Cultural Lumpenism (5)

Dowlat-Abadi’s statements are mostly progressive, but within IRI's limits


Cultural Lumpenism (5)
by Azadeh Azad

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

*B. In the rest of his 2007 Radio Zamaneh interview, Dowlat-Abadi trivialized the negative impact of censorship on writers, which would be a pro-hardliners’ position, before making pro-reformist statements and then back to the hardliners.

“Radio Zamaneh: But [in 2006] there was not much protest to censorship. They [writers] preferred to try to come to terms with censorship. Is that true?”

“Dowlat-Abadi: No. Protesting censorship has its own form according to the circumstance. I protest in one way, another will protest in another way. But, in fact, censorship is not a matter to be solved by using the sword. We want the problem to be solved. We want to make it understood that censorship is an unnecessary matter; because in every society, there are a series of taboos, and our writers in Iran respect these taboos. Therefore, censorship can no more play the important role it has given itself.” (49)

What taboos is Dowlat-Abadi talking about? Religious taboos? Taboos on Sharia Law? Taboos on criticizing the Supreme Leader, Khamenei who represents God on earth? This condescending and convoluted statement can only come out of the mouth of someone who supports censorship, but is trying to play the role of a mediator between the repressive hard-liners and the little writers of the Islamic Ummat whose good behaviour Mr. Dowlat-Abadi guarantees. After all, this writer believes that up to now censorship has had an “important role” to play for the perpetuation of the Islamic regime.

Radio Zamaneh continues:

“Why do you think it rarely happens that writers collectively and as a union protest against the issue of censorship? Because every day in the news we hear that somebody’s book is blocked by the censorship; he/she individually protests that “Sir, I am a writer; I want my book to be published.” But this protest does not happen collectively. Why do you think that is?

“Dowlat-Abadi: Why do you say it hasn’t happened? Didn’t The Iranian Writers Association make a statement on censorship this year?”

“Radio Zamaneh: Well, the Writers Association’ statements cannot be published in Iran at all.”

“Dowlat-Abadi: Well, in any case it was reflected in the media and reached the ears of the government. It did reach the ears of the authorities in charge.”

“Radio Zamaneh: Do you agree that part of a statement’s value is in the pressure it exercises? When nobody sees this statement, even the websites and the media that publish it are themselves subject to censorship, maybe it wouldn’t have that effect.”

“Dowlat-Abadi: Well, I don’t know anymore. Mind you, I did not sign that statement, but many writers had signed it. Because I did not agree with the content of the statement and had objections.”

“Radio Zamaneh: With the perspective ahead, do you think that the censorship will diminish in the year 2008 (1386)?”

“Dowlat-Abadi: Actually, I am always hopeful. Because we have no way other than being hopeful that censorship would diminish and even get to a minimum. The way that for a short while, when Mr. Mohajerani was the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, about 95% of the censorship’s irrelevant dilemmas were put aside.”

At this point, Dowlat-Abadi seems to support the Islamic reformists. However, immediately afterwards, he takes a very conservative position:

“For the new year, I’m thinking of doing this; and I hope that the result is really positive. We have no choice but this. Because we cannot change the world to be able to offer our works afterwards. (…) And in different circumstances, I have explained that literature is a long-winded matter. Slow and late – impactful. And often it [literature] has nothing to do with issues of the day. This pretext they have placed in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and in governmental sayings is regrettable.” (50)

Dowlat-Abadi speaks of the censorship of the writers only as something “regrettable” as if speaking about the actions of his friends.

*C. Lumpens switch sides very quickly and change bosses and leaders. Although they admire and worship power, lumpens sometimes do not even obey their own leader. As we saw above, their idols and ideas can swiftly change, and they sometimes simultaneously join different political tendencies and rival groups.

In the following interesting article, entitled “Cultural Revolution caused  Iran’s cultural community to be emptied of brain”, the reproduction of a 2009 (1388)  article in Yaris website (51), we read how Dowlat-Abadi rightfully criticizes the Cultural Revolution, yet at the same time and unjustly supports the Islamic Constitution.

