Iran News ...


Was Benazir's death foolish?

By Ali Raadmand


I read Mr. Kadivar's article, "Benazir's Foolish Death" and it bugged me as it almost suggests she had a death-wish of sorts, and it almost puts the blame for her assassination on her.  I found it quite baffling.  Since Mr. Kadivar's links point to an earlier article about Leila Pahlavi's death, I read that one as well.  When one compares the sentiments expressed in his two articles one finds the views even more baffling.  In the first article ("Remembering Princess Leila"), Mr. Kadivar talks in high praise of the anorexic daughter of the late Shah who either accidentally or intentionally overdosed on stolen barbiturates and cocaine while living a privileged life in an ultra-expensive posh London hotel paid by who knows, not her one-time modeling career I bet.  Yet, Mr. Kadivar never questions the irresponsibility of that lifestyle, the way she wasted her life abusing her body and mind instead of doing something with that life given all the opportunities, wealth, access and notoriety few of us are ever given.  In fact, he blames Leila's untimely death on depression and grief and not on the way she chose to numb and ultimately kill herself.  In that article he writes:


"The cause of her death due to depression and a long nurtured grief over the years since the loss of her father, the Last Shah of Iran can certainly explain her insurmountable pain." 


I don't get it.  One woman's father who happens to be a king is deposed.  She lives an irresponsible and self-destructive life style.  She doesn't do anything for her country that I know of.  She either commits suicide or accidentally overdoes.  Either way, while sad, it is due to her own actions.  Yet, in Mr. Kadivar's view she is blameless.  It's the fault of society, depression, someone else. It's not her fault.  It's not her absent family's fault either.   It's the fault of Iran I guess.


Switch to Pakistan.  Another lady's father who happens to be an elected prime minister is deposed and then executed.  Rather than running and numbing herself on drugs, she educates and trains herself in Oxford and Harvard and fights her way to become the most powerful woman in the Islamic world by getting elected to be the prime minister of a highly volatile country.  Twice.  Along the way she loses two brothers while her life is in constant danger.  She withstands exile and makes a return into the country at a critical juncture, defying the dead-serious threats on her life.  Two attempts on her life do not cow her into giving up her goal.  I fully realize her many flaws.  You can tell me that she was no Gandhi, that she was no angel and she was no master politician.  On those you would not hear an argument from me.  Yet, how do you explain your overly glassy-eyed, glowing, operatic view of Leila Pahlavi in contrast with your weird interpretation of Bhutto's brutal assassination and look down on her bravery?  I am Iranian and yet I find it hard to even put my view of Iran's Leila Pahlavi in the same league as my view of Pakistan's Bhutto, much less to have a more positive view of the former.  Had Leila Pahlavi done something as brave and unthinkable as risking her life by returning to Iran to fight for her views then she might have been in the same league.  Risking your life to achieve another high and another hour of numbness is repugnant and foolish.  Risking your life to move forward a noble cause is brave and praise-worthy.  Why would your view of the first be elevated and of the second degraded unless you are a very biased observer?  Perhaps you would appreciate it to know that to many of us such upside down view of the world and such unquestioning devotion to the royal family comes across as sycophancy.  It represents a group of followers who cultishly and fanatically lionize a fallen dynasty, constructing a fantasy past in their minds in which Pahlavis were divine, flawless and faultless.


But I digress.


Having put the blame on Mrs. Bhutto for her death Mr. Kadivar goes on to question if it achieves anything:


"Do death's such as that of Benazir Bhutto achieve any goal at all?" 


I'm not sure if such deaths by themselves achieve anything.  I have no reason to believe that she had a death wish, as you may hint.  If so, she would not be screaming for proper security from the Musharraf government.  Did Gandhi have a death wish when he often walked among masses with little protection, so many of whom were angry at his agreeing to the tragic partition of India?  What matters most is what one achieves by exhibiting heroic defiance, despite threats of death, in opposition to despotism.   What she achieved was shaking the pillars of despotism with fearlessness, something that has been severely lacking in our own politics.  Perhaps Bhutto's life will inspire and embolden many more to confront their own fears and stand up against despotism as a despot's best tool is the fear and inaction they instill in their oppressed subjects.  That would be her legacy.  Her son has already picked up the torch.  Do you see a pattern there?  Benazir's father stays and fights and dies.  Then Benazir stays, fights and dies and so do two of her brothers.  Her son defies threats, picks up the torch, and so on.


In contrast, the members of the Pahlavi clan have primarily run away to live the good life in the West and sloganeered from a safe distance when convenient.  How very brave of them.  That follows the Shah fleeing once in 1953, only to return after CIA did his dirty work for him and overthrew his opposition, and then fleeing again 25 years later.  His children and followers have followed in his footsteps and cut and run instead of staying and fighting.  Do you see a pattern there?  If that's one's ideal quality in a leader then perhaps that explains your adulation for the Pahlavis and your anger at Bhutto.   If she had flaws as a leader, she redeemed herself in the eyes of many.  The Pahalvis have not.


I have seen good and educational articles from you about cinema with an Iranian twist.  If I write today it is because of the good, the chance for change I see in you and many other good people who attach themselves to a cult of personality instead of viewing the world objectively.  Good people constantly reexamine their own values and correct where necessary.


... Payvand News - 01/03/08 ... --

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