Thursday, December 28, 2006

1. I don't have much to say on President Ford's passing, though I do remember hearing Ford jokes from the dad of a high school friend. I guess before Bush came along, Ford was known as the dumb president, the guy who couldn't do two things at once. So one joke went like this:

Question: What does Mrs. Ford do when she is not in the mood to have sex with her husband?

Answer: Give him a piece of gum.

2. Now we have George W. Bush, where practically every one of his comments is a ready-made joke. Despite this, however, people still make-up jokes about him, like this one:

Bush Staff member: Mr. President, today's developments in Iraq included the death of two Brazilian soldiers.

Mr. Bush: OH MY GOD! Nooooo. Two Brazilian soldiers!!! This is unbelievable. Now exactly how many million are in a Brazilian?

3. And now for some serious stuff. They say that Saddam Hussein will be put to death within thirty days. Raed and I are guessing that they will kill him either right before or right after the U.S. death toll in Iraq reaches 3000, so that they can distract the public and claim a victory.

As of right now, the U.S death toll stands at around 2991. With the current rate of 3.65 soldiers killed per day this month, the U.S. death toll will most likely reach 3000 right around New Year's.

In July of 2005, Raed argued that:

The US administration will bury the executed body of Saddam along with all the secrets we're not supposed to know: All the military support (like the unlimited support for Iraq's war on the Anti-American government in Iran), all the dirty political deals (like giving the green light to Saddam's attack on Kuwait and the following written permissions to the Iraqi government in Safwan to crush the southern revolution in 1991), all the chemical weapons sold to Iraq (like the ones used against Iranians on the war fronts, and Iraqi Kurds in the north of Iraq), and many more political and economical secret deals.

Back then, we were worried and disgusted that a few small cases were going to be brought against Saddam just to quickly finish him off. Of course, occupation supporters had their usual set of excuses at hand. They said that Saddam would be tried for all of his offenses, and that the Dujail case was just the first of many to come. We never had any doubts that Saddam would not be brought to justice, and we are sad to see that his hastened sentence on a handful of charges has proven us right.

In a comment on this blog, Padideh asked why Iranians had not been more vocal about this issue, and I dont have the answer to that.

It is embarrassing that when it comes to the name of the Persian Gulf, Iranians will draft petitions, make google bombs, form groups, variously lobby or boycott organizations, and appeal to international law and history, but when it comes to seeking justice for the Iranian victims of chemical warfare, there is an shocking dearth of action or even discussion.

If I am wrong about this, please tell me, I would love to stand corrected.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas Iran

The UN Security Council voted to impose further sanctions on Iran because Iran refuses to stop what is guaranteed to it under the terms of the NPT to which it is a voluntary signatory.

So Iran is punished for practicing its rights under an international treaty while India is rewarded for refusing to sign the treaty and developing a nuclear weapon.

The glaring double standard that is applied to Iran in this and other cases is obvious even to the casual obvervor, no matter what their stance on nuclear weapons or the Iranian government.

Iranian Speaker of the Parliament had earlier claimed that Iran would reconsider its relations with the IAEA if the resolution passed.

With the passage of this resolutions, the government will probably gain the backing of many more people who will see that joining the NPT has been a ruse and a trap.

Friday, December 22, 2006

1. Yesterday, Nazli and the White Duckling tagged me for this game that people have been playing on the blogosphere for the occasion of Shab-e Yalda (the Iranian winter equinox celebration). The idea is that you confess five things about yourself that your readers may not know and then tag five other people. But since the game was supposed to be a Shab-e Yalda game and i noticed that i was "it" too late, i will take the cowards way out and pass on my turn. Watch out for me next year though.

2. I swear I say this with no nationalistic overtones, but the only New Year's that makes sense or ever seems "real" to me is the Nowruz as celebrated by Iranians, Afghans, Tajiks, Kurds, among others. The Spring Equinox, a time when the earth literally seems to be re-awakening and renewing itself, now that feels new, refreshing, hopeful, vibrant. I just don't get this January 1st stuff, smack in the middle of rain, sleet, or snow. But to those for whom the "holiday season" means something, all the best wishes from me to you.

3. I know this is not very holiday-seasonish, but I've been thinking a lot in the last couple of days about the Iran-Iraq war both because of the continuing war drive against Iran and also because of some studies I was reading about the use of german and U.S-made chemical weapons on Iranian civilians. And most of us who lived through the war probably have a memory of the sad song "mamad naboodi bebini". I remembered that Haji Washington had mentioned the song somewhat recently, so I did a web search for it and found this clip which has put the original song to some gruesome and sad photos from the days of that ugly war.

If you want to ruin a good mood and decide to click on the link, you'll note that the clip only includes pictures of what happened to people as a result of conventional warfare. The photos of the Iranian victims of unconventional, illegal warfare are even more disgusting. Which brings me to a question whose answer I know, but I will keep asking this question until the day that those responsible will be brought to justice:

Why dont saddam hussein's list of charges include his crimes against Iran and Iranians? Why aren't Saddam, alongside the U.S and German companies that supplied him with the chemical and biological weapons he admits to using against Iranians, being held accountable in a court of international law or in this joke of a kangaroo court that is being held in an Iraq that is under foreign occupation?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Please Don't Ask Me About My Thesis

I can't believe this shirt exists, but I think I need one! I'm just glad to see that the sentiment is widespread enough that someone figured they could probably make some money off of it.

If you would like to purchase this shirt, or know someone who would like to wear it, you can purchase it from here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

1. oh my god this is the coolest (nerdy) thing ever: The Iranian Ministry of Education has made almost all Iranian school books available online. You can download them here . Practically all texts from elementary to high school are posted on the site, so beginners in Persian can use the primary school books to practice their skills and drop outs can use them to pass the Iranian G.E.D. (if one existed).

2. I arrived to this event a little late because a metro "incident" resulted in me being stuck underground between stations for a good twenty minutes. So I was already somewhat scattered by the time I got there and no sooner had I collected myself a little bit when who should pass before my eyes but one Mr. Ahura Pirouz Marz Afaridegar F. Khaleghi Yazdi.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ahura Pirouz Marz Afaridegar F. Khaleghi Yazdi wasn't just there to quietly listen, he managed to grab the mic during the question and answer session. And that is when he started rambling that his "movement is 2500 years old, it goes back to Cyrus the Great", "Iranians are not Arabs they are Persian, Iran is not a Muslim country", "the people who rule Iran now are not Iranians" and "why doesnt the U.S. help the Persian-Iranians" (and of course, he was pronouncing Persian like Pair-Zheee-an; I swear he said Pair-zheee-an like twenty times)

The whole thing was so embarrassing, both the audience and panelists were unsuccessfully stifling their laughter. I mean you know you are a damn fool if even the normally stiff D.C. suits can't help but have a laugh out loud at your expense.

3. Time Magazine's choice of "you" as person of the year is boring and super-cheesy, but their collection of "People who Mattered in 2006" is kind of interesting. And if you are one of those people who either love-to-hate or hate-to-love Ahmadinejhad, you may want to check out their photo essay on him.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

1. Pari Syma Mayel-Afshar, who may be known to many readers of her articles in Payvand as Syma Sayyah, is running for a seat on the Tehran city council. For those who are eligible to vote in this election or are just interested in reading about the motivations and platform of this independent candidate, her statement is available in english here.

2. Nazli just wrote about Fakhravar's appearance on VOA last night, and even though I left her a comment saying that maybe it is a good idea to stop giving this guy all the attention he seeks, I changed my mind once I had a chance to see the interview.

The topic of the VOA program was the recent student demonstrations in Tehran on the anniversary of 16 Azar, a date which in the Iranian calendar marks a founding moment in the Iranian student movement.

On that date in 1953, three students were murdered by the security forces of the Shah. The Shah had been returned to power courtesy of a CIA administered coup, and the students were protesting the presence of Nixon in Iran so soon after the overthrow of the democratically elected regime.

