in Iran. By the way, the story goes deeper than what I wrote, but because the entry was long enough, I decided to postpone the numerous implications of this man's actions (or inaction) until another day. But let me make this crystal clear--Iran provides me with information that I cannot get in the U.S., a different perspective that also makes sense. And this is one of the reasons I, personally, like Iran so much.

Also, thank you for bringing to my attention the location of the blogger who writes for Human First, then a Proud Iranian. I suspected he may be from the UK, but since my schedule has been extremely busy these last couple of months, I haven't gotten around to moving the link. Hopefully, I can fix this mistake, soon.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing new about this post. Everyone knew tihs story and its in plety of books to be read about.

12:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps, Anonymous, but I hadn't known. Maybe other Iranian-Americans hadn't, either. Plus, when I googled Banisadr's name, I checked out a few sources, and saw nothing on his elaborate disguise. I also didn't read anything about his inability to use force during the Iran-Iraq War. Anyway, I'm sure you know a lot more than me, in general, about Iran. I've mainly written research papers on the country from an American angle, especially in relation to the CIA's role in Iran's history, and the mistakes made. So, I wouldn't be surprised if people who are more familiar with Iranian history, or Iranians who are older than me, hence having more experience with everything relating to Iran, would not find this post interesting at all.

Do you have any particular issues you'd like to know more about? I'm open to any subjects, and I'll definitely do my best to cover them.

3:11 AM  
Blogger Olivia Twist said...

Hi Shiva:
We (Richard and me, Alexis) really enjoyed your blog. You have set up your blog in the most beautiful way. It looks FABULOUS. Where did you get the background? did you make it all yourself? Were trying to find ways to change our blog, but don't know much about how to go about that.
Anyway, we are HIGHLY impressed also, and give you the most respect, for being so CLASSY when people are not showing their best politeness to a blog that is yours, and yours alone. For that, we applaud you. :-) We are gathering blogs that we like, and will be posting them onto ours. I'd love for yours to be included with those.
Take Care..and thanks for showing us your side of the globe.
Richard and Alexis.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your bloog is interesting i look forward to keeping it in my favorite box and checking it from time to time, you dont mention your personal statement of faith.

i know it may be difficult i was curious.
interesting name.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah not everyone knew this story. Thank you Shiva!!! you're the best :)

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Queta,

Thanks for visiting my blog, and for putting it in your Favorites folder. In regards to your question, I'm assuming (maybe this is a large leap) you may be linking my name to faith? If so, I can assure you, I am not Hindu. The name Shiva is also a Persian name, and has no connection to the Hindu god of destruction and reconstruction. But it would've been cool to be named after such a god.

Hi, Venus,

I think YOU are the best, really. And if this is THE Venus, then Arshin-face to Anonymous. If you're not, sorry for not making sense. Take care!

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I randomaly came across your blog and I know this is an older post. However, I must say that I am quite happy to know that some one else besides myself has read my uncle's book.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry that I don't have time, to point out all the inaccuracies, in this blog-post. But I ask you to consider, how Mr. Banisadr could have left the country from a Air Force base, with an Air Force Jet wearing a woman's clothing? Consider that everyone in the Air Force Base in Iran is a Man. Wouldn't everyone be curious to find out why there is a woman trying to get on a Jet?

2:30 AM  

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