Iranian conservatives and intellectuals have an imperial hangover, says Firouz Farzani. And it blinds them from seeing harsh realities, from human rights violations to the country's military influence
Once again, the judiciary Branch of the Islamic Republic of Iran, along with dozens of groups affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, is holding a multi-day seminar on human rights violations in the United States of America.
It is a favorite theme of Iranian conservatives.
Over the years, Iran's diplomatic missions in Europe and North America have compiled voluminous books documenting routine human rights violations in Europe and America.
But the finger-pointing is selective.
Iranian conservatives routinely overlook gross human rights abuses against Muslims living in areas inside, or close to, Iran’s ancient empire.
They never mention the Chinese crackdown on the Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang (pictured above)
Iran's former territory extended all the way to the Great Wall of China. Even today there are many words in the Uyghur language with Persian cognates.
Then there are the Muslims of Chechnya, who have rich historic, cultural and linguistic links with Iran. But the conservative seminars and books on international human rights abuses never mention the appalling mauling the Chechen people have suffered at the paws — and claws — of the Russian bear.
Iranian conservatives also fail to mention the massive human rights abuses in Myanmar. Buddhists there are carrying out pogroms against the Muslim minority, the Rohingya people who are descendants of immigrants from India and Bangladesh with links to ancient Persia.
Mahmoud Damghani, the secretary of the human rights seminar, said recently on Iranian television, "Iran is the victim of American and Israeli state terrorism. America has violated human rights across the world including in Iraq, Afghanistan and southeast Asia ".
In less than five minutes, Damghani quoted the Supreme leader Ali Khamenei four times to justify the fact that Iran sets aside a whole week every year to focus on “human rights violated by America.”
In the Iranian media, the conservatives try to legitimize their condemnation of America’s human rights record by quoting Noam Chomsky, the acclaimed left-wing linguist, over and over again. However his actual views on Iran’s own despotic regime are routinely ignored.
This skewed view springs from wounded pride. Iran, the former imperial power, lashes out at the current superpower — with a toxic blend of nostalgia, selective blindness and obsession.
To better understand the psyche of our once-great civilization, an Iranian parable might help :
Once upon a time, a female mouse was basking in the sun by a river. She would have dearly loved to bathe in the sparkling water, but had mislaid her swimsuit. As she was pondering this misfortune, she spotted an elephant midstream, squirting jets of cool water over herself with her marvelous trunk. The mouse leapt to her feet and squeaked, “Hey! You there. It appears that you have put on my swimsuit by mistake. Come over here at once to set things straight.”
Iranian conservatives and intellectuals have an imperial hangover. They pretend to themselves (and each other) that Iran is still great. That it could — and should — act as America’s ally against Daesh/Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Deep down, they dream of Iran taking its place alongside its arch rival Saudi Arabia, and even the American blue-eyed boy Israel.
They ignore the fact that Iran is just not in that league. To take one measure, if the US economy — the world’s most powerful — sneezes, stock markets worldwide plunge in fever and convulsion.
Like the mouse on the riverbank, the Iranian conservatives are just kidding themselves.