Saturday, December 31, 2005

1. You know it is time to ease up on reading blogs when your dreams are about reading a blog that is talking about another blog. I woke up last night because the rain and wind was hitting the house so hard our windows were shaking, and I realized that I was reading a blog in my dream that said: "In his blog, Raed Jarrar says that our citizens do not understand the storm that is hitting Iraq, but a storm is hitting us here at home." Anyway, I think "doing something about my internet addiction" should be on my list of new year's resolutions.

2. How come the mainstream media isn't saying much about the five Sudanese embassy workers who were released by Al-Qaeda? It is, after all, a happy event, and war supporters are always complaining about the lack of reporting about the "good" news coming out of Iraq. I think the reason this news hardly got any press was because the hostage takers demanded that Sudan close its diplomatic mission to what they call "the green zone government", Sudan figured the lives of five of its nationals were more important than loyalty to an occupation government on the verge of collapse, which is why they met the demands of the hostage-takers and their citizens got to go home. So while the release of these hostages will not be plastered on the mainstream English speaking press, you can expect that Sudan will come under some kind of criticism pretty soon, and that not a voice will be raised against Egypt's murder of Sudanese immigrants.

3. She's had all kinds of problems with her main site this year, but Z8un, who is now primarily writing here, remains one of my favorite bloggers. It's not that I like everything she writes, in fact sometimes her social politics, especially when it concerns women's sexuality, really get on my nerves. But the thing I like most is that I detect in her a undiminishable lust for life, a curiosity about all that goes on around her. Because of this, I sometimes feel motivated just from reading her blog, even if she is writing some completely scattered thoughts about her daily life in the suburbs of tehran.

4. And finally, Happy New Year to all who celebrate it.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Peyvand Khorsandi has written the spoof below to take jabs at us bloggers, our self-importance, and the significance that is accorded to Iranian bloggers by the Western media. I took the piece below in it's entirety from The Iranian. The image above is taken from here, and yes, I am making fun of myself, but not only myself!

Mostafa Moghadass started his weblog before he even had a computer in 1999.

"I wrote it on bits of paper," he says. "They never made it online. But I handed them out to my friends."

One entry, which he keeps in pocket, reads: "This morning I woke up and made tea."

The 27-year-old student says that at the time he had no idea he was at the forefront of a communication revolution. "I was just brushing my teeth and writing about it," he says.

Iran has a more BPH (blogs per head) than all other countries combined. "It's incredible, there are more blogs than there are Iranians," says Gamboo Barfi, who runs gamboo.blogspot.com.

Many were surprised when she revealed before the election that the then presidential candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a beard.

"We thought we were first with the news," says Maryam Saboonshenass, a reporter on reformist newspaper The Daily Boogh. "It sent shockwaves through the media."

But, she adds, there are fears Iran's birth rate will be unable to support a sustained proliferation of blogs. "It's terrible. There will be countless Gamboo Barfis who won't get a chance to shine in 2026."

Critics, however, are not impressed. "It's all nonsense," says Parham Pourmand, one of few non-bloggers left in Iran -- or "braggers" as he puts it. "Western journalists are surprised when third world people can operate technology. Look how they reacted to our cinema."

Cheeta Koochooloo, a resident of Tehran disagrees. Her daily posts appear at oo-oo.meymoon.blogspot.com. The most recent reads: "I'm off to a conference in China. Bloggers are Iran's New Journalists. Next week I am in Kuala Lumpur :0)!!! where bloggers are meeting to discuss what it is they do precisely."

Moghadass's most recent post sums up the radical atmosphere of the blogosphere: "This morning I left my apartment without turning my gas off, after cooking eggs. Mmm. I can't believe what Ahmadinejad said about Israel. Too bad he's an idiot. What image he is sending to the world? Where did I put my clean socks? I'm going to a conference on eggs in Munich in April."

Monday, December 26, 2005


What would you do if you had it on good suspicion that someone you know was drawn to and actively involved in fascist ideologies and communities? What if this person—with brown hair, skin, and eyes—conceived of himself as an “Aryan” because his family hailed from Iran, the so-called cradle of the Aryan creed? What if this person had never experienced any personal or familial harm at the hand of an Arab or a Jew, but somehow attributed all the ills of his current society and the world to arabs and jews?

What would you do?

I know it my not be the most Christmasy question, but it is urgent.

Would you force him to look into the mirror until he sees that he looks no different than the jew or the arab that he so despises, and that in fact he will find more blue eyed blonds among the arabs and jews than among the “aryan” Iranians he pledges allegiance to?

Would you try to convince him that racial “purity” is a lie, and that in any case, there are too many seyyids in his immediate family, which means that his family’s “bloodline” was most certainly mixed with people of Arab descent?

Would you publicly shame him, to smoke him out of his hole where he cavorts with his like-minded fascists, and force him to be accountable for his beliefs?

And who do you hold responsible? Not just him, because if it was about one person, this problem most likely would not have made it into the space of a blog.

Is it the fault of the mainstream communities which in words and deeds marginalize people of color so that a self-hatred so deep develops that draws one into the delusional world of racial superiority?

Is it the fault of the “Iranian opposition” who exploits these feelings of worthlessness, and preaches night and day on the satellite t.v channels about “purifying” the Persian language from Arabic and/or Islamic words, that consoles the not-accepted-“here” not-accepted-“there” masses of the Iranian diaspora with the spectre of a grand Persian empire, that tries to push an anti-Arab, anti-Muslim present political agenda by sowing hatred against the Muslim invaders of 1400 years past?

I have no doubt that Iranian fascist-nationalists who have outfitted themselves as the “Iranian Opposition” bear the brunt of the responsibility for the proliferating of these hateful ideologies.

I have some idea about how such groups can be forced to be accountable or at least forced to own up to the ideologies they promote.

But as to how one should deal with the deluded individual who is caught up in this poisonous web, I have no idea.

Yea, I know the questions are not the least bit Christmas-y.

But this is urgent.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

1. After Ahmadinejhad made his now notorious remarks about the Holocaust, it was the top news on almost every single news site I checked, and numerous analysis and condemnatoions followed for days. So I was surprised that when Mohamed Mahdi Akef, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, made almost identical remarks, his statements didn't seem to hardly cause a stir. I actually had to do some google-ing before I found some news items on this story, one of which can be found here. Anyway, I have some thoughts on this which I will save for later, but I wanted to link to the story in case you haven't seen it, and so that I wont forget to return to it in future posts.

2. Anyone know if MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) is still supposed to cause a variety of health problems? Well, I just bought some and I'm looking forward to spreading it over our stir fry dinner tonight. Yep, shrimp and veggie stir fry with a sprinkling of MSG, served with a very sour Chamorro sauce that appeals to the food sensibilities of northern iranians. If there is one common taste among the cuisine of Mazandaran, I would have to identify it as tangy, so this sauce of soysauce, vinegar, and lemon hits the spot. Yea, but back to the point, is MSG still in the evil food category or what?

3. Did you know that babies can grow to full term outside the uterus, die inside the body, and remain calcified for years on end? This case study (with photos) is not for the weak of heart, but I find it too fascinating not to pass on. I mean I don't know which thing I find more amazing: that a child can grow, die, and remain preserved inside a woman's body or that a woman can carry such a huge mass inside of her for so long without realizing it or suspecting that something is wrong.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

باران و شب یلدا



اول اینکه شب یلدا مبارک. فکر کنم در یخچال سه چهار تا انار داریم که چند هفته پیش خریدیم و گمان میکنم که تا حالا حتما پوسیده شده اند. عاشق انارم اما سخت تنبل هستم. کی حوصله انار پوست کردن را دارد؟ و بعدش اینکه اگر انار را دون دون بکنم دست هایم خشک میشوند و رنگ عجیبی به خود میگیرند.

دوم اینکه مردم از بس که روی خورشید را ندیدم. تقریبا دو هفته است که یک راست دارد باران میاید. اصلا آخرین باری که هوا آفتابی بود را یادم نیست. صبح تا شب هم یا چای یا قهوه دم میکنیم اما بی فایده است. اصولا من از این روزهای قبل از کریستمس بیزارم و این آسمان های دائما ابری بیشتر حالم را میگیرند.

فعلا همین. فقط خواستم شب یلدا را تبریک بگویم و یک کمی هم غر بزنم!

---
عکس را از اینجا گرفتم و مثل اینکه اول اینجا بود

Addicted to News

For a news addict like myself, a slow news day is bad enough, but an entire week is plain torture. God I've become so desperate I'm even listening to Radio Farda now, ok, no I'm not anymore, I managed to listen for all of 3 minutes.

You'd think that slow news days would make me more productive, but indeed they don't. I actually spend more time fervently searching for something, anything.

It's just as well, I suppose, this time last year there was the horrible news of the tsunami, and the year before that the bam tragedy, which had me thinking: god hates christmas.

Thankfully, there has been no such events this december, and I hope it remains as such.

