Sunday, February 10, 2008

29 years after revolution: Dissent of Khomeini's Children

In Iran, hereditary relations are sacred. In spite of all modernization and democitization and republicanization, to be the "son" of "a" king, still makes one a king maker.

Many years ago, the Iranian parliament passed a law, that would subscribe HARSH punishment to anyone uttering insults at the grand ayatollah, Khomeini. Khomeini's shrine stands as magnificent as that of a saint! Khomeini's son's are dead, one was killed by Shah, the other by the Islamic republic--or so the rumors have it.

However, Khomeini grandchildren have turned into controversial figures--who perhaps survive under protection by his grandmother, who has threatened to spill the beans of many who are holding high offices today, should harm come to her dissident grandchildren!! But Khomeini's grandchildren are also a subsample of the post-revolutionary generation of now middle aged man and women, turned pragmatic and moderate!

At some point, Hossein (picture) called for a US overthrow of the Islamic regime! He fled to Iraq and spoke against IRI, then went to the US and was embraced by neoconservatives, before he suddenly and safely returned to Iran.

In 2004, Zahra Eshraghi (picture), Khomeini's grand daughter who is a feminist and human rights activist was declared unfit to run for parliament.

In 2008, Ali Eshraghi (right picture), another one of Khomeini's grandchildren was barred from election. (Apparently because he shaves and smokes!)

Hassan Khomeini (picture below, next to the chimp#2), who has joined hundreds of protesters in defense of freedom of speech, has been lashing out against the massive disqualification of the reformist candidate and warning against militarization of politics and politicization of military!!

Sean Penn met Hassan in Tehran :

As he approached, I was immediately taken with him. There was a striking twinkle in this man's eyes. He was younger than me by perhaps a decade. But looking in his smiling face, I wouldn't have put it past him that he might read my mind. He had a nearly ginger-colored beard, light skin and eyes, and the black turban of a Seyed. He greeted me first, then my companions, and asked us to sit. We were told that while he understands some English, he would prefer to speak in Farsi and be translated.

He had been told that I had gone to the Friday prayers, so he began the interview by asking my feelings about that. I told him that while the sea of belief in Islam had been impressive, that the use of seductive rage in the chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" are taken quite literally by mothers and fathers in the United States. I said that it seemed to me a highly destructive and inaccurate representation of the country I had come to learn about. Hassan listened with kind interest. His eyes didn't leave me as the translator made clear my statement. He uttered a very brief sentence in Farsi. He said, "Then we should change it." I found myself very moved when he spoke about tolerance for other religions. He said, "The purpose of multiple religions is for each to complete the other," and that "therefore, they are not only to be tolerated, but embraced." This, from the closest living male descendant of the Ayatollah, who had declared a death fatwa upon writer Salman Rushdie. And I believed him. Yet he cautioned me upon further questioning about the definition of terrorism. "What is the yardstick" he asked, "that defines Iran as a terrorist-supporting nation, yet dismisses such a claim against Israel?" And I supposed that his question could be asked about the United States as well.

In 2006, Hossein stated:
"My grandfather's revolution has devoured its children and has strayed from its course. I lived through the revolution, and it called for freedom and democracy - but it persecuted its leaders. For example [Ayatollah Mahmoud] Taleqani, who was frequently imprisoned in the days of the Shah, and after the revolution was harshly persecuted by [the regime] for denouncing violations of the law. He consequently [had to] go into hiding, while grieving and protesting. He protested against the establishment of the revolutionary committees that ruled in an arbitrary and disorganized [manner], and against the persecution of his family...

"The revolution rocked the foundations of society, which had [previously] been conservative and had rejected freedom. The revolution prepared society to accept democracy and freedom. Thanks to the revolution, all sectors of [the Iranian] society, from the educated class to the peasants and the women, are now able to accept [the notion of] freedom and have become politically aware."

In an interview with New York Times, Zahra Eshraghi criticized the forced dress code in Iran:
"I'm sorry to say that the chador was forced on women," she said over tea and cakes in her upscale apartment decorated in ornate furniture in northern Tehran. "Forced, in government buildings, in the school my daughter attends. This garment that was traditional Iranian dress was turned into a symbol of revolution. People have lost their respect for it. I only wear it because of my family status."

Those are the words of a rebel. Ayatollah Khomeini called the chador the "the flag of the revolution," and early in the revolution of 1979 encouraged all women to wear it. Eventually, all women were forced to wear garments that cover their heads and hide the shape of their bodies.

Ms. Eshraghi's frankness is emblematic of the changes today in Iran, where the values and promises of the revolution have given way to an intense, even dangerous debate about whether religion has a place in politics and society.

As a member of the ayatollah's family, Ms. Eshraghi is expected to embrace the trappings of the revolution and the Islamic Republic that followed. Nothing symbolizes the revolution more than the ankle-length black chador that covers all but a woman's face.

But the attitude toward the chador in Iran today has become so negative that some merchants, particularly in northern Tehran, which is more secular, Westernized and wealthy than the rest of the city, refuse to serve "chadori," as chador-wearing women are called. Chadori who do not want to expose themselves to insults avoid the new food court in Tehran that serves tacos and pizza but no traditional Persian food.

"I was in a shop, and I wanted to buy a pair of pants, and the owner wouldn't sell them to me because I was in a chador," Ms. Eshraghi said. "We have only ourselves to blame. People are not happy with the establishment, and the chador has become its symbol."

