Of Dialogue, Substance and Change

In March 2002, a number of writers as also specialists on Dialogue gathered on the island of Kish in Iran, for the first and – due to political developments – only Global Seminar on Fiction and Dialogue among Cultures, hosted by the Iranian Centre for Dialogue among Civilizations.

Those days, as we were “preparing” ourselves for news of an attack on Iraq and therefore the “next war”, many of those invited questioned the role such a gathering could play and whether follow-up activities would truly influence political constellations and policies…

In March 2002, a number of writers as also specialists on Dialogue gathered on the island of Kish in Iran, for the first and – due to political developments – only Global Seminar on Fiction and Dialogue among Cultures, hosted by the Iranian Centre for Dialogue among Civilizations.

 

Those days, as we were “preparing” ourselves for news of an attack on Iraq and therefore the “next war”, many of those invited questioned the role such a gathering could play and whether follow-up activities would truly influence political constellations and policies.

 

Eleven years later, some of us who participated in the seminar and went on to work as activists and eventually even policy advisors, are astonished to note how effective many of our efforts have been, especially in preventing a war against Iran. At the time, as we realized with dismay that the officials of the Islamic Republic set more on publicity and the work of lobbyists, who eventually under the direction of the Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government unsuccessfully sought to influence international actors and decision-makers without transparency or much goodwill, we could not imagine that the efforts of citizen activists armed with true care and passion for peace and the rights of people, would have such an outcome.

 

That it was so had much to do with the passion that literature has instilled in us, as well as the courage to speak truth not only to power, but to and among ourselves. And it has also had to do with eleven years of continuous work and the belief that – in deed – we can make a difference.

 

Doris Lerche, who together with other writers and artists founded the “Romanfabrik” in Frankfurt and has now initiated the The “Alondra Institute”, promoting a multi-cultural coming together of artists and those who create literature and art in Europe and North Africa, was among those who believed in the vision which was initiated in Kish and has aided and accompanied us through the long journey.

 

Thus she recalls how in Kish, I who had spent most of my life outside Iran, dared question local writers who risked their lives to even come to the seminar and risked much more by participating in the afternoon debates – which proved most suspect to the intelligence officers forever hovering in the background – and went on not to be saddened by the inability of some of these writers who considered themselves only as victims to question themselves, but to be motivated and driven on by the enthusiasm of the youth who pressed me on. The same youth, who seven years later took to the streets of Iran by the millions, to defend their neglected votes. The same generation of Iranians who for nearly four years have paid a heavy price for their civil resistance and yet still persevere on. Doris who has become a dear friend, knows how their voices and their plea that “we do not give up and keep asking the difficult questions”, stayed with us and convinced us that these young Iranians are truly deserving of peace and an Iran where their votes and choices count and are the true determinates of their lives.

 

Through the years,  Doris Lerche and I have learned that a dialogue of substance among those who have the know-how as well as real hands-on experience, aided by and bridged by men and women of the arts, their openness and ability to empower by shaping our realistic  hopes and dreams – can bring about substantial change.

 

On this anniversary of the seminar in Kish, I wish dear Doris and team “Alondra” all the best in their new project and hope that through this project as many people as possible may share in what we all trust will come to be another empowering experience.

 

Shiva Kambari

 

 

http://www.alondra-institute.com/english

 

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