A big juicy political scandal, on the other hand, would be much welcome!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Mrs. Anthrax and the Beast

1. After smearing them as "Dr. Germ" and "Mrs. Anthrax" before, during, and after the invasion of Iraq, Rihab Taha and Huda Ammash were both released without charge after 2.5 years in U.S. custody: Saddam's scientists freed as US house of cards starts to tumble.

2. What the right-wing pundits are saying these days about Iran: "the Israelis are entitled to launch a first strike of any magnitude, whenever they choose". Link via Brooding Persian.

3. What's with all the delicacy regarding ariel sharon's weight? Journalists commenting on the state of his health appear embarassed to note the very obvious fact that the man is very fat. An NPR journalist dared to mention today something like "one could even say that Ariel Sharon is nearly obese", to which Raed responded "nearly obese?! Ariel sharon is nearly a beast!".

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Just Wondering

Just wondering #1: if Iraq is supposed to have been "sovereign" since June 2004, how can the vice-president of another country which happens to have over a hundred thousands of its troops on Iraq's "sovereign" soil secretly drop in without the knowledge even of the "sovereign" state's Prime Minister?

Just wondering #2: What happens to the credibility of the countries that go around lecturing the rest of the world about democracy, if they threaten economic blackmail when they don't like the candidates that win in a democratic election?

Just Wondering #3- If police in China administered Hong Kong who beat and pepper-sprayed unarmed civilians protesting the WTO's devastating impact on local farmers, had done the same thing to let's say, demonstrators protesting the impact of China's policies towards the region, wouldn't all the champions of democracy be tripping over themselves to condemn state sponsored police brutality?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

1) One thousand days of war, zero weapons of mass destruction: One thousand days of getting it wrong.

2) I was bitter and panicked when Ahmadinejhad won the elections, so much so that I actually voted for Rafsanjani. But even I didn't expect that he would be so unpredictable and dangerous: the US/Israel are dying to attack Iran, and Ahmadinejhad seems determined to give them the excuses they've been fishing for.

3)Meanwhile, the U.S. hires three groups, with contracts worth some 300 million dollars, to produce pro-US propaganda. One of the contracts went to the Lincoln Group, the same corporation identified in the scandal of U.S. planting stories in the Iraqi press.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

San Quentin, I Hate Every Inch of You



دیشب نزدیک ساعت یازده حرکت کردیم به طرف زندان سن کوینتن. جاده خیلی خلوت بود و به پل که رسیدیم دیدیم که فقط یک خانم جوان سیاه آنجا کار میکرد. وقتی ایستادیم که پول از پل رد شدن را بپردازیم شنیدیم که او هم مثل ما داشت به برنامه رادیویی راجع به اعدام تووکی وییلیامز گوش میداد.

از همان اول پل پنج شش تا هلیکوپتر و هوا پیمای نور افکن دیده میشد که دور زندان میپلکیدن. قرار بود از اولین خیابان پس از پل خارج بشویم اما پلیس نه تنها این خیابان بلکه چند خیابان بعدی را هم بسته بودند. بالاخره از یک خیابانی زدیم بیرون وبعد از کلی رانندگی در ته دنیا یک جای پارک پیدا کردیم. تقریبا دو کیلومترازماشیین تا زندان را پیاده رفتیم.

سر راه دختر جوانی از پلیس پرسید: از کدام طرف بریم؟
پلیس: به کجا؟
دختر (با لبخند): خودت خوب میدونی کجا داریم میریم.

البته که پلیس خوب میدانست. مگر در شرایت عادی آن موقع شب در حوالی سن کوینتن پرنده ای پر میزند؟

قبل از اینکه به دم در زندان برسیم حالم تقریبا خوب بود. از دیدن اینکه این همه مردم های جور به جور برای حمایت از تووکی وییلیامزو برای اعتراض به سیستم قضایی کالیفرنیا و آمریکا به سن کوینتن آمده ند خوشحال بودم. ولی هرچی به جماعت نزدیکتر شدیم حال من هم به تدریج بدترشد. خیلی ها آنقدر مشروب خورده بودند که وقتی از کنار ما رد میشدند بوی الکل برای چند ثانیه در هوا میپیچید. میدانم که بعضی از مردم در شرایطی که زیر فشار هستند مشروب می خورند ولی دگر تا این حد؟

به هر حال من با اینکه مردم خیلی مشروب خوردند مشکل خاصی ندارم ولی از رفتار خیلی ها—چه مست چه هوشیار—خیلی دلخور شدم برای اینکه به نظر میرسید که بعضی ها برای تفریح و دیدن دوستان و آشنایان به زندان آمده اند. یک عده دیگر هم که طبق معمول برای تبلیغ گروه های سیاسی خودشان آمده بوند.

اصلا ما نفهمیدیم که تووکی وییلیامز کی از بین رفت.

ساعت یک صبح بود که سرمون را انداختیم پایین وبرگشتیم به طرف خانه.

Saturday, December 10, 2005



The cartoon reads: "There is no torture in American prisons"

originally found here in the online edition of the Jordanian paper Al-Ghad

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I felt awful when I heard about the kidnapping of four Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) members in Iraq. CPT is just about the last foreign NGO still working in Iraq and they are the only foreign NGO I know of that does decent work in the region. I hope they are released soon and without harm.

I don't know anything about the German woman who was kidnapped along with her driver in Iraq, but I hope they are not harmed and are let go soon as well.

And finally, the victims "we" are not supposed to care about, the ones with no names: A group of Iranian pilgrims were also abducted in southern Iraq, and while the two women among them were released, the four men are still with their abductors.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Haven't written anything on Iraq for ages, it seems, so here a few links for now:

1. Mercenaries, usually called "private security contractors", shoot innocent Iraqi civilians, and make "trophy" video of their executions. The story, as reported by the very right wing British paper, the Daily Telegraph, can be found here.

2. Speaking about Moqtada As-Sadr's followers in the New York Times, Hajim al-Hassani, a secular Sunni Turkmen who is speaker of the transitional National Assembly confirms that "They are the largest group in the Shiite community". Sadr has managed to get 30 of his candidates on the elections list, which means he has the same number of candidates as the two main governing Shia groups.

3. In Cairo last week, in the presence of representatives from Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran (but no one from the U.S.), top officials in the Iraqi government, including the President Jalal Talbani, came up with a statement which, among other points, affirmed that "National resistance is a legitimate right of all nations". General statements were made condemning the murder of civilians, but this, they acknowledged, was different than legitimate resistance. The government that came into being because of U.S. tanks, realizes that U.S. tanks mean nothing without the support of the people under their occupation, so they indirectly condone the destruction of those tanks. Ouch!

4. Finally, a very important question: are those who continue to justify and/or support the illegal war against the people of Iraq lying or just stupid?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


شاه کوچولو یا به قول خودش" ملک عبدالله الثانی" خوب همه را فیلم کرده است. چند روز پیش وقتی دیدم که تلويزيون اردن تصوير زنی را به نمايش گذاشته است که می گويد از بمبگذران روز چهارشنبه پیش بوده است ولی کمربند بمب او عمل نکرده به خودم گفتم "ای داد بیداد یکی از زنهای بدبخت عراقی را از صویفیه به زور گرفته اند و او را وادار به اعتراف کرده ند. "

صویفیه یکی از محله های سوسولی امان است. ما بین مغازه ها و رستورانهای غربی و خانمها و آقایون شیکی که در محله قدم میزنند و خرید میکنند زنان چادر سیاهی بر زمین نشسته اند. همه عراقی هستند و اکثر شیعه. بعضی سیگارمیفروشند بعضی میوه بعضی دستمال کاغذی. یعنی هر چی گیرشون بیاید در روی یک سفره یا مقوا پهن می کنند و از کله سحر تا بعد از نسفه شب می نشینند تا بلکه نون روزشان را در بیاورند. چندین بار به بهانه ها ی مختلف با خیلی هاشون صحبت کرده ایم. خیلی داستانها دارند که شاید سر فرصت در پستی دگر بنویسم.

اما حیف که روزنامه ‏نگاران بسیاری که به اردن مییایند هیچ مایل به دیدار این زنان نیستند. آنها دنبال رغد دختر صدام و امثال او میگردند. دوست دارند بگویند که هرکس از عراق گریخته یه جوری به رژیم سابق وابسته بوده و هیچ کس در این جنگ آواره نشده است.

به نظر میرسد که رادیو فردا هم از این تیپ روزنامه ‏نگار به اردن فرستاده باشد:

فرنوش رام روزنامه نگاری که به تازگی از اردن دیدار کرده در مصاحبه با رادیو فردا می گوید: به رغم اردنی بودن زرقاوی مردم این کشور از او بیزارند. جامعه اردن مسالمت آمیز بنظر می آید و رشد اسلامگرایی در آن زیاد به چشم نمی خورد. جامعه مدرنی است در مقایسه با بقیه کشورهای دیگر منطقه. زنان در اردن در دولت و پارلمان و تشکیلات و فعالیت های اجتماعی نقش مهمی دارند. حجاب زنهای اردنی از روی سنت های اجتماعی است نه تمایل به بنیادگرایی اسلامی. برخلاف مصر وسوریه و عراق زمان صدام و ایران امروز که پوستر های بزرگ مقامهای حکومت بر در و دیوار شهرها دیده می شود، به ندرت در عمان و شهرهای دیگر اردن تصاویر خاندان سلطنتی به چشم می خورد.

