Monday, May 30, 2005

Those Who Pay With Their Lives vs. Those Getting Paid

A) Akbar Ganjii

Thankfully, the jailed Iranian journalist Akbar Ganjii was released on medical furlough today. His medical break is for a week only, but it looks like he will probably get an extension. Arash Ashoorinia has posted photos of Ganjii on his first day out of jail. Who knows what will happen from here on out, but Ganjii himself looks so happy, it's nice to enjoy the moment with him

B)More Money to Annoying Iranian "Exile" Groups

Given the great success they had with Iraqi expat groups, the Bush administration is increasing funding of Iranian "exile" groups pushing for "democracy" in Iran. This means more talk shows with pre-screened callers from the Voice of America, more 5th rate cheesy L.A. produced music videos that are supposed to entice Iranians, and most likely one or two saviors like ahura yazdi. I know i'm looking forward to it.

C) Debates with Women

Something really infuriating has happened that I don't have time to go into now but involves the spokesperson for mostafa moeen's presidential campaign, a last minute cancellation of her appearance on a primetime show she was supposed to be on, and a bunch of chauvinist jerks who seem to be afraid of facing her.

As Alireza mentioned in the side bar of his blog, it's the kind of the thing that makes you want to vote for Moeen, if for no other reason than to stick it to the people behind this episode.

but like i said, more on that later.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Name Police

I read in The Critic's Blog today that the Iranian embassy in Denmark has posted a list of names it considers "acceptable" for babies born outside of Iran whose parents want to claim their Iranian nationalities/national identity cards.

The Critic couldn't find either his name or his sister's on the list, even though they both have Iranian identity cards. I couldn't resist checking to see if me and my brother had acceptable names.

Well, I was inordinately furious to find out that my name wasn't on the list, though surprisingly my brother's name was included. Both of our names are somewhat rare, though very persian, with etymological roots in pre-Islamic Iran. In fact, more than once other iranians who have met us when we are together, ask if we are zorastrians, and point to our names for thinking so.

Non-Iranians almost always assume that my name is western, but it is not, it has a completely different pronounciation and it has a meaning in Persian. I don't make a fuss about it though, and i answer to both versions. It's just that I am feeling somewhat sensitive today, and the whole thing about the names irked me. I mean, even Raed's name was inlcluded. Ra'ed! Have you ever in your life met an Iranian Ra'ed?

anyway, i suppose that before writing this post i should have checked out whether the embassy's name list is meant as just a resource for iranians living abroad, or whether it is indeed provided so that you know which names they will accept and which they will not.

even if this particular list is a mere reference, i know that the whole naming thing has been a problem inside of Iran. lots of stories about the government refusing to issue birth certificates for certain names, but i don't know how much that holds true anymore. I once heard that some dates were excluded too, so that if your child was born on the anniversary of an officially deemed "sad" day, you had to change the birthday by a day, so as not to affront the universe by marking a happy occasion on a day when you were supposed to mourn. I don't know about this date thing though, I've only heard it from random sources, and not from any first-hand accounts of people I trust.

anyone know the facts about the official policy on names and dates for birth certificates/national id cards? i'm curious to know.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Mostly Links


Was i surprised? of course not. i knew rafsanjani, karubi, qalibaf, and larijani would be cleared to run for the elections long before i saw the announcement of who had been deemed worthy of running. i didn't even know who exactly Rezai was or that Tehran's mayor was running too, otherwise i would have guessed they would get the a-okay as well.

i knew it would pan out this way, but i was still disappointed. angry. even depressed. it is uncool and naive to admit to this, but i was secretly rooting for dr. moin. i dont even know why, it's not like i know much about him and it was pretty obvious from the outset that he wouldn't be allowed to run. still, i think if he had been given a chance, i probably would have supported him, this despite the disaster known as the reform movement and the insurmountable constraints on his authority if he were to win.

but more on these characters and the elections debacle later.

