Thursday, December 16, 2004

Issandr El-Amani of the Arabist Network asks a very good question about a page of a Pentagon manual that describes a translation device they will be using:

Why will American soldiers speak Farsi to Indian women?

Hurray for the U.K.

Someone in the family always jokes that if you go to the root of every major conflict in the world, you find the work of the British. I know, it is a very My Uncle Napolean sort of statement that can be dismissed in terms of the "Persian penchant for conspiracy", as the wanna-be Orientalist and former U.S. ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan, is condescendingly fond of saying.

But when you consider that the U.S.(and Australia)were at bottom projects of that glorious isle, well then the theory doesn't seem soooo absurd, does it?

Seriously, though, every now and again the British government does things that are worthy of praise, and this week, there were two of them:

1) Today, Britain's highest court ruled that foreigners CANNOT be held in detention without charge or trial. To do so, they rightly pointed out, was against European human rights laws.

2)And on Tuesday, a British court ruled in favor of an Iraqi family suing the U.K. government for the death of the civilian Baha Mousa, a young man in his twenties and father of two, who was beaten to death during interrogations by the British troops.

So here is something you wont hear me say every day: Bravo to the British! At least there it seems that adherence to the law still means something. Let's hope the poodle Blair and his little gang don't try to subvert the law like they've done before.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

If you know me well, you will have figured that i have a slight tendancy towards masochism, and it usually takes the form of exposing myself to "news" and "analysis" that aggravate me. Another thing I do to torture myself is that I talk now and again with people I met in Iranian chatrooms. Having observed me, Ra'ed once pointed out (rightly) that I seemed to partake in the activity just so I could curse my interlocuters, kind of like what i do when i watch Iranian "opposition" television, except that in the case of latter i swear at the t.v. and with the chatroom folks, i complain bitterly about them afterwards.

so today, while i was ostensibly doing some serious writing, i decided to expose myself to the most boring interview I have ever seen, anywhere. it was an interview with the aging iranian popstar habib and that extremely annoying (even for Iranian satellite TV standards) host that always sounds like he has a gerbil stuck in his throat.Habib was as charismatic as a limp stick of asparagus and the host, as usual, was droning on and on with his inanities.

Back in the 70s, my mom used to sit and cry every time she heard Habib strumming his guitar and singing his melancholy hit song "marde tanhaye shab (the lonely man of the night)". Rumor had it that Habib had lost both his mom and wife (who was said to have the same name as my mother) in a tragic car accident. He also had a song dedicated to and named after his wife, which as you can imagine, set mom's tear ducts into over drive as well. Mom is no longer this sentimental when it comes to love songs, but last year when my grandmother was visiting me, I made the mistake of playing a song habib had written for, you guessed it, his mother, and it took a whole hour of acting the clown and desperately trying to distract my grandmother before her tears dried up.

I've never figured out whether the story about the death of habib's mom and wife was true or not (mom thinks that they were lies to promote his sad-lonely-singer image, but maybe she convinced herself of that so that she would quit crying).

And I started this post with the intention of making fun of about four or five iranian popstars, you know, just to be a jerk but maybe be funny too. One of my victims was going to be habib and his son mohammad, with whom he now sings, but it seems that i have i've fallen to my own weepy sentimentality.

I mean what if this Mohammad is the son of that wife, you know the one who died in the accident? i think the math doesnt work out, but still you never know. either way, i think it is kind of sweet that they are singing together, especially when they do a duet on the song "madar(mother)".

so forget it, i guess i'm a masochistic and a sap.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Keeping the Persian Gulf Stupid

wow, have I really been away from here for nearly a month?

No, I haven't been depressed, or away, or even particularly busy. And there certainly hasn't been a lack of things to blog about.

Take, for example, the US spying on their boy El-Baradei. I guess if you are bold enough to plant bugs in the phones and emails of the UN Security Council, keeping an eye out on your hired help is perfectly legitimate.

Lots of stuff going on in Iran as well, too much, really, to account for in one post. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Khatami the other day, when students openly attacked him and his record.

One of my favorite moments in the whole thing was when a crowd of students started shouting slogans against the hardliner Ayatollah Jannati: "Jannati Jannati, to doshman-e mardomi (Jannati Jannati, you are the enemy of the people". Thinking the slogans were against him, Khatami responded with a resigned but sarcastic "fine, if you are the representatives of the people, then i am the enemy". So the students started to shout back at him: "no no, we are NOT talking about YOU! we are yelling about Jannati", to which Khatami, clearly pleased, just responded with something like "oh, it's not against me? fine then".

The students weren't the only excitable ones these past days, who could forget the mass hysteria that swept up Iranians of all stripes and locations including fascists/monarchists living abroad, reformists and hardliner politicians inside of Iran, and, well, pretty much everyone else in between.

And, what, you may wonder, was the root cause of this rare moment of unity among Iranians? Was it sparked by the feeling that the whole world is ganging up on Iran as indicated by news that:

Egypt Accuses Iran of Espionage?

Israel accuses Iran of Espionage?

That cow, Yawar, accuses Iran of interfering in Iraq?

The Jordanian King Abdullah accuses Iran of meddling with Iraq's politics?

or maybe it was the fact that the US continues to lay the groundwork for yet another war of aggression against a sovereign nation?

Oh no, it was none of these things that broght together the otherwise divided patchwork of us passionate Iranians. It was the fact that an atlas published by the National Geographic included in PARENTHESES the words "Arabian Gulf" next to the "Persian Gulf".

Now when you have troubles like this, all other news concerning Iran just seems trivial doesn't it?

No wonder the Iranian government banned the National Geographic journalists from entering Iran and that attention-hungry son of a former dictator set up meetings with the board of National Geographic.

And the weblog community jumped in feet first, even designing a google bomb (which I refuse to link to for obvious reasons). Way to unleash the progressive power of the Internet guys!

Well, better a google bomb than a cluster bomb, i say!

except that:

1)Hollow nationalism, though always silly and patently stupid, rarely ever stays at
the level of verbal or symbolic assaults.

2)While we are fiddling around online manically spreading google bombs in order to "keep the Gulf forever Persian", Iran comes frightenly closer to being bombarded with cluster bombs and more. And when that happens, the Gulf wont be Persian, or Arabian, it will be the Anglo-American Gulf, and no amount of google bombing will help us then.