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


Anonymous said...

Hi Tori: The enslavement of Africans in American is another example of taking away people's names and histories in order to better oppress them. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. Please keep it up! Shirin (from KA)

Anonymous said...


Perhaps we should also remember about children of conquered people in Ottoman empire - they were taken from their parents, taught new religion and made into soldiers fighting their kin. They were called ghilman or mameluks. At least children of slaves in America were not taught to fight their kin. You should also remember that blacks were sold to American merchants by other blacks.

As for Karoubi and Mousavi - the government may try to erase their names but it is a Sisyphean work, and like the work of Sisyphus, condemned to fail.

Tori said...

@Shirin One day we really have to talk. Really. And I totally agree with you. There are so many examples of erasing history and the enslavement of Africans is one of the worst. The more we learn of that "erased" history, the more horrific it becomes.

BTW, K and I have been musing on the bravery of the Lors lately. I wonder how people in KA feel about their favorite son?

@anonymous: It does get more difficult to erase history as the gates to recording it become more and more open.

Great Idea said...

Hi Tori,

Alternative to "Twitter" to Communicate to and from Iran

If you are in the USA or any other country and the Government of Iran is blocking your "Tweets" from Twitter...I have another solution, that works just like "Twitter"...but should be 'under the radar' of the Iranian Government (at least for now).

Its brand new...and is almost exactly like Twitter...but really better.

You can sign up for a FREE account...and contact your family and friends in sign up for a free account also...this way you can communicate with them...just like you would do using Twitter.

I hope this I know many people in Iran and here in the USA and around the world do not support the current government of Iran,

Sign Up For Free At:

Free SoKule Sign Up

Peace To You All!


Free SoKule Sign Up

Anonymous said...

I do not think names like Mousavi or Karroubi will be forgotten. A bigger problem is that less known people like that photographer are erased quietly from history.

Tori said...

Actually @anonymous, the photographer was well known before he was erased. There were just fewer channels of information then.

The point is not whether or not people *will* be erased from history; it's the effort at control that is the problem.

Naj said...

Hi tori, thanks for your visit and comment!

I think any attempt to purge Karoubi and Mousavi from Iran's IRI establishment will only carve them deeper in the memory of the nation. This is a loosing game for them--the military mafia who has guns but doesn't have wits, and intellectual creativity necessary to get them out of this cultural swamp they are creating. Khas o Khashak will float; these morons will sink ...

I thought you may find this interesting:

covertops12 said...

I think that would be very scary to someday because of your actions be erased form history. but I hope for the best in the future for Iran although i think it would be a lot scarier if i was over there and not in my comfy chair here in the US. I am a student currently taking a class on the Middle East, If you wish to talk more visit me at my blog

Ms Helen said...

Hey Tori,

Thanks for, as always, bringing this to light. Love your blog! xxx

Vladimír HomoHumanus said...

The man with the camera is a reporter Karel Hájek. Dementis is right behind the microphone in the hat.