من نمیدانم فرنوش رام از کجا دیدار کرده است چون این اردنی که ازش تعریف میکند هیچ شباهتی به اردنی که من خوب از نزدیک میشناسم ندارد.

1. This really happened today: Within minutes of one another, i saw one guy on a bicycle get run over by a car and another guy on a motorcycle who had just been hit by a car. The first one was really scary, because i heard the breaks screeching and saw the bicycle get swept under the car. I think he was ok though, meaning he didn't die or have obvious injuries. The second guy had already been hit when I saw him, he was on his knees, just staring at his smashed motorcycle.


2. U.S. Army interrogator Specialist Tony Lagouranis is the hero of the day. He gave an interview today apologizing to the Iraqi people and admitting his participation in torture tactics against Iraqi detainees. He also talked about his superiors "cooking numbers" about "foreign fighters" since they were (are) so hell bent on covering up the fact that the resistance is made up almost entirely of native Iraqis.

3. Speaking of U.S. torture of detainees, did you hear the one about the interrogators who threatened to throw Iraqis into a lion's den?

4. Speaking of lions, do you remember Marjan the one-eyed Afghan lion? Like most of the beneficiaries of U.S.-style liberation, he didn't fare very well under occupation either.

5. Speaking of Marjan, isn't Marjane Satrapi just the coolest? I finally had a chance to read the second installation of her graphic novel, Persepolis II, and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

پاریس در آتش



ده روز پس از شورشهای خیابانی در پاریس من این را نوشتم. فکر میکردم که تا حالا یا پاریس آرام میشود یاصدای مردم دنیا (حد اقل در این وبلاگستان خودمون ) در میاید. اما پاریس همینطور میسوزد و ما خاموشیم.

بنا بر پیشنهاد و تشویق دوستان همان مطلبی را که ان روز نوشته بودم را این بار به فارسی مینوسم:

تصور کن که این تهران است نه پاریس که ده روز در آتش میسوزد و یک وزیر ایرانی بود که میگفت این "آشغال ها" باید "پاکسازی" بشوند. فکر میکنید رسانه های بین الملی همچنین سکوت میکردند؟ من خوب میدونم که چه سر و صدای بر پا میکردند. اگر این تهران بود که میسوخت صبح تا شب میشنیدیم که:

جوانان بر علیه رژیم ظالم ایران شورش کردند

واکنش و محکوميت گسترده جهانی در پی سخنان وزیر ایران

آمریکا و اسرائیل خواستار اخراج ایران از سازمان ملل متحده

رژیم اسلامی در آستانه ویرانی

بوش اعلام کرد از خواستهای مردم ایران براي دست يافتن به آزادی، دموکراسی و عدالت حمايت می کند

شورش جوانان نشانی از بی عدالتی و بی کاری در ایران


ولی نه خیر چون این پاریس است که میسوزد از این نوع واکنش ها خبری نیسست.

چرا؟

1. I really like children, especially when they are between 0-8 years old. But i don't particularly enjoy sharing swimming pools with them because:

A)i feel uneasy that maybe i'll accidentally kick them while swimming and
B)i think they are constantly peeing in the water

So i dont feel comfortable and end up getting more water in my nose and throat than i normally would, which, given reason B, makes the whole thing not very pleasant.

2. I finally figured out a way to read Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran without putting money in her coffers or without having to embarrass myself by getting it out of the library. I can get online access through an institutional affiliation, so hurray for e-books.

I've managed to get to page four so far, and i've already rolled my eyes like ten times. I'm going to make myself read the whole thing though, just as i'll force myself to read the latest bernard lewis. i'm starting up a running list, i think it is important to know exactly what they are up to. Please tell me if you think there are some must-reads of this type out there that I should be aware of.

But anyway back to nafisi, a very smart and conscientious friend of ours is working on an expose of her. it's very juicy stuff, i'll let you know as soon as it is published.

3. Iranian.com has a link to this little clip about Iran promising not to get nuclear weapons. my favorite lines are "dont think of us as middle east thugs...we're fun loving guys who make pretty rugs" and "we were on your side against saddam...but good luck on your second vietnam".

4. Finally, check out aref-adib's latest genius creation: darth vader in iraq.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I think the interview with the successful candidate probably goes something like this:

--Do you hate muslims?
--yes!

--Do you have experience killing muslims?
--yes!

--Do you have experience killing muslims under the leadership of a notorius war criminal?
--yes!


Do you know who makes up the latest group to be recruited as mercenaries in the war against the Iraqi people? The Serb Red Berets, former members of Slobodan Milosevic's elite guards.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Paris is Burning





Can you imagine the press coverage if it were the suburbs of Tehran, and not Paris, that had been burning for ten nights straight, and if it were Iran's interior minister, and not the French Minister Sarkozy who had described the youth involved in the riots as "thugs" who needed to be "cleaned out" of their neighborhoods?

I can imagine it very well. it would be all over the news, and gloating headlines would abound:

Youth Rise up Against Oppressive Iranian State

World Leaders Condemn Iranian Minister for Remarks about Iranian Youth as "Scum"

Iranian Regime Unable to Quell Popular Uprising

The End of the Iranian Regime Near as Youth Protests Continue to Rage

U.S. and Israel Urge UN to Kick out Iran for "Scum" Remarks

Iran's Youth Say: "We'll Rather Burn Tehran than Have it Under Your Rule"


Anyway, I think you get the point.

But no, it is not Tehran that is burning, it is Paris, in the heart of the "free" world. Apparently, in the "free world", when riots spread from town to town and continue for nights on end, it doesn't indicate persistent, race-based inequalities and injustices, it just means that a whole lot of "thugs" are bent on destruction for no reason at all.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Hand of God



For the full story and the credits for the above photo, see Bush Feels the Hand of God.

PS- Is it just me or does Maradona look like he's had a face lift?

Blog Culture

The Weblogization of Culture--the article is in persian, and i haven't had a chance to read it yet, but here it is in case you are interested in these sorts of issues.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Clueless Snobs


The arrogance of empire never seems to go away, even long after the Empire has been dead, buried, and making a miserable job of trying to resurrect itself.

I was reading this BBC article about Ahmadinejhad firing some of Iran's main ambassadors, and when the article got to the part about now-former Ambassador Adeli, they thought it was relevant to note that he was the first Iranian ambassador to speak fluent English since the Islamic revolution of 1979.

"Hmmm", I wondered outloud (and by outloud I mean in a snotty note to the BBC, "How many British Ambassadors to Iran have been functional, not even fluent, in Persian?"

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Request for Reference

Z8un's new post has a link to this blog which claims that Ali Afshari has fled Iran.

So far, I've seen no other news or blog pieces confirming and/or commenting on this.
If anyone reading this knows anything further about it can you please email me or leave me links here?

And while I'm putting out requests for information, here is something I've asked about elsewhere but didn't get much feedback on, so I'll ask again: if anyone knows of decent scholarship on the Cultural Revolution in Iran, please let me know. I'm specifically looking for something that addresses both the reconfiguration of the Universities and the articulation of a new model of national identity.

Thanks a lot and sorry for the boring blog.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Is it just me, or is what Mohammad's teacher did in his New York classroom inappropriate? Imagine what the reaction would be if the reverse happened: suppose an israeli highschool student in a majority arab class walked in to see that his teacher had written on the board "This Week Israeli Occupation Forces made over a dozen raids into Gaza" (because, as we all know, the Israelis use more than words in threatining the Palestinians). And suppose that the quote wasn't relevant to the the topic at hand and the teacher didn't mention the quote during class to engender discussion. Wouldnt the ADL be all over the teacher, and the school, and the superintendent, and the city, until the teacher was made to explain and be held accountable for his actions?

Unfortunately, the best that "our" civil society organizations do for us in times of crisis is to cower, afraid to offend. "our" organizations are very good at apologizing on "our" behalf, even if "we" are not accountable.That's why when two congresspeople from Florida decide to support Peres' call for Iran's expulsion from the UN, the National Iranian American Council takes no stand, instead drafting two letters, one for and one against the proposition to expel. That's why organisations like MPAC, whose mission is ostensibly to protect the civil rights of muslim Americans, run to release apologetic press statements any time any muslim anywhere does anything wrong, thereby only confirming the dangerous and mistaken idea that muslims are collectively responsible for the actions that any indivudal or small groups of muslims take.

I'm sure Mohammad would just like to forget this whole thing, but supposing he did want to lodge some kind of complaint, do you think the NIACs and MPACs would come to his defense?

As they say in Iraqi, I'll cut my arm if they would.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Where is Ahmadinejhad Taking Iran?

Rafsanjani has tried to cover for him, asserting during the Friday prayers that Iran "respects Jews and Judaism as a religion". But Ahmadinejhad seems intent on whatever godforsaken path he seems to be blazing.

