Thursday, March 30, 2006

Interview with an Iranian Christian playwright, filmmaker

Y'know, I just yesterday had the idea of an Iraqui Christian refugee as a character in a film. Not that Iraquis and Iranians are the same, any more than Kiwis or Aussies. Just interesting though.


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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Noted Iranian playwright, noted poet and filmmaker, Ata Servati, discusses all three of these topics

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

TARZANA, CA (ANS) -- The Iranian New Year celebration called Norooz is symbolic of representations of two ancient concepts - the End and the Rebirth; or Good and Evil.

Ata Servati being interviewed at his home by Dan Wooding

The number of Iranian-Americans now living in the United States tops some 2,000,000 and one of them, noted Iranian playwright, poet and filmmaker, Ata Servati, invited me to his home in Tarzana, California, which is in the San Fernando Valley, to take part in the celebration and also talk about a number of topics.

He began by talking about the new year’s "Norooz" and also a second celebration. “We celebrate twice,” said Ata. “This one is called Norooz which is the beginning of spring and the other is at the start of the fall which is called Mehregan and marks the first day of the ‘cold’ year (autumn and winter). We celebrate both because it means new – the nature is new – both inside and outside. Everything is new. It is a time for us to be happy, not sad.”

Despite this being a time to be happy, Ata, who had to leave Iran, confessed to being saddened with reports that he had heard about that it would be good to bomb Iran.

Ata Servati took a deep breath and then told me, “I didn’t really want to comment about something like this when we are celebrating our New Year, but some people are suggesting that the USA should bomb Iran and kill and destroy the people there. I believe that making such comments is as radical as what the Iranian president [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] said about Israel.

“I hope all those who are thinking of killing people and destroying a nation, will stop for a second and think about another course of action -- following the path of peace and love that Jesus Christ talked about; the path that Gandhi and Mother Teresa also followed. Killing and destroying the people of Iran doesn’t resolve anything. It will make it worse.

“Therefore, I believe that we have to have a philosophy of love and respect and only then can we get something out of this situation. But killing and bombing the Iranian people is not going to resolve anything. So I believe that the media has to be responsible when tackling this situation.”

He then singled out another American media personality, Oprah Winfrey, for praise. “I have to take my hat off to her,” he said. “I really respect her for how she has made it in the media. I consider her to be a responsible entertainer and as somebody who can change live in a good way. And she does. We, as entertainers, have to believe in peace and love and we have to do something nice and good for the people. We should help them to be happy and make difference in their lives to become better and more peace human beings. Oprah Winfrey is my hero in this case.”

I then asked Ata what he would like people around the world to know about his people back home.

“The Iranians were from the beginning peaceful and spiritual people,” he said. “We are peaceful people. We really love to love people and also be loved. We don’t like war and my people do not want a nuclear program. Forget about what you see in the media.

“Recently there was a survey in Iran, and over 75 percent of Iranians said that they love America and only 10 percent said they followed the Mullahs who have taken over 90% of the Iranian people hostage and do not represent the majority of the Iranian people. To remove such a headache, the answer is not to bomb Iran and kill everyone. If the international community really wants to do something important, it is very easy; they should not allow the relatives of the rulers or Iran live in their countries and bring out the wealth of Iran and invest it there, especially while over 90% of the Iranian people are suffering of hunger and lack of medical services.”

He then spoke about his new book called “In Search of Heaven” which tells the story of the American missionary, Howard Conklin Baskerville, who in 1907 went to Iran, and the following year sacrificed himself for Iranian freedom, after the Russians had bombed and destroyed the Iranian parliament and killed all it representatives.

“He is known as ‘The son of Iranian freedom.’ I really wanted to say ‘thank you’ to this man and I want him to also be ‘the son of American and world freedom as well. I want him to be a symbol for living with honor,’” he said.

He said that he hoped those who have suggested that Iran must be bombed would read the book. “I would like them to look at the life of Mr. Baskerville. He was a Christian man and he decided that he had to help people that he didn’t even know. He went and sacrificed his life in 1908 for the people who some people seem to want to bomb and kill.

“Howard Baskerville believed that God has given the right for freedom that the Iranian people needed to have. When I heard about his story, I felt that I had to let people know about him and his bravery and heroism. He is a hero to me. Thinking about what he did is really beyond my imagination. His heart was full of love, just like Jesus was also full of love for the people of the world.

“I have to say thank you to this man, and I want the people back in Iran, particularly the youth, to understand what he did for their country. I believe by remembering what Howard did at that time, they will possibly rise up and get their God-given freedom back from the religious radicals that are in power right now. We know that these men are not representative of the Iranian people. But Dan, I must say, this is an internal problem for the Iranian people who will and will take care of their own affairs and will bring freedom to their nation. But without bloodshed. It will be a peaceful change.

“At the front of this change will be the brave women of Iran and as well by the younger generation who have more anger and passion. You know it seems when you pass over 35 your anger and passion will replace with greed and power hungry.”

“You know, the Los Angeles-based Iranian Cable TV ‘Channel One’ has suggested a few points that the international community must follow to help Iranians take their government and freedom back. They were great suggestions and are being mass emailed and faxed to the White House and the international community. Maybe you should print them too.”

Ata Servati concluded by recounting an extraordinary event that took place in his homeland hours after the terrible attack on America by the Al Qaeda terrorists.

“On September 11, 2001, many of the Iranian people came into the streets and held candlelight vigils for those that had died,” he said. “They did so under the threat of guns from the government. They also came to the street on the anniversary of September 11; despite knowing they are going to be batten up by the government forces. And they were. Some were jailed, and tortured. Some disappeared. I call that also bravery by Iranian people. People in no other country that I know of outside of America, did that. That was a very brave and radical statement for these people to make. It shows that they love the American people. And these are the people that some are suggesting to be bombed and killed.”

With the interview over, Ata rejoined his American and Iranian friends to continue with the New Year’s party!

Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. Wooding is the author of some 42 books, the latest of which is his autobiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, go to (Ata Servati makes a point during the interview)

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