“The meeting of the poets and litterateurs who supported Mir-Hossein Moussavi, was initiated by the members of the Staff 88, and held on the evening of May 12, 2009 (1388), in the hall of the Imam Ali Mosque on Blvd Marzdaaraan, had a special guest.” Dowlat-Abadi “was not scheduled to make a speech. But the audience’s passion and requests persuaded him to make a few minutes speech among Mir-Hossein Moussavi’s friends. With the applause of the audience, he went on the scene and after mentioning the phrases, “Oh God, where is my mosque … Oh, my captain?” expressed himself this way: “If I’m here it is because of the respect I have for Mr. Masjed Jaameii who invited me …. I haven’t come here to do publicity for anyone, because that’s not what I do. (…) I just want to do an overview of the era when we got all the more old; namely, they made us old and wanted to make us die. And this, in my opinion, rather than being a tragic matter, is a question.” 

He continues: “For the last few years, we have become the Iranian nation. Earlier, we were the ummat. And now while we are the Iranian nation, we are also part of the Mohammadi Ummat.

“But …What kind of nation is it where no human relationship is established in it and it is only in the threshold of elections that we have the right to be considered a nation and gather somewhere and maybe say something.”

Then he says, “I am the author of your country. Usually I watch the cultural programs on TV. And when Dr. Mohsen Parviz, as Deputy Minister of Guidance speaks, I pay more attention. In his last conversation with Mr. Heydari on TV, when he was asked how it was possible that a few individuals control all the writers and poets and scholars and thinkers of this nation, he first replied that we must discuss this issue elsewhere, but then he told us that we make decisions about books based on the regulations of the Cultural Revolution.”

Dowlat-Abadi continues with an expressive and sonorous tone:

*C-1. “I am the author of the Iranian nation. In my opinion, the Cultural Revolution has been an illegal action and by no means has legitimacy. I voted for Iran’s Islamic Republic Constitution, not for the Cultural Revolution, and I accept only that Law and our cultural and literary works must be judged based on this very Law. …”

Here, the novelist supports both the hardliners and the reformists. It is both a clear declaration of allegiance to the Islamic Constitution written by the hardliners, and the rejection of the Cultural Revolution, like all other Islamic Reformists.

*C-2. Dowlat-Abadi criticizes Abdolkarim Soroush as the instigator of the Cultural Revolution, which I’ll mention in further pages.

The novelist also points to the election and says, “I’ll vote for someone who rehabilitates all the cultured Iranians who were expelled from the country and I’ll vote for someone who believes in national cohesion. They have made us strangers to each other. (…) It is not the question of individuals; it is the question of a nation. The nation is fighting within itself thanks to these gentlemen’s behaviour. To govern the country means upholding the people. Wounding the people and people enduring the wound must have already made the gentlemen lose their patience. With what balm can you heal these wounds?”

Although most parts of Dowlat-Abadi’s speech are progressive, they still remain within the limits of the Islamic reformists’ positions.

*C-3. In the summer of 1988, while the Islamic Republic was about to begin the execution of tens of thousands of political prisoners, Dowlat-Abadi wrote, in the Adineh literary magazine of July 2, 1988, that he was no more with the pinkies (chapoul-ha). (52) For a man who considered himself a leftist during the Shah’s time, the timing of such declaration, while using such pejorative term, looks at least suspicious.

*C-4.  In “Iran” newspaper of Shahrivar 18, 1381 (2002), Dowlat-Abadi says: “The issue of social conflict is best explained by Marx. There is no compassion and generosity in such struggle. The one who is more intelligent and less merciful is the winner in social struggle.”(53)

Is Dowlat-Abadi speaking of the eradication of the opposition by the hard-liners? Probably.

But like any typical cultural lumpen, he immediately changes his tune by 180 degrees:

“All elements must be present. From the beginning, the problem has been that some people say those in front of us should not be. Well, where should they go? Tajikistan? Africa? How could they not be?” (54)

Dowlat-Abadi seems trying to say that there shouldn’t be social conflicts between the hard-liners, the Islamic reformists and the secular and democratic forces, that they should all live happily ever after together. Not only is this statement the exact opposite of his previous one, but it also expresses the need for the oppositional groups to avoid challenging the Islamic Republic.

