Thoughts on a Persian New Year

Iran has been on my mind for the past 48 hours.

Last night, I had the great pleasure of visiting with a Calgary book club. This particular club has been gathering for the better part of 30 years, and I was honoured to sit in on such as venerable group. Last night they met to discuss my last book, Poets and Pahlevans: A Journey Into the Heart of Iran. After flogging Walls for so long it felt a little odd returning to a book that was published in 2006 and based on travels I made nearly a decade ago. But it felt a little nostalgic, too, and I enjoyed making the return.

The ladies and I spoke a lot about Iran. We spoke about the way the country and its people are portrayed in the media. We spoke about the film Argo, and how every Iranian in the film seems to be a snarling villain. We spoke a joke made at the Golden Globes. The hosts quipped that Ben Affleck wanted to make a movie about someplace more friendly that Boston so he chose Iran. The irony is that Iran is, in fact, a friendlier place than Boston, had Ben bothered to find out. The Iranians treated me with more humanity, warmth and generosity than I’ve ever felt before or since.

We spoke, too, how the media continues to describe Canada’s role in the Iran hostage crisis, under-represented in Argo, as potentially “saving American lives.” The media neglects to mention that of the  52 Americans held hostage the Iranians killed exactly zero. They were kept prisoner for 444 days – a horrifying ordeal to be sure – but the hostages didn’t harm them. This is an important point that is always missed when we cast our heroes and villains.

I told the gathered readers how important it was for me to show a side of Iran that we don’t get to see in the regular media. And I told them that the greatest compliments I’ve ever received on any piece of my writing is from the Iranians who tell me they appreciated how portrayed them.

Then today, on No Ruz, the Persian New Year, CBC host Jian Ghomeshi read the following essay that everyone who thinks they know anything about Iran, and Iranians, should take a moment to listen to:

No Ruz Mubarak!