However, not everyone seems to be in the mood for celebrating, For example, those who oppose the regime, or those who are slowly losing their faith in the promises of the revolution, find these celebrations a repetitious, long event that has been dragging on for the last 33 years. The frustration has gone so far that inside jokes about it have become common among the people. For instance, the 10 day period spanning from the first day of the Imam's return to the day victory was declared for the Islamic Revolution is called Daheh Fajr ("ten days of the dawn")--but some people call it Dahe Zajr, or "ten days of torture."
But, this year the authorities stunned the Iranian people by an innovative idea of celebration. During a ceremony, the return of Ayatollah Khomeini from France was re-enacted by using a cardboard cutout of him. See a collection of pictures from the event here on Mehr News Agency. Can you imagine what fodder this provided for a nation who frequently turns to to sarcasm to fill the void where political pressure and social inequalities leave little space for change?
On the day of the ceremony, Facebook pages and twitter feeds were filled with links to the pictures of the event. The next day, cartoons further humiliating the decision of the officials were published. Revolutionary songs were rewritten so that the words such as Imam, leader, or victory could rhyme with the word “cardboard.” Famous quotes of Ayatollah Khomeini, or historical events of his life were retold and re-depicted by a “cardboard” Imam. The hundreds of Facebook Likes for these pages are as plentiful as the hundreds of jokes about the cardboard cutout.
Before I see the enthusiasm raised by this "cardboard Imam," I thought that the comic things President Ahmadinejad says were the number one topic of political mockery among Iranians. But, the mockery I witnessed in cyber space (still happening on Facebook) is yet to compare to any figure ever ridiculed within the Islamic Republic.
Meanwhile, some religious and political figures, such as former president Ayatollah Rafsanjani, expressed their disappointment in the way Imam’s figure was used. Oppositional groups picked it up as a sign (pardon the pun) and said it marks the final deterioration of the regime. I, personally, find it offensive to a historical figure whose influence on those within and outside the Islamic world cannot be denied, and whose actions left a lasting mark on Iranians worldwide (even if the subsequent realities of his revolution are far less positive than the current regime asserts them to be). I've asked why Iranians had such a strong reaction to what seems to be a silly mistake of poor judgment. Is mockery and disrespect the last answer to the desperation for change in Iran? What could blaming or mocking a deceased leader possibly do for the future of democracy in Iran (other than just expressing disappointment in the Islamic Revolution)?!
While I don't have all the answers, I'm here to say that you just can't help but *heart* Iran for it’s always exaggerated politics, public reactions, and even choice of celebrations. Only in Iran could a cardboard cutout of political icon stir up such an uproar.
Here are a few examples of the images circling the web:
While Imam Khomeini is asking about Ayatollah Rafsanjani, a prominent figure who assisted him in the early years of the revolutions, the seated guest tries to change the subject and instead. (referring to the current conflicts and divides between the political figures inside Iran (rather than the regime the Ayatollah knew in his own time).
Iranian cartoonist Nikahang Kowsar depicts a cardboard Imam which in this case a famous song in praise of the Imam is changed from "Imam you are the symbol of Sharaf (honor)" to "Imam you are the symbol of alaf (grass)"
In 1979, when asked how do you feel about returning home from exile, Imam said "nothing." This photo says, "the human Imam had no feeling, do you expect a cardboard Imam to have feelings!"