Another point about this last statement of his confirms that lumpens are politically ignorant, backward and opportunistic. How absurd and ignorant Dowlat-Abadi’s statement is and how more confused and volatile can anyone be?

*C-5. Cultural lumpens shift their attitudes and opinions according to circumstances.  Whenever they feel threatened, they quickly change direction. For instance, during the 1994 literary meeting in Tehran, When Dowlat-Abadi was critiqued in front of over 100 people by a feminist regarding the minor role of female characters in his novels, he expressed an opinion that was 180 degrees opposite what he had said in a non-threatening environment with two male colleagues. (55)

17. Dowlat-Abadi‘s support of the Islamic reformists to maintain the regime

In the online Farsi Wikipedia, we read a dominant perception of Dowlat-Abadi’s political activities: “He is also active in the political scene and has reformist tendencies. Dowlatabadi was among individuals who participated in the Berlin conference.  During the 2009 elections, he supported Mir-Hossein Mousavi.”(56)

In the 2002 “Iran” newspaper, in relation to the vital importance of the role of Reforms for the preservation of the Islamic Republic, Dowlat-Abadi wrote,

“Now about the reforms. In the beginning, I should say that understanding the necessity of reforms was the most important event of the last five years. The reason why I emphasize the “understanding of the necessity” is because if this necessity was not discerned, our society would have gone once again towards a social explosion and since this social explosion was blind, it would not have ended anywhere.” (57)

I have not heard any Islamist to speak as candidly as Dowlat-Abadi about the real reason behind the their support of the Islamic Reformist movement.

In the 2009 interview of the newspaper “Green Word”, Dowlat-Abadi asserts that the aim of the reformist movement is to stop another revolution.

“Q: In your speech you said you are seeking to institutionalize minimums of freedom in the society. Is that why you support Mr. Moussavi? I mean, do you think he can bring these words into action?”

“Dowlat-Abadi: Look, I have never supported Mr. Moussavi explicitly, because I have not wanted and do not want to place myself in the field of advertising. But I have supported two streams of thought in Iran, and they have been the theories of development and reform. During this election, I realized that Mr. Moussavi in fact introduces these two aspects as his backbone.. Therefore, whether I vote or not, my view remains the same. Because I believe that in this country some work should be done, a reform should take place so that we wouldn’t have another revolution, And freedom of expression should exist in this country in its normal degree.”(58) 

As mentioned earlier, Dowlat-Abadi, who supported Moussavi in a more explicit way in this interview, seems to be the only Islamic reformist who has expressed the real motivation of the Islamic Green leaders.

In the same interview, the novelist says:

“… if I am not very hopeful about the first half of the slogan “Cultural Government and Non-governmental Culture”, I wish to have hope for the second half. Because the “governmental culture” has shown us in the past that nothing good comes from within it. And that some friends have said Dowlat-Abadi has pleaded with Mr. Moussavi is patently false. I have not pleaded with anyone.

“If I were that type of person, during these 30 years there were opportunities.  Elders more important than Mr. Moussavi invited me, but I apologized because lest I get into political wheel.  But perhaps it was necessary to give a positive answer to one of these invitations and to go and say to them what I am telling you about what happened to me during these thirty years. In my own conscience, I am supplicant and grateful to a God in whom I believe and I am grateful to people who know me well and I expected that at least these critiques would know my nature. They didn’t recognize this. That is, the gentlemen who say Dowlat-Abadi pleaded with Moussavi, and also last year he has been in Karroubi’s campaign, have fabricated both news.” (59)

This clearly shows that Dowlat-Abadi supports the Islamic Republic of Iran. He does not have any political ambition, is not looking for a Ministerial position, but

“Elders more important than Mr. Moussavi”, who are certainly among the hardliners – the rulers of the country – have trusted him. Thus, there is no doubt that he is part of the Islamic establishment.

18. Dowlat-Abadi’s Ambassadorship of the Islamic reformists in the Western world

Dowlat-Abadi became an ambassador for the Islamic Reformists. During the last two decades, Dowlat-Abadi, the self-declared a-political writer, became an ambassador for the Islamic wing of the Reformist Movement in different countries.