Mr. Fakhravar not only disputed the fact that the students were protesting Nixon, but he went so far as to say that the 1953 coup d'etat was "an historical necessity".

Who other than a handful of obstinate cold-warriors still hang on to this language and the fantasy that it feeds?

Fakhravar's handlers need to do a better job in coaching him. He may have fooled some people into thinking that he in any way has a constituency in Iran that supports him, but going around saying things that justify the 1953 coup will try the patience of a whole lot of people, including those that were gullible enough to have faith in him in the first place.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

1. A painful interview with Ahmad Batebi's dad about his son's situation. (interview is in Persian)

2. "Iranian hercules", Rezazadeh, wins the gold at the Doha Asian games. And he seems never to leave home without taking his picture with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

3. My response to the Iraq Study Group's press conference.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Good news for me, my irritability earlier on has now passed. Low blood sugar is a nasty thing! The bad news is, I will probably be delivering more of my routine rants shortly.

But just to prove how sensitive my system is to food, I present to you the picture below. This is me at the new trendy mall called Tandees which is in the Tajrish district of Tehran. I hadn't even taken a bite of my ice-cream, and yet somehow I managed to get a sugar rush. Look:

Speaking of food, I screwed up my last batch of yogurt. I think I was impatient and added the culture when the milk hadn't cooled down enough. The result has been a somewhat watery and not-sour yogurt, which i know technically is supposed to mean that the yogurt is "good".

But we like sour yogurt, so I am trying to drain some of it to make mast-e Chekide or Lebane as the Arabs call it. The results are good, but it got me to thinking about the yogurt water that is discarded, and whether it has any uses? I mean can it be used in cooking or in making some other dairy product?

Maybe I'll research it a bit later on. For now, I should stop procrastinating and get back to work so that I actually have something to present to my supervisor sometime at the end of this week.

What do you suppose explains the fact that murdered ex-spy Litvineko practically disappeared off of the front pages? Could it be the revelation that he had converted to Islam and requested a Muslim burial on his deathbed? Because that really throws a wrench in the mainstream's little narrative doesnt it: The Evil dictator Putin vs. the Good Truth-to-power-speaking Litvineko. But what do you do when the "good" guy turns out to be a Muslim? Perhaps editors across the U.K. and U.S. are scratching their heads right now and thinking "maybe the bastard deserved the death he got after all".

How typical. But you know what else is typical? My little rant about the whole thing. So I wont elaborate. because believe me, I know that nothing is more boring or more infuriating than endless repetition. load the dishwasher, unload the dishwasher. Set the table, clear the table. Load the laundry, fold the laundry. Pack the grocery, unpack the grocery. and it's the same now with my political commentary, another step in a solo act that is gotten real old.

So I'll leave you on your own to figure out what lies behind the sudden silence on the nuked ex-spy. There is, after all, a sink full of dirty dishes with my name on them.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Asian games opened in Doha yesterday, and apparently the opening ceremonies were pretty impressive. I was in Iran at the same time that the torch was being passed through, and by coincidence I crossed the path of the torch carrying athletes twice.

The first time I saw them at the Tochal Mountain hiking area. The problem is that I am not tall enough to snap photos above people's heads, and so all of my pictures, like the one below, ended up cutting off the actual torch:

I did get to speak to some of the athletes, and the women below kindly agreed to let me photograph them. The woman on the left is a target shooter (with rifles!)and i was so taken with her sport that i forgot to ask the rest of them what their fields were.

I probably would have gotten better and more photos, but I wasted a lot of time early on getting into a big argument with a police officer at the entrance, and later playing with this kitten:

For obvious reasons, I didn't ask the policeman I was fighting with for his picture, but the photo below shows the view from behind where I was standing when the argument took place:

Friday, December 01, 2006

This is a photo of today's demonstrations in lebanon organized by the opposition. You can bet your life savings that if Lebanese demonstrations are even vaguely anti-syria and or anti-hizbollah, photos would be splashed across every U.S. publication and news show.

Thank goodness still for the U.K. press, which has reported on the protests and been honest enough to at least post photos reflecting the size of the demonstrations.

So the poor U.S.-supported PM, Fu'ad "cry baby" Sanyurah, is locked up in his compound, probably praying that the arms from the UAE and the promises of further U.S and French monitary support come through before the Lebanese government completely collapses.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Former Israeli Ambassador to Iran and current advisor at the Israeli Defense Ministry, Uri Lubrani, has fashioned a statement that rivals the "best" orientalist cliches of all time:

"The Iranians have the patience of an elephant. They're a nation of carpet weavers. And weaving a carpet takes a year."

A nation of carpet weavers?

I've been smiling at this statement all day, but even more hilarious is Mr. Lubrani's plan for regime change in Iran. In answer to the question of what methods he prescribes for the overthrow of the current government, Mr. Lubrani responds:

"With every possible method. I'm talking about propaganda, psychological warfare, financial assistance....I feel that conditions are ripe for carrying out a regime change. For example, it's possible to organize a strike in the oil industry".

How is it that Mr. Lubrani, who has been in the Iran business for decades, not know that all of these methods, including efforts to infiltrate and co-opt the efforts of labor unions, have been tirelessly employed for the last 26 years? Where exactly is the innovation in what Lubrani is suggesting?

Incidentally, I learned via this article yesterday, that according to the Algiers agreement of 1981 signed by the U.S and Iran to end the hostage crisis, the U.S. pledged "that it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in IranÂ’s internal affairs."

Israel, of course, has not put its name to any such statements, but with or without making false promises, it is still in contravention of international law to interfere in Iran's internal affairs, either through nauseating daily propaganda or through covert operations on Iranian soil.

Mr. Lubrani may not be right about Iranians having the patience of an elephant, but we may well have the memory of one: Events as distant from each other as the shameful CIA coup d'etat of 1953, the Russian theft of Iranian territories during the Qajar era, and the invasions of the Moguls and Arabs in centuries past continue to burn in the Iranian imagination.

Anyone who suggests inteference in Iranian affairs as a tactic for winning hearts and minds has no conception of the function of historical memory in Iranian politics and culture. And this, sadly, means that the Iranians will continue to have disasterous foreign intervention to add to the historical laundry list of grievances.

Monday, November 27, 2006

1. Jahanshah has kindly posted some of the "Signs" I saw when I was in Iran, you can have a look at them here if you are interested.

2. Today a U.S. F-16 went down in Iraq and an Iranian military plane crashed in Tehran. The former was clearly shot down, but I have already heard some rumblings of foul play involved in the case of the latter as well. Two out of the thirty nine people on board the Iranian air craft survived the crash, maybe they will shed some light on the whole thing.

3. I would have never expected this from Ardeshir Zahedi, the Shah's last Ambassador to the U.S. and a hard-core Monarchist: Zahedi recognizes that sanctions against Iran would only hurt the populace and that any change must come from within Iran; perhaps most surprisingly, Zahedi defends Iran's right to nuclear technology no matter who is ruling the country. You can watch Zahedi expressing these views on Voice of America's Persian language program here, the relevant statements are made after about minute 36.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I am back from Iran, where I was lucky enough to visit nearly a dozen towns and cities in five provinces. During the end of my trip, a very close member of the family fell ill and has subsequently passed away. For this reason, I haven't really been able to or felt like sitting down and thinking through the many things I saw and experienced.

I do want to say that I have a new favorite Iranian city: Yazd. It is unlike any place I have ever lived or visited, with inhabitants who are just about the most hard-working, honest, and friendly people you could wish to meet. And my stomach is grumbling as I type, just thinking about all the sweets Yazdis are famous in making.

Anyway, that is just about all I can manage to write at the moment, I hope to be able to say more in the coming days.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Of all of the places I expected to steal a stray internet signal, my grandmother’s bedroom in Tehran was not one of them. But here I am, at Maman Joon’s Internet Café, accessing the Net from some unknown neighbor to whom I owe many thanks.

