The letter signed by “Mehdi Mohammadzadeh” (MM) in the March/April 2013 issue of Anthropology News contains a number of ethnographic, political and ethical issues which I wish to address. The letter is heavily tinted with strains of occidentosis (Farsi, gharbzadagi). MM has either misunderstood C. K. Mahmood’s comment in AN 53(9), 2012 or is interested only in a point on the margin of the subject of her essay.
The salient point of Mahmood’s essay—the rejection of the distortion of Islam and Islamic culture through the secularist filters of Western academia and politics—is sidestepped by MM. The silent and sometimes overt collaboration of so-called “liberal” and “progressive” academia with the current Islamophobic policies and practices of the state machinery of the United States does not seem to interest MM. The passing reference by C. K. Mahmood to Michel Foucault’s support of the Islamic revolution in Iran (which he never “recanted”), especially during its early years, triggers MM to launch into wailing about personal losses and unjustified condemnation of social and political life in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). The ideological and informational fuel in MM’s anger echoes the contents of the large corpus of anti-Islamic and anti-Iranian academic and popular writings in the United States over the past three decades. A widely circulated representative of these writings, the 2006 Foulcault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seduction of Iran by Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson, seems to anchor MM’s diatribe.
In attempting to understand the IRI, even with MM’s highly personalized lenses—“Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionary Islam….the brutality of Khomeini….what Khomeini did…Khomeini’s revolution”—and in weighing MM’s suggestion to take it easy on American-led Western imperialism, the readers of Anthropology News should consider the role of imperial United States in imposing conditions on Iran and the surrounding region in which millions of people (perhaps including relatives of MM) in virtually every Middle Eastern country lost their lives and millions of others were terrorized and dislocated. MM seems to believe that IRI is the only theocracy in the Middle East. If so, he is oblivious to the stark political and territorial realities of the region. The postcolonial cycle of Western imperialism in the Middle East started with the installation of a Zionist European theocracy on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean sea during 1948. Over the following decades the United States, the major sponsor of this process, has equipped this theocracy with every conceivable means of war and destruction including two hundred nuclear weapons according to President Jimmy Carter. The installation of this ever expanding Zionist theocracy (ZT) has caused the forceful migration and separation of millions of (Christian and Muslim) Palestinians whose homeland has been appropriated and is continuously converted to “settlements” for Zionist Euro-Americans, many of them from New York—every day several Zionist households migrate from New York to the mother colony in the Middle East. Currently ZT receivers more than six billion dollars in aid annually from American private and government sources. Ever since ZT was planted in 1948 the world has not seen one day of peace. The cradle of all tensions and conflicts in the Middle East and the agency for the increasingly hostile divide between the United States and the Muslim world is this out of place ZT implant. According to its ambassador to the United States, the ZT in the Middle East views itself as “a villa in the midst of a wild forest” (CNN, November 21, 2012). ZT and USA are the biggest producers and exporters of weapons of war in the world; in both countries weapons constitute their largest export. The various political strategies of the “holocaust industry” and the strategic invocations of the “Judeo-Christian” biblical myths have produced the ideology of the “unbreakable bond”, between ZT and USA. During his recent visit to ZT Barack Hussein Obama repeatedly broadcast this ideological and religious union. The headquarters of colonial ZT in the Middle East and its numerous global political outlets—especially in North America—masterfully manipulate the power structures of the United States and its NATO allies for producing instability and conflict throughout the Middle East—tensions and divisions between Arabs and non Arabs, between Shi’as and Sunnis—in the belief that the more unstable the Middle East and the wider the gulf between the United States and the Muslim World, the closer ZT will be to its American patron. An informed and impassioned comparison between the history, structure, policies, and behavior of IRI and ZT produces a superior bill of health and a far closer proximity to universal moral standards for IRI. The daily behavior of ZT and numerous United Nations resolutions attest to this comparative outcome.
During the rule of Reza Shah Pahlavi Iran had close economic and diplomatic relations with ZT. ZT received all its oil from Iran. MOSSAD (ZT’s intelligence services) helped organize SAVAK (Iranian intelligence agency). The United States provided massive amounts of weapons to Reza Shah’s corrupt and brutal government. The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran changed all this. The American response to this change was the orchestration of the bloody 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq when Imam Ayatollah Khomeini, the nemesis of MM, was alive. The United States gave Iraq every tool of destruction (including biological and chemical weapons) except nuclear bombs to attack Iran and sold large quantities of weapons to Iran to use against Iraq. Consequently “[c]ountless families suffered tremendously during that time”. For what reason or on what charges did MM’s “father and uncle…spent years in the prisons of the Shah and Khomeini”? Specifically, how, when, where, and why did these relatives of MM lose “everything: their jobs, their homes, their friends and eventually their lives”? It is quite likely that the agency for these losses is the US-supported Pahlavi government and the American produced 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war. Shortly after the inconclusive end of this war the Zionist “neocon” nest in the state apparatus of the United States undertook the destruction of the Republic of Iraq. Under the umbrellas of “Operation Desert Storm” (1991) and “Shock and Awe” (2003) Zionized Euro-America destroyed the secular state machinery of Iraq and replaced it with a theocracy—the Islamic Republic of Iraq. The origin, development, and current format and subsidy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is another paragraph in the political and moral resume’ of the United States. The theocracy that houses the Wahabi rentier regime of Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of American made weapons—Saudi oil exchanged with massive quantities of American made fighter jets, bombers, and tanks. However, these weapons are of lower quality compared to what is gifted to ZT. Osama Ben Laden was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. His extended family and the families of Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush and other prominent American elite used to vacation together in the United States during the good old pre-9/11 days. After the disaster of 9/11 when all aircraft were grounded in the United States, only airplanes carrying the Saudis, including Ben Laden’s Kin and friends, were allowed to be airlifted from the United States. Before 1948 there were no theocracies in the Middle East. Currently, to the credit of US-led Zionized Euro-American imperialism, we have five and there are more looming on the near horizon.
