One Woman Who Represented a Nation
One Woman Who Represented a Nation
“It’s not all about the power of women. It’s about the power of human beings. If you believe in yourself, it means that you can.”
These are words by Zar Amr Ebrahimi during her press conference on Sunday night following her winning of the best actress award at the 75th Cannes Film Festival.
Speaking to reporters, Zar fought back tears to speak of her suffering. Shaking her head, she tearfully said: “They wanted to erase me and thought maybe I’d kill myself.”
The efforts of Zar are efforts of millions of dismayed Iranians, striving for success as they’ve been dispersed around the world in the last forty plus years; as they‘ve been driven to elimination and margins. The tears of this one young woman were those of all Iranians caused by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its authorities who, for decades, have done so much to this nation and have made even their daily life and basic entertainment subject to their poisonous sectarian government.
Iran, this incomparable land — this land of poetry, art, literature, wealth, glory and beauty — has been driven to such terrible conditions due to the incompetence of its rulers.
Zar’s story is that of Iran; a true story of an Iranian whose nation has been so restricted by the mullahs and governmental rulers that today dissidents have few ways out other than fleeing the country, suicide, isolation or desperation.
During the past forty years, schools have spread lies, deceit and curiosity about the private lives of others. In society, they’ve promoted deception as a way of making a living or gaining social status. Ethical poetry and teachings of the Iranian tradition have been eliminated from schoolbooks. Instead, they’ve been replaced with social desperation, polygamy, marriage of children, superstition and nonsense.
The history of this land shows that morality and religion have long been part of the lives of its people. Zoroaster, the world’s first prophet annunciating monotheism, came from the lands of Iran. Iranian teachings are filled with goodness, good thoughts, honesty and righteousness.
What the dominant regime in Iran teaches and promotes is division, sectarianism, ignorance, darkness and pessimism toward others. When such an attitude gets an opportunity to rule in any country, catastrophe follows. Other religions, too, have extremist groupings that, if given an opportunity for absolute rule, would go on to create catastrophic conditions like Iran.
In people-centered democracies, religion is a private matter and extremist religious forms are also respected so long as they don’t threaten the security and freedom of other people in society. For instance, there are fundamentalist Mormon sects who believe in polygamy (unlike the mainstream Mormons which have denounced it), certain traditionalist ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects, or the Velayat Faqih-supporting Shiites.
In the United States, evangelical Christian groups lack executive power and have sometimes clashed with the government and armed forces. But in the Middle East, home of religion and center of religious developments, things are different.
What accounts for the progress of counties in our region — other than grand policies and management of resources and human affairs — is rejecting extremism and fundamentalist Islamic groups.
We remember not long ago, around 50 years ago, when Iran was a progressive and pioneering country in bringing about reforms and changes that had turned our country and our people into a model for the region. In education, religious freedom, female suffrage, female presence in government and social centers, education of scientific cadre, grand economic planning, infrastructural development and management of resources, Iran was ahead of countries of the region.
The Iranian revolution and coming to power of a religious Velayat Faqih Shiite government was due to demagogy by religious politicians and the communist Tudeh Party. The collective memory of many of the 30 million Iranians who lived through 1979 remembers how some people were able to blow up the country’s problems to provoke public emotions and bring people to streets.
If there had been internet back in the day, and mass media and satellite like we have now, things could have been clarified, there would have been easy access to information and no revolution would have happened in Iran.
The Iranian revolution also affected the conditions of change and reform in the countries of the region. Better put, it delayed them. But they quickly learned and followed necessary changes to go on the unfinished path of the late Shah of Iran for reform and development.
Changes and reforms that are ongoing in Saudi Arabia today are, in my opinion, a continuation of the path started by the Shah of Iran for his people and his country. Cutting short the reach of religious extremists from power and from personal lives of Saudis has been the biggest change and the Crown Prince’s efforts in bringing equal rights to men and women have opened the path for development and all-round participation.
Other than fundamental reforms, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has suggested to the country’s consultative assembly a change in the national anthem and elimination of the sword from the country’s flag. He believes this symbol still give an extremist and fundamentalist image of his country. Supported by the awakened and enlightened youth and society, he carries on fundamental reform. I believe any reform or change in the Middle East, which is a center for fundamentalism and rise of fundamentalist and extremist groups, will be effective and useful for the bordering countries. Saudi Arabia is now a point of inspiration for the countries of the region.
Zar Amir Ebrahimi showed the world that Iran is still Iran; a beautiful Iran with film, art, poetry, literature, religion, dance, music and a capable and knowledgeable people; an Iran that has been suppressed for forty years but whose people still have the same qualities. She showed to the people of Iran and many others driven from their homelands that the current government, and the obscurantism it promotes, will not be able to block the development of a person.
Zar’s success was, for us, more than the recognition of an artist. By speaking of the "power of human beings", she went beyond the gender divisions and shows the depth of her view.
I don’t want to go into cliches and exaggerations. I do want to sincerely tell Zar that she was all of us. She represented all Iranians who, in the last forty plus years, were driven to death, desperation and hopelessness. She showed that it is possible to escape this anti-human regime and eke out a path to success.
One person alone represented us, our Iranianness; she highlighted the hurt pride of millions for us to believe more in ourselves.
Zar, we thank you for having represented us so well.