Friday, December 28, 2007

For $22 K in Doha

The item below is copied and pasted from an ad in the employment section of Craig's List. I've cut out the contact info of the recruiter, and with the exception of a few spots that I have put in bold for your attention, I'm leaving it here without further input from me. I think the ad speaks volumes on its own:

Allworld Language Consultants is currently seeking a qualified Farsi, Arabic and Urdu linguists to fill a vacant position in Doha, Qatar. The linguists will provide extensive Farsi, Arabic and Urdu language support, both in translating written documents and providing oral interpretations where and when needed.
Specifications include:
· Term of employment: immediate employment opportunity for existing contract.
· Prerequisites: Must pass standardized language test. (*Very high language skill set in both Farsi and English).
· Citizenship cannot be or cannot have the following passports: Iran, Iraq, or Somali.
· Salary: $22K, plus provided housing or housing stipend, Qatari visa sponsorship, transportation to and from work site, life insurance, medical insurance, RT airfare to home of origin.
· Location: Doha, Qatar.
· Support of US Government Operations.
· Approximately 8 hours a day of work in comfortable office atmosphere, 5 days on- one day off.
· 21 days vacation annually.
· Position does require a one-year commitment with the option to renew.
Candidates will be required to pass a Farsi or Arabic or Urdu and English language test to qualify for the contract. ALC will set up the test to be administered.
The position is available immediately.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Of all of the suicide attacks we've been unfortunate enough to learn about in recent years, when was the last time the attacker sniped his victims dead-on and then proceeded to kill him or herself? Benazir Bhutto didn't die because of a suicide attack, she was sniped by two bullets, one to the neck, and the other to the chest. My guess is that the aim of the blast that followed the shots was not to maximize casualties or to make extra sure that Bhutto died but to give the distinct impression that all of the deaths, including that of Bhutto, was a result of a suicide bomber. The failure of the bomber--whether he/she was a suicide attacker or whether he/she detonated the bomb via remote--was that he/she failed to destroy the evidence that Bhutto was killed by a sniper. In other words, the bomber failed in his mission to make the whole thing appear to be a massive suicide attack.

And why would they want to make it appear to be a suicide attack? To pin it on "the Islamists" and thus far away from Musharraf, who shared with Bhutto a distaste for them and thus could not be blamed for conspiring with them against her. For Musharraf (and perhaps his US-backers as well) the situation is a win-win: Musharraf's biggest challenger in the elections is eliminated, and he gets to condemn his other enemies, "the Islamists," for her violent death and justify more crackdowns on the people of Pakistan to boot.

When Benazir first returned to Pakistan, I made up a little jingle that will make sense only to Persian and perhaps Urdu speakers: Benazir may be be-nazir, but musharraf is bi-sharaf.

I was not a fan of Benazir. I know very well that she has been accused of ordering the assassination of her own brother, and everyone knows about the charges of financial corruption, but I think it was brave of her to return to Pakistan and refuse to make a power sharing deal with Musharraf. And her murder in Rawalpindi, in the same town where her father executed nearly thirty years earlier, will make her an icon, if she wasn't one already.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

1. Holidays are nice and all, but this time of year doesn't mean much to someone like me who doesn't celebrate christmas and marks the new year with the spring equinox (nowruz). Iranians do celebrate the winter equinox (shab-e yalda), however, and it was nice to be able to have friends over for a mini-party. This was our humble Shab-e Yalda spread, complete with requisite items such as dried fruits and nuts along with fresh servings of pomegranates and watermelons, as well as a copy of Hafez's poetry, which you use to read your fortune from:

For more background information on the history and traditions of Shabe-e Yalda, you can check here and here.

2. I was sad to hear both about the christmas day mauling of visitors to the San Francisco zoo and the killing of the tiger who was responsible for the death of one person and the injury of two others. Tatiana, a Siberian tiger weighing about 300 pounds, was the same animal that ripped the flesh off a zookeeper's arm just before Christmas 2006. I guess poor Tatiana really hated christmas or something!

3. These days I'm experiencing an overwhelming amount of frustration with nearly all Iran-related discourses, whether they originate in or outside Iran. I'm going to publicly commit myself to trying to take-on and unpack some of this stuff in 2008 because I'm not happy with the relative silence I've fallen into over the last few months. I hope you'll hold me accountable!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Saddam and Sarkozy

Sarkozy's Rumsfeld moment:

And of course, this is the original rumsfeld moment:

Monday, December 10, 2007

1. The other Batebi, Maria, is a superstar athlete who has received gold, silver, and bronze medals at a number of national and international competitions. The post is in Persian, but you can scroll through to see the pictures at least. Unfortunately, Maria's accomplishments have not been celebrated as much as they should have been because of her brother's political situation, but I hope that all of that is in the past and that she receives the recognition she deserves.

2. Who is the famous person who appears in this clip? Can you guess?

3. How come the announcement that Iran will be dropping the dollar from oil deals is hardly making any noise? After all, it was Saddam's switch from dollar to Euro that really did him in, and not his non-existent WMD or his no-existent threat to his neighbors. Instead of wrangling over the hidden meanings of the NIE or declaring victories over its findings, Iran war-watchers should pay close attention to this issue of currency precisely because it is being downplayed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

1. "FBI Hoped to Follow Falafel Trail to Iranian Terrorists Here"

I'm not sure if this is the mistake of the journalist, the FBI, or both, but someone should tell the relevant folks that Falafel is not an Iranian dish.

I know a number of Iranians in the United States who buy books in cash only, afraid that some ignorant lunatic in the intelligence service is tracking them and weaving a bizarre profile out of their selection of books.

I guess they will have to start going the cash-only route with their food too. Should I be worried that last week I ate 3 times at middle eastern restaurants (two meals at an Iranian restaurant and one at an Iraqi place)?

2. Ari Fleischer, who was once the face of the Bush administration when they were selling the war on Iraq, is now in charge of running a $200 million anti-Iran PR campaign. You can now expect an increase in crude Iran-related propaganda.

3. First, the world's top paid super model, Gisele, insists that her contract be paid in almost any currency other than dollar. And now Jay-Z is flashing Euros, rather than dollars, in his videos.

The continuing fall in the value of the US dollar is really disturbing, especially now that I should start paying for all of my food in cash. I guess I need to buy a bigger wallet!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

1. Even after the on-going disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans--and I mean Americans, not just their government--can't seem to get enough of war: According to a recent Zogby poll, the majority of likely voters support a military strike on Iran.

2. "I never lost a night's sleep over it." Paul Warfield (what an appropriate middle name) Tibbets Jr, the unrepentant U.S. pilot who dropped the nuclear bomb that immediately killed at least 100,000 Japanese civilians, died last week. Tibbets may have been proud of mass murdering innocent civilians, but there is a sort of poetic justice about his case after all. Afraid that his death would give demonstrators a site to protest his disgusting legacy, Tibbets did not want a funeral or a headstone.

3. After the fallout from the story of the kidnappers from the French NGO (covered in my last post), the following caricature seems all the more appropriate. The hand that is reaching towards the continent of Africa says "Humanitarian Efforts." The original cartoon appeared here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

1. The level of arrogance of some of these "western", so-called humanitarian NGOs is really astounding.

The French charity Arche de Zoe (Zoe's Ark) and three French journalists attempted to kidnap 103 children between the ages of one and eight years old on the pretext that they were trying to "rescue" the children from the civil war in Sudan.

The problem, according to an UNICEF representative in Chad, is that the "massive majority" of the kids were from Chad, not Sudan, and there was "nothing to say" that they were orphans.

In other words, this little charity was planning to steal these children and deliver them to French couples who had paid between 4,000-8,600 dollars to the organization for the children, and all in the name of "humanitarian rescue."

Um, it's called trafficking in children, and I hope these clueless freaks get the "severe punishment" that the Chadian president Idriss Deby has called for.

2. "I only made promises to my mother, when I was a little boy" (ok, this one is a bit dated, but the quote is too good, i just had to put it in here).

3. A while ago, a photo was circulating showing what appeared to be a "man on the street" interview between a male reporter and a woman wearing hejab. Standing beside the reporter but outside of the view of the rolling camera, a third person was holding a placard with text for the woman to read.

So our dear Iranian compatriots, not knowing the first thing about the circumstances of the photo, started posting it on websites and passing it around on email, making fun of how even supposedly spontaneous interviews in the Iranian press are pre-staged and micro-managed.

Well, it turns out that the picture was not even from Iran, it was from Lebanon, and god knows what the context was. It could have been the taping of a movie or serial for all we know.

When a US federal agency, plants its own employees as reporters and fakes a news conference to make itself look good, do the same US-based Iranians who are trigger happy in disseminating any and all news (even if false) about the restrictions on the press in Iran, even take notice of what is happening in their own back yards?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

1. Freedom in the press

The NY Sun produces a lot of bad reporting on the Middle East. And of the countless lousy stories that come out on Iran, the NY Sun's Eli Lake consistently puts out the lousiest material.

But it turns that ideological fervor and lazy reporting on the part of individual journalists may not be the only explanation for the poor quality of NY Sun's journalism.

The New York Observer got their hands on the In-House Style Guide of the NY Sun, revealing that the book provides Sun journalists with much more than the standard instructions on quotes, datelines, headlines, etc.

For example, NY Sun reporters must employ the following:

West Bank and Gaza Strip. Territories under Israeli control from 1967 onward. 'The territories' is acceptable on second reference, as are Judea or Samaria for the Southern and Northern regions of the West Bank. Avoid the phrase 'occupied territories.'

Ethnic. Means not Jewish or Christian.

Jerusalem. Avoid the phrase 'Arab East Jerusalem.'

communist, socialist. See AP stylebook. Any favorable reference to a communist must be shown to either the editor or the managing editor of the Sun before publication.

How embarrassing for the NY Sun and its reporters.

2. Freedom on Campus

The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, was slated to host civil rights activist and Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu in the Spring of 2008.

But university officials banned the Nobel Laureate because he had made comments critical of Israel. His biggest crime was apparently committed at a 2002 speech.

During that speech, titled "Occupation Is Oppression," Tutu lambasted the Israeli government for its treatment of Palestinians in occupied territories. While a transcription clearly suggests his criticism was aimed at the Israeli government ("We don't criticize the Jewish people," he said during the speech. "We criticize, we will criticize when they need to be criticized, the government of Israel"), pro-Israeli organizations such as the Zionist Organization of America went on the offensive and protested campus appearances by Tutu, accusing him of anti-Semitism.

Maybe Desmond Tutu should pick up a copy of the NY Sun In-House Style book and shift his speech accordingly. Surely then he will be allowed to speak on whatever US campus he wishes.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

"I Hate all Iranians"

Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, told a group of British Parliamentarians visiting the Pentagon:

"In any case, I hate all Iranians."

Debra Cagan is quite possibly the only Bush administration official who has had a moment of public honesty in the years that Bush has been in office.

When the Columbia Dispatch carried a cartoon showing all of Iran as a sewer from which cockroaches were pouring into neighboring countries, a few vocal Iranians echoed the claims of the paper's editor and defended it by saying: "oh, no, calm down, the cartoon is not saying that all Iranians are cockroaches, it is just saying that some Iranians are cockroaches."

I wonder how those types will try to justify a high ranking official's open expression of categorical hatred for all Iranians?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Another Iranian Leader at Columbia

Two years after a CIA coup overthrew Iran's democratically elected Mossadegh, the newly reinstalled dictator of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, received an honorary degree (in Law of all things!) at Columbia University:

Now fast forward 50+ years and we have Bollinger, who also received his Law degree from Columbia, fawning over current US supported dictators such as Pakistani Parviz Musharraf.

The more I learn about Bollinger and the behind the scenes string pullers at Columbia, the more sympathy I have for the handful of great scholars and activists who are doing great work on that campus in spite of it all.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ten Questions for Bully-inger

Leave it to the US "free media" and "free speech" advocates to make Mahmoud Ahmadinejad look like a sympathetic figure.

First Ahmadinejad submitted to a hostile and belligerent 60 Minutes interview, during which CBS "journalist" Scott Pelley merely repeated the Bush administrations accusations about Iran, often rudely interrupting Ahmadinejad when he attempted to answer his questions.

And then there was Columbia President Lee Bollinger's demeaning and inappropriate introduction to Ahmadinejad, an invited guest on their campus. Bollinger's speech, "My Questions for President Ahmadinejad," deserves to be carefully dissected and analyzed, and this blog is not the forum in which I would like to do so.

In response to Bollinger's ten questions for Ahmadinejad, eight Tehran-based academics addressed a letter to the president of Columbia entitled "Ten Questions for Bollinger from the Directors of Universities and Research Centers in Tehran."

The full text of the letter can be found in Persian here, but the questions themselves, available in translation from IRNA, are as follows (I've edited their translation a bit for the sake of clarity):

1. Why did the US media put so much pressure on you to cancel President Ahmadinejad's lecture at Columbia University? Why did the US TV networks broadcast programs for several days against the Iranian president and did not allow him to respond to the allegations? Does this not run counter to the freedom of expression?

2. Why did the US come to the help of the Iranian dictator (deposed Shah) in 1953 and launched a military coup against then prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq?

3. Why did the US back the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1980 and supplied him with the chemical weapons to attack both the Iraqi people and Iranian soldiers?

4. Why doesn't the US administration recognize the democratically elected government of Palestine in Gaza and why does it put them under pressure? Why does it oppose the Iranian proposal to hold referendum in Palestine to end the 60-year old problem?

5. Why has the US Army and its advanced technologies not been able to capture Ben Laden? How do you respond to the longstanding family friendship of President George W. Bush and Ben Laden and the oil deals with Bush? How to you interpret Bush's sabotage of the process of inquiry of September 11?

6. Why does the US administration support the terrorist Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO) despite that fact that they have officially and openly accepted responsibility for carrying out terrorist operations in civilian areas in Iran since 1981 and for killing the people of Iran and Iraq? Why doesn't the US government allow the current Iraqi government to close down the MKOs current terrorist camps in Iraq?

7. Was there an international consensus when the US invaded Iraq in 2003? What was the real purpose in occupying Iraq, an occupation that has killed several thousand Iraqis? Where are the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) for which the US unleashed the war?

8. Why are the Middle East's most intensely undemocratic governments and monarchy regimes the US's closest friends?

9. Why did the US administration vote against the resolution of the IAEA general conference calling for making the Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction, a resolution which all countries in the Middle East with the exception of Israel support?

10. Why is the US administration dissatisfied with Iran-IAEA agreement to resolve the outstanding issues about Iranian nuclear program?

