Sunday, July 17, 2005

Politics of Pity

A couple of years ago i went through a brief phase where i was reading everything by the iranian writer Monirou Ravanipour that i could get my hands on. i had a really unsophisticated reason for liking her: namely that her stories were weird and that i didn't quite understand them. and that was enough to peak my interest for some time.

Today, i found out that she blogs. Sadly, i only discovered her site upon reading that she had written a post where she mentions her friendship with Nazy Mozakka, an Iranian woman who was one of the victims of the London bombings.

I haven't been able to find much online about Nazy Mozakka, just that she was in her late forties and a mother of two.

And I've found even less about Shahab Mansouri, the Iranian beheaded in Iraq less than a couple of weeks ago.

If Shahab Mansouri were a kidnapped U.S. or European citizen (read: if he were white), we would have known his life story by now. If he were a U.S./Euro contractor or some kind of mercenary security guard, we would have been also been told about how he had gone to "rebuild the new iraq", "to reconstruct schools", to "protect the free iraq", or some such drivel. If he were a U.S./Euro NGO worker or activist, we would be reminded of his "self-lessness", his "love for the Iraqi children", his "courage and commitment".

But as it turns out, Shahab Mansouri was an Iranian. A bearded one at that.

When I saw the video his kidnappers released when they had captured him, i cried. then i got mad at myself for being a pawn of nationalism. why, after all, did i feel a passing pity for every other kidnapped victim in iraq but then when it came to someone who looked like me and spoke like me, why was i shaken to the core?

i don't know. this nationalism thing is a problem between me and myself. it takes a long time to disembed yourself from intoxicating ideologies.

But i suppose in this case it made me have empathy for Shahab Mansouri, someone who is apparently not worthy of mention, much less sympathy.