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IRAN The Land of Poems, Roses, Nightingales, and Arab Mullahs
George H. Hassanzadeh -- Expert in Islamic Matters George H. Hassanzadeh -- Expert in Islamic Matters
Los Angeles, CA
Monday, May 20, 2024


Ahvaz, then a town made of mud brick with only two paved streets, is my birthplace. In the

summer, the thermometer would soar above 130 degrees. Winds blew dust from the Arabian

Peninsula and brought intolerable humidity. The summer inferno lasted six to seven months.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I used to take my tee shirt off, wring it out, and put it back on

again. Many nights, I still dream of my school days, the beautiful Armenian girl next door who

always smiled, shyly turned her eyes to the ground, and quickly went inside. In the first few days of

spring, vacationers come from around the country to enjoy the warm weather and celebrate the

Persian New Year. I always dreaded the goodbyes at the railroad station when my schoolmates and

friends left for cooler places, and the town got almost empty.

When WWII came to Ahvaz, I was only seven years old. I heard the thunder and saw black, donut-

shaped puffs of smoke in the sky. Later, I learned that it was anti-aircraft fire.

Despite my mother's plea, I went up to the rooftop and watched the dogfight between Iranian

and British planes. The fighter planes were flying much too low. Some flew over our house,

missing it by just a few feet, causing some loose bricks to fall and almost hit my aunt. The petrified

women all gathered in one corner and clung to each other. One newlywed young bride screamed

uncontrollably and wet herself. I heard an Iranian plane go down into the Karun River just a block

from my house. I rushed to the site; it was all over when I arrived, and I saw nothing.

The war was over. The whole battle lasted less than an hour. No house was hit, and not a single

person died or injured.

The next day, I saw some Indian, British, and American soldiers march by our houses. Even

though the troops showed no hostility, most grownups stayed inside. Only the kids lined up on the

streets. Some American soldiers threw chewing gums into the crowd, and the kids jumped up and

down for joy.

My best childhood memories are of visiting my grandfather, who lived in a farming town

called Romhurmoz, representing centuries-old, genuine Persian life. When school was out in the

summer, my father would put me on a bus and send me to Romhurmoz.

The fertile fields and green-covered gardens were approximately sixty miles from Ahvaz, a whole

day's drive back in the mid-1940s and early 50s. Besides negotiating the unpaved roads, the driver

stopped at individual houses to pick up travelers. Once, we had to wait three hours for an Arab

mullah to return from the mosque and pack. Later, I learned that mullahs traveled for free.

My grandfather was a likable, henna-bearded old man with great humor. He stuttered, but

that never stopped him from telling a good joke. In his humorous stories, he always showed his

dislike and suspicion of religious leaders, the Arab Iranians. I was too young to understand his

stories and pointed jokes.

Grandpa was not as much into religion as Grandma. Grandma was a devout Muslim.

Occasionally, they quarreled. It was always about religion, and Grandma would poke fun at him, and

laughingly, she would remark, "They are preparing your room in hell's neighborhood."

In addition to her customary daily prayers and duties, she hosted a religious ceremony called

Rozehkhani (a recitative and narrative of the tragedy that befell Shiite imam Hussien in Karbala,

Iraq, in 680 CE) on Friday evenings once a month.

Grandma would water down the courtyard so it would be cool and clean. She then covered

the ground with worn-out kilims and straw mats called hassir. She would run a rope from one point

in the yard to another and drape it with a couple of sheets as partitions. The men would set one side

of the divide and the women on the other.

A hand-carved centuries-old minbar 'pulpit' (rumors had it in his younger days, Grandpa

stole the minbar from a Mosque) was stationed where both women and men could see the cleric

delivering his sermon. My niece's chief duty was to serve tea and popular sweets such as dates and

halvah when guests arrived. Halvah is popular with mullahs, whom people jokingly called 'halva-


Speaking of halvah, as a pre-adolescent in Ahvaz, I used to sell cookies and halvah after

school and in the summer. Halvah was a best-seller. However, it usually came in an open and

unwrapped tray, which, in the summer, presented a challenge to keep flies away from the uncovered


One hot afternoon, I went to my usual supplier for more halvah. He was taking his customary

afternoon nap (siesta). I noticed a large tray of black halvah on the counter in front of the store.