Ok, so they cheated, and most of their "10 questions" had multiple parts, so it was more like "30 questions." Nonetheless, every single one of them raises important issues which deserve serious answers.

So how about it, President Bollinger?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Traitors" and Saviors

Twice in the same day, I was asked about "My Life as a Traitor," a title I had heard about, but hadn't paid much attention to. Clearly, it is being well-promoted, so I decided to see what I could find out. The book purports to narrate the experiences of Zarah Ghahramani, an Iranian woman who was imprisoned in 2001 as a result of her participation in student protests.

If there was ever a shred of doubt that the boom in Iranian women's memoirs are a part of broader political agendas, the following claim from Robert Hillman, the "co-writer" of this book, should put it to rest:

What happened to Zarah and tens of thousands like her should make us anxious about a nuclear-armed Iran.

The governments of other nations in the nuclear club sanction summary detention and torture as a means of silencing their political opponents.

But another nuclear-armed nation, with the disdain for the most basic human rights shown by Iran, is one more nation too many

Come again?

Now let's say that everything recorded about Gharamani's experience is correct, what does that have to do with the manufactured Iranian nuclear "crisis"? Hillman states at the outset of his piece that"the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons entitles us to speculate on what sort of nuclear custodian Iran might make."

The word "entitlement" is a good choice, Bobby, since there are a whole lot of people like yourself (99% of whom are in "the west") who feel entitled to stick their nose into the business of others, even in cases when the terms of that business have been guaranteed by international treaties such as the NPT.

Unless Hillman knows something that over 20,000 hours of IAEA inspections weren't able to find, Iran's nuclear facilities are for a civilian program. If the IAEA is allowed to do its work and the US/Israel stop their various threats against Iran, the program will hopefully always remain a civilian one.

In any case, the development of a nuclear weapons program would not negatively impact the situation of activists in Iran. Indeed, it might improve it since the government could no longer use the fact that it is being threatened with imminent destruction as an excuse to put pressure on those who object to its policies.

Of course, I am the last person to advocate for the development of weapons, nuclear or otherwise, but I just wanted to work for a moment within the framework that Hillman himself has set up to show how flawed it is.

"My Life as Traitor" is slated for a December 2007 release. Until then, here is some related reading material to satiate your curiosity: Robert Hillman living out his rescue/hero fantasy, in his own words.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Despite persistent, unequivocal declarations from analysts and Iran-based activists who say outside interference in Iran's domestic affairs undermines all local efforts at change, Joe Lieberman and a handful of "regime change" lunatics who know frighteningly little about Iran have passed the Lieberman Amendment to Restore Funding for Iran Democracy Promotion:

"there is work in the State Department -- working through third-party organizations, not directly from the federal government -- to support student groups, women's groups, the whole array of civil society, to give some hope to the people of Iran."

Putting millions of dollars at the disposal of unnamed "third party organizations" who pocket most of the funds and distribute the rest to also unnamed "grantees" sounds like a recipe for disaster. How and to whom will those receiving funds be held accountable, both financially and morally?

In addition, these funding acts inevitably taint anyone who is doing any Iran-related work, whether they are based inside or outside Iran.

Take for example this ad posted on They are looking for an English to Persian translator who can help them with a project involving the translation of a number of books on Non-violent struggle. A little research shows that the organization behind the project is Non-Violence International, founded by Palestinian activist Mubarak Awad in 1989, a year after Israel expelled him for his non-violent campaigns against the occupation.

I heard Awad speak a number of years ago about his efforts in occupied Palestine. He was charismatic, friendly, and a great story-teller. And while I am also a big fan of translation, Persian to English or vice-versa, the current climate prompts me to be wary of all such projects. Seventeen years after its establishment, why has Non-Violence International suddenly taken an interest in providing its materials to a Persian speaking audience, and with which funds is it able to sponsor a enormous project involving over 600 pages of material?

These are questions that will be--indeed must be--asked of all Iran-related projects that are sure to spring up in the wake of this latest funding measure. The road to hell, as the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. While the intentions of Lieberman and Brownback are certainly aimed at increasing the likelihood of an attack on Iran, there may be others who accept such funds out of a combination of ignorance and compassion, not knowing (or not wanting to know) that they will be complicit in the march towards war.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

1. Guess who else has extensive spying operations inside Iran? Norway. Yes, Norway. Who would have guessed? And it case you think this is some kind of Iranian paranoid conspiracy theory, I'll have you know that the Chief of the Norwegian Intelligence Service, Torgeir Hagen, has confirmed it to be true.

2. As anyone who has taken a history 101 of Iran probably knows, the common wisdom about Iran officially adopting Shi'ism on a national scale in the 16th century under the rule of the Safavids is that it provided Iran with a built-in defense against the Ottomans. But Iran under the Safavids also had to contend with European colonialism, specifically the Portuguese presence in the Persian Gulf. All history books I have read about the Safavids have emphasized the development and establishment of Twelver Shi'ism under the Safavids and the role it played in promoting and preserving a national unity against the encroaching Ottomans. The Portuguese presence was only noted largely in passing. It turns out that there is an entire conference devoted to the topic, and I think I may have missed it. If anyone has further information on the topic or has a list of suggested readings, please leave me a note.

3. People with arrogant and dictatorial personalities, especially leaders ruling with an iron fist, are loathe to appear mortal. That's why men like Saddam (while still in power) and Egypt's Hosni Mobarak (who is dead according to persistent rumors/jokes) always kept their hair jet black. Salafist fundamentalists, on the other hand, are not known to engage in such open displays of vanity. However, some graying fundamentalists do make use of red henna since the prophet Mohammad was said to dye his hair and beard with it. Thus, if Osama Bin Laden had appeared in his latest video looking like this guy on the right, it would have made a lot of sense. But Osama looking like he could have just stepped out from a Just for Men commercial is not so believable. And that's not all that is fishy about the latest Bin Laden video, and I think that this latest tape, as well as the Qaeda phenomenon as a whole, should be closely re-examined.

Friday, September 07, 2007

1. Iran has a new hit t.v. show, shot on location in Budapest and Paris, which depicts the plight of Jews in Europe before and during WWII. The show's creator, Hassan Fatthi says he was inspired by the life story of Abdol Hussein Sardari, who worked at the Iranian embassy in Paris and apparently saved the lives of thousands of European Jews by forging Iranian passports for them.

The aim of the show, according to many inside and outside the country, is to draw a clear distinction between the government's views about Judaism -- which is accepted across Iranian society -- and its stance on Israel -- which the leadership denounces every chance it gets.

"Iranians have always differentiated between ordinary Jews and a minority of Zionists," says Hassan Fatthi, the show's writer and director. "The murder of innocent Jews during World War II is just as despicable, sad and shocking as the killing of innocent Palestinian women and children by racist Zionist soldiers," he says.

This is the official website of the show if you are interested in checking it out.

2. Thankfully, no one takes this guy seriously anymore (if they ever did), but you have to admit he is still good for a laugh: "Bush and I were both born on July 6, within the same hour...many Iranians would actually welcome a military strike by the U.S.".

The independent weekly City Paper sometimes teases the Washington Post for articles that attempt (and fail) to be poetic or "writerly", and I would like to nominate the following lines from Amar C. Bakshi's above noted story on Fakhravar and Bush:

"He [Fakhravar] has the fierce green eyes of a panther, and an eerie confidence that makes you wonder if he sees something you can't."