Thanks also to those who left comments, critiques, and suggestions on my last post. If I haven’t responded directly, it is just because I have been short on time and energy. I’ll try and make up for it soon.

I didn’t leave the house for the entire day yesterday, I was too exhausted from running around the country and just wanted to take it easy. I decided to catch up on emails and have a look around at the websites and blogs that I usually visit. This in itself was a curious and question-raising experience. Why is it, for example, that Sibil Tala’s blog, which extremists in the U.S. often accuse of being a site supporting the Iranian government, blocked by government censors in Iran? (Incidentally, Raed’s site is filtered as well, which totally caught me off guard). I had to use filter breakers to be able to read both of their pages.

But you know whose site is as easily accessible as can be? The website and personal blog of one Mr. Amir Abbas Fakhravar! (Yes it is true, the Fakhravar Watch project takes no breaks). This man who rubs elbows with well-connected war mongers like Michael Ledeen and Richard Perle and is regularly featured on “opposition” media such as VOA and the likes, is not exactly low-profile.

And yet his site has been accessible from every single ISP I have tried in a handful of cities all around Iran. Don’t you find this surprising?

But I guess it makes sense in the scheme of things: when he was supposedly a political prisoner, he had cell phone and media access from within the walls of Evin prison; when he claims to have had a shoot-to-kill order out on his life, he was out about town, eventually stepping on a plane and freely leaving the country; and now, when he presents himself as the foremost leader of a movement against the Iranian government, his interviews, writings, and pictures are just a click away for the average internet user in Iran.

I wont weave any theories for you, I wouldn’t even know where to start, but I sure do wonder…

Monday, November 06, 2006

I've been in Iran, which is why I have been away from my daily internet routines. I have too much to do these days, so my apologies to anyone who has been trying to reach me through the comments section or through email. I'll try to sit down and check all of that stuff soon.

i am currently in isfahan, one of Raed's ancestral cities (his maternal grandmother was an isfahani). though it has been many years since the city was dubbed isfahan, nesfe-jahan (isfahan, half of the world), the splendour of the city and its cultural products are such that i think it still deserves this grand title.

The only trouble i've had since being in iran happened in the airport upon arrival in tehran. i got in a fight with a guy who i guess is either a half-french, half-iranian and/or french raised iranian man who couldnt (or wouldn't) speak farsi without a foreign accent. he refused to apologize when he dropped something on the head of my very frail 80 year old grandfather, and when my grandfather protested, the balding thirty something man responded: "you are not the owner of this airplane! you should put aside this typical iranian por-rooyee (pushy attitude)"

i wanted to tell him that someone who cant even speak farsi in a proper way shouldnt be making grand proclamations about the iranian national character. i wanted to tell him that for someone who spent much of the plane ride holding up the flight attendants with his pretentious converstations while the rest of us waited patiently for our service, he had some nerve to accuse another passenger of acting like he owned the plane.

but instead, tired after a day of travel, i just barked a few things at him, he barked back, and then he ran away by going all the way around the end of the plane. oh well, at least he knows what is good for him!

unfortunately, this overgrown spoiled boy who seemed to think himself exceptional is actually an archetype of sorts. he typefies the diaspora iranian who fancies himself an expert on what iran and iranians are like, and yet he really has no idea what is going on around him. in the context of the iranian airport, he is just an aggravating asshole, but back in the diaspora, he has the potential to be dangerous, because he can sell his blither as authentic and true to a slew of ill-intentioned politicians and media producers.

as is always the case, i am intensly aware of the depth of the gulf between the range of iran material available to the english reader and the on-the-ground realities in this vast, diverse, and dynamic land.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Edi-e Fetr and Diwali

Last night we were invited to a joint Eid-e Fetr and Diwali party thrown by a lovely couple we know: He is Pakistani-American and she is Indian (half Hindu, Half Muslim). As a mixed marriage of Pakistani and Indian, where one member of the union is both Hindu and Muslim, they defy the tragic logic of sectarianism and nationalism.

The party was an expression of transcending these divisions. As most of us know, of course, these separations, if they have not been created by colonial/neo-colonial projects, have certainly been aggravated and encouraged by them. So it was great to take part in jointly celebrating Muslim and Hindu holidays with a mixed crowd of mostly Indians and Pakistanis. At the end of the day, people who have been living side-by-side for centuries have more in common than the external forces that come in to stoke the flames of absolutist separatism, and I really believe that these divide-and-conquer tactics can only go so far before they fail and/or totally backfire.

Anyway, the gathering was great fun, and there were even moments of hilarity arising from the fact that a certain south asian desert is called by a name that has a vulgar meaning in Persian. About twenty people asked me some version of "so, niki, do they have X in iran?" or "so, Niki, do they eat X in Iran?". Raed thought the whole thing was hilarious and tried to prolong these inquiries. I just avoided eye contact with him and kept my composure during these admittedly amusing exchanges. So you see, even when there are cultural/linguistic/national differences, they can be quite fun.

A happy Eid-e Fetr to all Muslims and a Happy Diwali to all Hindus, and special greetings to those who celebrate both.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

1. It looks like Iranian cinema is making a comeback. Despite the release of a handful of good films, the last few years of Iranian cinema have been somewhat lackluster. News that Asghar Farhadi's Chaharshanbe-Soori had won best film at the Chicago Film Festival and that several other Iranian films had won prizes at an Italian religiously themed festival, has me excited about checking out some of these works.

Not that international festivals are always trustworthy, often they are governed by an orientalist logic that is really annoying. Nonetheless, lots of great films are distributed via the festival circuit that might otherwise not have exposure, so i have to give them credit for that.

2. I saw on that Iran is banning smoking in public spaces, which is really great news. I wish they would ban cigarettes all together.

3. Iran and Iraq have set up a panel to facilitate the sharing of intelligence. News like this makes me think that the rumours of an America-backed coup d'etat in Iraq might just turn out to be the October surprise of this election season.

4. Former Attorney General Ashcrof is a sculptor. His medium? Barbed Wire (how appropriate, Mr. Guantanamo).

Check out the interview:

Q: Why barbed wire?
A: Because there was a surplus of it on my farm.

5. I am procrastinating from writing an article that is really boring me, I guess I should get back to work.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Batebi is Free

Some good news on this lovely sunday afternoon: Ahmad Batebi was freed this morning, albeit on a large bail.

Needless to say, he was under tremendous pressure, and I don't know whether he will want to or be able to speak about his ordeal. Right now, it is just nice to know that he is back home with his wife and the rest of his family.

Friday, October 13, 2006

1. Can someone with knowlege of Franco-Turkic relations offer some insight on France passing a bill that penalizes the denial of the ottoman genocide of Armenians? Everybody knows that the U.S., for example, has long colluded in the holocaust denial because it does not want to harm its relations with Turkey, whose bases are very valuable for U.S. adventures in the region. But before clapping our hands for France, I think we should figure out the politics behind its sudden decision to pass this bill because it seems to me that it is motivated more by an anti-Turk sentiment than it is by a desire to redress the wrongs suffered by armenians.

2. The quote of the week comes from As'ad Abu Khalil. In response to Straw's demand and Salman Rushdie's approval that Muslim women uveil before having the dubious privelege of speaking to Straw, Abu Khalil offers this:

"Jack Straw and Salman Rushdie have decided to tell Muslim women how to dress. OK. I will tell Straw and Rushdie what to wear too. I want both of them to now appear in moo moo dresses."

Rushdie and Straw in Moo Moo dresses! Man, i sure hope someone photoshops that.

