“The Art of Not Forgetting Freedom” by Shahriar Mandanipour

Dec 11, 20090 comments

The Art of Not Forgetting Freedom Shahriar Mandanipour Translated by Sara Khalili

For centuries upon centuries, successive dictators have striven to make of the people of Iran a population that is fearful of or disenchanted with knowledge, that is demeaned and extols autocracy, that lacks trust among itself and shuns beauty. To preserve and prolong their reign, dictators have employed all method of repression: street massacres, all modes of murder and executions, lengthy imprisonments, torture, contriving political crises, war, drowning the population in a swamp of poverty and loathing for knowledge … and even the use of the most intricate equipment and software for tapping and monitoring telephone and internet traffic, the price of which is paid with the oil revenues of the Iranian people. For centuries upon centuries of darkness’s rule, dictators have relentlessly striven with all their might to suffocate free-thinking art—an art determined to straighten its bent back and to show the world its humanistic beauties. Yet, despite all suppressions and censorships, the Iranian artist has learned and proven the art of survival, the art of hope and of gaining energy from fear and despair, and the art of reminding minds of human beauties and uglinesses. Throughout Iran’s history, there have been eras during which dictators have seemingly managed to force the people into obedience and submission, and deceived by the silence of the masses, they have killed and crushed the bravest and most praiseworthy Iranian men and women. But, sooner or later, at the height of confidence in their own power, they have been taken off guard by the sudden storm of the people’s passion for freedom. Disbelievingly, they have come face to face with the fury of willpower, suppressed knowledge and the unpredictable inventiveness of the fight for freedom. How surprising that often times in the uprisings of Iranians, many of the frontrunners of the struggle are from the generation that grew in the confines of dictatorship. Iran, with an ancient history replete with blood and suffering, has proven from one generation to the next, that despite the times when it has bred the larva of new dictators, it has also  learned well and transferred to its children the art of misleading and surprising these creatures—the art of cloaking and protecting light when the commanders of darkness pillage and deceive, the art of sheltering in a corner of the heart the ancestral will and desire for freedom, the art of  committing to tired minds the remembrance of honor and human dignity, the art of conveying art, and in brief, the art of overthrowing the dictator. And again, the people of Iran have come to the streets in peaceful protest. With bullets and batons their blood is spilt on the asphalt of streets, they are tortured in prisons and their blood splatters on cement walls, but still they do not turn to violence. It is bitter and sad, yet heroic and beautiful, this sacrificing of blood for the sake of avoiding greater bloodshed. It is Prometheus-esque this struggle, with the hope that the dictatorship of blood will at last end and that there will no longer be a need for the noblest people of this land to sacrifice their blood for freedom and for the sake of revealing the truth. May it be that in this promising recent uprising, just as Iran’s young generation knows what it doesn’t want, that it also wisely and knowledgeably knows what it does want and what its rights are. And may it be that the history of fanaticism comes to an end, and that Iran has learned how, after victory, to guard the rights and freedoms of its beauties. 85066_mandanipour_shahriarShahriar Mandanipour has won numerous awards for his novels, short stories, and nonfiction in Iran, although he was unable to publish his fiction from 1992 until 1997 as a result of censorship. He came to the United States in 2006 as the third International Writers Project Fellow at Brown University. He is currently a visiting writer at Boston College and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His latest novel, Censoring an Iranian Love Story (translated by Sara Khalili) was published by Knopf in May 2009. Translations of Mandanipour’s short stories have appeared in PEN America, The Literary Review and The Kenyon Review.