Thursday, July 26, 2007

Interview 1: Covering Iran's Revolution

...An interview with Marie...

This is the first in a series of interviews we are beginning. We are starting with Marie, a woman who has been commenting on this site for several years. Marie is an award-winning filmmaker, artist, and teacher who lived in Iran for over a year during the American hostage crisis. Her love affair with Iran did not end when she left the country but rather continued. She is currently expanding into the fields of acupuncture and herbal medicine and looks forward to fusing her knowledge of art and healing into effective and unexpected paradigms.

Marie, Your comments on our blog have intrigued us for years. You were in Iran during the revolution. Can you begin by telling us a) How much time you spent in Iran and b) Why you went there in the first place?

First, I was not there during most of the revolution. I arrived at the tail end, although I felt like I was there, as my husband at the time (Nader) was there and had used my photographic portfolio to get a job as a Time Magazine photographer and free ticket to Tehran.

I arrived in Tehran in September of 1979, and left December 22, 1980, so I was there between 15 and 16 months.

Nader had left for Iran in November the year before, and became very involved in the revolution there. He started a newspaper that year with some colleagues of his from CBS called Tehran Times, which is still being published, although he's no longer involved with it. I believe it became sort of a mouth piece of the government.

I came to be in Iran because Nader came to New York in the summer of 1979 and convinced me to go back with him. He secured jobs for us as stringers at NBC. In case you don't know, stringers are usually 1 or 2 man crews that work for the networks when news is light. He did camera, and I did sound. I went because a) the job b) Nader, whom I was in love with, but we had a complicated relationship c) I have always been intrigued by Iran d) I wanted to see the 'revolution' up close.

Unfortunately our job was short lived, as the hostages were taken the first week of November. The American Media poured in and I became radicalized :-)Seriously. I had always been somewhat delusional regarding our television networks, that while they don't show the whole thing, they made an effort to tell the news. What I learned very quickly was this was not true. I discovered that the story is decided prior to any fact finding. I quickly became disillusioned.

It was a very difficult year. Money was scarce. People were nervous. There was a lot of anarchy in the true sense of the word and there was a lot of hope. The hope really started to dissipate in the spring and summer of 1980. The mullahs consolidated power. I remember Bani Sadr giving history lessons on tv: how the Russian Revolution was hijacked by the Bolsheviks. It was so obvious what he was trying to tell people, but he was also complicit from the beginning. The mullahs had supported his presidential bid.

I will never forget the moment when I walked up the hill to television (where I worked) and heard that the 'sister' had to go home and change her clothes. I had been working there already for many months, and the guard was very embarrassed as he knew me and we were friendly. I was wearing a scarf, but now I needed a long shirt that covered my rear end. I stamped down the hill in absolute fury and for some reason felt terribly humiliated. It was very hot that day too. It was summer, probably in August that policy was implemented. All women who worked in government buildings had to observe hejab - dress code.

Wow, that was really interesting. I have so many questions to ask now. You bring up something interesting. We tend to think of the revolution in Iran as an Islamic one, but the reality is that there were many different factions (including Communists) involved in the overthrow of the Shah. So you were in Iran as the revolution was "Islamifying." In addition to the hejab, what would you say was the most striking example of the change from secular rule to Islamic rule?


It was not an Islamic revolution but it had an Islamic leader in the tradition of Iran; a charismatic leader and that was Khomeni. He was a magnetic personality and many gravitated toward him. But yes, the 'people' did not give up their power to the mullahs all at once. It was a consolidation of power in areas the previous government had ruled, such as television and the secret police, and required additionally the formation of the Revolutionary Guards and other supportive and intimidating structures. Mullahs executed a lot of people that year. I met and interviewed Judge Khalkhali, also known as Judge Blood. Quite an experience.

Shortly after I arrived in Tehran, a woman in a tight skirt was walking down the street. At the time, Iranian women ( in Tehran) sort of amazed me because they were either wearing the black chador or a floral chador wrapped around the body, or they were dressed like Italian women: skin tight jeans, very sexy etc. Very few women dressed in the rather asexual style in loose skirts or pants favored by Americans at the time. So this woman in her skin tight skirt was not that unusual. A man ran up and grabbed her skirt from the hem and ripped it straight up in protest. But from several directions, men converged upon him and sort of roughed him up and reprimanded him, and more people flocked to the woman and covered her with their coats. The crowd faced him off with indignation. He was an individual against a wall of disapproval for his extreme and insulting action.