Today, the news broke that he has fired four top Iranian ambassadors, from U.K., France, Germany, and the UN permanent mission in Geneva. Something like 18 other members of the diplomatic corps working abroad were also recalled without explanation.

I'm anxious, feel like something very bad is unfolding, and i dont even know where to begin trying to figure things out.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Do you think it is criminal for a professor to stop by his office at night to pick up a book he forgot?

It is, apparently, if you are black.

On tuesday October 25, San Francisco State Professor Antwi Akom stopped by campus to pick up a book he had forgotten in his office. His two young children waited in the car for him. When he was going into the office building, a cop asked him what he was doing there, to which he replied that he was a professor and needed to get something from inside. The rest of the story goes something like this:

Akom said the unidentified campus police officer was called by the security guard while he was inside of his office getting the book. He said he asked the officer why he was getting arrested, but the officer had no answer.

“The officer didn’t tell him anything. It wasn’t until he was arrested that they told him he had assaulted a police officer,” said Moore, an SF State student.

The two began to argue and the officer then called two more police officers for backup. Moore said the three officers threw Akom to the ground and handcuffed him. During that process, one of them hit their face against his knee.

Akom is being charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, which are both felonies
.

A black professor on one of the most progressive campuses of one of the most progessive cities in the U.S. gets treated this way, and some people would still have us believe that the U.S. doesn't have a race problemm

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Vigil






source for photos: Not in Our Name as posted on Indybay.org

Can You Guess? Episode II

I think I will start a category of posts called the "can you guess" series, this recent post was the first one, i suppose.

Ok, ready? Can you guess who publicly claimed that Israelis were working inside of Abu Ghreib as interrogators?

No, it wasn't Iran's hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejhad speaking at the World Without Zionism conference in Iran.

It was Colonel Janis Karpinski speaking from her personal experience back when she was General Karpinski, and hadn't yet been demoted to Colonel because of the Abu Ghreib scandal.

Among Karpinski's other stunning announcements on today's Democracy Now were that Mr. Rumsfeld himself gave direct orders in the form of memoranda, outlining interrogation policies that violated Geneva conventions. She also named General Miller as being responsible for "migrating" policies implemented at Guantanemo to Abu-Ghreib. Alberto Gonzalez, the U.S. Attorney General was also singled out for his role in justifying torture.

Anyone still think that Abu-Ghreib scandal was the result of the actions of a few bad apple soldiers?

Friday, October 21, 2005

1. On his Persian language site, the Afghan blogger writing from Kabul, Sohrab Kabuli, has been writing up some lengthy posts detailing the atrocities committed by U.S. occupation forces inside of Afghanistan. Sohrab's English language blog, called Afghan Lord, however, is strangely lacking in such news, so much so that the english site attracts pro-war fans. If only they knew what Sohrab was writing in his Persian site!

Sohrab Jan, if you are reading this, please translate some of what you write on your persian site into english. Your English-speaking audience needs to read it as much as your persian readers do, if not more.

update: after leaving a comment on his post suggesting that he should translate his post and after linking to him above, it seems that sohrab kabuli has erased the post i was referring to above (the post i linked to now only contains a poem, whereas previously it contained a lengthy indictment of "American Gangsters" in Afghanistan. i find this sad and curious, and obviously wonder what led him to do this)

2. Among the links on Evil Assad's latest post are a story on Firefighting women in Iran and a contrasting one about a U.S. fire chief who wants to put restrictions on women firefighters on his crew. Read these and other links along with Assad's problem-solving analysis here.

3. It's true that my best friend writes a food blog, but that doesn't mean i really understand the concept of having a "food blog" or being a "foodie". Anyway, this new blog i've been occasionally reading called (re)definition is sort of "foodie", in the sense that the author clearly likes to cook and posts pictures of her delicious looking concoctions on-line. I've only just discovered the site thanks to the BlogsbyIranians page, but I've taken a real liking to the young woman who keeps the blog, so I thougt I'd pass the link along as a recommendation.

4. A journalist friend of ours lent us his copy of the first three episodes of the documentary Off to War, which chronicles the story of a Arkansas National Guard Unit that is sent off to Iraq. From what we've seen so far, it is a fantastic documentary, and I'll leave my extended commentary on the film to sometime later. But if you have the discovery channel, the second season of the documentary (which covers episodes 4-7, i think), is currently airing (showtimes available at the link I provided above). As for the first episodes, they are available on DVD, and maybe online too.

5. Contrary to still-popular claims about the democratizing nature of the internet and blogs in particular, i have to say that i personally have become less democratic and less tolerant as a result of my blogging experience. This is why I have found myself increasingly excercising the "ban" and "delete" features available on haloscan. Unfortunately, some people simply can't be dialogued with, so where is the point in allowing those individuals free reign in the comments section of my blog.

For example, take this type: the ones who put links to negative news stories about iran on every post I make, even if the post they are commenting on has nothing to do with iran or politics.

i mean, i could be writing about hot dogs and igloos and still some fool would flood my comments section about Iranian politics!

What, pray tell, is the relevance? (i'm asking the question rhetorically, of course, since the culprits of this kind of posting are probably already banned!)But still, I'm curious about the answer.

Is it because I, as an Iranian citizen, am somehow personally responsible for every terrible thing that is perpetuated by the Iranian government? If that is true, if I, as a citizen of what is called an undemocratic country, personally responsible for the crimes of "my" government, what does that imply for the citizens of so-called democratic countries? Should I go to the blog of every American citizen, no matter what topic they blog about or what their politics are, and post links about U.S. war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere?

6. Our friend, Joe Carr, a peace activist working in occupied Palestine, suffered a ruptured spleen during a peaceful demonstration against the portion of the Israeli Apartheit wall that is being constructed along the Palestinian village of Bil'in. You can read Joe's own account of what happened (with pictures)here.

The wall cuts through 2/3 of Bil'in, cutting off villagers from their prime agricultural land. The 1700 inhabitants of the village, along with their international allies, have been going on weeky peaceful demonstrations against the construction of the wall and the resulting theft of their land.

Less than a month ago, Amnesty International had issued a statement expressing concern that the wall was depriving the Palestinians of their land and livelihood, that the israeli occupation forces were using excessive force, and that their was serious cause for worry about the safety of peaceful demonstrators.

We wish Joe Carr a speedy recovery, and look forward to the day when all foreign fighters withdraw from the lands they occupy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Secret Languages: How to tell when "Yes" means "No"

If you are an Iranian citizen who wants to go to syria, you need to go to the nearest Iranian Embassy, which then gives you an official letter saying in effect : "so and so is our citizen, please give her a visa". It is a formality, of course, which was most likely set up to allow both the Syrian and Iranian governments the ability to track their nationals who enter their borders from a third country.

So we went to the Iranian embassy, which with its high walls, pleasant garden, and the always-on TV in the background, makes you feel like you are entering someone's home. Once when I was there the ambassador's very cute little girl was even watching cartoons and intermittengly calling out to her baba to update him on what was unfolding on the screen.

But whatever illusions you may have of a cozy house are stripped away as soon as you need to get anything done. The embassy staff, to their credit, have never been short of polite and helpful. But they are clearly bureacratic and, well, a bit lazy.

So when we gave them our paperwork and requested the letter to the Syrian embassy asking them to grant me a visa, they agreed and told us: "we can have it ready today, if you want, but you can also come back tomorrow morning and pick it up".

In Iranian-talk, what this meant without doubt was: come back tomorrow.

But raed, who doesn't know the unspoken messages behind such exchanges, thought the man meant exactly what he said, so raed responded: "ok, then we'll take it today".

awkward pause among the iranians, including myself, as the man repeated what he said, waiting for me to translate it again for raed.

"so raed, um, he says that he can have it ready today if we want, but we can also come tomorrow to get it."

"ok", repeats raed, "we will take it today", but this time he said it louder thinking that maybe the problem was that they hadn't heard him the first time.

awkward pause.

repeat of the scene again: what the man says, my translation, and raed's response, this time followed by an attempt by raed and the man to directly communicate without my translation, where a mix of english and arabic words were exchanged, but neither understood a single word the other uttered.

finally, the man gives up with a sigh, disappears behind a door for 10 minutes, and comes back with the letter.

So, thanks to raed, we got what we needed, a day ahead of schedule. i think raed should take his time in learning the nuances of Iranian social interactions, not-knowing seems to have its perks.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Can you guess who was very excited about Iraq's referendum on the new constitution and said today that Iraq will have a "bright future for peace and stability?"

if you guessed george W. or condi rice or rumsfeld or anyone else from their gang, you are wrong.

the correct answer is: Manouchehr Mottaki, the new foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).

And why shouldn't Mottaki and the hardline government he represents be thrilled about an Iraqi constitution that so closely mirrors the Iranian one in insisting on the centrality of Islam?

So go ahead and hail the laying of a foundation for another IRI: the Islamic Republic of Iraq. Iran's president, supreme leader, and the rest of the ruling establishment will be happy to celebrate with you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

1. When I read this story of an Iranian boy in the D.C. area who strangled his own mother, i thought for sure that either my uncle or my mom's college roomate would know the family. The father of the accused is a well-known ENT doctor, and since my uncle is an ENT and my mom's college roomate is a friendly and popular socialite, the chances were pretty high that they would know them. So I forwarded the story to my mom this morning who confirmed that, sure enough, both my uncle and her college pal were friends of the family.

