They find the direct descendent of the last Zoroastrian Emperor, hoping that he will be their savior. They locate this person and make him the Shahanshah of Iran. Once he is in power, they are very pleasantly surprised to realize that his acumen has succeeded not only in freeing Iran from fundamentalism but also in restoring freedom and equality.
The Iran of the future is now a sophisticated, industrialized, and powerful nation among the most influential global allies. And their leader is at the pinnacle of his success!
Could this be the death knell for Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the other fanatical groups who have done so much damage within and outside their own countries?
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A Dream of Democracy
By Aftab Shirazi
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2009 Aftab Shirazi
All right reserved.
Chapter One"May I speak to Mr. Damania please" the caller said in a very thick Middle Eastern accent.
"Who is calling?" I enquired.
My name is Haroon Bashir, I am an employee of the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa sir, and I have been asked to contact you."
"Excuse me sir, I can't imagine what the Iranian Embassy could have to say to me on a Sunday morning at 7 a.m." I replied.
"Mr. Damania, I would rather not tell you over the telephone. I would prefer to meet you for lunch and have a discussion."
"Mr. Bashir, I am a retired chartered accountant living in Canada who has never been to Iran, nor had any business connection with your country, so I would appreciate if you could give me some idea as to what we're talking about."
"Mr. Damania, please believe me, this is very urgent and you with your considerable business experience will quite understand my reluctance to speak on a public telephone line. We will of course be happy to pay your fees if you would be kind enough to join us for this luncheon meeting".
So I went for lunch with Mr. Bashir. He was a man of about sixty-five years, slightly balding, about six feet tall with a tanned complexion, a bit overweight, immaculately dressed and with a bright smile exposing even teeth. It was his eyes that bothered me. Very deep set and it appeared that they were watching me intently as if my every thought was clearly comprehended by him.
"Mr. Damania, it is a great pleasure to meet you. You have no idea how significant this meeting is. We have waited more than ten years for this day and this occasion." We had a beautiful luncheon, discussed politics in Iran and as I am keenly interested in the history of Iran, particularly as I am a Zoroastrian, I received a lot of interesting information about the history and traditions of Iran.
"So what is all this about, Mr. Bashir?" I asked him
"Mr. Damania, we have a company in Iran which is manufacturing equipment for the purification of oil. With our constant experience with oil production, we feel we are qualified to export this equipment, but there are a large number of problems of a political and economic nature that impedes exportation to Canada, so an experienced chartered accountant like you would be a great asset to this Iranian corporation. We would therefore request you to travel to Iran at our expense and meet certain Iranian businessmen. We are willing to compensate you at the rate of five thousand Canadian dollars a day for the period that you are in Iran. Of course, the compensation amount is negotiable. What do you think?"
As I am now retired, I thought the offer was quite reasonable. And of course I would also have the opportunity to travel in Iran and see the religious sites of Zoroastrianism.
"When would you like me to come to Iran with you?" I asked.
"There is one problem Mr. Damania, time" said Bashir, "Would it be possible for you to join us for a flight this Monday?"
As it was already Wednesday, I was in a bit of a quandary as to how I could have my documentation ready and everything packed in four days. But as the fees offered were so generous, I grudgingly agreed to go.
Chapter TwoWe traveled first-class on British Airways from Toronto to Tehran via Beirut. Mr. Bashir insisted on ordering champagne and later on a single malt Scotch whiskey, which was my favorite. Fourteen hours later we arrived in Tehran. It was extremely cold and I guessed the temperature to be about 4?C. I had not realized that Iran could be so cold in late January. A limousine took us to the hotel "Bahisht", which I later learned was the Farsi word for heaven.
I was surprised to find female employees at the reception desk, their heads covered by the usual ceremonial Islamic scarf, but their eyes and faces exposed. At least two of the girls were very beautiful and spoke English with a soft lilting accent.
"Welcome to Iran, Mr. Damania," said one lovely girl to me. "I hope you will like our beautiful country and will enjoy the Zoroastrian history that you are so interested in."
I was quite surprised as to how she could possibly know that I was interested in Zoroastrian history or that I was a Zoroastrian. Mr. Bashir must have noticed my surprise because he smiled in his usual perceptive manner.
"The employees of this hotel have been made aware of your importance as our guest and of your interests, Mr. Damania. Be assured that every desire of yours will be looked after immediately."
The leery look that he gave me as he said that was a bit disturbing, but I did not ask for clarification. Mr. Bashir and an employee of the hotel took my luggage to my suite. As I was about to tip the employee, Mr. Bashir held my hand and would not allow me to pay. The baggage handler bowed and left the room without the tip. "Is it against your law or your religious principles to tip an employee?" I asked.
"No sir. It is against our faith and our rules of hospitality to allow a guest to pay for any services rendered. And I mean any services at all."
