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Persian Letters: Iran's Basij Head Turns Bard To Dismiss Twitter, Facebook

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Not quite Rumi
Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the head of Iran’s Basij force

Iran is known for its poets, foremost among them Hafez, Saadi, Khayam, and Rumi.

But now an unlikely candidate has apparently joined the ranks -- the head of Iran’s Basij force, Mohammad Reza Naghdi, who has been accused of postelection human rights abuses.

Naghdi has written a poem about the so-called soft war that Iran says its enemies -- namely, the United States -- have launched against the country in an attempt to bring down the Islamic establishment.

The poem, titled “The Youth and Soft War,” lists the tools that Iran claims its foes are using to lead young Iranians astray and to distance them from the ideas and principles of the republic.

In the poem Naghdi refers to Twitter and Facebook, but also to rap music and jazz, while saying that none of these tools has been successful against young Iranians.

Here are the opening lines of the poem, which was reportedly first published on the website of Iran’s Basij force. (The poem rhymes in Persian, but since I am not a poet like Mr. Naghdi, I couldn’t manage to preserve the cadence in translation):

He [likely meaning ‘the enemy’] failed in hunting me with his gun. He came back with lowly hired musicians, the Internet, and musical instruments. 

His navy hasn’t been able to rein me in. He came with an eye-catching doll. 

Bombs and missiles failed to scare me. He came back with the rumor-spreading Twitter and Facebook.

He used chemical weapons and I still didn’t back off. He came with crack and heroin.

Naghdi ends his poem by saying, “The eye of the world has been opened to the truth. The wave of Mohammad’s Islam has risen.”

He appears to be referring to the recent Arab uprisings, which have been described as an “Islamic awakening” by Iranian leaders.

Who knew that state propaganda could be poeticized?


Copyright (c) 2011 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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