By Rachel Brooks
June 21, 2021
Features may contain opinion-based language. Opinions are attributed to their authors and do not reflect an official agenda of Timberwolf-Phoenix Media.
The Islamic Republic stands out of place on the foundation of an ancient multicultural Iran. By raising their voices against the Islamic Republic, the people of Iran have revealed that the spark of their multifaceted society ignites yet among the ashes of tyranny. These many cultures, together with the resonance of their thoughts, have survived the ruinous four decades of Ayatollah regime rule.
The Iranian community was mobilized by the No2IR movement to voice their disdain for the Ayatollah’s regime. The group organized a Twitter storm of mass numbers. Composed of Iranians of all walks of life, representing the spectrum of Iran’s cultures, this mass digitial protest highlights the power of an Iranian society liberated to engage in free discourse.
Parallels of the Mystic’s poem and today’s Iranian human rights movement
In the 12th century, the great Iranian mystic Farid-Ud-din Attar, born in old Nishapur, set to pen his Manteq ut-tair, the exalted Persian-language poem known in English as “the Conference of the Birds.”
In June 2021, a new sort of “conference of birds” took place on a digital platform famous for its simple blue bird design. This time the conference of birds came in the form of “tweets”and together, with the voice of one consensus, the Iranian people used this blue bird to issue outcry against botched elections in the Islamic Republic. Not only to boycott elections, but also to boycott the establishment of the Islamic Republic as a whole entity.
— ᴍᴀᴍᴀᴅᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴄʜɪᴠᴇꜱ (@mamadou_archive) June 20, 2021
The Twitter storm saw massive engagement numbers. The response live stream was recapped on June 19. Related tweets sailed past 1 million with estimated 28,000+ respondents sharing the #No2IR hashtag at intervals.
In this great Twitter storm movement, one feels the same “great awakening” of thought, of the press toward freedom that is expressed in Attar’s mystic work.
The people of Iran have been subverted by rigid religious constriction, yet the humanity they manifest has transcended centuries and decades of social reprogramming. Just as Attar was “fierce and scornful” of all religious dogmatic bent, so too are the dissidents and protesters of this regime calling into question the rigidity of Ayatollah rule.
The Sufi’s vision paralleled in today’s reality
In the poem, the birds set forth on the Sufi mystic path seeking a King. While the original poem is a religious allegory, it also mirrors civil virtues of Iran. In today’s human counterpart discourse, one sees a resonance. The Iranian people have used all digital means of dialogue to discover awakening and new governance.
Despite being written hundreds of years ago, the poem, by these virtues, further allegorizes the living Iran. Just as the birds struggle with who is worthy and who is not to take the quest to the city of the King, so do today’s Iranian human rights activists ponder the correct path toward liberty.
From their conferences via Twitter Spaces, they personify a modern conference of birds and the philosophical dilemmas of their ancient counterparts. They often are challenged by a disagreement on how a free Iran could be achieved, yet struggle on together through the adhesive of a shared commitment.
The challenge is the philosophical vision of what a free Iran as yet to be realized is. No two methods are the same, but all are traveling in the same direction, to a destination of liberty, to a “city of the King” that does not yet exist in the material world, and must see the stress, the duress, the regress and progress of being brought to life.
In the poem, the Hoopoe explains to his audience of birds who the “king of birds” is and must lead its fellows through the Seven Valleys of the Way. In similar concept, Iranian rights activists, while disagreeing on the method to reach their final appointment, have shared established values what will bring them mutually to the destination. They likewise share in mutual sacrifices that season the resolve of this movement.
The paths of enlightenment are defined in the epoch as Quest, Love, Knowledge, Independence and Detachment, Unity, Bewilderment and Stupefaction, and lastly Poverty and Annihilation. One observes mirroring sacrifice in the Iranian dissident, who must pay the ultimate price, in many cases, completely stripped of rights for daring to envision a better way for Iran. It is Poverty and Annihilation that is promised to the Iranian who takes to the streets en masse, under the threat of live round retaliation. If one is less fortunate, he or she will be cast into Iran’s grotesque prisons that test the limits of modern western imagination.
Yet, in that courage, one hears Attar’s birds and their question echoed, a free thought that time and tyranny has not successfully purged from the earth.
Consider, from the translated text of Attar’s poem:
The world’s birds gathered for their conference And said:
“Our constitution makes no sense.
All nations in the world require a king;
How is it we alone have no such thing?
Only a kingdom can be justly run;
We need a king and must inquire for one.”
This same guiding light of illumination that Attar saw in his 12th Century vision still leads. Iran, as a national spirit, has survived. The proof is in the discourse.
Attar’s common struggle, and the seeds of a Renaissance
Attar’s timeless work lives in relevance to today’s Iran because it comes from the seeds of the Mystic’s common struggle with today’s freedom-seeker. Attar, in the 12th century, was a Sufi mystic among religious purists. His pursuits for a higher understanding were forbidden, and thus, his admonitions are directed toward those who lead with religious rigidity and not with the quest for spiritual truths.
Throughout his epoch, Attar asserts his narrative influence directly at his Iran, breaking through the glass of allegory to address his intended audience.
Attar’s vision was one consistently unfolding philosophy that builds and builds upon itself for clarification. It continued to stress an abandonment of Self, and of self-serving. The sacrifice of self for a cause much bigger is a common expression of dissidence, and Attar allegorizes this theme repeatedly in his education of the mystic’s journey toward absolution.
Attar likewise captures a spirit that is still present in Iran and has been since ancient times, in his allusion toward Zoroastrianism’s beliefs. Attar nods toward the fire-cleansing belief of the Zoroastrian in his allusion to fire as a tool of exaltation. Through these allusions, Attar had scandalized the zealots of his day, while validating the inward search of his Iran, by his attribution of borrowed belief from the Zoroastrian quest for enlightenment.
In today’s Iran, Gamaan surveys realizes that all forms of ancient religious belief, as well as agnosticism and atheism, as well as complete abstenance from religion, are still present in the Iranian civil approach toward the spiritual. Iran’s civil rights movement of today scandalizes the rigidity of the Ayatollahs in the sense that they seek the freedom of open religious expression. They are all as Attar’s pupils, perhaps without intention, revealing the permanence of the human right to decisions of conscience.
The efforts of movements with stamina and strength as #No2IR’s Twitter storm has proven to have eclipse the despair Iran lives under currently. The seeds of hope have germinated. Not only will civil freedoms prevail with faithful representation such as this pursuit, but intellectualism, philosophy, education, religious awakening, theories of law, the arts and so many more seeds of an Iranian Renaissance, have been sown. In truth, Iran was alive all along, but unwell. The discourse is the medicine, the antidote to the poison of tyranny, and a different prognosis features in tomorrow’s headlines.