B) My Best Friend

Back in the days when i was an undergrad, i took to signing letters to my best friend with "love in the time of Cholera" in lieu of merely "love". i was going through a gabriel garcia marquez phase, and the gesture seemed in perfect keeping with my goofy sense of humor. so we both took to signing our correspondence as such, later amending it in accordance to whatever seemed to be happening around us at the time "love in the time of el nino", "love in the time of stomach flu", "love in the time of unemployment", etc.

well, i now introduce you to Love in the Time of Coriander, my multi-talented best friend's blog on "writing and food".

on summi's graduation day, i cried. not out of emotion or anything. but because we went to a thai restaurant with many members of her extended indian family who ordered the food to be extra-spicy. i didnt even like thai food at the time, and i certainly couldnt handle the chili powder.

so i just took micro bites followed by gulps of thai iced tea and any other liquid at hand, my eyes tearing up in response to the strength of the spices, and summi literally laughing at me and chiding me with "dude, you should be ashamed, even the white people can handle the food".

it was a low blow, especially since she knew Persian cuisine is not known for being hot and spicy. "for my graduation party next week we are going to an all fish dinner" i responded. Summi hated seafood back then, perhaps even more than i did thai food.

these days, summi loves seafood and i love thai cuisine, and we are ten thousand miles apart. reading her analysis on the finer points of various pad thai is my vicarious way of dining with my best friend.

C)Olive Branch Optimism

OliveBranch, a young activist in his late teens who has contacted me thru this blog, is a founding member of an Australian peace group called "Youth and Students Against War". Him and his fellow activists seem to be working on various solidarity projects concerning West Asia, and they are especially keen on making links with Iranis, Iraqis, and others in the region with whom they can consult on how best to coordinate their activities.

I really think it is important for all long-distance activists to make as many connections with folks on-the-ground and in the region with which they are concerned. it is never a good idea to rely merely on sources in exile or diaspora, since they too are often times disconnected from the lived realities of their "homelands", motivated by the lure of power and money, or simply misguided.

if you don't believe me, try watching the so-called political programming of the "exile" iranian satellite stations. better yet, remind yourself of two words: ahmad chalabi.

anyway, i encourage my friends in the blogosphere, especially those who are located somewhere in West Asia, to contact OliveBranch through his blog.

D)Laila Kha kha kha kha

Just when i was losing hope, she is back with classic lines like:

"I always wanted to be a child prodigy, but lately, I beginning to suspect, I may be a retarded adult" and "Help me, I'm a woman trapped inside of a woman's body".

plus, you get all the details of her recent gigs as a stand-up comic.

E)Ayatollah Connery

Last but not least, check out Mehrdad's latest genius creation.

i remember i started hating sean connery many years ago, when i heard him say something to the effect of "sometimes women need to be slapped".

ironically, it was the shah of iran when he was still in power, and not khomeini, who said something very similar in an interview with Barbara Walters, while his wife, the queen, was sitting beside him. Her eyes were brimming with tears, and she was trying to blink them back from flowing as she listened her husband berate women. It was one of two times (the other being when her young daughter killed herself), that i actually felt sympathy for the wife of the former dictator.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

On Donkeys and Mules

Bits and pieces of news from our "terribly, terribly strange Republic":

1) Ass Burgers: A father and son are arrested in iran on charges of selling some three tons of donkey meat and passing it off as prime fillet in three cities. They were found out when the heads and feet of numerous donkeys were discovered by holiday-makers out on new year's roadtrips/picnics. The story (in persian) can be found here in Shargh , and i'm pasting below the lovely caricature that came with the story:

2) Denying violence thru Violence : speaking of Shargh Newspaper, one of their reporters was attacked by an Iranian member of parliament named Mehdi Koochakzadeh. Why? Because the said journalist had earlier that week reported that Koochakzadeh had tried to attack another member of parliament, Naser Nasiri, who was in the middle of making a speech in support of one of the presidential candidates. Apparently Koochakzadeh was stopped by another member of parliament before he could reach the offending speaker, but his ire was raised again when Shargh reported on this violent outburst. Soon after denying that he had lost his temper and accusing the reporter of being a liar, Koochakzadeh flew off the handle when he saw the journalist in the parliament, assaulted him, told him to watch his back, and called him some names. Koochakzadeh has subsequently denied the second incident as well, calling it a bunch of lies. More details on the story at bbc Persian.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Back in 1998 when Brazil lost the world cup to France, i was convinced that Ronaldo had been poisoned (remember the mysterious convulsions that led to him being taken to hospital the day before the big game?). What else could explain Ronaldo's dreadfully sub-par performance as Zidane had his way on the field? The bitterness of that day, of course, has subsequently been overshadowed by Brazil's 2002 championship over Germany, with a 2-0 win courtesy of Ronaldo himself.