I wondered how a black halvah tasted since it did not look like the golden-brown color. As I reached

out to take a small piece, a cloud of thick black flies suddenly rose from the tray and made an awful

sound, only to settle a foot away. The sudden noise that sounded more like a squadron of

helicopters flying overhead woke the owner. His red and unkind eyes indicated that I woke him up in

the middle of his catnap. He shouted, "Why did you do that?" he sounded agitated. "Go away," he

snarled, "Don't you see these flies have already eaten and were taking their afternoon nap? You wake

them up and scare them away." They are going into my storage room and eating all my halvahs.

Thanks to you, a set of hungry flies would now take their place and eat more of my halvahs.

I did not buy or sell halvahs after that day.

One day, my grandfather sat me on a mule behind him, and we galloped for more than an

hour to a small mud and bamboo hut where some of our family lived. The long trip tired me.

A woman dressed in a Lurestani costume put a large straw mat down and some pillows to lean on. A

young woman, around eighteen years of age, brought a tray of tea and dates. She had a pretty face

and a head covered with silver coins dangled around her forehead. After salaam greetings, she

nervously sat the tray in front of us, and my grandfather gave her a good buyer's look, the same look

he had when he bought a mule, two cows, and a goat once. But before he could say anything, she

left, partly because she was shy and tense, and my grandfather had waited too long to speak, and an

attack of stutters did not help much.

After some talk and drinking tea with the family, we left, but not before Grandfather slipped a

twenty-toman note under the pillow. I did not understand why. On the way back, I kept thinking

maybe the place was a teahouse and he was paying for the tea and the sweets. Next summer, when

I visited my grandfather, I saw the same young woman there. She had become grandfather's

youngest wife. I guess slipping some money under the pillow indicated a nuptial arrangement. They

had a daughter and two good-looking boys. My grandfather was in his sixties when they got married.

He intended to marry a helping hand for the farm rather than hire one.

Back to Grandma's Rozehkhani. Since we had no electricity, gas lanterns were used. On that

occasion, a gas lantern called 'German Gas Promos' required pumping. I had to pump the promos

until my little thumb grew numb.

Grandma's Mullah (preacher) would sometimes arrive hours late. The Mullah was rotund

with a round, bright henna face. He wore a clock and a large turban and had a rolled-up white bed

sheet for a belt around his vast belly. In the Persia of my days, being fat was a sign of prosperity,

health, wealth, and high position. My grandfather, who had less love for our overweight Mullah,

wrote a poem that started with:

"A tummy appeared from

around the corner; a day later,

our Mullah arrived." (sounds better in Parsi)

Grandma's colossal Mullah always carries a set of rosary beads (tasbih) in his right hand, hurries to

his usual corner spot, and devours his dinner. He was the only one to eat. Early in the day, my

grandma would cook his usual meal, a whole chicken with rice and trimmings. The Mullah had

strange table manners. He would eat fast with an unusual noise, like hyenas fighting over a kill. He

would make cow-like chewing motions as he walked toward the pulpit with his mouth half open.

Grandpa hardly attended the service. Today, however, he showed up, and when he saw the Mullah's

new black turban, he looked puzzled. He could not wait to ask,

"You have changed your white turban to black?" asked Grandpa.

"Yes, I discovered I am a Seyyed," Mullah responded.

"Do you know the meaning of Seyyed?" Grandpa asked.

"Yes. I am from the household of the Prophet Mohammad," answered the Mullah.

"How could you be from the household of the Prophet Mohammad

when Arabs believe only in paternal linkage, and Mohammad had no sun?"

at this point, the Arab Mullah was getting agitated and changing colors. He threatened not to bless

this house with his present. My grandmother jumped in and spoke.

"For years, we trusted you to be a holy man."

"Now you are showing us that you are an imposter."

"Maybe you should not bless our home by staying away."

Born and raised in a Shi'a Muslim family in Iran, Hassanzadeh is the author of Iran: 'Harsh Arm

of Islam,' 'First Comes the Mosque,'—the screenplay 'Persian Pirooz' and the 'Persian Gahiji.'

George Hassanzadeh is a recognized expert in Islamic matters. He is in the process of releasing

a series of books illustrating the distorted Shari'a laws practiced by the allegedly self-appointed

infallible Arab Shiite clerics forcing medieval rule and a system of mind control in 21 st -century

Arab and non-Arab nations.

Hassanzadeh says,

"I grew up with and understand the mentality of today's Iranian Shiite elite."

George H. Hassanzadeh is a U.S. Army Veteran and lives in California.

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