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  Opinion   Columnists  06 Jan 2024  Farrukh Dhondy | After wars in Gaza, Ukraine… blasts in Iran: Despite old ties, I won’t go back there

Farrukh Dhondy | After wars in Gaza, Ukraine… blasts in Iran: Despite old ties, I won’t go back there

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Jan 6, 2024, 12:39 am IST
Updated : Jan 6, 2024, 12:39 am IST

I still believe its support for Ukraine is necessary and its support for the genocide of innocents in Gaza is deplorable.

Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. (AP/PTI)
 Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. (AP/PTI)

“Ugliness proves Darwin was right!”

“In the beginning was the Word

and the Word was OM”

“If God writes books,

isn’t he bound to win every literary prize?”

“AI will put all liars out of business!”

From WhatcanIdo by Pukka Naidu (Tr from Ardhamaghadi by Bachchoo)

My mobile phone, especially WhatsApp, now overflows with messages about peace on earth and goodwill to all men. These are well-meant or oblivious greetings from associates who wish for divine or political intervention to achieve these extremely unlikely goals or can’t see what’s happening.

In all my short and happy life, there may have been a New Year with more wars, killing of innocents, terrorism, natural disasters, than this year -- but I can’t recall one!

Some friends opposed me for opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I never bought into the conspiracy theory that “the West”, wherever that is, had designs on Russian territory. I regarded it as Vladimir Putin, in charge of an undemocratic mafia-ruled country, initiating a thuggish invasion of a young and virtual democracy.

Friends say that puts me in a camp which supports the United States in all its international stances. It doesn’t. I still believe its support for Ukraine is necessary and its support for the genocide of innocents in Gaza is deplorable. And I have never thought that its disastrous invasion of Vietnam and its meaningless invasion of Iraq were just. They are worthy of prosecution as war crimes. Of course, no authority exists to hold any regime to account. (Come back God, all is forgiven?)

And apart from the indiscriminate genocide in Gaza and the slaughter in Ukraine, the wars in Yemen and the natural disasters of earthquakes in Japan on the celebratory day, there comes news of the terrorist bombs that killed pilgrims to Gen. Qasem Soleimani’s tomb at Kerman in Iran.

No doubt the victims of these terrorist attacks were ideological supporters of the nasty Iranian regime. This regime’s fascistic repression of its female population and of those who espouse democracy and free speech are not stances which inspire welcoming reaction or optimism. Nevertheless, these terrorist bombs, perpetrated by democratic enemies of the Islamic regime or by foreign agents or by Sunni dissidents from the Shia hegemony of the regime, have killed over a hundred victims who may have supported the regime but shouldn’t die because they did.

I must admit here, that as a cultural Zoroastrian and with Parsi heritage, I really want to go back to Iran -- and no, gentle reader, I didn’t come away from that country in the 8th century AD. My ancestors certainly did, but when I say “go back”, I mean that in the 1970s, I visited Iran several times for short periods as my parents were in Isfahan, where my father, a retired Indian Army engineer, was employed to build the iron and steel works in that city.

I want to go there now to visit the ancient Zoroastrian sites of Persepolis, Pasargadae and the remnants of the religion in Yazd -- and maybe other sites I don’t, in my dilettante way, know about. But of course, I won’t go for fear of being arrested on some trumped-up charge as so many such as Naznin Zaghari Radcliffe were.

My 1970s’ visits to Isfahan were memorable. My last one in 1976 was to my father’s funeral.

He died in that city and his body was taken to be buried in an isolated Zoroastrian cemetery in the wilderness.

On an earlier visit, in British school holidays, as I was then earning my daal-roti as a London schoolteacher, I landed up and my mother said: “There’s someone who wants to see you”. I asked who, and she said: “You remember Gita Singh?”

“Of course, I do, from our Kanpur days, the unattainable beautiful girl.”

“Yes”, Mum said, “she went to the USA, to Michigan University, and she’s married to Karl Kranke, who studies Persian mountain dialects, and that’s why they are here. They said they’d come to see you soon.”

Gita and Karl turned up and I quit my family house and went with them to their two-room house transported by his powerful motorcycle, sitting three squeezed up. I spent most of that holiday in their house.

Remember this was during the Pahlavis’ regime, with the Shah running the show. Karl and Gita had cultivated a group of leftist radicals dedicated to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a socialist regime.

I spent several opium-smoking days and nights with these radicals, discussing all manner of left-wing ideology. Karl would smoke opium with us, but he’d regularly ride out on his thundering bike to the hills to pursue his dialect studies.

My holidays being over, I went back.

After my father’s death, Iran was done. I went to India, to Delhi, and my mother said: “Gita is here and managing a luxury hotel. She’d like to see you.”

“And Karl?” I asked.

“Divorced. She’ll tell you why,” Mum said.

I went to see Gita. Yes, they’d returned to the US and she’d discovered that the man she married may have been a Persian dialect scholar but was working for the CIA and had, by identifying and reporting on the young radicals whom we discussed and smoked opium with, betrayed them to the Shah’s police, who had them and their families killed. Befriend to betray!

(Come back, Zarathustra, all is forgiven?)

Tags: israel palestine conflict, gaza airstrikes, russia-ukraine conflict