Roya on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Discussing Iran

 

                                     

The Verdict that Shook Iran and Europe


"They say a good news story is like an onion. The more one peels it, the newer and fresher are the layers that surface. If depth and longevity are the gold standards for a news story, then the assassinations of four Iranian opposition members at the Mykonos Restaurant in Berlin in September 1992 surpasses that standard. That story is more like a cluster bomb: 20 years later, it continues to explode. The verdict that was issued in Germany five years after the killings, and the subsequent decision by the European Union to cut ties with Tehran in 1997, achieved what perpetual threats of war have not."
 
Read it at Reuters

Iran & Israel: What Two Enemies Share

 

“IF a war were to break out between Iran and Israel, whose side would you be on?” someone asked me on Facebook a few weeks ago, when an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities was reportedly imminent.  From early adolescence, at the start of Iran’s 1979 revolution, my loyalties have so often been questioned that I’ve come to think of such suspicions as my Iranian-Jewish inheritance ...

By about midcentury, under Reza Shah Pahlavi, Iran had an army and an effective central government, which made subsequent industrialization possible. The credit for a surprising amount of that industrialization goes to the efforts of leading Iranian Jews...  Just as the majority of Iranians are unaware of this history, so too are Jews unaware of the contributions of Iranians to Jewish survival.

Would the two nations allow their rulers to begin a war if they were aware of their depth of indebtedness to each other? By bombing Iran, Israel would be bombing a portion of Jewish history. If that happens, which side I would choose will not be a question. I will be twice destroyed by the two imperfect yet beloved cultures that each make up half of the woman I am." 

nytimes

 

Read it at The New York Times                                 Listen to an interview with Scott Simon about the piece at NPR.org

Egypt Through the Lens of Iran's 1979 Revolution


Feb 2011: Ever since the crowds flooded into Tahrir Square, I've begun talking to the living-room television. "Drop that hand!" I shouted at the raised fist of a pro-Mubarak thug a few days ago.  We, as in young Iranians, flooded Tehran's own equivalent of Liberation Square, Azadi, on the same exact day 32 years ago. I was 12 at the time, but the events of that year remain my existential paradox, my life's most cherished trauma.  Comparisons between Iran and Egypt abound and the guessing goes on as to what number Egypt's needle truly points on the Iranian time scale: 1979, or 2009 — the year the Green movement took the streets of Tehran. One of the dozen exuberant wallposts on my facebook page on Friday reads: "Egypt did it in 18 days. Iran will do it in a week!" Egypt is not Iran.

Today's Egyptian democratic forces ought to heed the errors of their Iranian counterparts from 1979. Above all because those errors were, by and large, not rooted in malice or ignorance but in good intentions. The first misstep of the Iranian secular movement came as early as 1978, when they blindly embraced a union with the religious opposition, having been perfectly disarmed by them. When the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini said that he had no political ambitions, and that, once the Shah was gone, his only wish was to hunker down with a Koran at a seminary in Qom, everyone believed him. The few who were smart enough not to believe the Ayatollah made the common mistake smart people often make: they underestimated the intelligence of others. They were confident that they could outmaneuver the Ayatollah. Iranians allowed themselves to be manipulated. The regime cowed them into making concessions by preying on their fears — of the return of the Shah, or the staging of a coup by his loyalists within the army. Instead of remaining uncompromising on the issues that defined them, they made compromises and bought into piecemeal, gradual, interim promises.

In the end, the religious proved too smart to be outwitted by the secular. It made no claim to power until it had fully seized it — a quest fueled by bloodshed and extraterritorial ambitions.  Let us hope that the new, wired generation of Egypt will remain as vigilant in seeing their victory through as they had been in bringing it about.

Read more at Time.com 

Christopher Hitchens Eulogized by Roya Hakakian

"His charm, his way with words and his brilliant contentiousness have all been well cataloged, but Christopher Hitchens’s key quality was his ability to make common cause with the oppressed wherever he found them. The debater, thinker, charmer, weaver of luminous sentences, though impressive in their own right, strike me as peripheral.  Only those who have been persecuted or fallen victim to tyranny know the rare virtue that was the elemental dust of his make up.  Only one belonging to a forsaken people or a forgotten cause can know the value of her flag pinned to his highly-visible lapel.

He may have been born in England, but the blood that flowed in his veins was Third World blood."  

Daily Beast Code

 

Read it at The Daily Beast   

Roya on Iran & America: A Revolution On The Page: Finding Identity In Poetry

Roya Hakakian comparing the eloquence of Omar Khayyam and Hafez to American Roethke

“The effect of a great work of literature is often to unhinge its reader, to strip her of all previously cherished beliefs down to discomfiting nakedness. Roethke's "Waltz" did just that. It abruptly unveiled to me everything that centuries of Persian poetry had not — to shift the focus from the outward life to the life at home. To portray the father, the most revered figure in the culture I knew, in a negative light — in essence, to question his credibility and authority. Roethke had pulled the pedestal from beneath the taboo.

Once, I arrived in America on an airplane. Later, I arrived deeper yet on the wings of Roethke's verse. Here, no one was too sacred to be spared critical examination. Suddenly I had access to a whole new reservoir of writing material, and I knew freedom in its most tangible and consequential way.

 

Read and listen to it at NPR.org