The UBC History Department and the Binding the Nations Lecture Series brings famed Iranian professor Hamid Dabashi to UBC to present a lecture on the Green Movement in Iran. Special thanks to the Binding the Nations Lecture Series for providing access and photography.
I had my usual reservations about attending the lecture being a white, blond haired, hazel eyed Canadian girl; I have always attracted at least a few curious looks from Persians when I attend film screenings or lectures on their beloved country. But I always bring a few Persian friends along to prove that I’m legit (and to translate any Farsi), and it’s great conditioning for the attention I’ll probably get when I plan to head to Iran next year.
But am I allowed to love Iran? To be upset that Iranians didn’t get their vote? To hate Ahmadinejad? Dr. Dabashi thankfully opened his lecture by asking why are we talking about problems “over there” when we are “here” in Canada? He explained to the Iranians in the room that it did not matter whether we are here, or there, but that we are human. As humans, the situation in Iran is an issue of war and we can all connect to that. To be in the audience as a human, instead of an outsider, allowed me to listen to the talk without checking my emotions or feelings about Iran at the door.
Dr. Dabashi narrated Iranian history with such preciseness you would think that the tobacco revolt of 1891-1892 had happened that morning. For those not engaged with the historical aspects of Iran, Dr. Dabashi’s sharp wit, humor and use of his personal struggle with the regime most likely kept you on the edge of your seat.
He focused in on the identification of the Green Movement as a civil rights movement. “Historically,” he says, “the question Iranians have asked themselves is, ‘where is my gun?’ Now, we ask ‘where is my vote?’” Dr. Dabashi emphasizes how even in the face of atrocious violence, this movement refuses to engage with what he defines as “a cycle of violence that has generated into politics of despair.”
As a student who had their eyeballs glued to twitter, facebook, and any half decent press outlet last summer during the elections, I especially connected with Dr. Dabashi’s account of how the Green Movement has gone viral. As a Terry blogger, I was thrilled that Dr. Dabashi touched on the importance of ‘sharing’ information to spread the Green Movement. He stressed the importance of blogs, tweets, facebook posts, and all forms social media in connecting the movement with the rest of the world. Humorously, he encouraged us in facebook terms’ to friend’ each other. (“Although, God forbid if you de-friend them!” he warned.)
While I can’t summarize the entire lecture (nor transcribe the passion Dr. Dabashi spoke with), I can summarize by saying that he provided us with not only an account of Persian history, but a glimpse into his own history. He humanized the struggles that Iranians have endured and reminded us of the inherent beauty of Iran’s history, culture and people. If only the rest of the world could listen to this lecture.
Most importantly, he reminded us that if the Islamic Republic needs to continually proclaim that the Green Movement is dead, then it most certainly is very much alive.