Jaipur: A thousand
jokes go around in Iran every day mocking President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad and the pretensions of the powerful, says Iranian
writer Kamin Mohammadi, outraged that Salman Rushdie was forced to
cancel his visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival here.
In a freewheeling interview with IANS, Mohammadi said she is
overwhelmed by the crowds at the grand literary show in the Pink
City on her first visit to India, but is unable to make sense of
all this holy brouhaha about forcing Rushdie to stay away from
this carnival of the word.
"It's a shame that human rights take second place to freedom of
speech and expression. It's disappointing," Mohammadi said when
asked about the so-called security threat to Rushdie, the author
of the controversial "The Satantic Verses", in the country of his
"It's absolutely outrageous, this business of fatwas. Islam is a
peaceful religion," said the author-journalist when asked about
the fatwa imposed by Iranian rightwing leader Ayatollah Khomeini
over two decades ago that made Rushdie a target of fundamentalists
all over the world.
"I don't know how ordinary Iranians feel insulted by Rushdie's
book," she said.
An Iranian exile living in London, the tall 30-something Mohammadi,
sporting jeans and a trendy jacket, laughs a lot as she speaks,
and feels satire and laughter are a sensitive individual's weapons
in illiberal societies and regimes.
"A thousand jokes go around in Iran. They poke fun at the regime
and at President Ahmadinejad. They pronounce Ahmadinejad in
Iranian in such a manner that the word means silly, stupid," she
"Laughter is a way of coping with illiberal regimes."
Mohammadi was nine years old when her family fled Iran during the
1979 Revolution. "Oh, how they laughed hiding from the bombs," she
said, a trace of sadness creeping into her voice, while talking
about her book "The Cypress Tree", a moving and passionate memoir
about three generations of her sprawling clan. The book evokes her
journey home at the age of 27 to rediscover her Iranian self and
to discover for the first time the story
of her family.
Is the Iranian society on the cusp of change? Is a variant of the
Arab Spring around the corner? Mohammadi has sanguine and tempered
views on the quiet but incremental process of transition under way
"There is not enough appetite for revolution in Iran. They have
seen the violence and the bloodshed. I believe the change in Iran
is going to come in a gradual incremental fashion, and not from
the pressure from the West."
Revolution may have become a dirty word due to the way it has been
abused in the past, but the author is confident that Iran is
navigating its way to liberalism and modernity as the yearning for
change cuts across all classes.
"The change will come. There is no appetite for the present
system. Human rights, freedom - that's the idea of Iran they have.
This yearning for change cuts across all classes."
"A lot of Iranians have come out in the open about it. The
diaspora has a strong connection with society."
The author has a word of caution for the West, specially the US,
which is often speculated to nurture a plan to attack Iran.
"If you think by attacking my country, you will get to change the
regime. You are deluded. That's a great misunderstanding," she
"That will not happen; on the contrary, the Iranian people will
band behind the current regime. Attacking Iran will be a total
"Don't forget, we are the oldest piece of land occupied by the