Cultural Lumpenism (Part 6 - End)

Always addressing only men and ignoring women is certainly part of our culture


Cultural Lumpenism  (Part 6 - End)
by Azadeh Azad

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

*19. The “Quarrel between two Islamic reformists: Dowlat-Abadi and Abdolkarim Soroush

According to Balatarin website, “Abdolkarim Soroush, who had abandoned intellectual debates and entered the political arena, had been supporting Karroubi’s candidacy out of, in his own words, “reluctance and coercion”. (65)

As mentioned previously, Dowlat-Abadi supported Mir-Hossein Moussavi and, in his May 12, 2009 speech, spoke against the Cultural Revolution. In the same speech, he mentioned Abdolkarim Soroush as the instigator of the Cultural Revolution and the only instigator:

“The Cultural Revolution, whose Sheikh was Dr. Soroush, was a ridiculous imitation of something absurd that was done in China. That Cultural Revolution forever tarnished one of the world’s contemporary figures. That is, a man who introduced the primitive people of a country to the wide world, developed a black spot with that revolution in China. Therefore, imitation of that revolution was the imitation of indecency.”(66)

He then addressed Abdolkarim Soroush and said: “Mr. Soroush, you became standard bearer of a heinous behavior that caused the best children of this country to leave [for foreign lands], so that you can memorize Rumi’s poetry and deliver it to us and deliver it and again deliver it.” (67)

Soroush became upset with Dowlat-Abadi and in response to his accusations and insults, he published an article in the reformist newspaper, Etemād-e Melli, reproduced on Peykeiran, where he denied having been the only instigator of the Cultural Revolution and called the novelist “liar, rude, braggart, complex-discharger and arrogant”; “that after 30 years he has woken-up in a cave near the village of Dowlat-Abad, and has asked a teacher by the name of Abdolkarim Soroush, who is on the right path, questions about the Cultural Revolution”. (68)

Soroush had already denied the veracity of Dowlat-Abadi’s view and claimed, in a 2007 interview with Matin Ghaffāriān (69), that in reality it was Khomeini who first ordered the shutting down of all the universities and then the formation of a Cultural Revolution Council composed of seven members in order to do the Purging, Islamization and then Re-opening of these universities. He mentioned the names of these members and asserted that Rabbani-Amlashi was the clerical person in charge of purging professors not himself, and that when this person and a few other members died, new people joined the Council. According to Soroush, 700 professors have been purged, none of them with his knowledge.

Soroush said, “If there were purges or wrongdoings in the council, they were all there.” He added: “the Cultural Revolution Council exists now and all its members are known. These are the people who’re responsible for the events that have taken place in universities over the past 20 years. But no one ever mentions their role or interviews them. If it is a question of responsibility, it falls on everyone’s shoulders”.

It is obvious that Soroush has not apologized for the Islamization of the universities and puts the responsibility of the purges of 700 professors on the shoulders of other members of the Cultural Revolution Council or Institute.

Regarding Dowlat-Abadi’s justified critique of Soroush, we read in Peyk-e-Iran online of May 21, 2009, the reproduction of an article in Salām newspaper, the following words:

“Dowlat-Abadi’s remarks were controversial. Some people inside the country got upset by his reference to Dr. Soroush and responded and some people abroad, criticized him for attending a Campaign gathering and accused him of stretching his hand towards the powerful.”(70)

In an interview with the reformist paper “Green Word”, Dowlat-Abadi gave Soroush the following arrogant counter-response:

“I prefer to keep silent. Because, firstly, my dignity and authority are beyond wanting to take positions regarding every word and action, and on the other hand, this incident indicated a series of points whose analysis is beyond the scope of today and tomorrow.” (71)

The novelist also pointed out to his expatriate critics and said:

“Our friends abroad, whom I have always respected, instead of pondering and reflecting, are hasty and have a rash behaviour to be able to lie about someone, and I’m amazed by this behaviour. For instance, Mirza Agha Asgari has accused me to have pleaded with someone or some people. If I were the type of person to plead with someone, I would have given a positive response to proposals by some authorities during these the last 30 years. But why should I plead with someone now? To ask for Ministry and Attorney jobs? And that on the verge of age 70? In my interviews, I have repeatedly said that I prefer my life as a dervish to imaginary kingship.”(72)

Here, Dowlat-Abadi is in fact confessing to his close relationship with the Islamic regime. Who other than someone within the Islamic establishment, an insider (a Khodi), would be offered a governmental position? Not writers like Shahrnoush Parsipour or Monirou Ravanipour who did live under the Islamic regime for years without being close to the Islamic establishment. That Dowlat-Abadi did not accept a governmental position was and is a matter of his personal temperament and preference and not his political stance.

