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.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Message on Missiles

Heartwarming isn't it? Israeli girls writing messages on missiles soon to be launched at across the border, where Lebanese kids will likely be killed. The original AP photo is from here, where you can read the details of where this picture was taken.

Anyone want to take a gander at the contents of the messages? I guess if you can read Hebrew, you don't have to guess, just take a look at this close-up photo of the missile originally posted here.

I feel sad and ashamed for these little girls, but of course it is not them who ultimately are to blame for the ugliness that these photos capture.

Report Back From Hunger Strike In NY

With his permission, I've reproduced an email my friend Siavash sent me containing his thoughts about the New York gathering in front of the UN which was part of a worldwide solidarity strike asking for the release of political prisoners in Iran.

The following is the text of his email. There are some portions that Siavash asked me to take out, and I have noted that in the body of the text. I've also italicized the persian words that siavash uses and put a link to a blogger he met, but other than these changes, the text is the same as i received it.

hi niki jan,

the 3 day action ended yesterday and despite the underwhelming turn-out, i think for me it was a positive event; i talked to some very cool and devoted people and got a better sense of the debates and questions surrounding ganji and what he represents. a few quick points, in addition to the conversation we had yesterday:

-ganji talked about the fact that this was the 1st time that people from different groups (minus saltanat talabs) had gotten together for a common cause which everyone could agree upon. i don't know how well every group was represented, i don't even know if there are very many well-defined groups asides from MEK or S.T's, but my sense of the crowd was that it was diverse: the old "konfederasion" and marxist guys, new iranian arrivals/student fob's/ belogger types, some iranian-americans like me, a few soosools. the people that stayed away were the average iranians, people like my parents. to be honest i can't assign significance to
this kind of demographics, i don't know what it means; but clearly there is a common cause, and for the first time someone credible to rally around, and in that sense i'm glad i did it. i think there really haven't been any opportunity for activism in the past years because there has been no clear, legitimate organizing group/person.

-second, from all credible sources, including ganji himself, acts of solidarity really matter to political prisoners. these people will not see the pictures on iranian dot com or whatever, they'll just hear that people went on hunger strikes in 18 cities, and i'm sure, that will matter. in that sense, im glad i did it, too.

-we didnt get into it with nazlee, but from our conversation, i sensed that it is ganji's talk about economic development and globalization that you think is naive. i agree with that one hundred percent; in iran, everybody from the leader to hashemi to
khatami to ganji fetishizes tose-e, sazandegi, global is where iran's isolation from the world is really obvious, that there is no intellectual discourse about globalization, just shallow talk about development etc. but clearly its not just ganji, its universal, and i think it is something that if iran is ever free, it will pay a huge price for. it is paying a huge price for it right now, as china is dumping manufactured goods in the iranian market already, and decimating many industries. just go to the bazaar and talk to shoe makers and weavers and others...anyway, i forgot what i was going to say... oh yeh, this critique
should be articulated to ganji (i was surprised that the old marxist guys didnt pounce on him, although to be fair, he was talking about econ development in the social democracy style of european countries, but any way, this wasn't a central theme of his talk, and the marxists have grown soft...)but it is not a reason for
me to not support his human rights advocacy.

-[here, siavash noted some very astute and hilarious observations about Amir Abbas Fakhravar, who had showed up at the end of one of the days. But because Siavash is a nice person who doesnt want to publicly trash fakhravar (he thinks fakhravar does a good job of showing his true colors on his own), he asked me to edit out that portion of his email. Darn!]

anyway, hope all is well. i met sibil tala. she is really funny. we had a beer together with some other people afterwards. she's living here for the summer.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

More horrifying pictures of Lebanese victims of Israel that you wont see on World News Tonight.

yesterday, NBC news stated, in passing, the number of Lebanese killed by Israeli bombs, but didn't show a single victim, didn't speak to any family members of dead children, didn't reflect the frightened faces of a nation under siege.

Whose faces did they show in Lebanon? American students who were in Beirut to study at the AUB for the summer. One of them wondered out loud why she hadn't been whisked out of the danger zone yet: "I was like, where are the marines?"

And then the "balanced" report went to Israel, where we did see the faces of Israeli citizens and victims. They had their chance to speak. And they interviewed Palestinian citizens of Israel as well, one dude was walking in the street saying something about missiles not distinguishing between ethnicities and the others were having a wedding.

So the only actual Arabs NBC bothers to interview are the ones living in Israel but not the ones being bombed by Israel, and they are used to make the following points:

1) Israel doesn't target Palestinians, but Hezbollah's missiles do, and

2) Palestinians in Israel don't give a damn about the bombings in Lebanon because look, they are having a wedding party, and

3) Do you see how good life is for Palestinian citizens of Israel, they have a better life here than they do in lands where their brothers rule. If it weren't for that pesky Hezbollah trying to kill them, life would just be peaches and cream!