At that time, people would socialize outside the walls, families would enjoy outings and music would play from cassette players with even a little dancing in the street. My impression was that Iranians like to have a good time. There was also happiness at the success and peacefulness of the revolution. Iranian soldiers had not massacred the people. By the time I left over a year later, that was over. The war had started and the squeeze was on. People had already left during the revolution, and another wave left in the fall of 1980. It was clear where the country was going.

Many different factions (including Communists) involved in the overthrow of the Shah...

Yes, the Tudeh Party were the communists. The Fedayeen were the leftists. And the Mujahadeen were the Islamic Leftists, if you want to call them that. I went to a Mujahadeen rally in the winter of 1979/1980. It ended in tear gas and guards opened machine gun fire into the crowds. It was utter chaos. People flattened to the ground in an instant to avoid getting shot.

In addition to the hejab, what would you say was the most striking example of the change from secular rule to Islamic rule?

Please understand that when I went to Iran, it was a time of flux. The shah was gone. I heard a great deal about what life was like under the shah but did not experience it first hand. Many people had already left, and many Jews were fleeing Iran when I arrived. Many people and intellectuals who had been banned and tortured under the shah had returned. For example Reza Baraheni, whom I met and interviewed, had returned. He eventually left again. There was hope for a period of time that Iran be a place that would accommodate free and intellectual thought, there was hope for real change, land distribution and rights for the peasants.

The change toward an Islamic state was creeping and gradual. But of course, like with Nazi Germany, the writing was on the wall. Khomeini made his intentions very clear. But people were really in love with him. He inspired loyalty to the extreme. Even people who were not religious.

If I had to say what the change was, it was in the growing presence of Revolutionary Guards. It was the way people who had started things, like the Tehran Times, eventually gave up and drifted away. 2 of the 5 founding members of that paper had left for France by the time I left. The war really changed things. There were long lines for bread, rice and sugar. Tehran was being attacked, and the nights were dominated by the terrifying sounds of anti-aircraft missiles and actual bombs. Every late afternoon the air raid sirens screamed, warning people to get home before dark. This was a good opportunity for the mullahs to really move in and dig deep.

You may find that things have changed in this country. There has been damage done to our constitution. This administration used the attacks from 9/11 to do some very insidious things. War is always useful for undermining any democratic process because fear is a great weapon for manipulating people.

What is the one thing that you miss most about Iran?


Before I answer, I want to point out to you that the biggest thing that happened in Iran since I left is that the population has tripled (or something like that).

I miss most its light and colors.

What are your favorite blogs/sites?

I read your blog and through yours have started reading SERENDIP. I read the CATO website sometimes. NPR, WNYC - Look at the Bush/Blair Love Duet, at http://www.atmo.se/zino.aspx?articleID=399 - it's very funny. I have too many interests, agricultural, apiary, avian and environmental... it gets overwhelming.

Thanks Marie... This was a great start to our interview series.

45 comments:

Marie said...

I want to add that through my work at Iranian Television, I met and interacted with some young revolutionaries, including a few of the ‘Students in the Path of the Imam’ who had taken the American hostages. They were friendly toward me and my impression of them was that they possessed great idealism. One of the refrains I heard was, "Look how revolutionary she is. See how hard she works?” I would refrain from responding, 'I’m not a revolutionary, I’m just American' :)

Anonymous said...

"who had taken the American hostages. They were friendly toward me and my impression of them was that they possessed great idealism. "

Oh how lovely for you all, not personally getting beaten up or anything...

They were persecuting someone else, but they were nice to you, so that was OK? And you call that "idealism"?

According to your definition, every nazi concentration camp guard in the third reich was an idealist, but I reckon they might even be distancing themselves from this site if they were alive today.

Strewth..

Monty

Tori said...

Monty, Describing someone as friendly and idealistic does not necessarily lead to support for their actions. Marie was simply describing her impressions of these folks.