In the German magazine “Hamburger bendblatt” of July 22, 1993, translated in Kaar Majority magazine #64 (30 Tir, 1372), Dowlat-Abadi spoke in support of the reformists of that time and against the boycott of the Islamic Republic, in front of the foreign forces:

“Iran must be culturally present in the international arena. I basically do not consider sanctions and boycotts to be a right act. Proponents of such methods want to put pressure on the Iranian government.” (60)

The a-political novelist participated in the three-day Berlin Conference of April 2000 on the situation in Iran.

In the “Iran” newspaper of 2002,  Dowlat-Abadi named President Khatami (1997-2005), during whose presidency the chain murders of Iranian writers were committed, ”popular and cultured.” Then he said:

“I think Mr. Khatami had, and will have, the honour of having understood the necessity of reforms in a society that is heading towards a dead-end . This is a kind of being cultured and if things go the same way, he would be remembered as a cultured and failed person. (…) Therefore,  from the point of view of the conformity of the theory and practice, Mr. Khatami had more success in the field of culture.”(61)

One wonders how, in the mind of Dowlat-Abadi,  the chain murders of writers and intellectuals during Mr. Khatami’s presidency do not constitute obstacles to this “cultured and failed person” being considered a “success in the field of culture”.

In Autumn 2004, Mahmoud Dowlat-Abadi and three other reformist writers and journalists performed a program in Swedish cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. So much for being  an a-political writer. In response to the “Hamburger Abendblatt” reporter’s question  of “What did you, as a well-known and international writer, do during your contact with your international clients”, Dowlat-Abadi said:  

“In travelling to other countries, different people and personalities and I, each according to our ability and capacity, actually didn’t say anything new except that in our society there are different capacities. We made this accepted by the world , and this has not been a small task over the last twenty years.” (62)

What does this a-political novelist mean by  “different capacities”? Different Islamic tendencies? What did he do during those twenty years? For whose  benefit did he do those travellings and tasks?

In a December 1st, 2008 interview of  Dowlat-Abadi by Davoud Khoda-bakhsh from the Deutsche welle, we read the following:

“Khoda-Bakhsh: When Mohammad Khatami won the presidential election, in a trip to Germany you had an interview with the Deutsche Welle. In that interview, they asked you whether Mr. Khatami’s victory was a good opportunity for writers and artists. You answered: “No, this is an opportunity for the Islamic Republic.” What did you mean?

“Dowlat-Abadi: I think Khatami was a good opportunity for the Islamic Republic of Iran and for the clerical regime. And this good opportunity, as I understand it, so far has not been understood by the clergy. Because of his multi-faceted personality, Khatami could have helped open the space despite this theocracy. Perhaps I gave this answer because this was a good opportunity for the theocracy and that open space was both good for the rulers and the people who could more or less feel happiness and satisfaction. And the best state for a political system is that people be satisfied and the system itself remain in its own place. But, well, despite his having been president for eight years; but it can be said that the government was hasty. Yes.” (63)

“Khoda-Bakhsh: Now, how do you see the future of Iran?

“Dowlat-Abadi: If I, who am for good and right, and of course without conservatism, say something that benefits the society, the peace and  the friendship between our nation and the world’s nations, I soon realize that socially I receive the reverse response. How can it be said….  Isn’t this very type of reaction in some way a method that aims at leading people, including me, to more isolation and deeper silence?” (64)

To be continued.


(49) رادیو زمانه،۲۰۰۷

(50) Ibid. .

(51)پيک ايران، محمود دولت‌آبادی خبرنامه          

انقلاب فرهنگی باعث شد تا جامعه فرهنگی ایران از مغز تهی شود


(52) آباد ی دولت  محمود. (۱۹۸۸.۲ژوئیه ) ۱۰تیر ماه ۱۳۶۶ روزانه آدینه،

(53) ايران.   روزنامه

(54) Ibid.

(55) .ايرانيان-دات-كام      

(56) >//محمود_دولت‌آبادی

(57) ايران.   روزنامه

(58). سبز کلمه روزنامه

(59) Ibid.

(60) روزنامه  "کار" (اکثریت)

(61) ايران.   روزنامه

(62) روزنامه  "کار" (اکثریت)

(63) >دویچه وله فارسی

(64) Ibid.


Dr. A. Azad is a sociologist & an independent scholar.


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