As I was doing my morning walk in the park today, a van belonging to the city drove by. Nothing unusual about the city’s vehicles driving inside the park. This morning however a dog came dangerously close to the van but since it was driving very slowly, the dog safely ran back to its owner.
The sight of the dog getting too close to the moving vehicle brought back a memory I had long suppressed. When I was in 4th grade, a stray puppy chose our street as its home. Our street was named Koy-e Shahid Abdolmaleki [Martyr Abdolmaleki Street], by Khiyaabaan-e GhasroDasht, above Ghasrodasht Square in north western Shiraz.
Our street was a sort of cul de sac surrounded on one side by Shiraz’s orchards. The GhasroDasht neighborhood where we lived was considered a suburb of Shiraz and consisted mostly of orchards during those years. There were very few homes and businesses there in the early-mid 1980s. And there were only three or four houses on our street. The street was still graveled (not paved with asphalt) and two of those houses had been under construction for quite sometime although their owners were living in them, probably because of shortages of materials during the war. The houses were livable but from what I could tell their exteriors were not ready.
We had rented and moved into the second floor apartment of a large house owned by Mr. Nasirzadeh two years earlier. It was a lovely apartment with three bedrooms and a huge balcony (although when we moved there the apartment was bear with no kitchen utilities, furniture etc). We had fled to Shiraz two years earlier from Ahvaz when Saddam Hussein invaded our province and hometown. And since my Mom was from Shiraz and had a large network of family and friends there, we moved to Shiraz. We were lucky!
Most of the residents of our street didn’t approve of the stray adolescent puppy that was frequenting the neighborhood but I still fed him. And I would sit outside and wait for him to come, usually at night. I am not sure if it was a male or female dog, but I named his Baabi (a nickname for my Dad—Baba—pronounced Bobby). I felt for him because no one wanted him. He was very playful and sweet. It must have been the fall of 1983 when my uncle who was visiting us from Tehran walked with me to the main road where I’d catch the school bus. Baabi was around that day and followed us from the inside of our street onto the main road. As I was waiting for the bus, Baabi was on the opposite side of the road. Traffic those days wasn’t heavy but cars did drive by fast and so as Baabi ran towards me, he was struck by a car and fell to the ground, blood pouring out of his nose. He must have died upon impact. My immediate response was to run towards him as he lay motionless in the middle of the road. My uncle held me as I kicked and screamed, and tried to free myself and run towards Baabi. I was inconsolable. I think he told me that Baabi was in a better place and he didn’t have to live on the street anymore.
I hadn’t thought of Baabi for many years until today.
Three decades later, I walk in Riverside Park in New York almost everyday—Like all of New York City’s other parks, Riverside has a few dog playgrounds and several hours designated for dogs to run freely without a leash.
Tears coursed down my face as I remembered Baabi this morning. I didn’t get to say goodbye, touch or burry him. There was construction going on in the main road where Baabi had been struck and killed, so the construction workers buried him in a plot right in the middle of GhasroDasht Avenue.
The hoopla over Ahmad Khomeini II’s social media presence beats me—progressives gushing over the Instagram pictures of Khomeini junior puzzles me. To me Ahmad Khomeini is no different than what Reza Pahlavi and other members of the Pahlavi dynasty were during the previous regime. Celebrating the young offspring of Khomeini’s “dynasty” is no less troubling to witness among those who otherwise seem to defend the democratic aspirations of people in Iran.
Left to Right: Henry Kissinger and Reza Pahlavi II (1970s). Ahmad Khomeini II with Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (2013).
Reza Pahlavi II and Ahmad Khomeini II facebook pages.
Left to Right: Mohammad Reza Pahlavi with his son Reza Pahlavi II (1967). Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his grandson Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, Ahmad’s father (early 1980s).
“The Pursuit of Happyness" starring Will Smith and his son is a 2006 Hollywood film based on the true story of an American father’s struggle with homelessness. The film received mostly positive reviews by film critics and was nominated for all the major cinematic awards. But I’m still suspicious of anyone liking it, let alone loving it.
The moral of the story is that by being a relentless genius, working ungodly hours to prove your worth to predatory capitalists, you can save your child and yourself from a life of poverty, indignity and homelessness PLUS become a millionaire!
But what if you’re not a relentless genius? What if you were born into destitution or war, denied basic education, nutrition and healthcare? Or what if you had just had an accident and lost your job and your home—what then? What if you can’t reach your full potentials because of years of abuse or neglect—are you still expected to compete with people born into good health, parenting and relatively safer environment? Are you still entitled to happYness (read as the right to living a life worthy of a human being)?
Watching this film, I have always wondered what happened to all those other homeless folks that Will Smith and his son encounter as they go from rags to riches. What happens to them?
In New York City where I live the homeless population is now at its highest level since the Great Depression. Over 16 million children struggle with hunger in the US and over 47 million non-elderly Americans lacked health insurance in 2012.
'Fake' Sign Language Interpreter Marred Mandela Memorial
It is easy to empathize with the outrage felt by the deaf community over “the appearance on stage Monday of a man who they say was only pretending to do sign language interpretation as President Obama and other world leaders eulogized Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa.”
This horrible story reminds me of the George W. Bush era and the exact same way some of us felt reading and watching fake “Iran” or “Islam” or “Middle East” so-called experts (read as native informers) recklessly misinterpreting the facts on the ground. While stationed at neoconservative ThinkTanks or funded by the Islamophobia Industry, they made a mockery of millions of people’s past, present, and future in US media and in the midst of corridors of power.
Wilma Newhoudt, the first deaf person elected to South Africa’s parliament and a vice president of the World Federation of the Deaf detected the fake sign language interpreter immediatly and tweeted:
"Shame on this male so called interpreter on the stage. What is he signing? He knows that the deaf cannot vocally boo him off. Shame on him!"
Wilma Newhoudt words resonates with me…I feel the same for millions of Iraqi, Afghan, Pakistani, Yemeni mothers and their children who weren’t and still aren’t able to physically boo the native informers off the arena and whose cries never reaches the corridors of power.
The charade by our own native informers has carried far more consequential damage—ranging between spreading outright lies, misinformation, Islamophobia and racism, self-hatred, to advocating for war and sanctions, etc. I only wish their charlatanism was as easily detectable to the wider world as the fake sign language interpreter turned out to be at Nelson Mandela’s memorial.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali with former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice