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


source for photos: Not in Our Name as posted on

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....