Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Propaganda Outlet

In the middle of all the troubling news coming from everywhere, this is not a priority topic, but I still think the issue is worth a quick mention. Yesterday, a friend of mine alerted me to this interview with Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar on the Dutch government funded Radio Zamaneh. Apparently a number of journalists had vociferously objected to the piece, which just crudely repeats official Israeli propaganda about what is happening in Gaza, but the new Zamaneh management/editorial crew, decided to run the piece anyway. (It is very telling that the book that is advertised on the right hand column of the interview is that of Mehdi Khalaji, who works for the Israeli lobby think tank, Washington Institute for Near East policy).

Although I am in principle against foreign government funded outlets aimed at Iranian audiences, I know a lot of bright and talented journalists (many of whom have since quit) who worked with Zamaneh and produced some impressive content. Unfortunately, since such media are by definition agenda-driven--their lofty claims about democracy and free and fair journalism notwithstanding--it was only a matter of time before Zamaneh went the way of US State Department funded Radio Farda and Voice of America.

There is much more that I want to say about Zamaneh and its predecessors, but for now, I just wanted to express my frustration about both the interview with Javednafar and the censorship of the moderator who refused to put my comment, despite the fact that I was polite and merely expressed my disappointment in what is happening to the site. If you look at the site now, the negative comments far outnumber the supportive ones, but I suppose they still wanted to somewhat save face and not show how much they have angered their soon-to-be-former audience.

That's all for now, Happy 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I was carrying a sign, and walking my bike, and I'm not the tallest person in the world, so I have plenty of excuses for not taking fabulous photos from today's protests and march from the State Department to the White House and beyond. But I'll share the pictures with you anyway. The turn out was quite big (I would say in the thousands), and considering it is holiday season and DC usually empties out during this time, it was a remarkable turnout. There will be more protests and marches throughout the week, I'll try to attend and to capture better pictures.

Meanwhile, here are snapshots showing the diversity of those who had gathered--people from various ethnic backgrounds, a range of ages, and even differing political ideologies, all speaking out against the horrors in Gaza.

For other, and slightly better pictures, please go here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Shoes not Bombs II

Thanks to the generosity and talents of Mehrdad Aref-Adib, I now have a logo inspired by Food not Bombs. This could be the start of a movement!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Petition for Hoder

I, along with a number of other bloggers, have put our names on the following petition (available in English and Persian) expressing concern for Hossein Derakhshan and calling for his release. Needless to say, I have several reservations about the whole thing, not the least of which is that the text is in English. If it were up to me, the text would only be in Persian: it is a letter by Iranian bloggers, addressed to the Iranian authorities, about another fellow Iranian blogger. Why does it need to be in English? Furthermore, portions of what the text says and implies--about what a wonderful role bloggers have, how this arrest is being viewed (by whom?), how great we are for signing this petition--are the kinds of statements that are likely to come under scrutiny, and for good reason. Nonetheless, I think the arguments for signing the petition outweigh my reservations in this case, and I hope that it does more good than harm in resolving the situation. Thanks to all of the people who signed the petition and who took time to iron-out some of their differences. If you would like to sign-on to the petition, please go ahead and do so and republish the statement on your own blogs. Please also leave a comment for any of the original signatories that you have also added your signature. I think we will eventually need a more systematic way to figure out how to aggregate all of the signatories, but I suppose this is a good start for now.

Now here is the actual petition:

We, the undersigned, view the circumstances surrounding the Iranian authorities' arrest of Hossein Derakhshan (, one of the most prominent Iranian bloggers, as extremely worrying. Derakhshan's disappearance, detention at an unknown location, lack of access to his family and attorneys, and the authorities' failure to provide clear information about his potential charges is a source of concern for us.

The Iranian blogging community is one of the largest and most vibrant in the world. From ordinary citizens to the President, a diverse and large number of Iranians are engaged in blogging. These bloggers encompass a wide spectrum of views and perspectives, and they play a vital role in open discussions of social, cultural and political affairs.

Unfortunately, in recent years, numerous websites and blogs have been routinely blocked by the authorities, and some bloggers have been harassed or detained. Derakhshan's detention is but the latest episode in this ongoing saga and is being viewed as an attempt to silence and intimidate the blogging community as a whole.

Derakhshan's own position regarding a number of prisoners of conscience in Iran has been a source of contention among the blogging community and has caused many to distance themselves from him. This, however, doesn't change the fact that the freedom of expression is sacred for all not just the ones with whom we agree.

We therefore categorically condemn the circumstances surrounding Derakhshan's arrest and detention and demand his immediate release.

