Editor’s Note: For months, Iranian screenwriter and satirist Nicole Najafi has been resolutely raising awareness on social media from her home in New York, posting reports coming to her directly from Iran as people protest against the regime, Using her growing platform to tell the world what’s going on in simple words, with footage to back it up. As a woman uncovered her head in heroic defiance and as “dissenters” were imprisoned, burned at the stake, beaten and killed, Najafi has undauntedly covered it all.
In July Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison for criticizing the government. Iranian filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Alemad were also detained the same week. Panahi has been barred from leaving Iran to make films for the past 12 years.
Here is Najafi’s guest column on Deadline. Breaking through power struggles and the shocking reality of the status quo, the underrepresented may be given a voice and twisted truths may be brought to light.
What follows is a very extreme and convoluted history, which Najafi likens to the plot of an incredible movie, contrasting with the democratic freedoms in the United States preparing to vote on Tuesday. It’s shocking.
The world is on fire (sometimes literally) and none of us have the cortisol to prepare for the next tragedy. Let me tell you the most moving story of our time.
If you were to make a movie about what is happening in Iran, Rocky, MulanWhen Mad Max Fury Road.
If you stick with me until the end of this column, I promise you’ll a) become an Iranian armchair expert and be able to navigate cocktail conversations with relative ease, and b) in the future you. You’ll feel a little more hopeful than you did before you read it.
First, some quick context. This is our cold open while the credits roll because we need to know where our characters come from.
Iran may look small, but it is one of the largest countries in the world. It also accounts for a whopping 10% of the world’s oil, twice as much as Russia’s. Simply put, oil = money. Remember the opening of Jumanji When ancient civilizations discovered games in the desert? Iranian oil is a bit similar.It’s a cash-in suitcase Fargo— a blessing that eventually becomes a curse.
The regime that rules Iran is called the Islamic Republic, and they are in power despite the fact that the majority of Iranians don’t want it. How did the Iranians get along with them? It all stems from that cursed suitcase of cash.
Our inspiring incident happened in the 1950s when the Iranians elected a progressive prime minister named Mossadegh. He took back control of Iran’s oil from the British, angering them. They colluded with the CIA to overthrow Iran’s democracy. Their plan was to tip power to the Shah of Iran, who had been on good terms with them all along. They called it Operation Ajax.
The UK and the CIA used all sorts of tricks to make Operation Ajax happen, including bribing Tehran’s most feared mob to hold pro-Shah demonstrations. If Tony Soprano was telling me to support the Shah outside my house, I would be a little afraid to hold a counter-protest in support of the Prime Minister.
But the real power of Operation Ajax was in its propaganda. They launched a massive information war via the news media to garner popular support for Mossadeq.
Operation Ajax was successful. Mossadegh was expelled and all power passed to the Shah. The world would not know the truth of Operation Ajax until many years later when he was declassified by the CIA and issued a shameful public apology. (Thank you, right?)
The Shah was neither a hero nor a villain, but he had a tragic flaw. He feared losing his power. After seeing what happened to Mossadegh, you can forgive him for feeling a little uneasy. His big mistake was banning him from all free speech (among other mistakes I don’t have time for). But what you should know about the Shah’s reign is that Iran was socially liberal, but not democratic.
Cut: The midpoint of our story in 1979, when the people led a revolution to get rid of the monarchy and restore secular democracy.
Rumors circulated in favor of Ayatollah Khomeini, the religious and political leader whom the Shah had ousted. He was a populist touting old Iranian traditions, the exact opposite of the Shah, who knew exactly how to deal with people’s grievances against the Shah in order to win public support.
Jimmy Carter called Khomeini and agreed to share Iran’s booty with the West if Khomeini came to power. Carter then put Khomeini on a plane to Iran to help him rise to power. The suitcase full of cash attacks again.
But this is the halfway point of our film and it never goes the way we think it will. I was.He has completely become Mike Pence, the modern liberal society of Iran. of Handmaid’s Tale (Literally — Margaret Atwood Bass of Handmaid’s Tale in Khomeini’s Iran).
Khomeini and his companions squeezed the country’s oil for themselves, leaving the people with nothing. They stripped women of all rights and ruled with an iron fist to maintain power. Meet: The Worst Villains in the World.
First, they came for women’s physical autonomy by requiring them to wear the hijab. Thousands of women took to the streets to protest this. These brave women were publicly beaten, creating fear of dissent that remains a pillar of power in the regime.
Under Khomeini’s government, women were banned from jogging in public by senators. He has slowly and rapidly stripped away their rights (this is how it happens, so vote!). 43 years later, Iranians are still under the control of these rogues. Given America’s recent history, it’s somewhat easy to understand how an unpopular tyrant with unpopular religious beliefs can rule over the unwilling majority.
Iranian women never accepted the regime’s gender apartheid. They have risen many times, but every movement has been brutally suppressed. During the 2019 riots, the regime shut down the internet and killed more than 1,500 of her people in three days. Without Internet access, news of the carnage could not have reached the world and sparked international protests. I felt like everything was lost.
And there was a slight change a few weeks ago in September. Another civilian uprising was sparked after the regime murdered a young woman named Masa Gina Amini for showing a few strands of hair under her hijab. Protests erupted and, as usual, the regime’s crackdown was swift and deadly.
Except this time, the Iranians did not back down. Despite tear gas, water cannons, arrests and deaths, people continued to flood the streets demanding freedom and an end to this regime.
The regime has stepped up its crackdown, arresting public figures and killing children and mothers. But this only backfired, as every new atrocity they commit only sets fire to the hearts of Iranians. People want their freedom and make it clear they will never return.
We are now on day 52 and the riots have turned into a nationwide revolution with Iranian women and girls at the forefront. It is also a revolution.
At first, like all underdog stories, no one said we could win. now? Even America’s most die-hard political pundits say the regime could be overthrown.
The scene coming out of Iran now is amazing. We see a 13-year-old girl throwing her water bottle and chanting “Disgraceful!” I bullied administration officials from the middle school playground. We watch college students tear down makeshift barriers put up by the police to keep women out of segregated cafeterias. The whole nation, men, women, old and young, rich and poor, religious and non-religious, all under his one goal to defeat this regime and restore secular democracy. We are united.
We are now at the climax of our story, but we are enlisting everyone in our industry to help us write this ending. It can be realized. The rogues in the regime hope that you and the rest of the world didn’t care enough about the Iranians to care about their fight. Prove them wrong. Take away the regime’s secret weapon. They can only commit atrocities behind the scenes, so the more spotlights they put on Iran, the more accountability the regime must hold.
The regime has jailed and silenced some of our most beloved filmmakers and writers. Poet Atefeh Chaharmahalian was jailed for speaking out about freedom of expression (irony). Another poet, Nasibe Nami, was arrested for launching a balloon carrying a protest message. Film director Jafar Panahi won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival for his film. no bears when he was being tear gassed in a prison cell. These desperate acts are the last gasp of a dying regime. Please help put out the embers.
We have never been closer to freedom in Iran than we are now. This is a pivotal moment. You can be a big part of this story with us.Helping the underdog win and defeat these villains so the good can triumph. Let’s remind all dictators and politicians that we, the people, are responsible. Your voice matters and we need you.