His leery expressions when he said that, once again left me a little uncomfortable, but I kept that to myself.
My suite was indeed luxurious. There was cable television in English, French, Farsi, Arabic and even German. The view from the window and the balcony was indeed breathtaking. Teheran is located partly on a mountain sloping into a valley. The top of the hill is covered in snow during the winter months but the valley is relatively warm and clear, hence scenically some of the best urban views one could hope to see are available in Teheran. The refrigerator was filled with pop bottles, juices, carbonated water, and some chocolates. Noticeably absent was alcohol, presumably because of the religious laws of an Islamic state.
Mr. Bashir had indicated to me before leaving that four executives of the corporation I was supposed to advise would meet us for dinner. As the discussions were of a very confidential nature, my suite was considered most appropriate for the meeting and discussions.
It was about noon and the long flight and excitement of the day had tired me. Our meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. and I therefore had plenty of time for a nap. I awoke at 4 p.m., shaved, showered, got dressed and watched television in Farsi for an hour or so. Exactly at 6 p.m. the concierge informed me that five gentlemen were requesting permission to come to my suite. I advised they were welcome.
Mr. Bashir led the group to my suite and made the introductions. "Mr. Damania, this is Mr. Aftab Qureshi. He is a professor of Iranian history at the University of Teheran. I would also like to introduce you sir, to Mr. Yazdegard Malek. Mr. Malek is presently an adviser to the department of defence. He is a retired general of the Iranian army and perhaps the most decorated officer in the Iranian forces."
"Let me also introduce you sir, to Mr. Feruz Kirmani. He was the minister of revenue in Iran prior to his retirement last year."
"This Sir is Mr. Jahanbaksh Mirza, who was until last year, the minister in charge of religious affairs until he had a slight disagreement with the Iranian Cabinet and resigned."
I shook hands with all the gentlemen and invited them into my suite. "May I offer you gentlemen some refreshments? Would you like some juice or mineral water? Unfortunately I cannot offer you anything of an alcoholic nature as I believe that is forbidden in Iran."
Mr. Bashir had a twinkle in his eye and his typical, sardonic smile as he reached into his briefcase and extracted a brown paper bag with a rubber band on top. "Mr. Damania, there are exceptions to every rule, especially when we entertain honoured guests like you. For that reason we have brought you a beverage, which is now temporarily converted into a totally legitimate Islamic drink." He opened the bag, and I saw a full bottle of single malt Scotch.
"Gentlemen," I said, "I am very flattered by your graciousness and hospitality, however I do not want to offend the sensibilities of any of my guests here tonight."
Instead of responding to my statement, Mr. Bashir opened his briefcase again and extracted five crystal glasses. He placed a glass in front of each person which he filled with a healthy quantity of Scotch. From my fridge he took a bottle of soda and some ice cubes and filled the glasses. I was surprised that these Iranian Muslims, well-placed in the Iranian government, would sit and have Scotch with me. But I did not comment. I was also a bit surprised that every individual in the group could speak fluent English. Another point that was also bothering me was why a general, a minister of revenue and a minister of religious affairs would come to a meeting to discuss with me possible exportation of equipment to Canada.
We toasted each other and Mr. Bashir called the restaurant downstairs to order dinner. "We have a special Iranian dish, Mr. Damania, made of rice, meat and saffron, which I have taken the liberty of ordering. I hope you like it. Knowing that you are a Parsi and share the same blood as we do, I would be surprised if you do not like this dish. I believe in India, the Parsees call this dish pilaf, am I not right?"
'Parsees' is a term normally used for Indian Zoroastrians and I was a bit surprised that an Iranian gentleman would use that phrase to describe us. I was also flattered that he had taken pains to find out something about us.
After we had had our drinks and dinner was completed, two of our waiters cleared the dishes and served coffee before leaving my suite.
"Now to business gentlemen," Mr. Bashir said. "Let me begin this way. Mr. Damania, first I want to apologize for telling you a complete lie. We had to misrepresent the facts because If we had spoken the truth, you probably would not have come with us to Iran."
"Well Mr. Bashir, I guessed as much when you introduced these gentlemen as being involved with the Armed Forces, Ministry of Religion and Ministry of Revenue as well as a Professor of History. I would be very surprised that they would be interested in exporting machinery and equipment to Canada. However, you have retained my services, and I am already here so let us proceed."
Bashir went back to where he had left his briefcase and removed a volume and placed it before me. "Mr. Damania, it is not that we do not trust you, but the information we are about to disclose is so critical that we are placing this volume of the "Avesta" before you. May we request you take an oath in the name of "Ahura Mazda", that any thing you hear in this room will remain totally secret, both for our security and your own."