Naturally, I wanted to send a letter to NBC news, but try as I did, I couldn't find the "contact us" information for them. If anyone knows what it is, please pass it along.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Yesterday, two Iran-based bloggers who write in Persian, Amin and Bahman raised questions regarding the lack of commentary in the Iranian blogosphere on the situation in Lebanon. Amin pointed out that this seemed to be as much true for the handful of Iranian Zionist bloggers as it is for the self-proclaimed martyr-seeking ones. In other words, extremists on both sides have been just as quiet as the rest of us.

I know for my part the silence has been due to shock and dismay.

And what can one say anyway?

I can't figure out why Hezbollah threw themselves into the fight, most of the explanations being bandied about make no sense. Here are two examples of what I have heard:

1)Iran told them to do it because they want attention deflected away from themselves in UN security council

Now this is just another absurd attempt to carve excuses for attacking Iran. The western press was gearing up to sell us stories about how the two kidnapped soldiers were being taken to Iran, and then Israel went and bombed the Lebanese airport and the major roads leading out of the country. So unless the Iranians have some kind of Star Trek transport technology, the two kidnapped soldiers are no where near Iran.

2)Syria-based Hamas told them to do it because Palestine-based Hamas was close to cutting a deal with Israel

I heard this idea from two Israelis on the first day of the attacks, and well, I find it extremely dubious. If Israel itself was interested in a deal, it would have made one when the Hamas leadership in Palestine was making historic statements that implicitly recognized the state of Israel. Instead it pushed and pushed into Gaza as the world watched, using every excuse it could to further undermine the democratically elected Hamas.

Whatever motivated Hezbollah to make a move (the most generous explanation is that they were trying to take some pressure off of a besieged and bleeding Gaza), Israel is happy to grab the chance to destroy the only force in the Middle East that has ever succeeded in forcing them to retreat from territory they illegally occupied.

Why is Israel, in the name of eradicating Hezbollah, indiscriminately killing Lebanese civilians and destroying the Lebanese infrastructure? Because they can.

Will the U.N speak out? They may make futile attempts, but the U.S. will veto them, like they did the resolution last week that condemned the "disproportionate" use of force by the Israelis. Out of the last 9 vetos in the UN, 8 were cast by the U.S., and 7 of those pertained to the state of Israel.

Will the U.S. press speak out? Sure, they'll tell you all about the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and the burning Israeli warship, but will they show you these pictures, will they interview the family of these dead children? Will they tell you how the Lebanon that still bore the physical and emotional scars of a civil war has been blasted back to the devastation of those horrible years?

The "free press" and the "free world" will not intervene, even if they are the only ones who have the resources to do so. Who does that leave? Well, us lowly bloggers, for one. I just hope we can do our very small part in trying to give attention to all that is being ignored in Israel's latest assault on yet another of its neighbors.

Friday, July 14, 2006

1. I know the fuss has more or less died down now that Zidane apologized publicly about the headbutt incident and identified Materazzi's taunts in vague terms of insults to his mom and sister. But the following segment from an article my friend Sepideh forwarded to me contains some noteworthy information about the team Materazzi will be playing for this year (assuming, of course, that the Italian soccer leagues survive the corruption scandals that are hitting several teams)

Materazzi on the other hand, will be playing this year for the Italian team Lazio, where his father was the former coach. Lazio's fan club, The Ultras, are notorious for their Fascist-friendly politics. Lazio's hardcore Ultras, known as the "Irriducibili," have members in Italy's extra-parliamentary far right and try to use the club to recruit. The group has frequently used racist and anti-Semitic banners, one time hanging a 50-foot banner that said their opponents were a "team of niggers."

2. Meanwhile, FIFA has summoned both Materazzi and Zidane, and they've also hinted that they may strip Zidane of the Golden Ball award.

Great, first they cheat Cristiano Ronaldo out of the best young player award, and now they are threatening to take away Zidane's well-deserved designation as best player.

(Can someone explain to me how C. Ronaldo was leading in the polls as the best young player until the very end and suddenly FIFA inexplicably decides to go against the people's vote and give the award to Podolski. I mean I voted for our own lucky Number 13, Hossein Kaabi, in a moment of nationalist support for his valiant efforts, but Criastono Ronaldo was clearly the best young player, and one of the best players overall. I don't get why there is so much hostility towards the poor boy)

3. Alright, enough of that, this will be my last soccer-related post (of course i am not promising anything, but i'll make a good honest-to-god effort to stop yapping about soccer).

So, in the spirit of moving away from all things FIFA, may I interest you in watching this live performance of Jolene by the one and only Dolly Parton. Make sure you listen to the charming and self-effacing introduction she provides for her london audience.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bravo Batebi!

Ahmad Batebi, who is still in Iran fighting for the freedom of political prisoners and who has not sold himself to anyone, has written a brief response to Amir Abbas Fakhravar in which he denies association with him and rejects the various claims to leadership that Fakhravar has been making.

