Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rihla (Journey 5): Tabriz – Habsīyah Iran

Rihla (The Journey) – was the short title of a 14th Century (1355) book written in Fez by the Islamic legal scholar Ibn Jazayy al-Kalbi of Granada who recorded and then transcribed the dictated travelogue of the Tangerian Ibn Battuta. The book’s full title was A Gift to Those who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling and somehow the title of Ibn Jazayy's book captures the ethos of many of the city and country journeys I have been lucky to take in past years.

This one is about Tabriz, Iran.

My heart and thoughts are with friends in Iran, who at this moment in their history have such an overwhelming desire for democracy, for freedom from a suffocating theocracy, that I have real concerns that the bloodshed will exceed that of the ’79 revolution.

In March of this year I wandered across Khaqani gardens in Tabriz, from the Blue Mosque to the Azarbayjan Museum. Shirvani Khaqani, a 12th Century Azeri poet in Northern Iran, wrote one of the most powerful jail ballads – Habsiyah – ever penned while incarcerated for five years. He was known originally as the ‘seeker of truth’ and today that truth is further away than ever.

Ahmadinejad’s Ayatollah Khamenei-sanctioned crackdown of democratic protest utilizing the revolutionary paramilitary guards and religious police (know sarcastically as the ‘fun’ police in Teheran) in support of an elitist regime that has lost the confidence of the people is but that of a failing purpose flailing out.

The present democracy demonstrations have been called ‘The Twitter Revolution’ because despite attempts by authorities to suppress in a vacuum its lifeblood is being maintained nationally and internationally by modern communication methods.

The immediate danger is that that lifeblood will ebb away by the continued use of brutality, imprisonment and murder.

Once across the Khaqani gardens I entered the Azarbayjan Museum and went downstairs to see the enormously powerful sculptures of Ahad Hossein. If the regime in Qom want to see the imprint of what they hope to achieve with the brutality they only have to take a moment to reflect on these sculptures.

Oscar Wilde, an Irish poet, wrote another powerful jail ballad, The Ballad of Reading Gaol. One of the repeating verses states,

I never saw sad men who looked 

With such a wistful eye 

Upon that little tent of blue 

We prisoners called the sky, 

And at every careless cloud that passed 

In happy freedom by.

Let us not be careless. Let not the careless cloud of freedom pass by for Iran!

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