This dude is the second troubled son of a well-known Iranian family in the DC area that is linked to public tragedy. The first was the son of two Iranian media personalities (who coincidentally were also very close with my mom's DC friends). That first guy shot and killed himself out of the blue, and the devastated mother jumped off of a building within a year of her son's suicide.

My mom and I recalled that sad story today while talking about the matricide case. My mom mused about Iranians in the U.S. losing their minds, and then added matter of factly: " i guess i should be thankful that neither of you have strangled me." (!!!!)

For years I've tried to get my mom to think more positively, and this is what she comes up with!

2. You don't have to be religious to admit that shi'ism has some pretty great cultural products. This is my new favorite ode to Zeinab, the daughter of the prophet's cousin Ali (AKA haidar) and the Prophet's daughter Fatemeh Zahra. The piece is called "Precious Girl Named Zeinab". I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

3. Speaking of cultural production, i read in passing that the over-rated Iranian artist Shirin Neshat has done some sort of film version of Shahrnoush Parsipour's "Women without Men". i can only imagine what kind of trite adaptation neshat will come up with, surely something self-orientalized and superficial, like the rest of the what she packages for her primarily western audience. And I'm not just ripping on Neshat because of my fantasy of playing the role of the tree-human in the movie (ok, maybe just a little), but I truly dislike Neshat's ouevre. It is problematic from a political point of view and fairly unremarkable from an artistic one.

Having said this, the masochist in me is dying to see what Neshat has done with Parsipour's masterpiece. Anyone know where it's being showcased?

Friday, October 07, 2005

War Stories

I've been reading the so far fantastic novel, The Story of Zahra, by Hanan Al-Shaykh, and I've just passed the part in the story where the title character expresses her affinity with the civil war: It is the best excuse for her sleep long hours, to mill about for days in the same outfit, and to wallow in her strangeness, all without arousing the nosey inquiries of neighbors and friends who can't fault her behavior in the midst of the chaos.

But then the same war that allows her the perfect cover for seeping deeper into her alienation from the world, somehow affects the exact opposite change in her. I'm still trying to pinpoint the why and when of the moment of transformation in the text.

Severe external circusmtances seem to work that way, swinging you from one extreme to another, before you even have time to notice the change, much less ponder the reasons for it. I think this may be true for children too.

Except for the first few terrifying night attacks, my dominant memories of the Iran-Iraq war are that it was pleasant, this despite the uncles and other family members sent off to the frontlines, and the various ecomonic and emotional hardships that resulted from that tragic 8 year war. I guess as a kid you sort of generalize that if the first couple of bombings didnt kill you, then the next dozens or hundred wont hurt you either. Then the war becomes equated with welcome breaks from normality, with close huddles with family and friends in basements-turned-shelters, and with hasty escapes from the city in anticipation of chemical weapons.

i think may have noted all this before somewhere on this blog. But the reading i'm doing is triggering the memories once again.

Truth is, I wanted to write something on the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq War, which passed only a couple of weeks ago. It's seems that plenty of people commented on it, so I didnt figure there was a vacuum that needed filling. Besides, all this "us against the world" Nationalism that tends to come up on these occasions really gets on my nerves. So I didnt want to fall in that choir, even if by association.

In all fairness, though, I wasnt paying much attention to the Net during those couple of weeks. I'm sure there are some great posts out there on the issue. All I know is that i've had this nagging feeling since the anniverary to revisit the war, and to think and write more about it, especially as it bears on the present.

For now, I have a cold to nurse myself through, and a Story of Zahra that I want to complete.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

N is for Neville




I'd been going back and forth about whether or not to continue this blog, because frankly i'd been feeling bored, like poor little neville, pictured above, who died of the condition.

But this morning i did a phone interview with a woman who is writing her thesis on Iranian bloggers, and her questions about why i had started to blog and what i thought i was doing through the medium, reminded me of the positive aspects of the phenomena in general.

So i guess this means i'm back in the virtual fold....

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

عملیات ضد گلاب

س. عزیز لطف کرد و متن ایمیلی که برام فراسته بود را به فارسی هم نوشت. ما هر دو فکر کردیم که شاید این موضوع برای دوستان فارسی زبان جالب باشه. البته میدونم که خیلی از خواننده های این سایت هم به فارسی هم انگلیسی تسلط دارند اما خوب ضرری که نداره اگر فارسی این مطلب هم در سایت باشه.

فقط یک چیز دیگر هست و ان هم اینه که س. دسترسی به فانت فارسی نداشت و متن را برای من به پینگلیش نوشت و من به فانت فارسی تبدیلش کردم. بنا برین اگر اشتباه های دیکته پیدا کردین تقصیر من کم سواد است!

حالا این هم داستانی که س. برام فرستاد:


"این روزها به خاطر بمب گذاریهایی که در لندن اتفاق افتاد پلیس نیویورک به حالت اماده باش در امده. یکی از طرحای جدید گشتها یی هستند که داخل ایستگاهای قطار ساکهای مردم را میگردند و افراد مشکوک را بازجویی میکنند.

جالب اینه که سازمان امنیتی امریکا عوامل مشکوک را اینطور تعریف کرده: مردان جوان با قیافه های شرقی که احیانا لباس های گشاد پوشیده باشند که احیانا به شدت در حال عرق کردن هستند و یا به شدت در حال دعا کردن یا نماز خوندن هستند و یا بالاخره کسانی که بوی گلاب میدهند!

بارک الله به اقایون! گیرم که حفاظت 8 ملیون قطار سوار کار مهم و دشواریه ولی بعد از 4 سال فکر و برنامه ریزی و خرج جنگ علیه تروریزم انتظار نداشتم که اقایون این پولیسهای بیچاره را وادار به بو کردن تک تک قطار سواران نیویورکی بکنند!

به نظر من کسانی که در تهران و لس انجلس نشستند و هنوز فکر میکنند اگر امریکا فقط اراده بکنه مشکل ایران حل است به اندازه طراحان این عملیات ضد گلاب ساده هستند!"

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Thank god they rescued those Russians stuck in the submarine, I was feeling claustrophic ever since I heard the news. Like a couple of years ago when a group of miners got stuck underground in the U.S., I felt I couldn't breath right until they were rescued too.

*

Robin Cook died, i felt pretty bad about it. I'm sure Blair is relieved though. if only Ken Livingston and George Galloway would collapse too, then Blair would really have it made.

*

Did you know that the Kurds refused a part in the Iraqi constitution that would recognize Iranian-Iraqis ("Persians") to be recognized as a ethnic minority in Iraq? Juan Cole writes about it in this post.

I can't quite figure out why the Kurds would be opposed to it, unless some external group(s)put pressure on them to do so. Afterall, the Kurds refuse to accept that Iraq should be categorized as an "Arab nation", so why wouldn't they be for the inclusion of another non-Arab minority that clearly exists in Iraq? Well, I have some theories, but they are better left unsaid for now.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The U.S. is thinking of denying the new Iranian president a visa to speak at the UN due to allegations that Ahmadinejhad was involved in both the 1979 hostage taking and the 1989 murder of an Iranian Kurdish dissident in Vienna.

I'm not against it, actually, but let them be consistent about it. So, how about denying Ariel Sharon a Visa for his "alleged" involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacre of civilians in 1982, Or Jalal Talbani for his "alleged" role in killing fellow Kurds during the civil conflicts of the early 90s, Putin for his "alleged" murderous rampages of collective punishment against the Chechens, Musharraf for his "alleged" brutality as a military dictator...well, you get the idea.

It's sad, really. And everyone who reads this blog knows I didn't vote for Ahmadinejhad. I even went into a near depression when he was elected. But like it or not, the man won with a landslide, and despite the Iranian electoral system's many serious flaws, he has to be dealt with as the elected leader.

And now, the administration of the U.S. president who belittled, bullied, and ignored the U.N. to make his case for an illegal invasion of Iraq and who appointed a thug that the even the U.S. congress was against as the ambassador to the U.N, wants to misuse its position as host to the UN headquarters to antagonize another state. Meanwhile, the new Iranian adminstration has rejected the EU's package offering incentives in exchange for Iran's compliance with its demands on pursuing nuclear energy.

Two extremist administrations, both rooted in religious ideologies, pushing one anothers' buttons at every turn, with the EU in between as usual, trying to loot as much as it can from conflicts between fanatics.

Rosewater Terrorists

Our dear friend S. who lives in New York City, wrote me an email yesterday about new NYPD measures to prevent any London-style attacks in the NY City subways. We were so shocked at how misguided and silly they are, that we just laughed out loud in disbelief. I think the Department of Homeland Security (who is behind the guidelines) is in serious need of hiring some decent consultants.