3. I haven't read this story in its entirety, but the concept it interesting. The author is an Afghan, I believe, and the narrator of the story is Marco, the dog pictured in many of the Abu Ghreib torture photos. Unfortunately, the story is only available in Persian, but I'll post a link to an English version if I find one.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fakhravar: Mastercon

My good friend Pedram, inspired by a mutual friend who I don't think wants to be named, created this wonderfully hilarious advertisement and dedicated it to yours truly.

Please enjoy, it is just super.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

1. It is only the fifth day of the month, and so far 22 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq. President Bush consoles their grieving families with an assurance that the horror of the Iraq war and the losses in lives will be "just a comma" in history. Can you imagine being killed in an unjust war based on false premises in a land where the majority of the inhabitants want you to go away and then to have the president whose lies led to your death declare that you are but a comma in history?

2. If you have any doubt that the Neo-cons are gearing up to lead the U.S. into yet another disastrous war, check out this detailed report outlining naval build-up in the Persian Gulf.

Peace Action has drafted a petition against a military strike on iran. If I had drafted the petition, there are many other issues that I would have included and certain things that I would have worded differently. Nonetheless, it is important to support Peace Action in their anti-war drive, so please take a moment to sign the petition here.

Given Bush's daily follies, the fall-out from the Republican conspiracy to keep the sex scandal under wraps, the Republicans are in desperate need of an "October surprise". Let's hope that yet another unprovoked and unjustified attack on a sovereign country will not be part of their October plans.

3. A word of good news from inside of Iran. After more than sixty some days of largely incommunicado detention, it looks like Ahmad Batebi may be out of prison soon. He will be let out on bond, of course, but at least he will be out, and his wife his currently raising funds for his release. As far as I know, Batebi has not sold out to anyone, so I am sure that raising the funds is not an easy task. I don't know if there is any way to help in raising these funds, but if anyone hears of anything, please let me know. Because of U.S. sanctions on Iran, fundraising may in fact be impossible since U.S.-based people can be prosecuted for transfer of funds. But again, I really don't know of these details and would appreciate the legal advice of anyone who does.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The two U.S. officials of Afghani descent, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and President Hamid Karzai, are among the most snappy dressers in the political arena. Khalilzad's style is a standard suit and tie look, but he is always so well-put-together and well-groomed that I can almost smell his excessive cologne through the t.v. screen. And Hamid Karzai, he always looks like he just stepped off the fashion runway: he has a great eye for fabric and design, and the color green, which I take is his favorite, is particularly flattering on him.

But poor Hamid Karzai is looking a bit sallow these days, and I can certainly see why:

The U.S. Military is reporting a tripling of Taliban attacks in Eastern Afghanistan, Taliban attacks on government officials are on the rise and are getting more and more brazen, such as the assassination earlier this week of Ama Jan, the long time women's rights activist and a provincial director for the Ministry of Women's Affairs, and now Karzai is having such a huge spat with Musharraf, that even their mutual sponsor Mr. Bush can't seem able to mediate.

In fairness to Karzai, Pakistan deserves a lot of scrutiny for the unrest in Afghanistan, and Karzai is helpless to do anything anyway. I mean how can a guy who still has to use "American bodyguards because he can't trust his own people" have a substantive leadership role in his country?

The more important question is why Musharaff (bi-sharaf) is not being held accountable for what is going on. Why is it that U.S. officials feel fine with throwing around groundless accusations about Iran and the daily massacres in Iraq, but the obvious link between Pakistan (or perhaps more accurately, Pakistani territory) and the rise of the Taliban is only given the mildest lip service?

The double standard applied to U.S. allies is not only appalling, but it also totally undermines U.S. credibility. Saudi Arabia is another obvious and over-used example, so today I'll leave them alone, but what about some other U.S. ally, say the Philippines? Have you ever heard any U.S official condemn the political assassinations in the Philippines? How many institutes and websites and radio stations are funded by the U.S. and/or the Netherlands to follow and fight political repression in the Philippines? I venture to say zero for the Philippines, but I can name off-the-cuff at least 10 examples of these types of institutes/radios/websites that are oh-so-concerned with Iranians (and yet they love iranians so much, they never take a stance against sanctions or war on iran).

There are a lot of lessons for Iranians in these double standards, not the least of which is to link our social justice struggles with those carried out in seemingly faraway places, like the Philippines.

As for Karzai and Musharraf, I suggest that the latter refrain from making uncouth comments concerning Canadians when he is being interviewed by the Canadian press; and Karzai, well, he should consider either a dab of blush or a foundation with a rosy undertone to give him the appearance of good health and humor because I'm afraid he's not going to be feeling well on his own for awhile.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

1. Maybe because I spend so much time monitoring the activities of people whose mentality seems eternally lodged in the 1970s, i've become stuck on one particular iranian 70s star: Marjan. I think she rules, in a 70s kind of way, of course. So have a listen and enjoy, but be careful it is addictive.

2. Speaking of the 70s, I recently had the chance to watch a bunch of episodes from the American series Good Times and I was shocked at how it critically took up so many important social and political issues. Set in the notorious Chicago Cabrini Green projects, the episodes I saw managed to be funny and directly critique racialized poverty, inflation and oil politics, and the rise of the surveillance society. Can you imagine a show today doing that?

3. On a final pop-culture note, let me fast forward to the present. I'm not a huge fan of Carlos Mencia's humor because although I know the trends in this type of comedy circuit are about pushing the envelope and crossing taboo lines, I still can't stomach some of the things he makes fun of. Having laid out this disclaimer, I will link to his video Dee Dee Dee. I can't help it, these days I see, read, and hear so many things that have me going around singing to myself "dee dee dee". Watch the video and see what I mean.

1. Maybe because I spend so much time monitoring the activities of people whose mentality seems eternally lodged in the 1970s, i've become stuck on one particular iranian 70s star: Marjan. I think she rules, in a 70s kind of way, of course. So have a listen and enjoy, but be careful it is addictive.

2. Speaking of the 70s, I recently had the chance to watch a bunch of episodes from the American series Good Times and I was shocked at how it critically took up so many important social and political issues. Set in the notorious Chicago Cabrini Green projects, the episodes I saw managed to be funny and directly critique racialized poverty, inflation and oil politics, and the rise of the surveillance society. Can you imagine a show today doing that?

3. On a final pop-culture note, let me fast forward to the present. I'm not a huge fan of Carlos Mencia's humor because although I know the trends in this type of comedy circuit are about pushing the envelope and crossing taboo lines, I still can't stomach some of the things he makes fun of. Having laid out this disclaimer, I will link to his video Dee Dee Dee. I can't help it, these days I see, read, and hear so many things that have me going around singing to myself "dee dee dee". Watch the video and see what I mean.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fakhravar Answers his Critics: They are all Jealous of Me

Neo-Con poster boy amir-abbas fakhravar has sunk to a new low, and since I have previously announced this blog to be an ad-hoc Fakhravar watch, I see no other choice but to report on it. For those who can read persian, you can check everything I will speak about on his newly inaugurated blog

As Fakhravar comfortably hangs out somewhere in the DC area trying out new hairstyles and dreaming up lies to feed the unsuspecting U.S. media, two Iranian activists suffer in prison: the elderly lawyer Nasser Zerrafshan and the recently re-arrested Ahmad Batebi.

Following Fakhravar's shameful self-promotional activities with the U.S. neo-cons after his "escape" from Iran, both Zerafshan and Batebi made public statements condemning Fakhravar and denying their support for his claims about Iran and Iranian activists. Batebi's statement can still be found on his site here, and Zerafshan's letter has been posted on a number of sites including this one.

Fakhravar's responses to Zerafshan and Batebi's condemnations would be quite hilarious, if it were not for the fact that they are utterly disgusting.

Are you ready for his explanations? here we go:

A) In addressing Zerafshan, Fakhravar resorts to referring to the respected activist as "the old man" and claims that the only reason Zerafshan has spoken out against Fakhravar's charlatan tactics is because of jealousy. Yes, folks, jealousy! According to Fakhravar, Zerafshan was so enraged that Fakhravar and not him had been granted a PEN literary award that he wrote up the said letter as an act of revenge. Go ahead and read Fakhravar's post if you don't believe me.

