Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Persian Letters

Cardboard Khomeini Returns To Iran From Exile

Iranian soldiers commemorate Ayatollah Khomeini's triumphant return to Iran in 1979 with a cardboard cutout.
Iranian soldiers commemorate Ayatollah Khomeini's triumphant return to Iran in 1979 with a cardboard cutout.
On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution -- returned triumphantly to Tehran on an Air France flight from Paris after 14 years in exile.

Now, 33 years later, that return was reenacted in a bizarre ceremony that saw guards carrying a giant cardboard cutout of Khomeini down the stairs of a passenger plane and a waiting crowd paying their respects to "him."

Iranians have been faced with many unusual and absurd events in the past three decades of the rule of the clerics. The February 1 ceremony, however, may have topped them all.

A series of pictures posted by the semi-official Mehr news agency shows two solemn looking guards carrying a cardboard Khomeini as others give the serious-looking, white-bearded cleric a military salute. A marching band is seen playing music in the background.

Another cardboard Khomeini -- this one smiling and seated -- popped up at a ceremony attended by Education Minister Hamid Reza Haj Babayi and other officials to mark the ayatollah's return to the Refah School, where he set up his headquarters 33 years ago. This cardboard Khomeini sat there while the others -- some looking a bit uncomfortable next to him -- drank tea and chatted.

The ceremonies with the cardboard Khomeini were aimed at glorifying an important moment in Iran’s modern history. But they appear to have had the opposite effect, producing several jokes and mocking comments among Iranians.

Upon returning to Tehran, Khomeini was asked by a foreign reporter how he felt about coming back to his homeland after so many years. He famously replied, “Nothing.”

One joke making the rounds of social media parodies that well-known exchange:

Khomeini’s cardboard cutout is asked how he feels about returning to Iran. "Khomeini was a human and even he didn’t have any feelings. I’m just a cardboard cutout," he says.

"We don't have any Akbar here.""We don't have any Akbar here."
"We don't have any Akbar here."
"We don't have any Akbar here."
Khomeini’s cardboard cutout arrived in a very different Iran than the one the real Khomeini promised Iranians. He talked of freedom and justice, but the gap between the rich and poor has been widening and the country is frequently criticized by international human rights groups for its repressive policies.

The revolutionary fervor is long gone amid widespread disillusionment.

More than three decades after the 1979 revolution, Iran has repressed many of the children and founding fathers of the revolution with whom Khomeini helped establish the Islamic state.

They include Khomeini’s protege, former prime minister turned opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi, who has been under house arrest since last February. Reformist cleric and opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi, one of the founding fathers of the revolution, is also under house arrest.

Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been isolated and sidelined because of his rivalry with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his criticism of the 2009 postelection crackdown.

Some of Khomeini’s relatives have also come under pressure over their support for the opposition movement.

A Photoshopped picture of Khomeini's cardboard cutout making the rounds on the Internet alludes to the present-day situation. It shows the seated Khomeini saying to officials next to him:

"Hi, guys. Very nice meeting you. But have you seen Akbar, by any chance? Hashemi?" Those sitting next to him pretend they have no idea who "Akbar" is and try to change the subject. “We don’t have any Akbar here.” They add: “We also don’t have [Mir Hossein Musavi] and [Mehdi Karrubi]. Let's change the topic. How are you?”

A man in Tehran told RFE/RL that the cardboard Khomeini ceremonies are a “huge charade.”

"Is this how [Iranian authorities] want to regain legitimacy? By creating a cardboard idol?” he asked.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
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Comment Sorting
by: Evan from: Brooklyn
February 01, 2012 20:24
No, this is not from The Onion.

by: Demetrius Minneapolis from: My House - Was in yours
February 01, 2012 22:27
The very definition of the word "Idolatry". Good show though, the band was magnifique!

by: Adam XA3AP
February 01, 2012 23:50
The history repeats itself, but first as tragedy and then as farce.
1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.

Iranian Nebuchadnezzar made his image of cardboard and put it in Russian made TU-154...

by: Mouwahhid-Arab from: Arabia-Felix
February 02, 2012 07:35
This is really comic one ! İran is worship to what ? A cartoon leader... Turks are worship to Ataturk, in Anatolia Turkey you can see Ataturk statues everywhere. Children, soldiers, students, officers, teachers... Everyone must show respect to the Ataturk's head busts. every 29 october, and 23 april, and 10 november...and tens of other days, Turks must show their respect to Ataturk's statues and busts. North Korean Kim Jong is true man, he say "there is no god, only İ" , Turks and İranians are say "God is true, but must stay where he is. We build our toy gods - TO REMEMBER HİM !".
In Response

by: Chuck Cunningham from: Larger Chicago Area
February 09, 2012 23:22
It is ironic to speak of worship of any figures, when God is a Spirit and those that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. Jesus Christ is the only truth. He was God's final sacrifice for our sins and no man, woman, or child can know or come to God except through Him. That is because God Himself was in or within Jesus Christ Himself dying to make a way for us to return to God.

He can not have fellowship with sinful men except those who are covered by the blood offering made by God of his Son, as Abraham was about to do to his son Isaac but was shown a ram caught by it's horns in the bushes. When Isaac asked Abraham where the sacrificial animal was, since they had wood and the fire for the sacrifice and Abraham said to Isaac that "God will provide HIMSELF the lamb." So pictures of politicians and leaders of countries being worshiped misses the mark.

King David said, The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit on my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool." But he doesn't do it with threats. If there were an apostate. be that upon their own head. "Thou shalt not kill." God can handle his own necessary disposals. Christ died for all the world: You too, if you will turn from your sin and unbelief and receive forgiveness and his righteousness and stand wholly righteous before him or stand by yourself. A sin debt must be paid. What will you use to pay your own? Your works or the blood of the Son of the Living God: Jehovah? Jesus means: "Jehovah is salvation." Ask Him to save you and remake you. I hope you and many others do. Then I will meet you on that day we stand before Him. And we will rejoice then!

by: Rick from: Prague
February 02, 2012 09:23
Ahhhh. Valentine's Day come early.

by: UNCLETIM from: USA
February 02, 2012 17:13
We're parsing tiny portions of sentences as a reason to derail a presidential campaigne, they're trotting out cardboard cutouts of a dead Ayatolah. That is why they will win and we will lose! Wake up people.

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
February 03, 2012 02:46
The next step of the fanatics--Khomeini Cartoons.. in the style of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"
Crowds of obscurantist breaking to the theaters to pay homage to Toon..
It seems that the issue of Iranian nuclear bomb should be resolved as soon as possible, otherwise it will fall on our heads, sooner or later...

by: azizullah from: USA
February 03, 2012 04:34
Truly classic. The hopes of a glorious revolution have been reduced to cardboard figurines. I wonder if I can get one of those to place in my house to deter theft...

by: Dave
February 04, 2012 03:08
Very well written, as usual.

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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Seen anything in the Iranian blogosphere that you think Persian Letters should cover? If so, contact Golnaz Esfandiari at esfandiarig@rferl.org