Every conflict has stories to tell, and Iranian revolution of 1979 is no exception. The moiety of people that escaped Iran following the revolution carried with them many stories of their nation, culture, and history.
A diaspora of such writers were also represented at the Zee Jaipur Lit fest. Prominent names such as Reza Aslan, Fariba Hachtroudi and Sahar Delijani were among those who shared their tales from Iran with the audiences.
“The Arab spring started in Iran,” stated Fariba Hachtroudi with much pride. In 1985, Hachtroudi had travelled clandestinely to Iran to understand the daily life of her compatriots. “It was Iranians who started the Twitter revolution in 2009 in protest of the elections that year. The situation in Iran can only change if our people take the initiative.”
These cross cultural scribes, however, do find light hearted moments and humour in an otherwise dark political situation, and the same is reflected in their writings. Take Marjane Strapi, for instance; her graphic novel ‘Persepolis’ that narrates the story of her early years of freedom and then an unwelcome exile to the west is rife with dark humour and sarcasm.
Similarly, at the festival, religious scholar Reza Aslan, infused humorous rhetoric whilst sharing his experiences of being an Iranian in America. “Early 80’s were not the best time to be an Iranian in America.,” he told the audience. “As opposed to now, when it’s fantastic! So much has changed,” he adds with much sarcasm.
Describing his struggle with balancing a dual cultural identity, Aslan added, “As a seven year old kid, I did my best to distance myself from the Iranian culture. In fact, for a good part of the 80s I pretended to be Mexican!”
But, of course, as is well known, not only did Aslan reconnect with his roots, but when on to become an academic expert on situations in the Middle East.
Others such as Hachtroudi, took the bold step to sneak back into the country to document the state of affairs. Her experiences became the story of her eventual book exposing the tragedy of a nation.
Another author, Sahar Delijani, was born in Tehran’s Evin Prison in 1983 and moved to California when she was 12. Her book ‘Children of the Jacaranda Tree’ tells a similar tale.
These are, of course, just a few of the many who have stories that were born out of a three decade long political and ideological conflict. The list of writers from Iran is endless, each has capitalised on the ‘freedom of speech’ taken for granted in the west, to create a plethora of literature narrating one complex story of Iran.