B) Fakhravar's response to Batebi's letter is even better, and by better I mean worse. Since his statement on the matter was made in the comments section of his blog and I can't link to it directly, I am copying and pasting the entire comment further below. You can always go to the comments section and find it for yourself.

In the case of Batebi, Fakhravar does not blame jealousy, at least not Batebi's jealousy. He accuses Batebi's wife of fabricating the statement and attempting to cause a rift between Batebi and himself!

Here is the accusation, in Fakhravar's own words:

آقای بهزاد مهرانی
نامه ای که با نام احمد باطبی نوشته شده، در واقع توسط سمیه بینات نوشته شده است. قبل از دستگیری احمد، خیلی مفصل با هم صحبت کرده بودیم و قبول کرده بود که این یک اشتباه و سوÂ’ تفاهم بزرگ بوده است. در این مورد آقای ایرج جمشیدی و خانم غزل امید که شرح مکالمهÂ’ من و دوست قدیمی ام احمد باطبی را شنیده اند، میتوانند بهترین شهود باشند (خانم غزل امید از کانادا چند روز قبل از دستگیری احمد، conference call تلفنی بین من از واشنگتن و احمد از تهران را ترتیب داده بود و خودشون به مدت پنج ساعت شاهد گفتگوی من و احمد دربارهء این نامه بودند.)
اگر دوستانی و خود سمیه بینات صلاح میدانند من در مورد علت رفتار زشت سمیه خانم و دلیلی که ایشان تلاش کرد بین من و احمد فاصله بیاندازد و اسراری که سعی دارد به این شکل پنهان کند، در یک نامهء سرگشاده صحبت کنم. منتظر جواب شخص سمیه بینات خواهم بود

So while Batebi, who Fakhravar claims is a close friend, is in dire condition in jail and his poor wife Somaye Bayanat is knocking on every door to secure justice for her husband, Mr. Fakhravar decides to attack Somaye and accuse her of deceptive behavior.

what a prince!

Mr. Fakhravar, we are watching you. And we wont let you or your sponsors manipulate the struggles of Iranians working for social justice to further your own ends.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Until I read it on Haji Washington's blog, I had forgotten that today marks the anniversary of Saddam's attack on Iran.

Mr. Rumsfeld and his clan, who have the blood of over a million Iranians and Iraqis on their hands for the brutal eight year war that they supported, can now add another 3500 Iraqis per month to the lives that have been lost on account of their lies.

Iran does not occupy any sovereign countries, and will not allow occupation. One day soon, Iraq will also be free from occupation, and the two nations and peoples can begin to rebuild the ties that foreign interests have long attempted to sever.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

1. Chavez calling Bush the devil is not so remarkable, since he is prone to loony tirades against bush, what surprised me is the clapping and cheers that came from the floor of the general assembly in response to Chavez's comments.

2. To the person with the IP from York University in Toronto who has been leaving comments for me: thank you so much. I love to see these reactions from you; they cool my heart, as we say in persian, and remind me why I should make sure to blog as much as I can.

3. This boy likes to talk tough on behalf of an international community (which is neither international nor a community), but a recent poll of 25 nations found that the majority favor only a diplomatic route in response to the manufactured iran nuclear "crisis". I think this survey and the article that covers it are flawed in many ways, it is noteworthy that even when pollsters try their best to frame things in a way to get a certain
result, there is no world mandate for aggression against Iran.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

1. Quote of the day comes from a U.S. Republican Senator: "Ahmadinejad -- I call him Ahmad-in-a-head -- I think he's a Hitler type of person". Ahmad-in-a-head? What does that mean? Are we supposed to find the senator clever for making school-yard jabs making fun of someone's name? You would think that a guy with a name like Voinovich would be a bit more sensitive about the issue.

2. In other unseemly public behavior from a senator, Rick Santorum of "spreading santorum" fame, threw a mini-fit because he is not pleased with the press-coverage he is getting in his bid for re-election. In addition to the regressive domestic policies he supports, Santorum is one of the key figures in U.S congress who consistently favors radical and unrepresentative voices in the Iranian diaspora and throws obstacles in the path of those with a sincere desire to bring about solutions to conflicts concerning Iran and the rest of West Asia. It is very satisfying to see him have to sweat it out and face a tough fight.

3. The war profiteers Halliburton KBR want to be granted immunity like that which is granted to the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq. This audacious demand comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the families of civilian contractors alleging that "Halliburton Co. sent civilian drivers into combat zones to protect its military supply contract". Imagine that, Cheney's Halliburton KBR showing blatant disregard for human lives in order to turn over a profit. I doubt the suing families will have much success against Halliburton, but let's hope it draws some attention to their despicable practices.

Monday, September 18, 2006

1. Read this sentence in the voice of stan from south park: I learned something today!

I learned that the Council on Foreign Relations is an "American Leftist Group".

Who knew?

Well these damn lefties have raised the ire of the lunatic fringe of the right wing because they are hosting a meeting with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejhad, and really, they've got a point this time. I mean why initiate dialogue with an elected current head of state when you could take the word of the unemployed son of an unelected head of state who has not even visited Iran in the last three decades?

2. The headlines in a bunch of U.S. papers claim "pope apologizes to Muslims" when in fact he said he was sorry for the reaction his speech caused. There is a huge difference between apologizing for his incendiary words and feeling sorry that Muslims reacted with anger, and I wish the U.S. press would be honest enough to reflect that distinction instead of deceiving us with cheap tricks.

3. So the first woman tourist in space is an Iranian and a Muslim. Like oh my gawd i didnt know them mooslims let their women out of the house, much less out of the atmosphere!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Entry Suspended

It seems that Iranians with valid visas and legitimate immigration paperwork are having increasing trouble either gaining entry on those visas and/or having their applications processed.

Following the denial of entry and deportation en masse of a number of Iranian professionals who had been granted a visa to attend a reunion, and after learning of the ordeal of a friend whose re-entry into the U.S. has been denied despite the fact of her holding a multiple-entry visa, Sima and I, along with Safoura, the friend in question, have decided to begin collecting information about similar cases.

The aim is to document and to begin addressing the ordeal of many whose lives stand in suspension as a result of discriminatory immigration practices. If you or someone you know has faced similar problems, please contact me or sima or send an email to

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Remember Afghanistan

1. Today, Afghans celebrated the 87th anniversary of their independence from Britain. I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but what does it mean to celebrate independence from Britain when 5,000 British troops are still occupying Afghanistan?

2. In 2005, four years after the Taliban were overthrown, foreign troops in Afghanistan suffered the highest number of dead since the war: 129 soldiers died that year. We are now in the 8th month of 2006, and 117 soldiers have already been killed. Today alone, 4 U.S. GIs were killed and another 3 were injured.

3. Earlier this week, a U.S. warplane dropped a bomb that killed 12 Afghan soldiers. As usual, the explanation was that those killed were insurgents. A top Afghan official has rejected the explanation, and has reasserted that the 12 were indeed members of the police force.

4. Lastly, and this isn't about Afghanistan, but I think the U.S. press need to reminded to take a break from poor little Jonbenet and the looney-tune who claims to have killed her. Can somebody please tell them that Israel has violated the terms of the ceasefire?

Friday, August 18, 2006

This little 8 year old boy, who is Botswana but was adopted by Iranian parents who live there, speaks better Persian than most of the Iranian kids in the U.S., including those who even spent some portion of their lives in Iran.

Kudos to his parents, they seem nice.

But what is the deal with so many Bahai Iranians in Botswana? Does anyone know the social history behind the movement of Iranians of the Bahai faith to Botswana?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Killing an Arab

President Bush is reportedly reading(!) Camus' The Stranger.

How appropriate. I am sure Mr. Bush can relate: The book is about a man who murders an Arab for no apparent reason.

I think Mr. Bush should pick this song as background music as he goes about making daily decisions that come at the cost of the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent Arab civilians.

I Blame Kant

At one key moment during Ganji's talk last night, when he was introducing some philosophical components into the 20 page paper he was reading, I had an epipheny about all that is wrong with the world. I turned to my friends and said "I blame Kant!".

I then told them that I wanted to make a shirt that had this statement as its logo.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I've designed official "I Blame Kant" t-shirts, which you can find here.

if you too:

1. Have ever taken a philosophy class at an American or British university, or

2. have ever been frustrated with the phoney internationalism of the UN, or

3. were ever forced to read the work of John Rawls, or

4. have ever gotten in a discussion with the classic Kantian "reasonable man", the one who is self-righteous and moralizing, yet hides behind a cool curtain of "rationality", or

5. have ever been disgusted at the slaughter and genocide that continues to be carried out in the name of "enlightened" thinking

then I am sure that you would at least partially agree with me in blaming Kant.

Has anything good come out of Kant? yes. Hegel.

Anyway, if blaming Kant doesn't float your boat, stay tuned for the "Kant is Creepy" series.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Airport Humiliations

1. One of the women who was among the hundred or so Iranians whose visas were revoked upon entrance to the U.S. has written a detailed piece outlining the miserable 24 hours she spent in custody. Mehdi has already posted the letter , and it can also be found here and here, so I wont reproduce the text again in my blog. But I do recommend that you read it on one of these sites, and I hope that other members of the group also write of their experience.

2. As for the following letter by Bishop Riah H. Abu El-Assal, I have only seen it here, so I think it is worth it to re-post the text of his letter since i don't think there are too many of this blog's readers who visit the website of the The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem on a regular basis.

The Bishop is a Palestinian-Israeli, or "Arab-Israeli" as they are called in the official discourse of the State of Israel. This means that he is a citizen, which theoretically should grant him equal rights in the democratic State of Israel. Hear from him, in his own words, about how he was treated in the Tel Aviv airport. I have put in bold some portions which I found to be of particular note:

"I was scheduled to leave Tel Aviv on Swiss Air flight number 255D at 15:55 this afternoon. I proceeded as usual to the baggage and security clearance area. After asking me both relevant and non-relevant security questions, the young woman security officer concluded by questioning why I did not have an Israeli visa even though I was carrying an Israeli passport!!

Then she let me put my bags on the conveyor belt so that they could be screened, after decorating both bags and my passport with blue and green stickers. Then I saw her rushing to a supervisor who ordered the belt stopped. Approaching me he asked, “English or Hebrew?” I responded, “Please, Arabic”. Arabic is one of two official languages of the State of Israel and I knew that it was my right in this “oasis of democracy” to make that official request.

Because I refused to speak other than Arabic, because I informed them that I am an Arab-Palestinian-Christian, and because down deep I knew that their behavior was designed to humiliate me, I insisted in conversing with them in the language I master which is Arabic, my mother tongue. At that point, Tal Vardi, the Security Duty Manager also showed up and insisted on speaking in any language other than Arabic. I refused. An Arab from Nazareth who happened to be present offered to translate when Mr. Vardi turned his back and turned toward me only to say, “You will not fly today!”

I called Mr. Caesar Marjieh, Director of the Department for Christian Communities who tried his best to assist me, but he did not succeed. I waited two hours thinking that someone with enough courtesy and good judgment would come, but to no avail. I had no alternative but to return to Jerusalem and inform my friends who were expecting me in Geneva today and London tomorrow of the situation. Later in the week I will file a suit in the High Court against the Security Duty Manager and his staff for violating my civil rights without cause.

My indignation is not for me, but it is for all people in occupied territories who face this kind of oppression and humiliation every day of their lives. This happened to an Anglican Bishop with special identification given him by the Department of the Interior and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. What do you imagine happens to others?

In, with, and through Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Riah H. Abu El-Assal
The Diocese of Jerusalem
Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Flights of Fantasy: The Orientalist Imagination Gone Wild

Pat Robertson, who agreed publicly and wholeheartedly with fellow evangelical leader Jerry Falwell that the blame for the 9/11 attacks was on the shoulders of "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians", was in Jerusalem today, where he and Olmert joined hands in prayer for "victory".

Robertson, who represents right-wing christians who support the state of Israel based on Biblical end-times scenarios, must be in seventh heaven just about now.

But instead of commenting on the real and avowed connections between believers in such messianic visions and the U.S.'s self-destructive support for Israel, U.S. commentators would rather spend their time employing a kind of numerology in an attempt to figure out those rascally "muuuslims" (also known sometimes as the "suuuni" and the "shee-eyets").

Take for example, this jaw-dropping analysis by orientalist dinosaur Bernard Lewis, who claims that Iran's promise to respond to the nuclear issue by August 22nd is due to this "fact":

"This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world."

As former Persian Chronicles blogger Alireza pointed out in an email discussion of this ridiculous claim, anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of the Persian calendar system would not have made such a silly calculation: Ahmadinejad did not say that he would respond by August 22nd or by the 27th of Rajab; He said the response would be given by the end of the month of Mordad. The last day of Mordad is the 31st, which happens to correspond with August 22nd and the 27th of Rajab. You see how that works?

And in any case, Alireza went on to point out, the 27th of Rajab is the day that Mohammad was designated as the prophet. So even if Ahmadinejhad had honed in on the specific date of 27 Rajab, which he did not, Lewis is wrong in identifying that date as the night of the prophet Mohammad's flight to Jerusalem, and there goes his reading of a symbolic connection between the date, israel, and the end of the world.

I still haven't fully recovered from my fury to write a letter to mr. Lewis C/O the Wall Street Journal, but if you are more cool-headed than I am, please take a moment to draft a quick response.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Students and Young Women

"Right now, unfortunately for the Iranian nation, with the exception of Reza Pahlavi, who has been a figure head for the Monarchist(sic), Mr. Fakhravar, a political activist and secretary general of the in dependent (sic) student movement, who has the support of students and young women both inside and outside Iran and the US government, there has been very little positive movement toward the prosperity of Iran from any other so-called opposition"

"Students and young women"?

First, the construction of the paragraph is unclear. Who has the support, Fakhravar or Pahlavi? I mean it doesn't make much difference since either way the statement is false.

But what i am more interested in is the phrase itself. Students and young women? Why does the author treat these two categories as though they are somehow mutually exclusive? She should be made aware that the majority of students both in Iranian high schools and college campuses are women

Anyway, the author--whose proclivity for pathological lying seems to match that of fakhravar--is calling in her article for an end to in-fighting among the Iranian opposition. I take it that she may be responding to the latest well-known political prisoner to release a statement condemning Fakhravar and exposing him as a liar.

Ever notice that the calls of unity in opposition only seem to come from those whose past and whose claims cannot stand up to any degree of scrutiny?

Positive change in Iran will not come about as a result of foreign intervention. Like their Iraqi counterparts, the Iranian "leaders" who march in and out of U.S. congressional halls to deliver false testimonies do not bode well either for Iran or for the U.S. Therefore, far from refraining from exposing the liars, we have a duty to do so. I think the only responsible position to take is to support on-the-ground activists in Iran while keeping a check on the manipulations of diasporic actors who are constantly trying to exploit them.

Anyway, when Mr. Fakhravar reared his head in Washington DC, he was telling reporters that he intended to return to Iran to continue his activism. (he repeated his claims here)

Unless he wants to disappoint the "Students and young women", perhaps mr. Fakhravar should consider making good on his promise.

Friday, August 04, 2006

1. A handful (ok, more like 2) Iranian Zionist bloggers are at spreading two theories on the Israeli massacre of Qana II: First they are repeating the official Israeli propaganda that Hezbollah was using those women and children as human shields, hence causing their massacre; and two, there was no massacre and the whole thing was a hoax!