This quarrel also demonstrates the lumpenist characters of both a famous Iranian writer and a prominent Iranian Islamic philosopher.

Finally, Dowlat-Abadi speaks to his critiques abroad:

“I have only one thing to say to them. Dear friends, 4 million people have left Iran. This has been Iran’s exodus. At the time of Arab invasion, compared to the population rate, not as many people from Iran left for India. My question to you is that among these 4 million people, can you even find 40 individuals who have a common voice? When you lack such a thing, when you do not have a single theoretical, practical, social and cultural alliance, why do you concern yourselves about us? We move in our own bed and we act according to our own discernment. Unfortunately, we have all kinds of dogmatisms in and out of Iran and people say things to us that even they know to be lies; but then again, everyone lacks moderation and this is unfortunate.”

It is obvious that for Dowlat-Abadi the opposition abroad should not speak a word because it is not united. And anyone who criticizes him is dogmatic, as he knows better and possesses the truth.

*20. Criticism of Dowlat-Abadi by another reformist writer for accepting the Islamization of Iran

In the 2009 interview by the “Green Word” newspaper, the novelist said:

“… That gentleman, who says Dowlat-Abadi pleaded with Moussavi and also was in Karroubi’s campaign last year, has fabricated both news.

“This too is the same kind of dogmatism that our cultural managers have. There is no difference. Dogmatism is dogmatism. They object to me that “How do you believe in the Islamic Republic law? In response I tell them: do we have a law other than this? I may object to some paragraphs of this law in relation to my work. It requires an opportunity to protest that. But how many laws do we have in this country? As a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I am writing in this country and I am seeking reasonable, customary and legal freedoms. So, why do they object to me that I have said in Iran we have a Constitution and that any coup d’état that later takes place in the realm of the culture and brings out procedures will not be criteria to which I will submit. Well, what does this actually mean? It means that I, in utter realism would like to live and work in a law-oriented society. But this gentleman does not understand this and immediately makes a definitive judgment that I have pleaded with someone. ….You don’t even take time to read the text first, make an assessment and then raise objection to me why I went to the mosque! This is the best that has happened. Because they invited me the writer to go and speak in the mosque. You are far away and you do not know what shifts have happened in our country.

“Our university is the site of collective prayer and our place of prayer is the Centre for Book Fair and I am living and working in this very society. Very well. I cannot speak of the skies of a hypothetical law. Or … my travel companion, Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari, … in the trip to Berlin… has said in an article why I have dealt with Mr. Soroush aggressively and he has said why they all think the Cultural Revolution was … by Mr. Soroush. In the whole article, he does not tell us who else was it by except for Mr. Soroush. …. Apart from this, why do you consider my criticism of a shoddy event in the contemporary history of culture and higher education to be my disagreement with the religious intellectuals? …. Is my disagreement with Soroush on a very important issue the same as my disagreement with religious intellectuality? It is not at all so. … I do not oppose any thought including the religious intellectuality. Anyway, in our present situation if Iranians really make an effort and once again participate in the elections with open eyes, we would be taking a step forward. Because after all, if in the future we’re supposed to go towards a type of possible democracy within the conventional framework appropriate for our own culture, its course surely passes by elections and referendum. So, I hope that people haven’t lost their spirit.” (73)

*21. Some are still in denial about Dowlat-Abadi’s support of the Islamic Reformists

Despite the entire above pro-Islamic Republic statements and actions by Dowlat-Abadi, there are still Iranians who refuse to understand and accept that a good writer with a large “body of work” could collaborate with factions of the Islamic regime. The following is an example of a supporter of Dowlat-Abadi who denies that this novelist supports even the Islamic reformists.

Manouchehr Taghavi-Bayat, from Sweden, in his article of 16 May, 2009 in Asre-Nou, entitled “Mahmoud Dowlat-Abadi declared being alive”, defended the writer as not supporting the Islamic Republic. He said about the novelist that in May 2009, “They took him against his wish to the puppeteers’ game of election (i.e., selection) of Mir-Hossein Moussavi. Moussavi, the same person who was a Prime Minister from 1981 to 1988 and his hands have been tainted with the blood of so many innocents (…) See how the life turns that Mahmoud Dowlat-Abadi, the writer of Kelidar and the creator of Shir-Mohammad, is unwittingly caught up in such a predicament. (…) People, who know the value of this great writer, yell and scream and beg and request, pulling him to the place of Taziyeh masters of “selection not election”. In such a place, what should he say to show that he is not associated with the usurpers of the people’s rights and criminals of the Islamic Republic?

