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Tazieh or Passion Play (On Iran's Election)

By Roya Monajem, Tehran


After a week of psychological stimulations and agitation that the Bam Earthquake created in the society, the heavy social and psychological air and atmosphere regained its monstrous rule over the country again. Even the recent unprecedented outcries of the reformist MPs to the decision of the Guardian Council in relation to the next parliamentary candidates do not seem to have disturbed the general mood of apathy and indifference toward the regime and its whole apparatus. Many people now regard it as another game they are playing to draw people to vote in the last minute as they did during the last two presidential elections.


Picture from Children In Tazieh documentary

If in the west the two major genres of dramas have been comedy and tragedy, in Persia (Iran), Tazieh (passion play) seems to be the dominant genre. It is true that they all are a play with people's emotions, but the latter is a play with the most pathetic human emotion which is pity and worship of the weak. Imam Hussein is a psychological type of hero different from the tragic type that Greek tragic heroes and even Shahnameh's Sohrab represent. Imam Hussein is a martyr. He dies for the sake of his religion (that is his belief in God). While the other heroes die either because of their fate or because of their earthly beliefs. In this sense Imam Hussein is even different from Christ who dies to amend the sins of man (again an earthly cause). In short tazieh's heroes die for the other-world. Tragic heroes die for this world.


It is indeed tragic that in these early years of the twenty first century, in a country with more than 6000 years of civilization, people are still treated as children and fools (as a tradition women should be included here too) and others should tell us who is worthy of being our elected members of parliament. Or is it comic? Neither. It is a great Tazieh. Our almost ex-MPs suddenly in the last days of their term decide to defend people's rights. As in the two previous presidential elections, the stage is set in such a way that we see an "innocent" group surrounded by Shemr (Imam Hussein's enemy)-like army. How much we cried for Mr. Khatami's siege of power? We were all overflowing with deep pity.


It is absolutely tragic that as the old Persian proverb say: "We keep being stung from the same hole." One thousand four hundred years ago, our fathers, tired of imperial cruelties, discriminations and... were charmed with the Islamic slogan of "Equality and Brotherhood" and opened the doors of the country to the Islamic conquerors. The tragedy is that we are still dreaming the same dream. The evidence: Almost a quarter of a century ago, this time tired of kingly cruelties, discrimination and... we again were charmed with the contemporary form of the same slogan, this time Freedom and Independence and then again eight years ago by the promise of Reformation. And it appears that this time the charming slogan is going to be Free Election, Referendum. And the MPs have started the first act of Tazieh and perhaps in the second act again Mr. Khatami (there should be a third time for anything that happens twice, shouldn't it?) will join the play.


From one perspective - the widest one- nothing has changed since one thousand four hundreds years ago. .Salmaan Parsi, the first Persian converted to Islam, must have been a great psychologist! An outcast of the Sassanian Imperial Court, thus naturally full of revenge, he flew to Arabia and soon entered the intimate circle of the Prophet of Islam. Because of his past, not only he was aware of the weaknesses of the Persian imperial power shared by the Zoroastrian Magi (clergy), but he knew the needs and weaknesses of the native people. For an empty stomach in need of food, what difference does it make to give it real food or the word of food? (This was beautifully shown in Korsova's film: Doodes Kaden.) "Long live Equality and Brotherhood" were the food like empty words filling those empty stomachs. (French Revolutionaries who took the same slogan some eleven centuries later were such imitators!) And in our times, "Freedom and Independence" were the words of food for our not VERY hungry stomachs of a quarter of century ago. And just eight years ago "Reformation" was the empty words for ...


Thus it seems that Persian people still have the same psychology discovered first by Salman Parsi. See what they need and are hungry for, just give them the words of those needs and hungers, spiced with seasoning of an after-world, with the precaution that they should be uttered by personalities dreaming of and/or acting a faked Imam Hussein's role (that implies there should be another group acting like Shemr), and you have the scenario ready.


Is it tragic or comic or Tazieh that for a millennium and four centuries, we are still, as Hafez says: "in the same twist of the way?"


Or perhaps the genre of drama played here is none of them, but another once prevalent Persian genre of drama called Siah Bazi (like the dramas court clowns used to play). Or it may very well be a puppet show. No?


... Payvand News - 1/30/04 ... --

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