What's that line from the Morrissey song? "Love at first sight may sound trite, but it's true you know..."

3. A couple of weeks ago, Bush shocked a lot of folks by suggesting that the problem with the Vietnam war was not that it was started, but that it had ended!

When pressed by South Korean president and staunch ally about when the U.S. was planning to formally end the U.S. war with Korea, Bush was peeved:

"Bush, now looking irritated, replied: "I can't make it any more clear, Mr. President. We look forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will end—will happen when Kim verifiably gets rid of his weapons programs and his weapons."

I guess the guy never met a war he didn't like.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Iranians as Cockroaches and Editor Justifies His Paper's Racism

Incitement to hatred, anyone?

Imagine the hell that would ensue if a US paper carried a cartoon depicting Israel as a sewer with cockroaches creeping all over the Occupied Palestinian Territories and elsewhere in the region.

I've received an email that says letters of objection may be sent to the following: and

If anyone knows of others who should be contacted in this regard, please leave a comment with your suggestions and please make sure to write a note to the editors who chose to run this disgusting image.


I wrote the editor of the paper of my own volition, not because CAIR or anyone else prompted me to, and look at the canned response he gave trying to justify their overt and revoltingly racist cartoon. Have a look for yourself (my response to him is below his letter):

Dear sir or madame:

Thank you for writing to The Dispatch.

You apparently are responding to a call from the Council of American-Islamic relations to write to me and to cartoonist Michael Ramirez to complain about a cartoon about the Iraqi regime’s support of violent extremists and terrorists throughout the Middle East.

CAIR claims the cartoon demeans all Iranians as cockroaches. But since the drain cover depicted in the cartoon is clearly labeled with “Iran” and “extremism” it is clear that the cartoon refers only to those elements of the Iranian regime who support extremism. In other words, it doesn’t come close to labeling all Iranians as cockroaches.

CAIR also likens the cartoon to Nazi propaganda. This is a remarkable display of intellectual gymnastics. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of the Jewish state and questions the Holocaust, while his regime tries to develop nuclear weapons. If CAIR is truly concerned about the promotion of Nazi ideas and the use of Nazi methods, it should direct its attention to Tehran.

CAIR’s claims that its mission is to promote understanding of Islam and combat anti-Islamic information and anti-Islamic attitudes. That’s an honorable mission when it is directed at legitimate grievances.

In this case, CAIR has misrepresented this cartoon and missed the mark by fabricating a false grievance.

All the best,

Glenn Sheller
Editorial Page Editor
The Columbus Dispatch

Dear Glenn Sheller-

I did not write to you because CAIR or anyone else prompted me to do so. In any case, CAIR has not "misrepresented" your cartoon; it's overt racism will be apparent to everyone who is not blinded by the kind of propaganda your paper seems to relish in producing.

With or without CAIR, this cartoon will be widely disseminated among Iranians and Muslims worldwide who will be disgusted by it no matter what their political or social inclinations may be. Your canned justification for the irresponsible decision to run this cartoon further discredits you.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Week in Racial Profiling (or: Being an Iranian or Iraqi in the USA today)

Kambiz Fattahi is a BBC reporter and grad student at Georgetown University. I met him once in passing at an Iran-related event. He seemed nice and friendly, and unlike many reporters, he was not at all pushy.

Apparently, some racist attendees at a Georgetown University event and two fat--or as Kambiz calls them, "portly"--security guards did not share my impressions. While sitting at the graduation ceremony for a friend and listening, ironically enough, to a self-congratulatory speech about the "tradition of freedom" in the United States, Kambiz was pulled away by security guards who told him that he was "making some people here nervous."

The guards then inquired about his national origin:

I told him I was a US citizen. After showing forms of identification, including my card from the BBC Persian Service, he commented: "So, you're from Persia. Aren't Babylon and the Tigris River in Persia?"

I hope that Kambiz told them "no, you fool, Bablyon and the Tigris are in Iraq, you know, the country you've been occupying for the last four years." But I doubt he made fun of their glaring stupidity. Like I said, he seems like a nice guy.

Leigh Robbins of Richmond Virginia probably has a thing or two in common with these security guards and the individuals who prompted them to harass Kambiz. About to take off on a flight from San Diego to Chicago on September 1, she was so freaked out by seven Iraqi men that she demanded that American Airlines let her and her kids get off of the plane:

Robbins said she was sitting in the back of the plane with her children, awaiting the departure from the gate, when one of the Iraqis walked by to use the restroom.

She heard him “clunking around” inside the bathroom. When he came out, he had a suspicious look on his face, she said.

“He looked so mean, the way he was looking at everyone,” Robbins said. “It was very frightening, like something out of a movie.”

The best part of the story is that the seven Iraqis were defense contractors (read: mercenaries) working with the U.S. marines. The press has covered the men's occupation as though it is proof that they were "good" guys. To the more perceptive reader, this part of the story constitutes a bit of poetic justice.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fighting off Allies and Foes

In the last few days, I’ve received a number of harried emails about an imminent attack on Iran.

Here are a sampling of the news stories and analysis that have been flooding my mailbox:

Pentagon 'three-day blitz plan for Iran'
Do We Have the Courage to Stop War with Iran?

The Next Quagmire
US Preparing “Massive” Military Attack Against Iran

These terrifying revelations about an impending war were not unexpected, but I am surprised at some of the people who are forwarding this material to listservs I am on.

The “well meaning, left-leaning” folks who usually distribute dire—and often ill-contexualized and uninformed—pronouncements about Iran’s internal affairs are suddenly worried about a devastating attack on Iran. And yet they too are responsible for building an environment where a war on Iran has become possible, if not inevitable.

It may seem unfair to speak about “well meaning, left-leaning” activists in the same breath as one addresses warmongers and mercenaries, but the sad fact of the matter is that they share a number of disturbing parallels, the most important of which is that both of them go down the path of paternalistic intervention.

Ironically, the biggest challenge for anyone who is working towards preventing war and ending punitive sanctions on Iran may not come only from the belligerent right-wingers and neo-cons who are willing to go to any lengths to start another war; it also comes from our “allies” who think that it is their “responsibility” to supervise and help their little brown brothers and sisters in their various quests for social and political change.

This is a hard subject to tackle for a number of reasons, mostly because it is bound to anger many who consider themselves the friends and allies of the "Iranian people." But unless these issues are confronted head on, Iran-related activism will continue to be caught in the uncomfortable space between the military backed impositions of the right and the condescending "humanitarian" interferences of the left.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

1. “If you ask our opinion, do we think it's the right moment to be making investments in the Iranian oil and gas sector, no we don't,” sniffed a State Department spokesman.

Clearly, neither Iran nor Turkey asked the opinion of the US State Department because it is none of their business. What more is there to say about the naked arrogance behind declarations like this?

2. Iran and Turkey seem to be agreeing on much more than oil and gas these days, and I had suspected as much given the recent developments in Iraqi Kurdistan. Yesterday, Turkey's Prime Minister confirmed this openly: "Gül lends support to Iran’s anti-PEJAK operation in Iraq."

3. Nearly all religious music that tries to go mainstream is extremely corny, and this new Sami Yusuf song called "mother" is a marriage of cheese and corn. Anyway, what struck me is that he has no accent when he sings in Persian, and a quick google search showed that he is Iranian born. He doesn't seem to push his iranian-ness much, nor do Iranians--either in Iran or in diaspora--seem too eager to claim him. I'm sort of curious about why that might be, but not curious enough to speculate on it at the moment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

1. "America has won the war in Iraq....American success is reality and only Iraqi people know this fact," so says the computer generated "iraqi" with a computer generated speech.