ما امضا کنندگان ذیل، شرایط دستگیری حسین درخشان، یکی از سرشناس ترین بلاگرهای ایرانی، توسط مقامات ایران را به شدت نگران کننده می دانیم. ناپدید شدن، حبس در مکانی مجهول، عدم دسترسی به اعضای خانواده و وکلای مدافع، و اعلام نکردن اطلاعات شفاف در خصوص موارد اتهام احتمالی نامبرده همگی باعث نگرانی ما ست.

جامعه وبلاگ نویسان ایران یکی از فعال ترین و بزرگترین جوامع اینترنتی جهان است. از شهروندان معمولی تا رییس جمهور ایران، بسیاری به امر نوشتن در وبلاگهای مختلف مشغول اند. این وبلاگ نویسان دارای طیف وسیعی از عقاید و آرا هستند و نقش مهمی در مباحث اجتماعی، فرهنگی، و سیاسی ایفا می کنند.

متاسفانه ظرف سالهای اخیر، وبسایت ها و وبلاگهای متعددی به صورت منظم توسط مقامات ایران فیلتر شده و شماری از وبلاگ نویسان با آزار و حبس روبرو شده اند. بازداشت حسین درخشان تنها آخرین نمونه از این نوع برخوردها ست و به نظر می آید این اقدام در راستای ایجاد رعب و واداشتن وبلاگ نویسان به سکوت طراحی شده است.

مواضع حسین درخشان در خصوص تعدادی از کسانی که بدلیل عقایدشان زندانی شده اند باعث رنجش جامعه وبلاگ نویسان ایرانی بوده و همین موجب شده بسیاری از آنان از وی دوری بجویند. با اینهمه، این موضوع این حقیقت را نفی نمی کند که آزادی بیان حقی مقدس است و باید برای همه در نظر گرفته شود، نه فقط کسانی که با آنها موافقیم.

بنابرین، ما از این منظر، به طور اصولی شرایط دستگیری و بازداشت حسین درخشان را محکوم می کنیم و خواهان آزادی فوری او هستیم.

Arash Abadpour

Niki Akhavan

Hossein Bagher Zadeh

Sanam Dolatshahi

Mehdi Jami

Jahanshah Javid

Abdee Kalantari

Sheema Kalbasi

Nazli Kamvari

Nazy Kaviani

Peyvand Khorsandi

Nikahang Kowsar

Omid Memarian

Pedram Moallemian

Ali Moayedian

Ebrahim Nabavi

Masoome Naseri

Khodadad Rezakhani

Leva Zand

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shoes not Bombs

If I had any sketching talent, I would make a Shoes not Bombs sign using the following Food not Bombs logo as inspiration:

Side note: As much as I admire the work of the Food not Bombs folks, from what I remember, their food kind of tastes like shoes anyway, so it is even more appropriate that they would inspire my imaginary logo.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Journalists Who Throw Shoes, and Those Who Kiss Them

As soon as I heard the news about the shoe throwing incident in Baghdad, I sent the link to everyone I saw online, including Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, who immediately wrote a blog asking whether it was "becoming of a journalist" to do such a thing. I asked myself a similar question a couple of days ago when I read that Iranian journalist and blogger, Arash Sigarchi, had accepted an invitation to meet George Bush because according to Sigarchi, it would not be "right" if he did not accept. In fact, not only did Mr. Sigarchi attend the event, he repeated to Bush the kinds of accusations that that US administration routinely uses to threaten Iran with war and more sanctions.

Now Montazer Al-Zeidy, on the other hand, also had access to a meeting with Bush, and he too, decided to attend, and the rest is history. In fact, one of the best moments in history, ever.

And so I wonder, what is more befitting for a journalist: the one who throws shoes at the man who destroys his country, or the one who kisses those shoes?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hoder's Arrest Confirmed By Family

1. All those "human rights" activists and political "analysts" who have been playing dumb for over a month, justifying why they have not spoken out against Hossein Derakhshan's arrest on the basis of not having confirmation or those who have spread the most vicious lies speculating on where Hossein really is, no longer have many excuses left. Hossein's family has confirmed his arrest and detention at Eshratabad, where he is at the mercy of Saeed Mortazavi. Someone has put together a Persian language website to follow developments in the case and to call for his release, it would be cool if someone could put together an English site as well.

2. I wanted to only write about Hossein quickly, but now that I am here, what is up with the European legislators and courts these days? First, the British parliament invites the likes of Amir-Abbas Fakhravar and others to speak on behalf of Iranian students, and today, Rahman Haj-Ahmadi, a leader of violent Kurdish separatist group PEJAK is scheduled for an event. And last week, an EU court took steps to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) from the terror list. In fairness, the MKO are not violent separatists, they've just been accused of supporting such groups and given their long history of fighting against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war and acting as Saddam's henchmen during various periods, I am sure they have been guilty of much more that may never come to light.