“He begins to speak with a multi-sided question: “Oh God, where is my mosque … Oh, my captain? (…) 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.” (74)

How the above statements by Dowlat-Abadi disassociate him from the Islamic Republic or its reformist wing is beyond me. Mr. Taghavi-Bayat reads between the lines and concludes that Dowlat-Abadi “clearly states that he has not gone there willingly and not for publicizing anyone.” It seems that this person has not read Dowlat-Abadi’s statements defending the Islamic Reformist movement.

This reminds me of the state of denial regarding the character and ideology of Khomeini among the leftists and nationalists during the 1978-79 Uprising and makes me wonder why we still tend to make heroes out of the most reactionary individuals in our society.


There is a resistance on the part of many Iranians to see the hard truth about an idealized writer such as Dowlat-Abadi. How would you assess the political position of a writer who boasts about having been offered governmental jobs by individuals ranking much higher than Mir-Hossein Moussavi, who declares his support for the Islamic Constitutions, who asserts that reforms are good for the perpetration of the Islamic regime, in a country where one of its best film-makers, Ja'far Panahi, has been imprisoned for five years for having made films that were not liked by individuals who rank higher than Mir-Hossein Moussavi?

No one is better than Mr. Dowlat-Abadi himself in divulging his own varied political positions amid his own sly and street-wise declarations that wiggle and squiggle all over the Internet in his own defence. In the October 2011 conversation of "Today's Citizen" with him and Javād Mojābi, Dowlat-Abadi had the following pearls of wisdom for the artists and writers living in Iran, which also constitute his own defence against those who expect him to be progressive:

"I personally believe that sometimes it is necessary for the artist and the writer to be silent and make times tolerable with the work they produce, especially in irrational political situations. Because if they enter, in reaction and in a headstrong manner, such spaces [speaking out] that unfortunately have frequently been experienced in our country, the price they would pay will not be measured in the balance of reason and fairness. This has been observed and experienced recently and for years in the past. Therefore, politics and policy-making are very sensitive, important and unaccountable jobs in our society. But as far as I remember, from the beginning, anyone who wanted to go this route, the possibility [of paying the price] existed." (75)

"Today's Citizen: Now even those who do not consider themselves expatriate writers and have basically stayed in Iran to produce works, are being lost as well and their works do not reach the Iranian audience.

"Dowlat-Abadi: ... I think these issues, in addition to the circle of censorship, is not even the result of the government's policy. A government and a political system has more important tasks and does not at all think of wishing to stop or not to stop the circulation of four or five thousand copies of a book. These are in the realm of the closed and limited minds of some individuals who sometimes sit behind large desks. I have never believed one iota that literature can be concerned about the areas of macro-policies that have many tribunes. I believe that personal approaches are involved as well.

"… A person who lives in this society and in this system and in this country would himself/herself make the necessary considerations in his/her work, and literature never deems the openness of statements and announcements and things like that to be part of it. Those who are people of literature, poetry and art, like the fish that lives in the water and its existence depends on the existence of water, are also concerned about the water; they have these considerations by their instinct and nature. There are a number of people who want to give a sycophant and superfluous service. Basically, one of the corruptions of our history has been vilification. And the good event - in this country and in this society, there have always been those who are aware and their presence is important and valuable for art and literature, because this group knows that literature has nothing to do with the narrow-mindedness of the times and it's good to be known that if Mr. Mojābi says a poem in his book, he has made a series of considerations, because these considerations are part of our culture. Basically, compliance and concealment and insinuation are part of our culture. They are not born with us. These traits have come from the previous periods and have now emerged as well and will continue to well up to the surface. Therefore, if someone wants to drag the subject of literature into politics and if someone wants to place a writer and a poet against a policy, they must be told that this game has no effect, because our work is beyond political routines. If I wanted to do political work, all facilities have been there and still are there. But personally, I consider my job, art and my love, to be of higher importance and I expect the gentlemen to understand this. But I feel that some people, not that they don't understand, are concealing their understanding. I don't know what this can be called." (76)

Always addressing only men and ignoring women is certainly part of our culture in Dowlat-Abadi's view, along with conformism, conservatism an utter demagogy. If every Iranian political prisoner had listened to Mahmoud Dowlat-Abadi's “words of wisdom” concerning self-censorship or remaining silent under the rule of the Islamic thugs, the Islamic State would have had to close down its Evin prison and never open the infamous Kahrizak house of torture and rape. To end the conclusion of this essay, I offer the reader the following popular and traditional Persian proverbs that are part of our lumpenist culture and apply very well to the famous novelist, Mahmoud Dowlat-Abadi's mentality, statements and actions:

(*) “Under the bowl there is a half bowl” (There is deception and trickery at work).