Batebi is at the very moment engaged in courageously pursuing the cases of numerous activists in Iran, and he is doing so at great risk to himself and his loved ones. Even though his famous image has been exploited and displayed by a range of people who wish to use him for their own political gain, Batebi has to my knowledge remained independent and has refused to become anyone's parrot.

I am in hurry now, but I will write more on this later and translate the letter if I have time. For now, I just want to remind everyone that we still have our independent activists who will pursue change in Iran with dignity and without payment from foreign powers.

1. Yesterday I caught the last 15 minutes of a documentary by film-maker Anders O˜stergaard about the magic of TinTin and his creator Herge. I was so bummed that I had missed most of the film that I couldn't pay proper attention to the parts that remained. Turns out Herge really wanted to be an abstract painter and that after he had fought his personal demons (and left his wife, as he said), he "found happiness in idleness" and didn't much feel like cartooning anymore.

2. I also recently had the chance to finally see Kiarostami's Close-up, which is a docu-fiction re-enacting the true story of a working class and poor ordinary joe (or oridinary Hossein, in this case)who passes himself off to a gullible family as the famed Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf and then ends up being taken to court when the family wisens up to him. All the people involved play themselves in the movie, and the imposter-Makhmalbaf, a guy named Hossein Sabzian, is a compelling and likeable character.

Sadly, Hossein Sabzian died six months ago at only 52 years of age, and except for two films by the opportunistic, unethical, and very bad film-maker Muslim Mansouri, Sabzian never got to live his dream of becoming an actor.

I have to also mention that my new favorite director, Werner Herzog, called Kiarostami's Close-Up "the greatest documentary on filmmaking I have ever seen".

3. Materazzi seems to have redefined what it means to be a "cultured person". In denying that he called the great Zinadene Zidane a terrorist, Materazzi said: "I did not call him a terrorist. I am not a cultured person and I don't even know what an Islamist terrorist is."

In the same article, Materazzi denies that he insulted Zidane's mother (the rumours were that he called him "a son of a terrorist whore") and insisted on the sacredness of mothers or some such thing. I think his statement on mothers is another piece of evidence in support of our friend siavash's theory that the main reason Italian players tend to only play for Italian leagues is because they are mama's boys who have to stay close to home!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Public Enemy

The self-appointed leader Fakhravar (pictured above with Richard "Prince of Darkness" Perle) is going around telling the neo-cons that "Whatever the world does against the Iranian regime, the Iranian people will be supportive."

Even the historically-challenged royalist subjects of the "crown prince" reza Pahlavi or the cultish followers of "president elect" Mariam Rajavi have lately avoided making any such stupid statements publicly.

Most of the politically active and conscientious Iranians I know have a tendency to dismiss Fakhravar since he clearly has no following in Iran and maybe suffers from some sort of personality disorder (e.g. pathological narcissism or a messianic disorder).

While I agree that Fakhravar does not represent anyone other than perhaps a few people in diaspora who dont know any better than to accept what he says, his association with Perle, Ledeen, and his rumored meeting with Cheney yesterday make him a very dangerous figure. For this reason, I think we must be vigilant in keeping track of his bogus statements and exposing him at every step of the way.

In fact, consider this blog as an ad-hoc "Fakhravar Watch", and I welcome you cooperation.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Patriot of the Day

It being Fourth of July and all, i'd like to nominate a member of the granny peace brigade, the fiery lady pictured above as the American patriot of the day. In case you are wondering, she is wearing a shirt that says "we will not remain silent" in Persian.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

1. I think my soccer fever has broken suddenly. With Brazil out, the tournamnent seem like an European Cup rather than a World Cup, and I'm not sure I can muster up much enthusiasm for any of the games.

2. A segment on ABC News was just celebrating Israeli "restraint", I kid you not. So I fired off the email below:

Dear ABC News-

I just heard a reporter on ABC Nightly News claim that "it is a measure of Israeli restraint" that only one Palestinian has been killed during Israel's most recent incursions into the Gaza strip.

Perhaps your reporter needs to consider other factors in determining the extent of this "restraint". For example, your viewers ought to have been informed that the Israelis have taken out bridges and Gaza's main power plant. At the moment, supplies of food and medicines are going bad because of lack of electricity and transport. If "only" one Palestinian has been killed so far, many more are sure to die if the present conditions continue.

Furthermore, how can you justify an all out campaign of collective punishment against Palestinians in the name of rescuing a soldier? Do you speak in the same vein when Palestinians, whose civilians are harmed physically and mentally on a daily basis due to the occupation, take action against Israel?

In any case, I look forward to the day when ABC news shows some "restraint" of its own and covers the events in Israel and Palestine with some modicum of fairness.

3. Oh shoot, i'm late gotta go meet some iranian bloggers. Yay!