Monday, February 19, 2007

Who's responsible for American's false image of Iran?

Farzaneh Milani's today article in the Daily Progress traces the sources of misunderstanding of Americans about Iran:
"America in Captivity" was the headline that captured the mood of a country in psychic pain.

"Nuke Iran," read graffiti and T-shirts and posters.

"The only thing that could ever straighten out this screwed-up country [Iran] is an atomic bomb! Wipe it off the map and start over," recommended "Not Without My Daughter," the most popular book about Iran ever published in the United States. [hmmm, and Betti Mahmoodi, unlike Ahmadinejad, didn't speak to America through translation, did she?]

Twenty-eight years later, Iranians find themselves hostages of their own hostage taking. read more

Farzaneh Milani is a professor in Women and Gender Studies in University of Virginia. She is the author of a great book Veils and Words, the emerging voices ofIranian women writers. Milani blames the general mis- understanding about Iran on best seller books such as "On Wings of Eagles," "Whirlwind," "Sword Point," "Shadows of Steel," "House of Sand and Fog" - and three non-fiction books - "Under Fire," "Not Without My Daughter" and "Reading Lolita in Tehran".

Most of these books depict Iran as an angry sea of chest-pounding, fist-shaking mobs that burn effigies of the American president, trample on the American flag and scream "death to America" like a mantra. Displaying images of veiled women on their covers, many of these narratives milk the cliches and reinforce the stereotypes evoked by
this all-too-familiar image.

The reason, she find to be the few conglomerates that dominate the $25.1 billion U.S. publishing industry. Obsessed by blockbuster success, these publishers are not interested in the not-so-lucrative business of translation, which establishes a cornerstone of intercultural communication and better understanding between nations.

The media is also complicit.
While scholarly books reach a narrow audience, popular books on Iran and mainstream media coverage of the country reach millions of people. They wield much power by touching the hearts and souls of the American public. Part reality and part imagination, and with a splash of concern for national and international security thrown in for good measure, they offer engaging stories and fan the flames of antagonism between the two countries.

But this is what I didn't know, did you? 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control began to consider books from Iran as "embargoed literature." To publish her memoir,Shirin Ebadi , the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had to initiate a lawsuit, invoking rights granted even to non-Americans by the U.S. Constitution.