So which is it? Did

A) the massacre happen and it was hezbollah's fault


B) did the massacre get staged and it was hezbollah's fault?

Usually, propagandists are smart enough to focus on one of these ready-made responses to Israeli massacres, but I guess this time the crimes were so big that they've gotten all mixed up.

2. U.S. Sponsored Radio Farda has prepared a special audio report to address the latest war. The focus is on the impact of the war on Lebanese singers. I wish I was kidding.

3. Sharif University is one of Iran's best universities, and their graduates practically dominate the engineering and physics departments of top 10 U.S. univeristies. In order to attend an upcoming international reunion scheduled to take place in the Bay Area, Sharif graduates from around the world obtained U.S. visas but were unceremoniously detained in U.S. airports and sent along their not-so-merry way (thanks mehdi for the news link).

Yet another great signal from the current adminstration that they are with the Iranian people.

4. With "80 per cent of all Christians and Druze, 89 per cent of all Sunnis and 96 per cent of all Shias declaring their support" for Hezbollah's resistance to Israeli aggression, we've all seen the tragic fate of the "Cedar Revolution". And today came the end of the "Orange Revolution" with an annoucement that Viktor Yanukovych is now back in the realm of power.

I guess Gil Scott-Heron was wrong when he claimed that "The Revolution Will not be Televised", what he should have said is that "The televised Revolution Will not Last".

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"An Honest Broker and Two Ayatollahs"

Today's gem from News Hour with Jim Lehrer comes from Senator John Warner, who must have said the words "honest broker" in relation to the U.S. role in the Middle East about two dozen times.

But his misunderstanding of the term "honest broker" is not the gem, since there are many factually challeneged individuals who harbour this same delusion about the U.S.

No, the best part is that when he wanted to refer to Ayatollah Sistani's recent anti-Israel and anti-US remarks, he called him Ayatollah Khomeini (or, "homeini" as he pronounced it)!

I mean you can't blame John Warner, even the "best" of them are bound to make such mistakes.

Iran/Iraq, Sistani/Khomeini, deceased/alive, what's the difference to these people anyway? (But Condi Rice, to her credit, does seem to have that Iran/Iraq distinction down pretty well)

Prisoner Update

1. There is a report from a source I do not know very well that Batebi is in the Evin Prison Infirmary. The only good news in all of this is that at least he seems to have been located. The bad news is obvious.

2. There has been a round up of a number of other activists, including several Melli Mazhabi members. Expect not to hear about them from the same people who today are pointing fingers at others for supporting Ganji but not Mohammadi.

3. The exploiters of other peoples misery are also using the occasion of Mohammadi's death to malign Iranians who stand in solidarity with the victims of Israel in Palestine and Lebanon. I suppose their claims make sense for those who have a limited supply of compassion and/or whose empathy is only aroused along national and political lines.

"My Lebenanis Friend, We Protect You"

I'm running out of words. So until I re-fuel, here is picture of children in Iran vowing solidarity with their "lebenanis" friends.

I couldn't resist posting this photo, even though I am well aware of some of the reasons why it may be problematic to do so. But they are just so sweet it kills me, and well, insofar as they are expressing their solidarity with Lebanon, i cant help but support the little cutie-pies.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How to Know When A Ceasfire has Been Violated

This afternoon on The News Hour With Jim Lehrer, Condoleeza Rice gave the following rational for why the U.S. is against a ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon:

"If you have an unconditional ceasefire, how do you know if someone has violated it"


Can someone please unpack this for me? I'm asking this question in all seriousness. What does this sentence mean?


PS- How peeved do you think Rice was that one day after the Lebanese government told her that she is not welcome in Lebanon, they received the Iranian foreign minister? How emabarassing for her that Mottaki seems to be getting quite a warm reception. Look at this picture of Lebanese President Lahud with Motakki:

This photo was taken from here,
more chummy pictures of Motakki and Lebanese dignitaries can be found here, and here.

One Akbar is Not Worth More Than the Other

Twenty four hours had not yet passed since the death of Akbar Mohammadi when the embarassing and shameful exploiters of others' suffering thrust themselves into the limelight.

Our self-appointed "leaders" have dusted off their fit-for-every occassion form letters and the variety of groups and sub-groups have begun the blame games. A whole lot of people keep saying: if this was Akbar Ganji and not Akbar Mohammadi, people would have supported him, spread the news, and prevented his death. If you read these discussions, you get the sense that people are more upset over the fact that Ganji didn't die than they are over the death of Mohammadi.

Ganji went to the edge of death and back, and it is true that his case drew worldwide attention. But the man was on hunger strike for a near 70 days! During the first ten days of his hunger strike, Ganji did not receive a whole lot more attention than Mohammadi, who had just barely passed the firt week of his hunger strike before he unexpectedly and suspiciously passed away.

Besides, the same people who are busy pointing fingers at Akbar Ganji and his supporters for not embracing the case of Akbar Mohammadi earlier seem to forget that there are many other political prisoners in Iran whose names are never mentioned or even known because their ideological stances do not match those of the vultures that run the so-called Iranian opposition media abroad.

What exactly were Mohammadi's ideological leanings? I don't know. If the statements of those who are killing themselves in the last of couple of days to claim him as one of their own are true, then Mohammadi's political vision was quite far from mine. But the fact is that I don't know what Mohammadi's ideas were, and it is all quite beside the point. The only relevant matter here should be that this man and his brother spent over seven years in jail without evidence of having carried out any crimes other than holding a political ideology that did not please certain authorities, and now one of these young men has paid for his views with his life.

One Akbar is not worth more than the other. But harping on the fact that Akbar Ganji survived his hunger strike and Akbar Mohammadi did not shows that the writers of these complaints think that somehow the one who died is worth more than the one still among us.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Batebi is still unaccounted for, presumed to be on hunger strike as well. I hope that the Iranian Human Rights Industry--to borrow a phrase coined by a fellow activist--can put aside their interrivalries for long enough to publicize this disappearance without trying to gain something for themselves in the process.

One More Step Towards War

Thankfully, the incident earlier today in the Golan Heights did not lead to yet another disaster, indeed it seems not to have led to anything at all.

Unfortunately, what happened at the UN today does set the stage for the expansion of war in the region.

The security council passed a chapter 7 resolution against Iran. Javad Zarif, Iran's Ambassador to the UN, immediately issued this response.

For those who may not be familiar with the history of the difficulties that Iran has faced at the UN, the following portions of Zarif's letter provide an accurate and concise review:

The Iranian people's struggle to nationalize their oil industry was touted, in a draft resolution submitted on 12 October 1951 by the United Kingdom and supported by the United States and France, as a threat to international peace and security. That draft resolution preceded a coup d'etat, organized by the US and the UK -- in a less veiled attempt to restore their short-sighted interests. The coup, which was obviously no longer disguisable in the language of the Charter or diplomatic subterfuge, restored the brutal dictatorship. The people of Iran did, nevertheless, succeed in nationalizing the oil industry, thus pioneering a courageous movement in the developing world to demand their inalienable right to exercise sovereignty over their natural resources.

More recently, Saddam Hussein's aggression against the Islamic Republic of Iran on 22 September 1980, and his swift advancement to occupy 30000 sq. kilometers of Iranian territory, did not trouble the same permanent members of the Security Council enough to consider it a threat against international peace and security, or even to make the routine call for a cease-fire and withdrawal.

I wonder whether I can say routine these days!

Nor did they find it necessary to even adopt a resolution for seven long days after the aggression , hoping that their generally-held utter miscalculation that Saddam could put an end to the Islamic Republic within a week would be realized.

Sounds familiar these days, doesn't it?