They were indeed idealistic. They read philosophy, were motivated by ideas, and, essentially, impractical. Idealism is not necessarily a description of something good. There's a reason why we say the path to hell is strewn with good intentions.

Marie said...

Through this interview, you have read only a little sliver of my story. You can only assume that I was not 'personally beaten up'. Your rush to judgment is not factually based. Few people know what I endured living in Iran during that time, and you are not one of them.

Furthermore, I do not believe that Daniel Pearl was murdered by the likes of the 'Students in the Path of the Imam'. I do not condone what they did, nor did I ever. But I interviewed them, and interacted with some of them, and my impression was that they were a group of young, idealistic men and women. If you want to demonize them that is your prerogative. It was not my experience.

Anonymous said...

"If you want to demonize them that is your prerogative. It was not my experience."

" I do not believe that Daniel Pearl was murdered by the likes of the 'Students in the Path of the Imam'. I do not condone what they did, nor did I ever. But I interviewed them, and interacted with some of them, and my impression was that they were a group of young, idealistic men and women. "

Er...
They sawed that man's head off while he was conscious. And they are idealists? Really? Because they didn't do it to you? What about the ones who sawed off the heads of two Indonesian Christian schoolgirls, and half decapitaed another? Is that idealism then?

What about setting fire to an Iranian cinema full of parents and children?

They never did that to me. And according to your logic, I would give them a free pass, as you have done.

But any man's death diminishes me, for I am involved with humanity.
Apparently, you aren't..

Monty

Tori said...

Monty, you are conflating so many different factions and seem to be deliberately misreading both the interview and the responses.

If there is anything I learned while I was in Iran is that there are many, many different voices, many different beliefs, and many different factions. It does not clarify anything to lump everyone and every group together.

Marie said...

I am not sure from where you are getting your facts, Anonymous. The Iranian Students in the Path of the Imam sawed off the head of two Indonesian girls? I was not aware of this. I am very curious. No need to insult me and question my sense of humanity.

Actually, the point of my story was a humorous one: That my American worth ethic was mistaken for revolutionary zeal, not how wonderful the young students were. At the same time I do question your sources, and welcome any leads you can give me. I have found, in the blogsphere, some confusion regarding different Islamic groups and wonder if you could be mistaking the actions of another group for the young 'Students in the Path of the Imam'.

Anonymous said...

"Three Indonesian girls beheaded
By Tim Johnston
BBC News, Jakarta




Three girls have been beheaded and another badly injured as they walked to a Christian school in Indonesia.

They were walking through a cocoa plantation near the city of Poso in central Sulawesi province when they were attacked.

This is an area that has a long history of religious violence between Muslims and Christians."

That is from the BBC, who are usually very solicitous in covering up the crimes of your fellows in islam.

I would have posted the link, but for some reason this site won't let me.

Monty

Anonymous said...

Let us try again...
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4387604.stm

See how we get on.
Monty

Tori said...

Monty, No one disputes any of the acts that you are pointing out... I just do not understand how they are related?

It's like relating acts of violence committed in the US to acts of violence committed in the UK when discussing a the events of the French revolution.

Anonymous said...

Lori, in Chicago you get to say whatever you bloody well like.

In England, so do I.

I could have understood your restraint had you still been a captive in the islamic republic, but not anymore.

I reckon I know what you are now.
Monty

Marie said...

The event Monty refers to took place in 2005 (different time) in Indonesia (different place), in "an area that has a long history of religious violence between Muslims and Christians." The fighting began in 2001, and the "fighting four years ago drew Islamic militants from all over Indonesia and many have never gone home." It culminated in the beheading of 3 Christian girls. A horrible crime.

No where in the article did the words 'Iran' 'Iranian' 'Students in (or Following)the Path of the Imam' or 'Imam' appear.

What is the connection between the students I met in Iran in 1980 and the events that transpired in Indonesia in 2005?

amir said...

Monty
You need a doctor please hurry

Chris said...

"What is the connection between the students I met in Iran in 1980 and the events that transpired in Indonesia in 2005?"

Marie, clearly the connection is that they were both Muslims, and we all know by now that all Muslims everywhere in the world are the same.

Kinda like how all white people are the same and support George W. Bush.

And all black people support Al Sharpton.

I hope that clears things up for you Marie :)

Marie said...