Pale-eyed, with perfectly manicured eyebrows and slightly frosted hair, Ms. Eshraghi said she had always covered her hair in public, at least with a scarf, because of the dictates of Islam. She fought colleagues at the Interior Ministry, where she promotes women's issues, when they tried to force her to wear more modest dress and dark colors underneath her chador. Behind closed doors, she wears fitted pantsuits that do not conceal her full figure.

"I told them it was not anybody's business what I wear under the chador," she said.


betmo said...

naj- i am hopeful that there will be people such as these who will rise up around the globe- even here in america- to stand for the greater good of humanity. i would stand along side of them. right now, the numbers are small because people are afraid- but i am hopeful it will not always be so. we need people without the agenda of usurping power and money- who view public service as a service and not a right or a career. maybe this is the start.

Georg said...

Bonjour Naj,

You did there a great job of research regarding N° 1's family.

It reminds me a bit the story of Stalin's daughter who escaped to the United States of America.

There may be a clerical dictatorship in Iran right now but at the same time the country is the most advanced towards more rule by the people.


Brother Tim said...

"The purpose of multiple religions is for each to complete the other," and that "therefore, they are not only to be tolerated, but embraced."

Now THAT is wisdom!!!!

Zeinobia said...

@Naj thanks for a very informative post , I read before about Khomeine's grand children but I did not know about his grand daughter or the one who wanted to run for the assembly
by the way I read once that Khomeini wished that no person from his family who enter the political arena like him even his grandchildren , I do not know even this is true or not

Naj said...

I am a true believer of ecology. Things sort themselves out, as long as things are alive, the move and adjust towards survival.

It's funny how these tyrants' daughters dissent! Castro's daughter is unhappy with Papa as well!

Brother Tim
that is in fact the first thing they teach us in religious classes. Iranians are EXTREMELY religious tolerant! The fact that Persian empire was the only one that didn't persecute jews and in fact helped them build their temples is telling, now?

Actually I didn't know about anyone other than Hussein (who called for American invasion) either! But I don't think Khomeini advised is children from being in politics. What he may have advised against was to generate a dynasty after him!

Luckily, the age of dynasties in Iran is passing! It's not quite over yet, though.

MarcLord said...

awesome, awesome post, Naj, and great reason to be hopeful about your country.

Mr. Bridge said...

That was a very fascinating post and I had no idea that Khomeini's grandchildren had such outspoken and progressive views.

It's curious that the U.S. media doesn't make more Americans aware of such views, and of the great diversity of opinion within Iran.

On second thought, I guess if the corporate American media machine humanized Iranians too much it would make it harder to convince Americans of the urgent need to rain bombs down on Iran in the event that Bush fails to do this year and McCain picks up the ball next (assuming he gets elected by a terror-spooked American populace, which I wouldn't doubt.)

Nevertheless, it would be great to discover that his grandchildren had blogs of their own, so that it was possible to exchange views with them. That is something that Iran and America both need more than ever these days...more exchange of views between its respective citizens.

You have a very interesting and well written blog and I'll be checking back from time to time to read more...thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Dinner With the Sayyids
Sayyid Hussein Khomeini told me he had left the Iranian spiritual center of Qum to meet with scholars in the Iraqi Shiite spiritual centers of Karbala and Najaf. He, too, is a progressive, he explained, and he intends to use the freedom that the U.S. invasion has created in Iraq to press for real democratic reform in Iran. Now I understand why his grandfather once threw him in jail for a week. He has Ayatollah Khomeini's fiery eyes and steely determination, but the soul of a Muslim liberal.

August 10, 2003
Dinner With the Sayyids

Naj said...


I'd say Hussein is the lunatic one!

"liberal Muslims" do not ask for US intervention! Idiotis Muslims do!

On that note,

Ali Eshraghi's ban is now lifted and he can participate in the election, representing the "liberal muslims"

Also, one of the hardliners' media outlets is shut down for uttering false accusations against Hassan Khomeini.

Anonymous said...

“We thought we knew a lot of things back then,” Mr. Abdi said. “Everything was simplified. We thought, if only the shah goes, everything will be solved and finished. But the revolution was right, there was no alternative, no solution.”
“Mr. Yazdi says he is a fundamentalist, but what he means is that he is a Muslim intellectual, traditional in his adherence to ritual and teachings. But he is a staunch democrat who defines democracy not by the mechanics of governance, not by elections and institutions, but by ideas. .”

An Iranian Revolutionary,

The New York Times Published: February 16, 2008

Nature+Humanity said...

May you Iranian women successfully defeat the mullahs and IRG and fundamentalists, may you toss your chadors to the trash-heap of misogyny and chauvinism,and may you find the beauty, logic, and freedom to be found in your potential ally against theo-fascism .... that ally is the State of Israel.

mahnaz afkhami said...


many of the women do want to defeat the mullahs and IRG and fundamentalists because they are muslim and believe in islam, they would rather fight IDF terrorists who persecute palestinians

many of them wont toss chadors into trash bins because they are the ones who ultimately believe in islam and are traditionalists/fundamentalists (those wearing head coverings like hijabs are the ones u should be rooting for)

israel an ally against theo-fascism?
dont make me laugh!
israel is the MOST theofacist state in the middle-east if not equal to iran.
israel is essentially a theocracy with bibi being supported by orthodox rabbis
not only that but israel is an apartheid state by suppressing palestinians, which is WORSE than a theocracy
iranian women (even liberal ones) would NEVER side with a terrorist state like israel!

Naj said...

Dear Mahnaz

I think you have misunderstood me; as I have often stated in my blog that Israel is an ally of theo-fascists in Iran.

I agree with all you say :)
welcome to neoresistance and thanks for your comment.