With S.'s permission I am reproducing his email here so you can see for yourself what I mean:

hi niki jaan, i read about this really funny thing with the ny
police dept. you know they're doing random checks of people's bags
in the subways, and there's been a lot of discussion about the
racial profiling aspect of that. so the dept of home. sec. has
guidelines for suspicious looking subway riders; asides from
looking like they're from a certain part of the world, the police
are trained now to look for: excessive perspiration, intense
praying (on the subway!) and-get this-smell of rosewater! can you
believe it???!!!! "Golab"!!! the nypd is doing olefactory profiling
of any golab smelling, suspicious, brown, terrorists!

the golab thing was really funny to me, since it reminded me of my
moalem dini [religion teacher], and the smell of namaz Khaneh [prayer
room]in elementary school.

it sounded like the sort of silly thing that demands a sarcastic
remark in some blog.


I know flower-based scents are really popular for the summer months, but i advise anyone remotely middle-eastern looking to think twice before putting on such perfumes and colognes.

Anyway, I think the Persian speaking audience would get a big kick out of this story, so it might be a good idea to translate it and post it here and elsewhere. Do you want to do it S. or should I?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Links Day

1. The Gift that Keeps on Giving

First they stole Palestine and gave it away, then the British helped Israel get the nuclear bomb. So once again: کار کار انگلیسهاست

2. Bye-a Taya

The 2 decade long reign of another pro-U.S. dictator came to an end this week when Mauritanian autocrat Maaouyia Ould Taya was overthrown through a bloodless coup. Although the U.S. and Brittain have predictably condemned the loss of one of their boys, no one in Mauritania seems to have noticed, as all continues to be calm after the removal of Taya.

3. Taking the High Ground

I always admire people who can have sympathy even for those who cause them the greatest harm. This week, Iranian judge Massoud Moghaddas, was shot dead as he left work. His resume includes giving out harsh sentences and badly treating activists and writers, including journalist Akbar Ganji and the satirist Ebrahim Nabavi. Since his assassination, howeve, Ebrahim Nabavi and Ganji's wife have both issued statements condemning his murder and sending their condolences to his family.

Moghaddas, as many people know, was a deputy of the notorius judge Mortazavi. What do you suppose Mortazavi is thinking during Moghaddas' funeral, as he sits besides the coffin:



I had some funny ideas for photo-shopping this photo and/or adding captions. But then i thought that it wouldn't be the most sensitive or self-preserving thing to do!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Democracy of F14s

I don't usually like to waste my energy confronting militaristic types whose sole wish is to bomb us to oblivion, nor do I like to go around making nationalistic about protecting the sovereignty of Iran, but every now and again, when the iranian roller coaster reaches one of its peaks and these opportunists jump in like vultures, i have to let off steam.

So i left a message on the revolting site of Regime Change for Iran, telling them to mind their own business.

A fellow with the pathetic name of F14, left this comment for me, ending his note with this warning: "Now, think twice and be advised that change in your country never happens unless a foreign force comes to rescue you".

i had to tell the silly man that were it not for the U.S. administered coup of 1953 that reinstalled the dictator shah, we would most likely be in our 52 year of a secular democratic republic. i also reminded him about a little thing in international law called state sovereignty, and that U.S. disregard for it notwithstanding, it is still illegal to attack nation-states for no apparent reason. besides, i said, why don't you go fix the mess you got yourself into in iraq before you come blasting down our doors. Finally, i told him that their interventions and cynical appropriation of events in iran always work to the advantage of the most extreme elements in our society, making it even harder for those of us who want change from within: by iranians, for iranians.

Anyway, seems like they hated my comments, because i can't find them anywhere on their site. just goes to show what kind of democracy they want to bring to Iranians.

So, mr. F14 and gang, you can keep on cultivating a sense of consensus in your imaginary world, but you will continue to be challenged by Iranians and their allies. Meanwhile, you're just shooting blanks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

i went to the roof to see the city at dawn, but because i am afraid of heights (or, more precisely, i am afraid of myself: i always fear that my body may just spontaneously throw itself over the edge), i stayed crouching with my back against an inside wall.

still it was quite pleasurable, cloudy and cool, with the kind of clean air i'm not used to inhaling around these parts. we got the key to the roof just recently, otherwise i am sure i would have ventured up there before. such a quiet,safe space, where you can be alone without arousing any unwanted attention from gawking passersby. i wish i had known about the refuge of the roof earlier.

sleeplessness is dreadful, but it has its occasional discoveries....

Monday, August 01, 2005

"Heechi"--part II



When he was leaving the above pictured goodbye "party" (one of many they seem to be throwing for him these days), Khatami was questioned by a bunch of reporters waiting for him. One of them asked what he was planning to do on behalf of Akbar Ganji, the political prisoner on the verge of death from his hunger strike.

Khatami's response: "Heechi ("nothing")...most of the problems [concerning his case] are due to the man himself"

What a shame, khatami continues to betray the promises he made to Iranians up until the very last days of his presidency.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Name Game

A few years ago a friend of mine (who runs one of the most popular Iranian websites, by the way), cheerfully asked me: "you know what they say about Mohammad Khatami?". I knew a lot of things they say about him, but I shrugged my shoulders, "no, what do they say about Mohammad Khatami?". "well", he responded, "they read signs in his name: mohammad Khatami, Khatami is derived from Khatm (the end), so it will be the end of Mohammad in Iran!", i.e. the end of Islam in Iran, meaning the end of the IRI.

With that kind of analysis, i had to tease him: "what is this, the newest california method for forseeing the future? What's it called, name-ology?". This time he shrugged, and we went on talking of other things, like gossip about regular contributors to his site.

Now that Mohammad's end is indeed nearing, with Ahmadinejhad scheduled to be sworn in as the new president of Iran in a mere days, i thought it would be fun to apply the science of nameology to our new leader.

Okay, here we go:

Full name:
Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejhad

First name:
Mahmoud (a name related to Mohammad)

Last Name:
Ahmadinejhad
Ahmadi (a name also related to Mohammad)
Nejhad (race, in this case meaning "of the race of" or "of the lineage of)

Anybody want to make predictions about our future based on this breakdown?

Let's make our jokes while we can, because i'm pretty sure our days are numbered.

In other news about our president elect, the CIA announced that Ahmadinejhad is not the man pictured in the embassy hostage taking photo. It turns out that the two men below are not the same afterall:


So it took the CIA, which is supposedly one of the world's top intelligence agencies, more than a month to figure out something that anyone with two working eyes could recognize in mere seconds. This is almost as embarrassing as their claims about the WMD in Iraq!

I thought the conventional widsom was that the CIA is where the real intelligence happens, and the dummies are only in the FBI? It may be time to reconsider the stereotype.


***
Note: Source of above photo is the Brooding Persian

Monday, July 25, 2005

Jerusalem is Ours



First it was Ronaldo visiting the occupied territories draped in Keffiyas with maps of Palestine. Now Ricky Martin comes along, this time with a Keffiya Shawl that not only has a map of Palestine, but has a logo that says "Al-Qodso Lana" (Jersualem is Ours).

You can be sure quite a few people will be frothing at the mouth when they see these images.

My mother happens to think that Ricky Martin is just the cutest boy that ever lived. I'm thinking of joining her Ricky Martin Fan Club.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

One of my maternal great-grandmothers, the one they called Khamajee, gave birth to 14 children.

She outlived 10 of them.

When one of her boys was 8 or 9 years old, he came in from playing outside and annouced to his mother: "Khamajee, man mordam" ("Khamajee, I died."). Then he did just that: he collapsed and died on the spot.

But Khamajee survived that and the death of nine other of her children. She even lived to see the birth of one of her great-grand children (me!). If it weren't for the car accident that killed her, she probably would have seen more of us. Her youngest son was driving when the accident happened. He has never gotten over it.

I don't have any personal memories of her, but I'm glad our life-times overlapped.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Thanks to a link in Sibestaan , I found out that Iran has a notable population of Sabaeen Mandeans. I always thought that Iraq was the only place where the Sabaeen could be found, so it was quite a surprise.

Anyway, the above photo was taken from the photo page of Hasan Sarbakhsian , and the rest of his pictures, along with some summary information about the Sabaeen Mandeans, can be found here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Camel Jockey


Aside from the fetishized veil, the camel is perhaps the most over-used trope in representations of West Asia and North Africa.

Mind you, the first time i saw a real live camel was while i was visiting a zoo in a "western" country. Nonetheless, the camel and his accoutrements, most notably the camel jockey, persist as a metaphor for our supposed backwardness, our barrenness, and our stubborn resistance to change.

In Qatar and other Persian Gulf states, the've taken to using robots--which are light-weight and easy to control (unlike their human counterparts)--in Camel Races. So we have the Robot, the longstanding sign of the future and technological progress, sitting on top of a camel, this symbol of dust and stupor that is supposed to represent us so well to the western world.

What do you think images like the above do to the fossilized brains of neo-orientalists and culture-vultures? Perhaps the discordant juxtaposition of the signs robot=progress/"the West" and Camel=pre-modern/"the rest" will nudge in them something resembling a brain-wave.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Politics of Pity

A couple of years ago i went through a brief phase where i was reading everything by the iranian writer Monirou Ravanipour that i could get my hands on. i had a really unsophisticated reason for liking her: namely that her stories were weird and that i didn't quite understand them. and that was enough to peak my interest for some time.

