(Profile 1 of ADAPP supporters)
“Salaam, haleh shoma?” I received this warm greeting from Reza Baraheni, the revered and celebrated Iranian Poet and Writer. Of course, I met this with nervous laughter as my mind blanked on the little Persian/Farsi I knew and then he reverted to English, graciously allowing me to save face.
An incredibly gracious soul, Dr. Baraheni talked to me—for quite a while, over 2hours—about his remarkable past and hopeful future. Born in 1935 in the Iranian Azerbaijani city of Tabriz, he knew at a young age that he would fall in love with languages. Unfortunately, no one could foretell that the world in which he lived would orphan his native Azeri-Turkish language and put him at odds with subsequent Iranian governments. Thus, a human rights activist was born.
A passionate advocate for the oppressed minorities of Iran, Baraheni feels strongly that for Iran to succeed as a country its leaders must embrace democratic and federalist ideals, “a sort of United States of Iran or a Federated States of Iran…that’s the only way” he says. And one has to oblige him on this point, after all he is still standing after living through 3 hostile governments.
“Freedom without any limitation and any exception”(a quote from the Writer’s Association of Iran, which Baraheni co-founded)
In light of the CRNI award in June I asked him what he felt about an artist’s right to freedom of expression. A passionate response followed highlighted by an explanation that a creative person is not a racist person, with a demand for the CRNI awardees (see past entry on the CRNI award) to apologize to Azerbaijani Iranians. He likens the oppression Azerbaijanis in Iran face to the prejudice and racism American blacks faced in centuries past. “It is a kind of mental constipation,” he says.
However, listening to Baraheni—which is also your good fortune, as the (severely chopped) recorded conversation is below—I come away with a new-found sense of how veteran human rights activists weather the stormy decades of injustice. They just wait, because they know that in the end they’ll win. Hopeful words from a man who has suffered and seen much injustice.
A longer version of this interview will air on Vancouver’s Radio Co-op, Odlar Yurdu at http://www.coopradio.org/content/odlar-yurdu
Books of Interest (by Baraheni)
Le Mystères de mon Pays (Razha-ye Sarzamin-e Man )
A must-read for anyone seeking to understand the intertwined relationship of the U.S. and Iran, pre-1979 and pre-1953 in an unpoliticized manner.
NOTE: His daughter has just finished translating it to English and they are on the search of an English publisher.
God’s Shadow: Prison Poems
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976)
Written after Baraheni’s imprisonment and torture under the Shah.
The Crowned Cannibals: Writings on Repression in Iran
(New York: Vintage Books, 1977)
A riveting and descriptive narrative of Baraheni’s 102 days in the prison.
Iran and the Challenge of Diversity: Islamic Fundamentalism, Aryanist Racism, and Democratic Struggles by Alireza Asgharzadeh
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)
A Baraheni pick on what non-Iranians should read to understand the atrocities facing oppressed nationalities in Iran.
Iran: Between Two Revolutions by Ervand Abrahamian
( Princeton University Press, 1982)
Abrahamian is a widely-respected historian on Iran.
Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity by Brenda Schaffer
(MIT Press, 2002)
Posted By Adepeju Solarin
Posted Aug 18th, 2010