“Don’t fret it; these days too will pass. They’ll soon become just memories.” I keep seeing this message a lot these days. They’re scribbles written on the back of latrine doors and the bottom of creaky bunks. And when I don’t see it, I’m often reminded of it by fellow soldiers or my family (when I get a chance to call...
“Don’t fret it; these days too will pass. They’ll soon become just memories.” I keep seeing this message a lot these days. They’re scribbles written on the back of latrine doors and the bottom of creaky bunks. And when I don’t see it, I’m often reminded of it by fellow soldiers or my family (when I get a chance to call them). I know it’s supposed to make me feel better. But whenever I struggle to put my blistered foot into the boot for the hundredth time, try to keep up with the rest of the company in yet another arduous trek, or am forced to tear my throat shouting slogans I abhor, I can’t help but feel indignant at its glib dismissal of my current suffering and its fatalistic undertone. I don’t want these days to become “just memories,” I yell inside. I don’t want to keep still and let them do this to me without kicking back at them. I want to think. I want to observe. I want to fret!
That’s why I have decided to open this diary, and update it whenever I can. So, here we go:
Hello, world. You can call me Kamran (not my real name). I’m from Iran. I’ve just been drafted to the Iranian army. (For your information, all young male Iranians are required by law to spend 21 months in military service).
For safety issues, I have to keep my real name and exact location hidden. As you might know already, the Iranian regime is not fond of journalists, especially those reporting to the outside world. While I’m not a professional journalist, I have seen and heard enough examples to understand that, when looking for the “enemy,” our regime doesn’t bother with technicalities of any kind. Here, almost any citizen who writes to the outside world can be charged with “espionage” or “engaging in a soft war against the holy Islamic state.” Now, imagine my fate if I’m “caught” doing something risky while wearing a military uniform! No sane person draws crosshairs on their forehead in the middle of a shooting range. I hope you’ll excuse me for not revealing my name in a madhouse.
But what does an unidentified young man in Iran has to offer to you? Well, in the past few years, Iran has become a fixture in international headlines. Whether it’s the discovery of a new underground enrichment site, or launch of new ballistic missiles, seldom a day passes in which you don’t hear some troubling news from my country. But what you don’t hear often enough is an inside account of what is happening here on the ground. After all, it’s within its borders and on its citizens that the Iranian regime leaves most of its effects, and that’s where it is also best understood.
This should matter to you because right now you’re on the same crossroad that we were 33 years ago. Yes, there are differences. For example, you’re Sunnis, and we’re Shiites. You don’t have Velayat-e faqih or “the custodianship of the Islamic jurist,” a Shi’a doctrine that facilitates the theocratic dictatorship in Iran. You’re also lucky you don’t have a cunning charismatic leader like Khomeini. But there are also a lot of other, no less important, things that our crossroads have in common: just like us 33 years ago, you too are repelled by your rulers’ despotism, corruption, and callousness. And just like us 33 years ago, there are a lot of you who see the solution to your current problems in turning the clock back to a revered, albeit mythic, past: Islamic fundamentalism.
What I’m about to tell you from inside Iran should matter to you because ideas have real consequences, and similar ideas carry similar consequences. Islamism (i.e. the idea of Islam as a political ideology) is no exception. This concerns you because the same ideas that inspired Khomeini to found his Islamic “utopia”—e.g. enforcement of Shari’a in the society, elimination of Western influence, contempt for any universal definition of human rights—enjoy wide support in your part of the world as well. In fact, it was outside Iran, in the Arab world, that many of these ideas found their most eloquent promulgators (Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb etc.). So, that should give you alarm.
To sum up, you have more than a vested interest in understanding what’s happening to Khomeini’s experiment. My diary, I hope, offers a tiny peephole for you to see the results of that experiment for yourself.
Now, if you excuse me, I have to get ready for yet another trip to my military base. I have already smuggled out the notes I took the week before to my home. So I have more than enough raw material for my next installment. But I won’t stop taking notes. My diary is the only thing that keeps me sane in that madhouse. It might be a peephole to you, but for me it’s a critical air hose that sustains my deep divings.
Until next week, have fun, and wish me luck!
[Kamran, facing you, puts on his goggles, bites on the hose, winks, and reverse-jumps into the water, disappearing into the mysterious sea.]