Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Forbid Gas and Harvest Oil

An old narrative tells the tale of a tyrant who’d live on taxes from the poor farmers’ hard work and expected people not to protest to this injustice, just to shut up and just pay for his luxurious life. As common in old folktales, the King had a smart and sneaky Wazir who had a precious advised for the King. “Forbid farting in public, Your Majesty!” the Wezir said.

The king didn’t grasp the advice but trusted the sly analyst.  The law was passed and soon soldiers marched at the city to punish the culprits.

Some bravely called the law absurd, broke it and were jailed for it, tortured and executed. Others studied ways to deprive themselves of any kind of food that may create gas in their bowels.

Yet a larger group, mainly the youth, got together to find ways to outsmart the ban, to discover and share techniques that would allow them secretly let their body air out in public without being penalized for it.

These citizens found a way and they were successful! But, so was the King. In fact, he was the real winner because that was exactly what he wanted.

People got so busy with updating their strategies to fight the ban, they forgot the real problem: the heavy taxes they still had to pay. The King and the court continued living happily but to ensure the durability of their trick, they were sometimes strict, sometimes easy with the rules and created many sub-rules. The law remained the hot topic of the day for decades.

If you think this is a story that can only happen in old days, you are mistaken.

In Iran, people suffer from unstable economy and inflation in a country that is rich with oil. But, what some are terribly busy with is to dress fashionably within the red lines of the Islamic dress code, to find means to access the heavily filtered worldwide web and go on facebook, to flirt and flaunt in spite of the slum in which they are stuck.

A group of Parliament Members have recently proposed a bill to promote “Amre-be-Maroof,” ordering people to be virtuous. Remember, it is not asking, encouraging, persuading; it’s ordering.

If your outfit, your hair, even your eyebrow does not match the detailed descriptions of Iran’s dress code, you will be harassed, bullied and arrested.

But the self-righteous group who bosses citizens to come to the “serat-mostaghim,” the right path, isn’t the police or the army. It is done by the unofficial militia of Iran, the Basij.

The Basij is everywhere: streets, mosques, schools, universities, offices, hospitals, shopping malls, mountain tops. Basiji is unpaid or underpaid and is hated by middle and upper class Iranians.

But they have the power to harass people, to raid parties and social-political gatherings, to take bribes, confiscate the alcohol and CDs to sell later for profit.

Some are brain-washed, coming from families who fought for their country in the Iran-Iraq war, lost limbs, and still believe the Iranian government is holy.

Many are just opportunists.

But that’s not the whole story.  It takes more than that to make the sort of Basiji who can beat unarmed people without a second thought.
They are the most unwanted people in their society, bullied because of their class, looks, background.

The Basij recruits the humiliated people, gives them an outlet for their anger and frustration, grants them the power to police and beat up other citizens. They feel special, powerful and, most importantly, free to use violence. 

Basij is told constantly that they are loved by their religious leaders: Imams and mullahs and such.

Salvation! How convenient!

 Humanity has searched for eternal happiness for as long as it has existed. If finding salvation equals being armed, powerful and brutal, many volunteer to become a Basiji.

So while some of the humiliated crowd of a hierarchal and unjust system find a way to revenge and to own a property in heaven for their good deeds, the authority enjoys luxurious lives paid by oil money while citizens are busy finding ways to dress the way they want, to secretly dance and binge drink, to date underground, to sing “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and get arrested for it.

We all know who the real winner is.

The article originally appeared in http://basnews.com/en/Article/Details/Forbid-Gas-and-Harvest-Oil/1046

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