Today, i found out that she blogs. Sadly, i only discovered her site upon reading that she had written a post where she mentions her friendship with Nazy Mozakka, an Iranian woman who was one of the victims of the London bombings.

I haven't been able to find much online about Nazy Mozakka, just that she was in her late forties and a mother of two.

And I've found even less about Shahab Mansouri, the Iranian beheaded in Iraq less than a couple of weeks ago.

If Shahab Mansouri were a kidnapped U.S. or European citizen (read: if he were white), we would have known his life story by now. If he were a U.S./Euro contractor or some kind of mercenary security guard, we would have been also been told about how he had gone to "rebuild the new iraq", "to reconstruct schools", to "protect the free iraq", or some such drivel. If he were a U.S./Euro NGO worker or activist, we would be reminded of his "self-lessness", his "love for the Iraqi children", his "courage and commitment".

But as it turns out, Shahab Mansouri was an Iranian. A bearded one at that.

When I saw the video his kidnappers released when they had captured him, i cried. then i got mad at myself for being a pawn of nationalism. why, after all, did i feel a passing pity for every other kidnapped victim in iraq but then when it came to someone who looked like me and spoke like me, why was i shaken to the core?

i don't know. this nationalism thing is a problem between me and myself. it takes a long time to disembed yourself from intoxicating ideologies.

But i suppose in this case it made me have empathy for Shahab Mansouri, someone who is apparently not worthy of mention, much less sympathy.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ganji is Dying



As expected, just about everywhere you look in the Iranian blogosphere, people are very concerned about Akbar Ganji's well-being, and it would be remiss of me if I didn't publicly express my soldiarity with him. The political prisoner Ganji has been on hunger strike for over 35 days now, and despite calls from human rights organizations and interventions by public authorities including Khatami himself, but nothing seems to have come out of it.

Bush and other members of his gang (Senators Brownback and Santorum, for example)have been trying to hijack the aspirations of those Iranians who are trying to change things without the tanks and bombs of moralizing invaders. I heard that some bloggers have put a call out for people to try and get op-eds into their local papers about Ganji. I don't quite understand the point of this course of action, especially since there are more than enough vultures out there who want to feed off of any crisis in Iranian society.

Not that we should just quit our demands because warmongers can use it to their advantage, we just need to be ultra-careful in what we put out in the U.S. public sphere. Unless we want another Iraq-style liberation, any time we speak our concerns about Iran, we must always add that we are unequivocally against any aggressive foreign intervention. I know, it will get boring, tedious, predictable. But what's the choice? Let them deflate and kill every organic movement that originates inside of Iran?

The life of Akbar Ganjii is at stake. So is the future of all who want change byIranians for Iranians.

They stole our dreams in 1953, 1979, 1980, 1997, 1999, 2003, let's not let them do it again.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Comments Back!




Ra'ed and Sima both suggested that Haloscan may solve the previously noted comments woes I was having. The side-effect, unfortunately, is that I seem to have lost all previous comments. Perhaps there is a way to recover them, but I can't get to it now. Anyway, even though the comments section was closed for only one day, it was annoying to have to take recourse to doing so. But it looks like this problem may be solved.

Thanks to those of you who sent me supportive emails.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Freedom from Hate-Speech

I am temporarily closing the comments section as a result of its misuse by a single individual by the name of Jeffrey Schuster.

As my readers know, I don't have a problem with critiques of what I say, and in fact I often engage directly in the comments section with those who rabidly disagree with me. However, on a blog such as mine, which does not have many readers and even fewer commentators, a single person who never engages with the content of the posts and instead uses the space for abusive purposes can effectively shut-out all others who wish to use the comment section for debate and discussion.

Jeffrey Schuster displays classic signs of stalking behavior, and it is such behaviour patterns coupled with his relentless racist rages that have prompted me to temporarily close this comments section. Examples of Jeffrey Schuster's racist attacks, particularly against Muslims and Middle Easterners in general are available to anyone who can do a google search. This unabashed racism would be unremarkeable in itself were it not for the fact that Jeffrey Schuster also holds a job in the U.S. as an ESL instructor where he holds a position of authority over the same populations he regularly demeans and berates.

In any case, due to some personal hardships that we are experiencing at the time, I am unable to moniter the comments section to make sure that it remains free from those who wish to silence all other voices save their own.

I promise to re-open the comments sections as soon as I can return to being an active participant in this blog.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Long Beards

The US military announced today that 4 prisoners escaped from the Bagram Base Detention Center in Afghanistan. So naturally, a big man hunt is underway to try and recapture the escapees. Meanwhile, they've put out the word so people can spot the escaped prisoners. Now pay close attention to the official announcement on what to keep an eye out for: men with short hair and long beards.

Short hair and long beards?! Doesn't this description make pretty much the entire adult male population of Afghanistan suspect?

Then again, "long beards" more or less constitutes the criteria used to stuff people into Guantanamo and Bagram bases in the first place, now wasn't it?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Some Links

1) Fisk Awakes from Coma

"Just before the US presidential elections, Bin Laden asked: "Why do we not attack Sweden?"

Lucky Sweden. No Osama bin Laden there. And no Tony Blair"


Ever since Robert Fisk started sharing details about things like dining as a private guest in Waleed Jumblatt's Druze castle and Rafiq Hariri's generous offers of flying Fisk on one of his private jets, I sort of lost interest in what he had to say, particularly when it came to Lebanon.

But I do recommend his article entitled "The Reality of this Barbaric Bombing", from which the above quote was taken. Maybe Fisk is finally emerging from the intoxication of hanging out with the rich and powerful to once again do the kind of reporting and commentary for which many of us respect him.

2) Threatened in Kabul...by the BBC!?

A young Afghan blogger who writes in Persian and English has accused a BBC reporter of harassing and threatening him. For its part, the BBC seems to be taking the accusation seriously, and has promised to look into the matter. If you want to read an interview with the blogger about the situation, you can do so here.

3) Cyrus the Not-so-Great

When I blogged about the disappearance of Iranian camera-man Farhad Faraji at the hands of the US military in Iraq, I didn't know that he had been accompanied by an Iranian-American film-maker named Cyrus Kar.

This Kar fellow, one of a familiar breed of people of Iranian descent who like to pretend that the end-all be-all of Iranian history and identity is found in the "Glorious Persian Empire", was a big advocate of the war against Iraq. He was also a former Navy seal who hangs U.S. flag over his bed and was, according to his sister, "ashamed of being Iranian".

Apparently these facts made an impression on the military, since they have announced that Kar (and along with him, Farjami) will be released from U.S. custody in Iraq.

Perhaps this whole episode of being held without charge and having his rights violated for nearly two months in custody will make Mr. Kar think twice about the kind of democracy he advocates should be brought to other places with bombs and tanks. Then again, seeing as to how his pro-war, self-hating attitude seems to have been instrumental in getting him released, perhaps he will get only worse.

4) Iranian Immigrant

For those Iranians living in the U.S., the U.K., or pretty much anywhere in Europe, you may want to start doing your shopping here.

The Passing of 18th of Tir

18 Tir just passed.

i was going to blog about it somewhat at length, but i didn't. apparently neither did anybody else. Well, no, Shabah wrote a post entitled "Emrooz 18 Tir Ast" (Today is the 18 of Tir). frankly i didn't read it, and i don't think i will either. Penlog also issued a brief statement, citing the same three student political prisoners whose names are thrown around this time of year.

Someone should tell Penlog and others like them that there are more political prisoners than the handful of names we are all familiar with. Just because we may not find their political views particularly savory or easy to co-opt doesn't mean they should be left name-less and face-less, rotting away god knows where.

Secondly, those who drafted the Penlog statement should be made aware that according to the most recent news, one of the named prisoners, Ahmad Batebi, hasn't returned to prison since he was let out sometime ago to get married. You can read about this here and also get an earful of Batebi's completely untenable, and ultimately just sadly stupid and shallow, analysis on the first phase of the Iranian elections.

Well, the anniversary has passed/is the past.

the question is: who killed the 18th of Tir?

i have my suspicions, but no use beating a dead horse, not this late at night anyway.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Disappearance of Farhad Faraji



In Iraq with valid visa papers and documents to complete filming the documentary film In Search of Cyrus the Great, the Iranian camerman Farhad Faraji was arrested by U.S. military without explanation and nothing has been released about his whereabouts.

To learn more about the alarming disappearance of Farhad Faraji and what you can do to help, please see Where is Farhad Faraji

Friday, June 24, 2005

Nekbat

What was unthinkable (to me) a mere week ago, seems all but certain now: Ahmadinejhad is ahead in the preliminary counts, and ISNA has already declared that he has gained the majority of the vote.

Maybe i'll wakeup tomorrow morning and the news will be different. but i doubt it.

Meanwhile a big thanks to those who called for a boycott of the election; I assume those of you living outside of Iran will be returning to enjoy the fruits of your efforts?