I guess they can't even pay anyone these who would be willing to put their name, face, or voice to this garbage.

2. Some folks have put together a campaign where they've traced the parallels between Fox News' past push for a war on Iraq and their current obsession with paving the road to a war on Iran. They are calling on other news agencies to be responsible in their reporting instead of following Fox's lead like they did the last time around.

3. If, like me, you think that Iran-based Poet, songwriter, and musician Mohsen Namjoo is just the greatest, and are bummed that his website has been down for a while, why not try joining his fan listserv. I think I will.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Mehdi Khalaji, an "expert" at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has managed to bully Hossein Derakshan (or more precisely, Hossein Derakhshan's web hosting service) into shutting down his blog.

The text of Khalaji's legal action against Hossein speaks for itself. Among the juvenile charges levied against hossein are that he has said "by innuendo [that Khalaji] is a dupe or puppet of the U.S. government" and my favorite, that he "state[s] falsely that our client struggles to express himself in the English language."

In one of the charges, they accuse Hossein of encouraging others to "follow his lead by spiting (sic) in our client's face." It appears that the lawyers, like their client, have a bit of struggle with the English language. I hope I won't get sued for pointing this out, but spiting and spitting are two different words.

In any case, when I heard the infuriating news today that Khalaji had indeed succeeded in closing down Hossein's blog, I had a bad feeling that the inter-personal fights, disagreements, and grudges on the Persian language blogosphere would most likely stand in the way of a significant and principled stance in support of Hossein Derakhshan. Nazli has been the only exception I've seen so far, which doesn't surprise me, since Nazli is an exceptional person.

Whatever personal or political differences people have with Hossein, it's the responsibility of those of us who blog in English to expose the repressive and underhanded tactics of Iranians like Khalaji and the right-wing institutions for which they work. The same people and institutions that thrust themselves to the frontlines of debates about "democracy in Iran" and "freedom of expression" are quick to mobilize their financial resources and connections to muzzle the voice of one person who uses his blog to uncover just a few cogs in the wheels of what seems like a veritable anti-Iran industry.

So why would well-funded, well-connected people like Khalaji and his supporters go after Hossein for doing what hundreds of thousands of bloggers do on a daily basis? Isn't the essence of the majority of blogs to engage in accusatory gossip and to vent ideas that you may not be able to express elsewhere?

Hossein Derakhshan is not a threat to Khalaji or the Washington Institute because of the content of what he said. What he has written about places like the Washington Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy is based on information that is widely and publicly available, often from the websites of these institutions themselves. Hossein's grave sin is that he wrote this material in Persian , and this is the real danger he poses for the Khalajis and their employers.

Perhaps if the information that Hossein has covered were previously available in translation for Persian speakers, so many Iranian activists--specifically recent immigrants and those still in Iran--would not have made the mistake of getting mixed-up with individuals and organizations with histories of destroying peoples' movements worldwide.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Act 1

In the press on the same day:

"Bush Says Iraqi Leader Shares His View on Iran"

and also:

(original Reuters photo from here)

Act 2

Hamid Karzai on CNN last sunday night, August 5:

KARZAI: We have had reports of the kind you just mentioned. We are looking into these reports. Iran has been a supporter of Afghanistan in the peace process that we have and the fight against terror, and the fight against narcotics in Afghanistan.

Iran has been a participant in the Bonn process. It then has contributed steadily to Afghanistan. We have had very, very good, very, very close relations, thanks in part also to an understanding of the United States in this regard, and an environment of understanding between the two, the Iranian government and the United States government, in Afghanistan.

We will continue to have good relations with Iran. We will continue to resolve issues, if there are any, to arise.

BLITZER: Well, is Iran a problem or a solution as far as you are concerned? Are they helping you or hurting you?

KARZAI: Well, so far Iran has been a helper and a solution."

During a joint press conference together the next day, Bush contradicted Karzai's assessment of his country and its relationship with it's neighbors: "But I would be very cautious about whether or not the Iranian influence there in Afghanistan is a positive force"

(boy it must be tough when even your puppets won't repeat your lies)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

As Special as Little Girls

This was taken somewhere on the road from Pennsylvania to New York:

Isn't it sort of creepy and weird?

Monday, May 28, 2007

A while back I was doing a stint as an interpreter for a group of Americans visiting Iran as socially conscious tourists who were interested in checking out things for themselves.

One member of the group, an elderly man in his late seventies, had carefully read and highlighted Azadeh Moaveni's Lipstick Jihad in preparation for his trip. The trouble was, practically nothing he saw conformed to the image of Iran outlined in that book, and he kept on wondering if it was he, rather than the book, that was missing something. I assured him that the book was the problem, and while it may do a decent job of capturing the experiences of rich kids in the northern parts of Tehran, it is clearly an inadequate account of Iran more generally.

I was rather bitter at having to engage with the book on a daily basis because reading it in the first place had been torture enough. I really didn't need to relive the experience in the form of numerous discussions about its shortcomings and why it was probably not worth reading in the first place.

And just as I was beginning to put the whole thing behind me, Nazli sent me Moaveni's latest piece in the NY Times entitled "Seeking Signs of Literary Life in Iran."

I hate to be rude, but Moaveni is either blind, stupid, or straight up lying, because I can't imagine how else she would fail to find literary enthusiasts in Iran (which for her, like most other journalists, begins and ends in Tehran).

I have yet to leave Iran without paying extra for luggage that goes beyond the weight limits because I've stuffed my bags with so many books. And I know that I am not alone in often asking relatives and friends to send or bring me the latest titles being published there.

Long story short--and I'm sure you knew this was coming--I wrote an angry letter to the editor.

And before anyone tells me that I shouldn't get all bent out of shape over one article, I would respectfully like to remind you that we are not dealing with one stupid piece but an endless series of films, commentaries, articles, and experts who pocket fistfulls while producing harmful and false accounts of Iran.

So here is my letter:

While all of the superficial and inaccurate accounts of Iran that are printed on a daily basis in U.S. newspapers have raised most Iranians’ tolerance for shoddy journalism and analysis, Moaveni’s May 27th essay “Seeking Signs of Literary Life in Iran” manages to infuriate even the most hardened observer of U.S. media.

From the multi-story bookstores (dealing primarily in books) throughout cities in Iran to the street vendors hawking rare and banned books to the thriving book fairs, it is clear that Iran has a dynamic and diverse publishing industry. Nor is there a shortage of literary circles formed around discussing and critiquing books. Ms. Moaveni did not even need to leave her friends in northern Tehran to figure that one out: she could have merely checked the Internet to see the great number of Iran-based literary blogs.

Perhaps Ms. Moaveni should stick to making hackneyed observations about trends in women’s scarves’ patterns or the parties of privileged kids and leave assessments of Iran’s literary life to people with the minimum qualification of being able to see what is right in front of their faces.

Please write if you are as irritated as I am.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Can you guess which one is me?

Hint: I'm not Noam Chomsky.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Comic Relief for Persian Speakers

It's a bit uncouth, I know, but I couldn't help myself. Consider this a first post in the "Fun with Languages Series."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

One may have expected this from Bush, but isn't Rice supposed to be the smart one in the administration?