Today, Ronaldo was visiting occupied Palestine, and even though he was there on an ostensibly non-political visit as a good will ambassador with the UN, the very fact that an internationally adored figure like him was visiting palestinians in a friendly setting, standing in front of a Palestinian flag, and wearing a scarf with the map of Palestine, is a huge deal. In the days when you can't say anything positive about Palestinians without a thousand and one disclaimers lest you appear "anti-semitic" or "pro-terrorist" (and I am talking about what you can say in the "West", the rest of the world is thankfully semi-sane still when it comes to this issue), Ronaldo's brave actions are much needed. And it doesn't surprise me, by the way, that it is a south-American (read: non-white) superstar who has stepped up to the plate on this issue.

I guess it goes without saying that I will be cheering for another Brazilian win in 2006. Boy will it be sweet to beat the Germans on their home turf.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

When R. asked my opinion about a month ago whether iranians would actually vote for rafsanjani if he decided to run, i told him that i thought people in general loathe him, but that might vote for him in the hopes that his business prowess would mean a boost in the economy in general. that was my guess anyhow. then i read item # 2 on Zeitoon's latest post, where she confirms this sentiment based on an numerous encounters she had with people at the iranian stock exchange. Apparently the stock prices shot up after the mere announcement that Rafsanjani was in the running (and it was a pretty melodramatic announcement too, as i mentioned in an earlier post)

anyway, the usual voices for boycotting the elections are starting to pipe up again, and not surprisingly, the majority are coming from outside Iran. As for the non-Iranians who point out the un-democratic aspects of our elections, i suggest a little game. Try and see how many of these same pundits who are against participating in the Iranian elections on the basis that they are non-democratic had themselves in a tizzy over the "democratic" elections in Iraq.

The Iranian electoral process has about 1001 problems, not the least of which is that while the registration process is a free for all, an unelected board makes the decision on who is fit to remain in the final list that will be voted upon. Remember the Iraqi elections, which were held under foreign occupation, and people voted for lists without knowing who or what they were voting for (candidates were too afraid to announce themselves, and they certainly didn't campaign), and where most of the candidates rode into Iraq on U.S. tanks? Anyone who supported elections in those conditions and called them "democratic" better keep their mouths shut when it comes to condemning the elections in iran.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Dead Already

It's the U.S. that overthrew him and the U.S. who holds him in custody, but it seems that Saddam's pathological hatred for Iranians still governs his concerns.

Yesterday, Saddam's lawyer announced that Iran was behind a plot to assassinate him.

The spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, Hamid Reza Asefi, who like most of Iranian officials always has a sassy response ready at hand (hazer javab!), rejected the accusations by saying: “Saddam has been dead since a long time ago, he doesn’t need to be assassinated”.

Why should the Iranians care anyway, now that the pro-IRI Jaafari has been installed as the Iraqi prime minister, courtesy of the illegal war on Iraq?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Afghan People Forgotten Again: Notes of a Young Man in Kabul

Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of Bush's dramatic and confident announcement that "Major combat" was over in Iraq. Exactly one day before Bush's hollywood style performance, Rumsfeld declared the same thing about Afganistan: On May 1, 2003, Rumsfeld announced that "Major Combat Activity" had ended in Afghanistan.

As Iraq continues to burn, hardly anyone believes that all has gone well or that major combat is indeed over.

But what about Afghanistan? Compared to what the occupation forces face in Iraq, it seems that foreign soldiers in Afghanistan have a walk in the park. But what are the lived realities of the Afghan people? What about the liberation and prosperity that was promised to them via daisy cutters and carpetbombs?

