Sunday, September 13, 2009

Making People Disappear: Erasing Karroubi and Mousavi

The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
- Milan Kundera in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Today, the Iranian regime has announced that the names of Mousavi and Karroubi can no longer be printed in Iranian newspapers. (Story in Persian via

I can't help thinking of the dramatic scene in the Ten Commandments when Pharaoh says, "Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet." Or Milan Kundera's amazing short story The Lost Letters, that tells the story of the end of the Prague Spring by introducing us to Vladimir Clementis, who was erased from Soviet history after being charged with "conspiring with the enemy." He is the man with the camera in the photo on the left. The photo on the right shows the retouched version with Clementis erased and replaced with a wall. According to Kundera's story, that's his hat on the head of the man speaking at the microphone, Klement Gottwald:

Four years later, Clementis was charged with treason and hanged. The propaganda section immediately made him vanish from history and, of course, from all photographs. Ever since, Gottwald has been alone on the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the bare palace wall. Nothing remains of Clementis but the fur hat on Gottwald's head.

We are now faced with a terrifying situation in Iran: the prospect of Stalinist purges coinciding with the rise of Iran's shadowy Qods Force (Jerusalem force) to positions of very public power.

I hope that I am wrong.

BTW, the images are from the amazing book by Alain Jaubert: Making People Disappear