Witnesses to the brief and cryptic exchange between Rice and Iranian Foreign minister Manouchehr Motakki report that she said to him:

"Your English is better than my Arabic."

While the statement is in itself true, it appears that Ms. Rice thinks that Iranians speak Arabic.

Anyway, before excusing himself because the red dress of a certain violinist was too revealing, Motakki told Rice that:

"In Russia, they eat ice cream in winter because it's warmer than the weather."

The press has offered some intepretation for what this may mean, but I'll leave it open in case anyone wants to try to decipher it on their own.

But I have to admit that for once, the State Department issued a clever statement on the whole thing:

"I don’t know which woman he was afraid of, the woman in the red dress or the secretary of state", State Department spokesman Mr Sean McCormack said.

At the end of the day, though, any civil exchange is better than none. While self-serving extremists in Iran and the U.S. are salivating at the prospect of war, confrontation is detrimental to both nations.

Sometimes in the dead of winter, you have to take a bite out of that ice-cream cone.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Today, I would like to engage in a practice that seems to be quite prevalent in U.S. journalism: take the opinion of one person from a certain country and pretend that it is representative of an entire nation. Ok? Ok.

Yesterday I ended up on a train next to a guy who had just stepped off a direct flight from Istanbul to the United States. Despite a warning from the conductor that we were on the "quiet car", I still managed to talk to the man somewhat, and here are my sweeping conclusions about Turks, Turkey, and the rest of the region based on this one conversation:

1. Secular Turks are very cognizant of the fact that their republic faces danger from at least two sides: one is from the Americans and their interference in the region, second is the from the Islamists whose own rise can be explained as a result of the former.

2. It is common knowledge that Orhun Pamuk won the Nobel prize in literature for political reasons and as an attempt to take a dig at Turkey. According to my interlocuter, he got this prize only after Pamuk began critiquing Turkey in terms that echo those of the western establishment. So naturally, most people think there is some kind of conspiracy.

At this point, I assured him that there was indeed, some kind of a conspiracy. Some of Iran's best fiction writers, I noted, have been lured out of Iran with handsome prizes and fellowships at great universities (I am not talking about those who were forced into exile, by the way). And once they are here, they are pushed into participating in the kind of discourses whose rewards are too great to ignore. Of course, once they do that, they--like this fellow Pamuk--end up having to stay out of their own countries. It's a real shame, no matter which angle you look at it.

3. Things are going to get very ugly between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. Very ugly, and very soon.

4. On why Turkey has friendly relations with Israel: "Israel is the son of America. If we want to be friends with the father, we have to be nice to the son."

If you ask me, this friendship is not going to last a whole lot longer. But I guess that all depends on what the U.S. will do when the Turks invade northern Iraq.

5. I dare say that Iran is the only country in the region where you can still run into a fair number of young, educated people who are totally oblivious about the implications of foreign interference in their country's internal affairs. The blame for this falls squarely on the shoulder's of the Iranian government, but of course the propaganda of state sponsored media such as Voice of America and Radio Farda have played no small role.

6. It is essential for Iranians to learn Turkish and Arabic in school. If I were the Minister of Education, I would decree it to be so. I know they teach Arabic now, but in a religious context that doesn't produce any viable Arabic speakers. I mean really teach Arabic and Turkish language and literature.

It's a shame that someone in Jordan or Turkey or Iran knows more about the U.S. than about their neighbors. When you don't know the language of your neighbors, someone from the outside can easily come in and convince you that you have been enemies all along. When you know the language of your five closest neighbors, you can form unions like the EU does instead of worrying about being cut apart into weak little ethnic enclaves.

If the late former dictator of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, ever got one thing right, it came in the form of his warning not to let Iran become Iranistan.

His warnings are more applicable today then they were at the time they were spoken. Those Iranians who still have their heads in the sand better get with it before it is too late.

Friday, April 20, 2007

1. When reporters asked if the joke was insensitive, McCain said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"

No, dude, insensitive to Martians! Yes, of course to Iranians, and to anyone else who doesn't think that the mass murder of innocent people is funny.

But McCain and the freaks cheering for him in the crowd aren't the only ones who take great joy in the prospect of the total destruction of Iran.

Apparently there are even Iranians who feel overjoyed when they hear Iran threatened: watch this phony tell Richard Perle how he and his dad embraced and cried out of joy when they heard Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech.

By the way, I haven't seen it, but I hear that Raed is in this same documentary, and he's not afraid to tell Perle what's up. Anyone know whether the whole thing is online somewhere?

2. The Afghan blogger Sohrab Kabuli has officially outed himself on both his English and Persian blogs and has revealed his name to be Nasim Fekrat. So a big welcome to Nasim Fekrat. The more time passes, the less respect I have for people who blog anonymously, especially those who hide behind phony names and harass other people who have the courage to put their real names behind there thoughts.

3. And now, for a bit of entertainment, enjoy a random old clip, one of my recent finds on the magic that is Youtube. Here is a performance from the late Felmish Belgian singer Jacques Brel, unbelievable performer and poet, singing a song with one of the most memorable refrains ever: "The bourgeoisie are like pigs, the older they get, the stupider".

Of course, like many of Brel's lyrics, the song has a twist: the same young men who critique the insipidity of the bourgeoisie turn by the end of the song into what they used to deplore. Anyway, enjoy:

Friday, April 13, 2007

1. I'm glad that finally Imus is being held accountable for his vile mouth, though i think it should have happened a long time ago.

I first heard of Imus in early 2004 following a crash of an airplane in the Persian Gulf that killed a number of Iranians. Imus covered the news in his show and remarked: "When I hear stories like that, I think who cares". His only regret, he said, was that they weren't Saudi Arabians!

Later that same year on November 12, 2004 Imus outdid himself, this time in regard to the Palestinians:

DON IMUS, host: They're [Palestinians] eating dirt and that fat pig wife [Suha Arafat] of his is living in Paris.

ROSENBERG: They're all brainwashed, though. That's what it is. And they're stupid to begin with, but they're brainwashed now. Stinking animals. They ought to drop the bomb right there, kill 'em all right now.

BERNARD MCGUIRK, producer: You can just imagine standing there.

ROSENBERG: Oh, the stench.

IMUS: Well, the problem is that we have Andrea [Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent] there. We don't want anything to happen to her.

ROSENBERG: Oh, she's got to get out. Just warn Andrea, get out, and then drop the bomb, kill everybody.

MCGUIRK: It's like the worst Woodstock.

ROSENBERG: Look at this. Look at these animals. Animals

Imagine if this vile language and murderous venom was spewed about any other, non-Arab and/or non-Muslim group, would Imus have continued on air for three more years? Substitute any other ethnic or religious group in the above conversation and imagine what would have ensued.

I'm sure Imus will soon find a home elsewhere within the cesspool of hate-radio, where he will have even more room for "entertaining" his audience with racist and sexist commentary.

2. While few were bothered by Imus and company's calls for the mass murder of Palestinians, a whole lot of people seem to have been irked by Norman Finkelstein's consistent calls for the fair treatemet of Palestinians.

Finkelstein, the son of holocaust survivors, is an articulate, smart, and handsome (not that that is relevant)scholar who has bravely taken on the number one taboo in U.S. discourses: Israel.

Universities are one of the few remaining spaces in the U.S. where one can attempt to carry out truly independent research and broach topics that are forbidden anywhere else. And now, a few thugs are trying to even take this away.