:)

SERENDIP said...

Thank you Marie. Fascinating story. I can tell Iran has made an indelible impression on you, I'm sure it's more than light and colors...;)

serendip said...

BTW, for those who are interested in the Iranian Revolution, this interview with Ladan Boroumand is a MUST Read. Very long but most insightful:

http://www.democratiya.com/interview.asp?issueid=9

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Tori said...

Insult each other and whole groups of people on your own site folks...

Anonymous said...

Tori, who is the Mullahs now? Censoring fair comment. Suzy.

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Anonymous said...

Tori you too are a dumb-ass American

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Anonymous said...

Boy, this is one-hell of an interesting Blog, keep it up guy's. Tracey.

Anonymous said...

I am proud Muslim, and you are filthy pigs saying bad things.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Why the hell are two Dim-Wit Americans discussing the Iranian Revolution, when 99.9% percent of Americans don't know their ass from their elbow? The US has the largest population of inbred Morons on the planet, they haven't a clue about what is going on in the world. Sex, alcohol, and drugs, is all that nation of Dyke's and Homo's knows' or cares about. William, Blackpool, England.

Anonymous said...

I don't care Tori, I am going to keep asking this question. Why do Muslims love hacking people's head's off? I really want to know.

Anonymous said...

I know people don't want to discuss Muslim homosexual's but it is true that many male Muslims do have sex with young boy's. I personally believe that the reason for this is that Muslim women are not slutty like say American and European women. They have more respect for themselves, Thus they are unwilling to have sex before marriage.Suzy, UK.

Anonymous said...

Suzy, I hate to admit it but you are right. American women are really easy, when it comes to sex, most of my friend's lost their virginity before the age of 14. So yes we are SLUTS, that have NO RESPECT for ourselves. Tracey.

Anonymous said...

So much for women's lib Tracey, huh?. Suzy

Anonymous said...

Suzy, what do you think about the Mullahs promoting abortion in Iran.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, up to a year ago I would have said no problem, but I saw a film broadcast here in the UK, that showed a baby being aborted at 4 months. I cried for months about it, it was so horrible it made me sick.

Anonymous said...

The Mullahs are all men. And like men everywhere they want to have sex with us but if a baby comes along they want us to get rid of it. This is the Ultimate Male Domination over Women they want to control us. Why aren't Feminists not up in arm's against abortion? Why are the women of Iran not screaming NO to the Male Pig Mullahs on this issue. Rise up Women of Iran and tell the Mullahs YOUR NOT KILLING MY BABY.

Anonymous said...

Thanks' Suzy, I really hope the Iranian women give the Mullahs the middle finger on this one. Tracey.

Tori said...

First of all, I suspect that you Suzy are responsible for all the comments. And I ask you: why do I still have my head? I lived for four years among 70 million muslims! I am an American and a Jew. By your standards I should have had my head lopped off by now. It's still squarely on my shoulders. Get your own blog if you want to discuss these issues. I do not have to be a forum for everyone.

Just so that people know, I DO NOT AT ALL sanction wholesale insults and slander against any people. I am NOT responsible for any comment on this site other than MY OWN. And i do not have the time to DELETE everything that comes in.

Anonymous said...

Tori, it is sad to see that you reject freedom of speech, oops, I should say only when it comes to something you disagree with, otherwise anything goes. All you Americans are the same, one has just to look at your treatment of Native Americans, and African Americans, the people of the Middle East and South America to see just how horribly hypocritical you people are. You accuse me of being responsible for all of the comment's posted, because you don't want your readers to believe that more than one person holds an opinion that is the opposite to your's. Freedom of Speech, what a joke.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to put my name to the comment's above. Suzy.

Anonymous said...

Suzy, Go Girl.
Tracey.

rayyan said...

hi my name is rayyan, im a student in the uk, im looking to make radio documentary for my final year piece about the current situation in iran today, i'm looking for some archival footage of the iranian revolution. would anyone be able to help. thanks. Rayyan

Tori said...

Rayyan, There is a lot of footage out there. Try checking YouTube (do you speak Persian?) and irannegah. You might also want to check out the photos posted on this site:

http://www.jahangirrazmi.ir/?p=30

That should be a good start.

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