The Best Upper Division Essay

Yasmin Arastu's Lighting the Oil Lamp

Mossadegh (1) came out too early; they weren't ready for him. When would they be ready for him? When is anyone ever ready to face the truth? When are we even aware that truth exists until we are bathed in it, till it fills every dark corner, fills our eyes? We can't realize that what we believe in are really dark monsters until we have been introduced to the angels of light, the farishthay, made from the most heavenly light. Martin Luther King said something; darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. King risked what he had to fight the darkness knowing that covering it up would not resolve the problem. He used peace to get results because violence can never end violence; it can only squash it temporarily.

There was no compromise in Mossadegh's plan because compromise meant that Iran would still sit in the shadow of the United States and the United Kingdom. Compromise wasn't going to bring Iran anywhere near the light. So old Mossy decided to bring the truth to the surface, as fanatical as it seemed to everyone; the oil is ours. He threw the country into turmoil and misery, not like they were living in peaches and cream before. No matter how bad the situation gets, it is better than being in the dark, because the darkness is permanent. The carpet man "believes that the nation will survive everything and that beauty is indestructible;" he has always been ready for the revolution (151). But now Mossadegh has told Iran that they are as good as the rest of the world and everyone knew what was happening. Everyone knew that the Shah was controlling and destroying the country, and more importantly, everyone knew how closely the United States and the United Kingdom watched Iran, watched their oil. The Iranians knew that the imperialists created the problem and controlled it.

It was high time someone did something. KapuíciÕski says, "you can't be right too early…you risk…your own life" (33). That's right. You can't. You can't be early enough. They weren't ready for him, but they would never be ready. The truth cannot become universal if it is hidden away, if it remains smoldering under the surface. Mossadegh raked the coals, threw in some old handbooks, anointed the fire with Iran's oil and started a blaze. A prophet, a martyr. Now it is a universal truth. It is published in a book.

The second Iran's people found out that the Shah wanted to side with the enemies and crush the man who told them the truth, his dictatorship crumbled. He had fear, but no support. "A dictatorship depends for its existence on the ignorance of the mob; that's why all dictatorships take such pains to cultivate that ignorance," writes KapuíciÕski (150). So, the Shah creates the secret police to annihilate any wandering, enlightened thoughts. He needs to keep his people in the dark but has to use fear and violence to do it. Does he think he can keep them hushed, that they will continue to allow him to control the country when Savak is pulling people from the streets and mutilating their bodies and souls? Now everyone knows, because he doesn't kill the common people, the ones who are invisible anyway. He kills the intellectuals, the doctors, the poets. All the people who used to fill a room with conversation are gone. It becomes quieter and quieter. Soon everyone else is going to notice the silence and revolt. But actually, they have already revolted because they are afraid of Savak, and if you are not for something you are against it. The Shah tortured the Iranians because they knew, but they knew because he tortured them.

But during this war of men, grease, and greasy men, where are the women? The women are fires themselves, sometimes being lit and fanned, other times they are snuffed out just as they begin to burn warmly, smothered by a great chador, stamped out by black boots. They do not exist, it seems, at all in the world of torture, politics, and oil. They do not exist. They are swept along with the war, sometimes used as shields by the soldiers. They are dressed and undressed more violently than a toddler's rag doll. They are educated briefly, pushed naked into the blinding light as the Shah strips them of their chadors and sends them to school. They are given freedom, education, only so they will teach their sons to support the Shah and his men. But before long, Khomeini comes in his long, billowy robes and in his hands are yards and yards of material, enough to choke every woman. They are denied freedom so they will never resist the Shah and now just the men.

Freedom never had anything to do with women; it is ignited or stifled depending on the weather. Women are raped only to destroy the men to which they belong. Savak wants to hurt Ayatollah Teleghani, so they rape his daughter. They do not care whether they hurt her or not; they need to make him suffer. So they rape her while he is forced to watch. He closed his eyes, didn't want to see her suffering. She is still suffering, whether you watch it or not.

So, the darkness is disappearing? Some of the people are still there, in the cold shadows. But the women, they won't die. They will survive everything because beauty is indestructible.

KapuíciÕski, Ryszard. Shah of Shahs. New York: Vintage International, 1985.

(1) Doctor Mossadegh, a populist leader, was elected as the Prime Minister of Iran on April 28, 1951. He was one of the first deputies of the first Irani parliament or majlis. When he naturalized Iran's oil, the U.S. accused him of fanatical nationalism. In a coup d'etat aided by the U.S. government, Mossadegh was overthrown by Shah Mohammed Reza.



George S. Diamond Prizes
Beck Shakespeare Prize

English Prize
The Erskine Prize
Zinzendorf Prize
Beck Oratorial Prizes