To read the whole story of how Professor Finkesltein's tenure has been denied as a result of external pressures, please go here. You can also read the Chronicle of Higher Education's piece on the issue.

Professor Finkelstei received favorable votes on two levels of faculty reviews before the Dean over-rode their decisions on inappropriate and purely political grounds.

But all is not yet lost, and if we put enough pressure on the University and demand that the accepted standards of tenure be applied fairly, Professor Finkelstein can put this whole thing behind him and continue with his important, and much needed, scholarship and activism.

3. Stay tuned for an upcoming post comparing prevailing practices of torture: the Mr. Bean Method vs. Drill Holes in Their Feet.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A while back, when my grandmother and granfather were visiting from Iran, I went around and made the entire house grandparent-proof to ensure their safety and comfort. I tucked away loose wires, pinned down the fraying edges of rugs, made sure sharp corners of the furniture were not exposed, put nightlights in the hallway, and placed everything they would need in the morning for breakfast within immediate reach. I even put a few reminder notes around the house to make sure all the bases were covered.

When there are young children or elderly folks around, the whole landscape of a place changes. You start to look at seemingly harmless spaces as dangerous obstacle courses where ordinary objects can cause large scale disasters, which brings me, oddly enough, to why I haven't been blogging for a while.

I've been buried in deadlines, it's true, but that is not the whole story. The problem is a broader one having to do with how in the context of dominant discourses in the U.S., discussion of the most basic issues can get you twisted in a huge mess of accusations, harassement, and a whole lot of other troubles.

In other parts of the world, in the lands of the "unfree", people know exactly what the red lines are: they speak around them or develop sophisticated languages for addressing the very things they are not supposed to be talking about. Most importantly, no one has any illusions about the limits imposed on their speech and actions, and so they are more clear-headed about how to strategize towards their goals.

It gets exhausting when you feel like broaching the most simple topics can land you in a minefield. I just needed some time to recover from that fatigue, I guess. I will try to write more, if not here, then in the few remaining outlets where one can get away with relatively little self-censorship.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Happy New Year

My Haft-seen table, as you can see, is still incomplete. My wheat sprouts are refusing to grow properly, and I haven't had a chance yet to buy fresh flowers and gold fish (although I am considering having only symbolic fish this year, the poor things rarely survive the 13 days of new year's celebrations).

But since I probably wont have a chance to post again until after the New Year, I thought I would put this picture for now and wish everyone--especially Iranians, Afghans, Tajiks, Kurds, and Azarbaijanis who celebrate the traditions of Norooz--a very happy spring equinox.


update: There is a saying in Persian that a good year is apparent from its spring. Today, i heard much good news. The two remaining women's rights activists in jail, Shadi Sadr and Mahboobeh Abbasgholizadeh were freed on bail, the political prisoner Nasser Zerafshan completed his prison term and was freed, and the political prisoner Ahmad Batebi has been given a near month's furlough for the new year holiday.

I am really happy that all of these folks will be able to spend the new year with their loved ones, and since i randomly stumbled on this happy new year song by the late iranian singer haydeh, it seemed like it was a sign that I should post it for all to enjoy:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

PMS in the knees and Dead Beets

Whenever I am working too hard or under a lot of pressure, random things impact me in inordinate ways. I find things way more funny, sad, horrifying, etc. than they would otherwise be on days when I am feeling more level-headed. For example, someone sent the image below in one of these informational emails that get passed around on listservs. The idea is to give a visual representation of your body's possible problems and list the ways you can treat them with your food. I crack up every time I look at it:

Why is this so funny? Because all of the ailments are matched with their appropriate body parts, except for PMS, which is pointing to the back of the person's knee! When was the last time you heard someone complaining about PMS symptoms in their knee? But in case you do get those darn PMS knee problems, this diagram suggests that you eat corn flakes.

Here is another image that caught my eye:

I am the least forgetful person I know, in fact, I suffer from too much memory. But somehow I got caught up in doing something the other day and burnt these beats. There was something so lonely and sad about them, with that little one clinging to the big beat, I had to take a picture on the spot.

I have lots of other projects and deadlines to meet in the weeks ahead, so you might be seeing more of these wacko posts for a while yet.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

1. The Iranian nationalist freaks are at it again. This time all the hoo-ha is over the depiction of ancient Persians in a film that is based on a comic book! The stupidity of focusing on this issue at this political moment when so much else is going on should be obvious, but thanks to Nima for taking the time to actually lay it all out.

If these people are so concerned about negative and inaccurate depictions about Iranians, why dont they put together a systematic effort to deal with the relentless barrage of misinformation on Iran and Iranians that passes as news and anlaysis in the western press?

Even the British (the British for god's sake, who have historically been behind like 7 out of 10 anti-Iran conspiracies) have launched a watchdog group to monitor media bias against Iran. This group states that "by monitioring and challenging unbalanced reporting, the Committee hope to ensure that the media are not used to spin this nation into supporting or participating another illigitimate and unjustified military action."

Thank you very much to the Westminster Committee on Iran’s Media Monitoring Group, at least someone has their priorities straight when it comes to challenging mass media depictions of Iranians.

2. Speaking of nationalists with screwed up priorities, by and large reactions by Iranian male commentators on the recent arrests of women activists in Tehran has been stunning, and I don't mean in a good way.

From what I have seen, a number of vocal men whose writings often appear on blogs and online newsletters have taken it upon themselves to cast top-down judgements on the Iranian women's movement and advise them on how they should have pursued their aims. These dudes, who come fom a range of backgrounds and who are in fact the ideological enemies of one another, nonetheless seem to agree on one thing: that the women activists in Iran are not smart or mature enough to articulate their goals and strategies on their own!

The ignorance and arrogance behind these fatwas merit careful consideration and a forceful response, and I am certain that many will be put together in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I should have posted this earlier, but I really haven't had a spare moment, and even now, I am too tired to provide a proper explanation.

Thankfully, other bloggers have been pretty good about providing updated information, and Sanam has collected links of English language coverage of the events.

Please consider signing this petition calling for the immediate release of women activists who were practicing their rights of peaceful assembly as guaranteed under the Iranian Constitution.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

In Iran, even school teachers are hardcore!

Some thousands of people joined demonstrating teachers whose unions have organized gatherings to protest unliveable wages and demand that the parliament act in response to their grievances.

I hope they are granted their well-deserved demands before some opportunists from 10,000 miles away sweep in to hijack their cause and undermine their hard work.

For more pictures of the protest, you can click here or look at this page of one of the Iranian news agencies.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Do you remember when the news broke about the U.S. tapping the phones and emails of U.N. delegates in NY as part of an aggressive campaign of strong-arming countries into voting for the illegal war on Iraq? Now, stories about U.S. coercions vis-a-vis Iran are slowly coming to light, and I am sure there are many more that we will never know about.

Stephen G. Rademaker, the former Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation and International Security at the U.S. State Department, has acknowledged that India's votes against Iran at the IAEA were coereced.

Bush probably promised that if India helps to punish Iran for trying to excercise the rights guaranteed to it under the NPT, then Mr. Bush would reward India for refusing to join the NPT, and I guess that explains the sweet (no pun intended) mangos for nuclear capabilites deal Bush offered India.

