There was no polite way to say no, so I went. It was a learning experience.
As an introvert I’m not keen on parties. I’m even less keen on parties involving people I don’t know. Which means I wasn’t overly thrilled when my wife relayed a birthday party invitation from one of the refugees she teaches German to.
I understood that the invitation was an honor, and I could not really consider refusing. Family is a big thing in Persian culture and celebrations are huge. Here the family doesn’t know enough people to make a decent celebration. I felt it was important to be there, even if it wouldn’t be my favorite way to spend a Saturday night.
I’m glad I went though. It was obviously important to the family, some of whom are still in Iran. The separation is hard on husbands, wives and children. I’m now preserved on video being shared in Iran.
The evening was also a little bit educational. I learned that the house where these refugees now live was built in 1667. I assume there have been a few renovations over the years, since it had both plumbing and electricity. I marveled at a place occupied that long – I don’t know if there are any houses in Canada that can boast such a history. Certainly not outside of Quebec City.
After dinner there was dancing. Well, not really, and certainly not for me. I found myself exposed to music I hadn’t heard before: Iranian dance music videos.
Judging from the number of YouTube hits, the stiff is popular. Which must really annoy the authorities in Tehran.
As you are probably aware, Iran has one of the more repressive governments on the planet. There is a very strict interpretation of Islamic law that leaves little room for any sort of creative expression. The videos we watched were very obviously not made in Iran. Not only were the women not wearing hijabs (or more restrictive clothing), they were showing a fair amount of skin. Not as much as you would see at a North American beach, but considerably more, I think, than the mullahs of Tehran would find acceptable.
How can repressive governments combat such a message? I know Tehran has restricted the Internet and that certain social media sites and applications are blocked. I wonder though how effective that is in the long run. Censorship works best when people don’t know it is happening. If Facebook doesn’t work, or YouTube, it is obvious the government doesn’t want you to see something. That leaves intelligent people asking why – and governments scrambling to find an answer that those people will accept.
I’m hearing stories from Iran of people becoming Christians in large numbers. My guess is the state crackdown on Christians helps generate interest. When the government makes it illegal to change religions, you have to wonder what it is afraid of? If Islam were true, why would so many people be leaving it? Especially as becoming a Christian is frequently a one-way ticket to the notorious Evin prison.
The Iranian refugees in Germany are celebrating their freedom. It’s not my type of music (most dance music bores me) but it is theirs, and in Germany they can listen and watch without fear of arrest. I wanted to show some samples, but I didn’t think to note down the names of the songs or performers – the material I found to accompany this post is much tamer. I suppose if I searched in Farsi I might have done better.
Is that worth all the hardship they have suffered? For those at the party I was at, I think the answer would be yes.