Do the warmongers tell us that the "average life expectancy in Afganistan is 44.5 years and It's education system is now the worst in the world"? How about the corruption that allows drug lords to do as they will with impunity? Or that women in "liberated" Afghanistan fare no better than they did under the taliban: "During the Taliban era, if a woman went to market and showed an inch of flesh she would have been flogged; now she's raped."

In short, the filtering of information on Afghanistan is really appalling. So I was extra-pleased when I came across the site Yaddashthayee az Kabul (Notes from Kabul). It is a blog in Persian maintained by young man living in and writing about his native Kabul. I've taken the liberty of translating portions of his latest post entitled "Karzai is Toying with the Future of the Nation, which i encourage you to read in its entirety if you know Persian. Here are the segments I translated:

When the system and the foundations of the government is based on false promises and threats, then what can you expect from that government?

Well, you shouldn't expect much from a government whose support comes from wolf-like outsiders... I don't know whether the author of these games [which play with the nation] is Karzai and his corrupt crew or whether behind these games are those same Americans who run private prisons in Kabul where they extort money from Afghans and rape forty Afghan Children?

...The lack of security in the capital, Kabul, is oppressive. The insecurity that rules in Kabul today cannot be found anywhere else in the world. You can find heavy and light weaponry in the homes and now and then lawless individuals commit crimes the onus of which falls only on the long-time residents of Kabul and those immigrants who have returned from exile. The majority of these armed men are members of trained gangs that were ruling before and still seek to tempt new members. Not so long ago, this past month alone, 250 crimes, the majority of which ended in murder, were recorded. In the other provinces and corners of Afghanistan hundreds of these crimes occur in a daily basis but they are not recorded. In those places there are neither radios nor journalists to report on the crimes. Crimes are not reported in Kabul itself, much less in the provinces. In a city where you can find a journalist under every stone, you wont find any news or reports that contain any truth. Because reporters know the line they cannot cross and the policy they have to follow and if they give first hand accounts there will be less food on their tables.

Just a glimpse of life in "liberated" Afghanistan.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A totally unrelated search brought me to the archives of the newly wed Pedram, where I saw the following cartoon from 2003, which seems just as relevant today as it did when it first appeared. So let's have a laugh while we still can, before Israel decides to drop the 100 bunker busters it just bought from the U.S. on Iran.


Ok, now i want to launch into the completely silly for a moment. Anyone who reads The Iranian has surely noticed the veritable war being waged against the actress of dubious talents and vapid "political" declarations, Shohreh Aghdashloo.

Aghdashloo, who got an oscar nomination for that shallow anti-immigrant flick the name of which totally escapes me and I wont bother googling, and who now plays an Iranian terrorist in 24, seems to have made herself the target of relentless abuse after gratuitously (and repeatedly) singling out the much beloved singer Googoosh for criticism.

Now all of this can easily be written off as shallow bickering of the celebrity-obsessed, but it has, surprisingly, engendered some fruitful ideas and important revelations. And here is what some of them are about:

1) Shohreh's depiction of a terrorist, though it riled up the predictable nationalist sentiments of Iranians who throw tantrums anytime we are represented as anything less than a nation of gol and bolbols, has also led to some important discussions about media representations of Iranians and the commodification of eastern women.

2) Shohreh's most recent offense against googoosh, which happened on the airwaves of the propaganda station Voice of America, has even prompted people to ask some serious questions about the kind of democracy the U.S. plans on bringing to our part of the world.

Why? Because in the spirit of "freedom and democracy", Radio Voice of America, pre-screened and censored callers, refusing airtime to listeners who wanted to critique aghdashloo's role on "24" and/or take her to task on the Googoosh issue.

Freedom of expression and democratic participation, [voice of] America style.

Ah, well, I'm just glad the whole thing has gotten some people to thinking beyond the limited parameters of the Aghdashloo vs. Googoosh debate.

And in case anyone is wondering, I pick googoosh, because among her very many talents, she knows how to do one thing that Aghdashloo cannot: Googoosh can act.