The "Avesta" is the holy book of the Zoroastrians, just as the Bible is to the Christians and "Ahura Mazda" is the Zoroastrian word for God. I was intrigued by all the secrecy, but I wanted to humor these gentlemen, so very solemnly I placed my hand on the "Avesta" and swore to "Ahura Mazda" that anything stated in the room would remain totally private. They all looked at each other and bowed to me.
"Well Mr. Damania, let us begin with a historical reference which is directly connected to why we have brought you to Iran. I am sure your knowledge of Zoroastrian history and the connection of the Parsees to Iran is far superior to mine, but there is a reason for this introduction. In the eighth century A.D. the Arabs conquered Iran. Initially they used some force to convert Zoroastrians to Islam. There were also financial incentives given to the Iranian Zoroastrians to convert to Islam. If a man died leaving several sons, only the sons who had converted to Islam would share his estate. The remaining Zoroastrian children inherited nothing. This became the law."
"Within one hundred years from the date of the Arab conquest the Arabs left Iran in the hands of the newly converted Iranian Muslims. Later, the Shi'ite form of Islam took over, so today a majority of Iranians are Shi'ite Muslims. Poets such as Omar Khayyam could not possibly perform or write their poetry under the Sunni form of Islam, which vigorously forbade any form of art depicting humans as idol worship and romantic poetry as contrary to the dictates of the Koran."
"For several decades thereafter, the newly converted Iranian Muslims were extremely brutal towards the Zoroastrians. In order to obtain employment, money and position, the Zoroastrians pretended to be Muslims. They attended the mosques, they publicly participated in Muslim prayers, but at home they remained Zoroastrians. After some decades, people did not question each other about their faith and several Zoroastrians became prominent in the Iranian government of the time. As you know, Mr. Damania, the last Zoroastrian king of Iran was Yazdegard Shehriyar. His grandson was general Ram Ahuramazd. The people and the rulers of Iran were under the impression that the general was a Muslim, but in fact he was a devout Zoroastrian and protected other Zoroastrians from Muslim fanatics. He was not only respected and loved because of his military successes and bravery, but in their hearts, the Iranians thought of him as their Emperor. For twenty years he enjoyed glory and power. Ironically it was a Zoroastrian antagonist, jealous of his power and position that reported his religious beliefs to the then Shah of Iran. The Shah was absolutely stunned that his most reputed general was not a Muslim. He gave Ram Ahuramazd two options. He could either become a Muslim immediately and keep his position and power, or keep his religion and be beheaded in the market square as a pagan."
"Ram Ahuramazd would not consider giving up his faith to save his life. Nor did he feel that remaining in Iran would be safe for him and his family. You must remember Mr. Damania that by this time a few thousand Zoroastrians had emigrated to India and had been welcomed there by the Hindus. They were well liked and respected and Ram Ahuramazd decided to emigrate to India. His Muslim friends and the remaining Zoroastrians were shocked and in despair that the direct descendent of the last Zoroastrian Shah was about to become a lowly immigrant in a foreign country."
"Ram settled in an Indian town called Surat. There were no armies to lead for a Zoroastrian in India and as he was an 'Athornan' or of the priestly class, he decided to become a priest in the latter part of his life."
"Back in Iran, the oppression was so great that after Ram's departure a majority of practicing Zoroastrians emigrated to India."
"As the Zoroastrians had almost disappeared from Iran, there was no one to oppress. Also all the historical structures, the culture, the poetry and architecture were from the Zoroastrian era, hence over the years an admiration for ancient Iranian history and Zoroastrian architecture once again became prevalent. Poets and scholars such as Firdosi lauded the ancient Zoroastrian leaders and kings. Scholars and intellectuals were nostalgic about ancient Iran and once again wanted the descendents of the original Yazdegard Shahriar to rule in Iran."
"Centuries later, the Pahlavi dynasty took over in Iran, and of course you are quite aware of our recent history and the dethronement of the last Shah of Iran."
"At this stage in our history, several of our military leaders you are familiar with such as general Malek and astute politicians like Mr. Kermani, professors and intellectuals such as Mr. Qureshi and even some intellectual Muslim religious leaders like Mr. Mirza, came to the conclusion that religious intolerance, bigotry and persecution of non-Muslims was completely contrary to our culture and history. So we all came together and decided that we needed traditions to bring our country back to civilization. Unfortunately, centuries of oppressive Islamic rule left us with very few cultural options, except to connect ourselves with our ancient history and to continue in the traditions of the ancient Zoroastrian kings and leaders, who permitted freedom of worship and refused to proselytize."
"Over the last decade at least one hundred thousand army officers, important police officers, politicians and professors have joined our group. We call ourselves "The New Order." We have sworn to bring back the ancient Zoroastrian monarchy and are willing to give our lives for this cause, if necessary."
Excerpted from A Dream of Democracy by Aftab Shirazi Copyright © 2009 by Aftab Shirazi. Excerpted by permission.
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