(*) ”He/she makes 10 knives, none with a handle” (A person who is a liar and is a sly (and is sly), and there is no way their words could be credited).

(*) “Sometimes he can go through the needle hole, sometimes he cannot enter through the gate” (Someone who is flighty and has a different mood and colour every moment).

(*) “One to the horseshoe, one to the nail” (Someone who observes and maintains good rapport with both side of a case).

(*) “Go slowly, come slowly, so that the cat wouldn't butt you” (Be very cautious and use utter attention and care when dealing with a case, a person or an action).

(*) “Don't fear the one who is raucous; fear the quiet one who lowers his head.”

(*) “Go and become strong, as in the scheme of nature, the weak are trampled.”

(*) “To grease someone's moustache” (to bribe someone in order to get what you want).

(*) “Claiming virginity after seven cubs” (used in the case of bragging and boasting and falsely self-complimenting, while everybody is aware of it).



(65) و اجبار توهین ناباورانه و دور از انتظار سروش به دولت آبادی، حمایت از سر اکراه . بالاترین

// سروش از کاندیداتوری کروبی

(66) روزانه پيک ايران

(67). Ibid.

(68). ۲۰۰۹ مه / ۱۳۸۸ . پاسخ خشم آلود سروش به دولت آبادی . روزانه پيک ايران //

(69) Ghaffāriān, Matin. June 2007. An interview with Abdulkarim Soroush: One Cultural Revolution Was Enough.


(70). دولت‌آبادی: شان و اعتبار من فراتر از این است که .۲۰۰۹ . مه ۲۱. پيک ايران خبرنامه

// بدهم بخواهم پاسخ سروش را

(71) سبز کلمه روزنامه

(72) Ibid.

(73) سبز کلمه روزنامه

(74) محمود دولت آبادی زنده بودن خود را اعلام کرد! (۲۰۰۹ ) ۱۳۸۸ . سايت عصرنو



(75)ما نویسنده هستیم سیاستمدار نیستیم -گفتگو با محمود دولت آبادی و جواد مجابی .۲۰۱۱. شهروند امروز



Sources of photos:







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


more from Azadeh Azad
My Name Is Borat


by My Name Is Borat on

Women are less likely to be hired than a man because they are a greater liability. This is not based upon their ability. They may be, and at times are equally if not more qualified than a male counterpart in the same position.

However, women in the workplace are often also raising children. For example, should the child be sick with a cold or fever, as is common, day care providers and schools do not want the child there where other children will be exposed. The woman is naturally going to stay home and tend to her child. Maternity leave is another factor has a negative impact on a business as well, causing fewer women to be hired.

Unfortunately this reality was never mentioned by the author of this series of blogs or was lost on her completely.



by hass on

There is certainly a lot of gender discrimination and misogyny in Iran (which can't all be blamed on religion, FYI) but the tradition that men don't speak to unrelated women is a sign of RESPECT. Similarly, in the West it (used to?) be improper for a man to reach out his hand to shake a woman's hand, without her reaching out first.

But  lets not forget a few other facts - namely, that Iranian women today are far more likely to be literate and educated, represent a greater portion of the workforce, have far better access to healthcare, clean water, electricity, paved roads, and their children are far more likely to survive past the age of 5 than ever before. These too are human rights.

Esfand Aashena

Purging 700 university professors is an astonishing number.

by Esfand Aashena on

How many universities did we have at the time?   

Everything is sacred


Women are explicitly barred from many positions

by bparhami on

In what way is the Iran of today different from the Iran of many years ago, and how many years ago did you mean? Women form a majority of university students but a minority of job holders, especially at the top levels. They are less likely to be hired when they are equally qualified as a male job candidate. And they are explicitly barred from many key positions. Putting the blame on both sexes is simply irresponsible.

Mohammad Ala

Thanks for your time.

by Mohammad Ala on

I guess it was ten years ago, I was among 500 people who were attending an economic presentation in Tehran.  One of the speakers said gentlemen (aghayoon) several times.  I waited during questions and answers period, I asked him if he could see me since he wore glasses, he said yes.  Then I asked why he said gentlemen while we also had ladies seating among us.  He apologized.  I wondered why women who were seating in the audience did not say anything.

Iran of today is different than Iran of many years ago, women can be seen in every position.  The majority of university students are women especially in medical fields.

In my view, our shortcomings are due to both genders.