The political and social conditions in the IRI are obviously—some would say fortunately—not similar to the country which probably hosts MM. Michel Foucault (independent of his sexual politics) believed, as do many of his supporters, that Islam, especially its revitalized form in IRI, offers the last bastion of resistance to Euro-American imperialism, its delusional “democracy”, “freedom” and “liberty”; and declining social, political and economic institutions and decaying culture. By way of random examples, if MM’s host country is the United States, a critical and informed lens will not miss a situation in which women, womanhood, and femininity are brutally abused, demeaned, exploited, and vulgarized. Class, gender, ethnic and racial inequalities are rampant in USA. MM’s imperial host is the most highly policed country in the world, far more than Iran is and will ever be. At any given moment more than a million Americans are in prison. One out of every 39 American adult males has served time in prison. American prisons have increasingly become privatized; they are havens for the expansion of capital.
There is a large corpus of academic writings that effectively refute MM’s claims about the IRI. A sample of these sources (with leads to primary sources) include: Iranian Studies, Journal of Persianate Studies, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Anthropology of the Middle East, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures (entries for Iran). Two recent scholarly publications cogently deal with current political and social conditions in Iran: Going to Iran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms With The Islamic Republic of Iran, by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, 2013; and A Separation at Iranian Universities, by Nazanin Shahrokni (Middle East Research and Information Project), October 2012.
Why is the true identity of the author of this totally subjective letter shielded with a pseudonym? Is the editor of AN deferring to MM’s claim “that I am using a pseudonym, because I do not want to scare my family and want to be able to see them in my country of birth”? Did MM inform the AN editor about how and why would his family be scared and why he cannot see his family in the “country of his birth”—wherever that is—if he used his real name? Thousands of Iranians enter and leave Iran regularly and legally across all its borders without endangering themselves or members of their families on either side of the border. Perhaps the “extreme circumstances” for AN’s decision involve the heated personal and political nature of the accusations and assertions by MM about the IRI irrespective of their validity or plausibility. If this is the AN editor’s reading of MM’s rant, his letter should not have been published in Anthropology News. By publishing this letter AN has imposed its editorial politics on its readers. If MM’s “privacy” and “security” are the reasons for this decision, why should the editor of AN be the only person trusted with this man’s true identity? It is very likely that the AN editorial staff and their friends and/or family members know who is hiding behind the MM veil. More importantly, if the state machinery of IRI decides to find out who is hiding behind the “Mehdi Mohammadzadeh” mask it can easily and quickly penetrate it. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the timing for publishing this political rant of blatant distortions about the Islamic Republic of Iran in Anthropology News (for the gaze of progressive academics!) appears to be part of the propaganda for military preparations underway by the American government and its partners-in-crime in NATO and ZT for attacking the nuclear energy program of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The use of pseudonyms and fictive labels in academic discourse—especially in the production of ethnographic knowledge—encourages fiction, misrepresentations and sometimes, blatant untruths. Veiling the source of ethnographic information with pseudonyms inevitably encourages essentializing representations and the reification of complex and diverse cultural realities. The use of pseudonyms promotes unrestrained, free for all, academic free enterprise and suppresses the prospects of full disclosure; it denies the audience access to the source(s) of truth. In the case at hand, MM will have to be unveiled if we are to receive truthful answers to the questions posed in this missive. Otherwise, these questions remain unanswered—at least for the time being. But ultimately, sooner or later, the mask dissolves or it gets penetrated by disciplined and determined (academic or political) excavation for the truth. Finally, by printing this anti-IRI rant over a pseudonym, AN has opened the door to speculation about the identity, privacy, and safety of tens of thousands of other men who happen to be named “Mehdi Mohammadzadeh”. A Google search for Mehdi Mohammadzadeh produces about forty thousand hits spread all over the world prominent among them, “Mehdi Mohammadzadeh”, a member of the well known Aluminium Hormozgan football (soccer) club in Bandar-e ‘Abbas, IRI.
M. Jamil Hanifi
Adjunct Research Professor of Anthropology, Michigan State University
Independent Scholar, Anthropology and the History of Afghanistan