Waiting for Results

Ever since I came back from voting I've been glued to the IRI T.V. stations, waiting for some preliminary announcement about the results. TBut they are airing so many self-glorifying speeches, hyper-nationlist songs and poetry, that you'd think a revolution had just occurred, not an election.

Right now they are interviewing a pair of teenage boys, on of whom is wearing a NY yankees baseball cap of all things, and the one without the hat is saying that one of the motivations for him voting is to show the world and those who want to interfere in our affairs that Iranians will decide their own fate, just like they did when they voted for an Islamic Republic in a national referendum after the revolution. The gum-chewing, Yankee baseball cap boy is nodding enthusiastically at this part about the referendum.

The fact that I grudgingly voted for Rafsanjani and that I have been watching to this non-stop flag waiving "my iran this" and "my iran that" on the TV is making me feel pretty pukey, but it is really interesting to see the Iranians at the various polling stations all over iran and around the world. They are going to all the provinces, so you get to hear all the great local accents and languages and really see the diversity of the Iranian population. They even made a point of showing and interviewing some conspicuously sunni iranians in line to vote, I couldn't really pinpoint the accent but I think they were Baluch. And now they have moved on to the province of Western Azarbaijan where they are talking to a priest in Oromieh . The Azari music is really nice, especially since I can't understand all the nationalist self-celebration (except of course the part where they are saying "iran, iran", the chorus in every song they've played no matter what the local language).

The other cool thing is that they are covering the international polling stations set up to serve iranian ex-pats. In the U.S. alone there are 35 polling places, but who knew that there would be 5 stations in Malaysia, for example. So far, I've seen interviews and scenes from polls in Germany, Turkey, Malaysia, India, UK, Pakistan, and some other places which seemed European but I'm not sure.

I asked at my polling station today what their stats were from the first round. The man in charge told me that Rafsanjani had been first, Moeen second, and Ahmadinejhad third. I have my own theories on why the results turned out as such in this particular area, but I'll spare you.

Meanwhile I am still waiting to hear anything, even speculation, about the outcome of the elections. Z8un is reporting some disturbing news about her personal interactions with lots of unlikely people who were intent on voting for Ahmadinejhad. They seemed to have seen a few interviews with him and have become convinced that he is a good man against whom those in power have conducted a smear campaign. They were impressed, for example, that he refuses to take a salary for his job as a mayor (he still teaches at the university and lives off that), that he lives in a modest home, and acts in a humble way.

Frankly, and as I was insinuating yesterday, I was starting to fall for it as well. But even if i were as sure of Ahmadinejhad being an honest man as i am that Rafsanjani is a dishonest one, I don't think my vote would have changed.

This is the sad and ugly reality of the maddening choices you have to make as an Iranian today.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Open Letter to Ahmadinejhad

In the last couple of days, i've been reading all i can find on Ahmadinejhad that has anything remotely substantive to say about him. I found quite a bit, including an 11 page interview with Fars News in which--and I hate to admit this-- he came off quite well. I'd meant to translate and post some selections here, but I didn't have the time. I may do so in the next couple of days, depending on who wins tomorrow's elections.

Then today I came across the acclaimed director Abbas Kiarostami's open letter to Ahmadinejhad published originally in Shargh Newspaper and found here on the site Khabgard.

Below is my quick translation of the full text of the letter, which I find to be of much interest for more reasons than that it is written by one of my favorite directors.

Once when my son was 5 years old and eating a cookie, both my friend and I asked him to give us one of his cookies. But Bahman only had one cookie left. Caught in between, he stared at us wondering who he should give the cookie to. My friend simplified the problem and told him: "Give the cookie to the person you like the most". Bahman looked us both over and told me: "Baba, I like you the most but I want to give my cookie to your friend".

Now, some twenty odd years after that day, I still can't figure out what went through the mind of my five year old son, who gave his cookie to the other person that he liked less than me. But I have my reasons for why I will give my vote to the other.

Mr. Ahmadinejhad, I have some simple reasons why I like you more than the other. For me, you are a reminder of 1979. In those days, the selfless ethics and ideals of improving the lives of others were not mere abstractions, they were natural and living parts of the mind and actions of millions of believing, honest youth who wanted to use the opportunity the revolution provided in order to better the lives of the dispossessed classes. After twenty some years when I look at the clarity of those protests I understand your inner melancholy.

With your honesty, you still rejuvenate "our" 1979. I like you because I cannot lie to myself that I don't know that what you say is the truth. It is a reality that in our current world the wealthiest claw at the steps of power, leaving no room for the growth of the people.

Amidst all of this, Mr. Ahmadinejhad, there is something that makes you an anomaly in the world of 2005. So now, it is a great misfortune that the only thing you can do in the face of this player's world with no ideals is to become melancholy, this world that had been built in the last 27 years and of which we are a part. The world has created a difficult situation for honest players, but those who are of this world are able to read one anothers' hands and...

My dear friend, I will say with simplicity that we can not keep ourselves in the world of 1979. Today those beliefs are far from reality, and given the current difficult equations, we are not the only decision-makers in today's game. You are more straight and more principled than to be able to play in the twisted games of the power-tainted politicians, so as Modaress said: "Now we need someone who has learned the rules of the game of this world".

For this reason I will give my vote to the person I like less than you but who is more able than you in understanding the realities of life today. All my hope is that he will at least learn this time--from the support you had-- that our dispossessed people are still awaiting help. I hope that at least he gives a bit of attention to the dispossessed and tries to cultivate the health of the society.

My dear friend, up to now I have voted twice, and both times I have regretted it. This time I will go the polling booth more prepared but I will give my vote to the other whom I don't like as much as you.

These are strange days, my brother.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

This was my plan: vote for moeen in the first round, switch to rafsanjani in the run-offs. I'd thought a lot about it and had many reasons for my decision, but its all moot now, isn't it?

i never thought moeen would be a hands-down winner, but fifth place? And the ultra-conservative Ahmadinejhad as the very close second runner up to Rafsanjani?

The losers--particularly Karroubi-- were quick with their claims of fraud and voter intimidation. And though i don't doubt either of these accusations, i can't quite believe that they account for Ahmadinejhad's strong showing on friday.

Maybe the sense of outrage and shock, my own included, should not simply be directed at the basiji's harassing voters and rigging the elections or at Bush's clumsy interferences. Maybe instead we should ask: how well do we really know ourselves anyway?

In the two weeks of campaigning preceding the elections the iranian blogosphere sparked with heated debates and queries:

should we vote pragmatist or reformist?
was the reform movement dead or rejuvenated?
would rafsanjani respect our personal freedoms more or qalibaf?
why was larijani's campaign so lackluster?
could Moeen deliver on any of his radical rhetoric?
should we even vote?

Amid these and the many other issues that filled our papers and blogs, what do you suppose dominated discussions about Ahmadinejhad and his campaign?

I'll tell you: people couldn't stop talking about how ugly he looks. Practically everyone seems to have taken a shot at his appearance if they could get away with it, including the satirist Ebrahim Nabavi, who can't seem to make enough quips about Ahmadinejhad face and has ridiculed him as a "symbol of Aryan beauty".

But maybe all of us who either ridiculed or dismissed ahmadinejhad should have taken a closer look at who he is and what he represents to his supporters. Maybe Raed is right when he pointed out during a discussion we were having about the outcome of the elections that people voted for ahmadinejhad because he is ugly.

Maybe Ahmadinejhad, with his raggedy appearance and willingness to sweep the streets alongside Tehran's garbage men, appeals to a constituency of people who don't see themselves reflected in any of the other candidates:

Not in the multi-millionaire Hashemi "the Shark" Rafsanjani
Not in the physician Moeen
Not in the handsome pilot Qalibaf
Not in the Philosophy PhD Larijani
Not in even in the reformist cleric Karroubi, who essentially tried to bribe people with campaign promises of a $62 per month stipend

It seems that hardly anyone--including many in the IR elite who were borne out of the revolution's rhetoric of the dowlat-e mostazafeen (The Government of the dispossessed)--remembered to address the needs, or to even acknowledge the existence, of that class of people who are both poor and religious and who still have faith in what the revolution promised them.

It is no wonder that Ahmadinejhad--who himself seems a relic from 1980--appeals to such groups.

Try asking one of the thousands of people living in the shanty-towns of Tehran whether freedom of speech for bloggers (which, say, moeen could maybe deliver)or a paved streets in city slums (which Ahmadinejhad will for sure deliver) is more important to her? As the well known photojournalist Nader Davoodi insinuates, if we had "botheredto go to south Tehran, then [we] would know Mahmoud Ahmadinejhad".

Now with the nightmarish prospect of an Ahmadinejhad presidency so close at hand, I hope we spend less time on the mean-spirited and all-too-easy attacks on his looks, and focus instead on what we can do to make sure that he doesn't come to power now or ever.

In the short term, the strategy is clear, though painful: hold your nose and vote for rafsanjani. A long term plan, of course, is not so simple, but as long as the most extremist elements in our society are the only ones who address and acknowlege the needs of the most disenfranchised Iranians, then the threat of a Ahmadinejhad will always loom.