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.