India will get nukes, Iran will get nuked, and the U.S. will get mangos, among other things.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Iraq State of Islam

Michelle Bachmann, the House Representative from the 6th district of Minnesotta has some insider information about the futre of Iraq, though she isn't revealing her sources. Here is an excerpt of an interview, in which she discusses the content of a secret pact:

"Iran is the trouble maker, trying to tip over apple carts all over Baghdad right now because they want America to pull out. And do you know why? It’s because they’ve already decided that they’re going to partition Iraq.

And half of Iraq, the western, northern portion of Iraq, is going to be called…. the Iraq State of Islam, something like that. And I’m sorry, I don’t have the official name, but it’s meant to be the training ground for the terrorists. There’s already an agreement made.

They are going to get half of Iraq and that is going to be a terrorist safe haven zone where they can go ahead and bring about more terrorist attacks in the Middle East region and then to come against the United States because we are their avowed enemy."

That's right folks, the "Iraq State of Islam" in the Western part of Northern Iraq!

In case you've never heard of Bachmann, let me refresh your memory, she is the one who couldn't let go of Bush after his last state of the union address.

One of the best descriptions I've read of that incident is the following from a DC blog site:

"Yes, we saw crazy Michele Bachmann sexually assault the President. It was… weird. It made us uncomfortable. Sadly, Minnesota’s KSTP has taken the video down from their website, after their servers were presumably swamped by perverted Drudge readers. We’ll work on getting our own up, but in case you’re wondering what you missed, the crazy Jesus Lady held on to the President’s shoulder with a Holy Ghost-strengthened death grip for what felt like an hour. He signed her an autograph, she still held on. He tried to ditch her and kiss some other congresswoman, and she still held on. In fact, she held on even tighter.

She finally got her hug and kiss, after the President realized that if he didn’t acquiesce, she would probably slip him a roofie and drag him into a committee room somewhere.

And now you have had a glimpse of what kind of personalities and lunatic reasons are associated with those who support George Bush's Iraq strategy.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Constitution of Iran, Article 146: The establishment of any kind of foreign military base in Iran, even for peaceful purposes, is forbidden.

Monday, February 19, 2007

1. Political prisoner Ahmad Batebi has been transferred to a hospital, and his doctor has announced that he is not in a condition where he can endure further incarceration. It looks like this news of his condition is spreading pretty quickly across the Persian language websites; I hope the publicity helps his situation.

2. According to a story published in Friday's New York Times Weekend Arts section about a new exhibition at the Asia Society, "Flaunting Dominion in Ancient Iran", a number of objects, which had been in French museums for generations (read: stolen by colonialists eons ago), were held up at customs for reasons having to do with the current sanctions on Iran and despite having permits.

According to the terms of the US embargo on Iran, no art objects of Iranian origin may enter the U.S. without permit, no matter how long they have been outside of Iran.

As my friend and erstwhile blogger Sima pointed out when we were chatting earlier, this may be a blessing in disguise. Maybe if the artworks made it here they will try to confiscate it and sell it off, you know the way they are planning to do with Iranian artifacts in possession of University of Chicago.

3. I haven't seen it yet, but I've heard decent reviews from a few people, so I will cautiously recommend this BBC documentary on Tehran. It supposedly shows many different sides of Tehran, instead of reflecting the hackneyed polarities usually beamed in for Western audiences.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Anna Nicole, Britney Spears, and Kooodz

The U.S. media out-does itself on a daily basis. CNN's Newsroom program, which is broadcasting as I write, prompted me to send them the following letter:

As if CNN's excessive focus on Anna Nicole Smith was not enough, now you are covering Britney Spears' shaved head?

The funniest part of this embarrassing focus on celebrities on a "news" show is the way that CNN tries to disavow its involvement in making these stories "newsworthy". Your anchors' banter about there being "lots of celebrity news" is hilarious, as though CNN has no role in making events such as a haircut a "developing story".

By the way, please let your anchors know that Quds is not pronounced Koooodz. As for the content of your coverage of the Quds Forces, I will save my comments for a later time, as I am sure there will be many opportunities in the near future to speak to your superficial and ill-informed Iran stories.

Anna Nicole, Britney Spears, and the Koooooooodz Forces, U.S. journalism at its finest!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

1. The niece of Pakistan's ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who happens to have one Iranian grandparent, manages to take a trip to her grandmother's homeland. You can read about Fati's determination to visit Iran and her brief stay in Tehran. (third installment here)

2. The Iranian government is so concerned with gender equality that the parliament has been musing an affirmative action bill that would guarantee a certain number of slots for men, since they are increasingly outnumbered by their female counterparts. Today, officials announced that 67% of students admitted to Iranian medical schools are young women. I guess the parliament better get to work on enacting their proposed laws ASAP.

3.Check out this Kuwaiti singer's video satirizing Mr. Bush and his "freedom and democracy" agenda. Bush must be in big trouble when even Kuwaitis start turning against him! Anyway, my favorite part of the video comes at the end. I wont spoil it for you, but let's just say it involves one of my favorite "men".

4. Have you heard the one about the Iraqi graduate student at Harvard who left the U.S. to study displaced Iraqis and then he became a displaced Iraqi himself? And he is not the only person of Iraqi descent having a hard time reaching Harvard. A friend of ours who has been accepted into a graduate program at Harvard, may not be able make it to the States in time to begin his studies. Born in Spain and holding a British passport, he just has one small problem: his dad is an Iraqi. According to the people at the U.S. embassy, his father's nationality means that his student visa could take months to go through. Naturally, he is considering alternatives on where else he can pursue his graduate education.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has announced that they will accept 7,000 new Iraqi refugees. Seven thousand out of an estimated 2.8 million Iraqis who have been displaced because of the U.S. war. I guess the other 2,793,000 Iraqi should try and cram themselves into neighboring Jordan or Syria (forget Iran, they'd only be displaced again after the bombs start falling).

Anyway, you can be sure that the refugees will be highly screened, with first preference going to people who variously collaborated with the occupation authorities, the same way that refugees were chosen after the disasters in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Friday, February 09, 2007

1. Have a look at how CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour treats her younger Iranian counterparts, a group of journalists who are trying to ask her about her Iran coverage. The clip doesn't have subtitles, but you don't have to be able to understand Amanpour's broken Persian to grasp how condescending and rude she is to the Iranian journalists. She actually hushes them like you would a group of cranky babies.

When an Iranian journalist asks her about the political content of her reports, she responds that there is no such content in her work. Does Ms. Amanpour know that she is covering Iranian nuclear facilities, rather than, say, rose gardens in Shiraz?

She also brushes them off when they ask whether an Iranian journalist could have the access to sensitive U.S. sites and highlevel officials like Amanpour has had in Iran.

Not surprisingly, the Iranian channel covering Amanpour's behavior is having a propaganda field day, but frankly, I can't say I blame them.

2. The owner of the Lebanese business pictured below is on to something. There is a sign up asking patrons not to talk politics while inside.

I saw this picture here, where there is also an Arabic language story about it.

Somebody should capture this sentiment as a slogan on a piece of clothing, kind of like the "Please don't ask me about my thesis" t-shirt. These days, I've been feeling so overwhelmed and freaked out about political developments that I could really use a "Please don't ask me about politics" t-shirt.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Iranians Come Out To Speak Against Aggression on Iran

I found last week's peace march in Washington DC quite encouraging: significant numbers of Iranians turned out to specifically show their opposition to aggression on Iran. I was busy hauling around and holding up signs for most of the time, but I did manage to take some pictures when people were first gathering. I am posting some of them below.

First, our young activists:

Now some of the banners:

And finally, one more from our young activists: