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....