Even then and for the following two long years, they did not deem fit to call for a withdrawal of the invading forces. The first Security Council resolution calling for withdrawal came in July 1982, only after the Iranian people had already single-handedly liberated their territory against all odds. Nor was this Council allowed for several long years and in spite of mounting evidence and UN reports , to deal with the use of chemical weapons by the former Iraqi dictator against Iranian civilians and military personnel, because as a former DIA official told the New York Times, "The Pentagon was not so horrified by Iraq's use of gas?It was just another way of killing people."

Just another way!

Some twenty years later, tens of thousands of Iranians continue to suffer and die from that "just another way."

And over the past several weeks, this august body has been prevented from moving to stop the massive aggression against the Palestinian and Lebanese people and the resulting terrible humanitarian crisis. Diplomatic words fail to describe the way that the massacre in Qana was addressed yesterday. Nor is the Council given the slightest chance of addressing the aggressor's nuclear arsenal despite its compulsive propensity to engage in aggressions and carnage.

Likewise, the Security Council has been prevented from reacting to the daily threats of resort to force against Iran, even the threat of using nuclear weapons, uttered at the highest levels by the US, UK and the lawless Israeli regime in violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter....

Monday, July 31, 2006

Explosion in Occupied Golan Heights?

I just heard about breaking news on Israeli t.v. that there has been an explosion in the Golan Heights. If Israeli occupation troops were injured or killed in these attacks, the ramifications for this conflict are huge. In fact, it's a huge deal anyway.

I'll go check for updates now.

1. Israel calls a 48 hour ceasfire, and then, merely hours later, they attack eastern lebanon.

Did anyone expect otherwise? I didn't. I wish I had bet on it publicly, my guess was that they would break the ceasefire in less than 12 hours, but it doesn't look like they could restrain themselves for even that long.

2. I just read the very sad report that political prisoner Akbar Mohammadi passed away today. The young man's heart gave out; He was day nine of a dry hunger strike which was being carried out in protest of his detention.

When I first heard this news a couple of hours ago, it was as yet unconfirmed, and I was hoping that it was a false rumour. But the horrible news seems to be true, and I am shocked not only at his death but also at not having known earlier that he had been re-detained and was carrying out a hunger strike.

3. This morning, the family of Ahmad Batebi will begin a hunger strike in front of the UN building in Iran. Prior to his latest arrest, Batebi had indicated that he would begin an immediate hunger strike if he were re-detained. His family's gathering in front of the UN building is aimed to show solidarity with him and to bring attention to his plight.

In light of the saddening news of Mohammadi's death, Batebi's siutation has taken on more urgency than it did yesterday when I first wrote about his disappearance. But like the last time I wrote about it, I still don't know what can be done, especially given all assholes who will set out to exploit the suffering and struggles of Iranian political activists.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Gifts from Condi and Company

Original photo from here, the sign on the poster says: "The massacre of children in Qana 2, is the gift of Rice. Smart Bombs..Stupid"

While Rice claims to have decided to postpone her trip to Beirut, the fact of the matter is that the Lebanese government made it clear that Rice is not welcome in Lebanon.

Anyone remember the first Qana massacre? It was in 1996, that time the Israelis bombed a UN shelter in Qana.

In any case, neither rice nor the U.S. made bombs that have rained down on the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, and now lebanon are not welcome in the "new" bloody Middle East that she and her bosses have created.

Batebi Disappeared Again

In the wake of Israel's massacre of dozens more Lebanese children, this time as they lay sleeping in shelters, it may seem trivial to focus on the plight of one person, but
I hope you will agree that this news deserves to be publicized.

Activist Ahmad Batebi has once again been detained and taken to an undisclosed locations. You can find his wife's open letter to the Iranian judiciary here and read the transcripts of an interview with his father here. Both links are in Persian, but I'll see if I can find translated versions.

Batebi has been on conditional release for the past year, and while he could have taken the chance to go into hiding and/or come abroad like so many have before him, he chose to stay in Iran and to continue his activities for social justice.

I don't know what to do at this point except to spread the news.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

That Would Have Been My Face Exactly...

I've been getting a much needed laugh by watching this video of Bush groping Merkel. I've replayed it about 20 times now.

Do you think Bush graces other world leaders with such favor? I mean other than petting Blair.

But They Look Like "Us"

From Robert Fisk, this morning on Democracy Now:

"Here are the Lebanese people, sophisticated, educated, cosmopolitan, people who don't look like the Arab world, they look like us...and who, when they die in such large numbers, the best we can produce is a call for restraint by the State Department and a claim by the British, our own dear Tony Blair, that the Israelis are using disproportionate force"

Robert Fisk is one of the "good" reporters, one of those who has actually lived in the region for a substantial amount of time and who has dared to repeatedly venture into dangerous zones (both literal and metaphoric) in order to get to the bottom of a story.

But if the best Robert Fisk can do in decrying the Western media's refusal to acknowledge the plight of the Lebanese is to appeal twice in one interview to the fact that the " Lebanese look like us", then the racism that underlies the reporting on the situation is way more deep-seated than I imagined.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Are You Sick of Reading My Letters?

Well, frankly, so am I.

And I am sick of writing them too.

But I feel compelled to follow and respond to the garbage that passes for journalism in this part of the world.

So here is my second letter of the day. It makes me feel better to post it here where at least some people may read it, because I'm pretty sure the people at NBC news will just ignore it.

Dear NBC Nightly News-

During your broadcast this evening, your reporter provided a precise count of the number of rockets fired into Israel. You also followed the anguish of several Israelis, include the harrowing scene of an Israeli woman desperately calling for her husband, who lay dead nearby. It was a very sad and horrible scene.

But what about the Lebanese victims? What about the wives, mothers, brothers, fathers who cry for their dead loved ones? What about the number of missiles fired onto Lebanese civilians? Contrary to your report, Israel has not simply been hitting "guerrilla targets". There have been scores of civilian victims of Israeli bombings, many of them children. I wish your journalists were brave and honest enough to interview grieving Lebanese families. Speaking to a Lebanese business man with a damaged shop and a handful of American-Lebanese with family members stranded in Lebanon does not constitute a fair or balanced report of the "other side".

The fact that you prepare your reports from a seat in an American helicopter alongside the Israeli military shows not only your literal vantage point, but your political and ideological one as well.

Soldiers with Hobbies and Children Without Names

As many of you know, As'ad Abu-Khalil has been posting photos of the civilian victims of Israel's bombs, the newest of which can be seen here and here. I have asked for and obtained his permission for copying and dissemenating these photographs. It is the responsibility of the "free" press to show us the victims on both sides, but since the lives of only some people are important for the U.S. press, I guess we should be showing them what they should be showing us.

Radio news has been no better, and I was so infuriated at what I just heard on the American broadcast of BBC world
, that I wrote them a note. If you happened to catch their show today and want to hold them accountable for their one-sided reports, I hope you will write them as well.

And here is my letter, in case you are interested:

I am listening with interest to your coverage of Israel's attacks on Lebanon, which so far has included a piece on Iranian hardliners' demonstrations in support of Hizbollah and a rather extensive interview with a brother (an ex-soldier himself) of one the captured Israeli soldiers. We hear that this soldier, whom your interviewer endearingly calls by his nickname, is a newly-wed who likes bikes and the ocean, and is overall a stand-up guy.

Yet as dozens of innocent Lebanese are being killed on daily basis by Israel, your program has given them but a passing thought. They remain nameless, voiceless. The only time your interviewer notes Lebanese victims is as an aside, using the occasion to get her Israeli interlocuter to display his humanity. She asks him what he thinks about what the Lebanese are enduring, thus giving him a platform for repeating empty claims about Israel's quest for peace.

This may be an alien concept for your journalists, but if they want to assess the situation for Lebanese civilians under attack, it is a good idea to speak to the civilians themselves rather than to the ex-soldiers of an army that has been relentlessly attacking them for the last several days.