Thursday, June 04, 2009

I Will Vote

In theory, I do not believe that diasporas should have the right to vote in the elections of their homeland, but as long as Iranian laws allow for non-residents to vote, I think I would be remiss not to vote, especially in such an important election as the upcoming one on June 12.

Although the site is still under construction, this page provides information on voting locations in the United States. Canada only allows voting in Ottowa (based on some lame security argument), so Iranians from all over Canada can only vote in one location. This is really too bad, since thousands of Iranians in Canada will be unable to trek across that gigantic country just to cast their vote in the capital. I don't have information for voters in other countries, but the best bet is to refer to the local Iranian embassy.

Iranian presidential elections have been very exciting since the late 90s, but this one seems to be breaking a record, and I predict a very high turn out both in Iran and abroad. The rallies, events, and active street campaigns (and street fights) have made it evident that those in Iran are fully geared to participate in the elections; the video below of diasporic Iranians indicates that the election fever has spread far beyond Iran's borders.

If you can vote, please do.

(Thanks to my cousin and my friend Sima for the above links)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Tehran From Google Maps Satellite

Although it makes me slightly nervous to have Iran be mapped out on google like this, it is still cool to catch a glimpse from above.

The journalist Ali Mosleh has take a few screen shots that I am using here with his permission. I hope you enjoy them.

The Azadi Stadium. This is where some of the recent humiliating soccer games have taken place:

This is the famous Azadi Memorial Tower:

Tajrish square, a well-known area with an old-school market place:

One of the busy expressways, at a moment where there is not too much traffic:

The newly unveiled Milad Tower:

Jomhouri Square:

Tohid Square:

Mehrabad Airport, formerly the main international airport in Tehran, now for domestic flights:

Some of my favorite parts of Tehran are its numerous, expansive parks, so green and full of fountains. If I get a chance I may take some screen shots of those for you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Iranian Letters to FriendFeed

If you've been wondering why I haven't blogged so much lately, it has only partially been because I have been very busy. The whole truth is that blogs are outdated, and I've been spending my spare net-time on Friendfeed, where I almost exclusively converse in Persian, and that alone has been really great.

Without warning today, Friendfeed decided to switch over to its beta version, and all of us who were online collectively freaked out. The well-known blogger sibil tala volunteered to write sample notes of complaint for the Persian speakers who wanted to give Friendfeed comments on the new website but didn't have the English skills to do so. But at one moment, she started to write sample letters for specific groups and individuals, and so the letters turned into hilarious and brilliant satiric comments on contemporary Iranian culture.

With her permission, I am copying and pasting her letters below. You need to know a little bit about contemporary Iranian culture, language, and politics to get all of what she says, but I hope there is something here for everyone to enjoy:

1. Sample Message:

Dear ferfer (that is what we call you in Persian). My father came door (it is a Persian slang with much negative connotation) with this new version, please change it to classic version or I will make your father come (door)!

2. Sample Message for Hezbollahi users:

In the name of God. It was the will of God that I found your site and I have been using it as digital tool to do good for the world. The new design has made my life very difficult and I cannot engage in my duties as a Muslim! Out of respect for my religious duties, I respectfully ask you to change it! May God help you.

3. Sample Message for Modernist Akhoonds (my note: the Akhoonds are the clergy, or as Americans/Euro call them, the Muuuuuuuuuuulahs)

We have this exact design in Islam too. We have made it more Islamic but I just wanted to bring the Islamic elements of this design to everyone's attention and thank ferfer. There is only a slight problem and that is in Islam we allow for multiplicity and it would be good to have the classic option too.

3. Sample Message for Gherti users(my note: the ghertis are the trendy/preppy/hipster users):

Hi, my name is Kambiz and I am from Persia the land of Cyrus the great and the birthplace of democracy. I am writing to you in the name of Zoroaster and asking you to take a vote and see if in the spirit of referendum, users prefer the old version of Friendfeed or not! Long live free Persia!

4. Sample Message for 101 Feminists (my note: these are the "feminists" who live outside Iran and usually can't put two words of Persian together):

Hi my name is Melodia Ghanbarzadeh and I am a women's right activist from Iran. The old site was very helpful for those poor, uneducated, very religious and slightly retarded women that Lily and I were trying to save. Can you please bring it back or Islamic fundamentalism will make us all become temporary wives!

5. Sample Message for Fakhravar (my note: Fakhravar is the "student leader" who is well known to readers of this blog)

In the name of the people of Iran. For month Mullahs torture I. They put stone and hot them in my arse. They put my head in white towel and white room. I have survived all that to bring you the maasaage of love and peace and you are even more too much tourchuring me with this new design? Long live free Iran. we love you AAmrica and Israel.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What does the Persian Gulf Have to Do With Israel?

The issue of the name of the Persian Gulf is a sensitive one for Iranians, and so it may not be a surprise that NIAC took a step to publicly comment on a testimony in the US Senate during which the term Arabian Gulf was used to describe that body of the water.

However, what is striking is that in raising its concern, NIAC identified the usage of the term as a politically divisive one used "to create divisions in the region against non-Arab entities, particularly Iran and Israel."

Why would the naming of the Persian Gulf, a body of water that is no where near Israel, be a matter of concern to Israel? More importantly, why would the concerns of Israel be an issue for the National Iranian American Council?

Finally, the naming of the Persian Gulf as Arabian may be divisive, but it is also divisive to treat both Iran and Israel as though they have no Arab populations themselves. Iran has over 2 million Arabs and Israel has approximately 1 million Arab citizens who are Palestinian and hundreds of thousands of Arab Jews.

NIAC should seriously reconsider its approach to issues of importance to its Iranian constituency. As it is, NIAC is being as divisive as the terms it is critiquing, and it is also causing confusion for the consistent consideration and priority it gives to Israel's needs and concerns.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The OffensiveToilet Drain

This really bothers me every time I see it, and I see it pretty often because it is in the toilet of one of my favorite restaurants:

Would people get away with having a toilet drain embossed with "Queen of England", "President of the US," "the Dalai Lama" or some such other title?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Another Idiotic Consequence of Anti-Iran Sanctions

I always maintain that those who push for sanctions against Iran (or any other country for that matter) on the basis that sanctions will punish the governments and not the people are either foolish or blatant liars. In my experience, almost all who offer that logic in promoting sanctions are the latter.

Without exception, sanctions primarily and disproportionately hurt the civilian population. Those who deviously promote sanctions as a deterrent of governments know very well that it is the people that will be hurt, and this is in fact what they want: unhappy, ailing, poor, miserable populations. This allows them to hit two birds with one stone: they can say "oh look how poorly government X manages its affairs, it's people are unhappy, ailing, poor and miserable" and they also believe that such populations are more likely to overthrow government X, thus saving them the trouble of ground invasions.

Today, I just want to point to one of the many idiotic consequences of sanctions, and since Mr. Obama renewed sanctions on Iran mere days before his New Year's Address to Iran, I think this should become a regular feature of this blog.

I saw on a Persian friendfeed thread today that someone in Iran was unable to access
the streaming music site and received the following message:

We believe that you are in Islamic Republic of Iran (your IP address appears to be If you believe we have made a mistake, we apologize and ask that you please contact us at

How infuriating and frustrating is that? When the Iranian government blocks access to sites like facebook or youtube, all hell breaks loose and accusations fly that the government is trying to block "western culture" and "western influence." But when a citizen in Iran is blocked by those who operate in the so-called free market and the free world, shouldn't there be outrage directed at them as well?

Someone with legal expertise please take this on. I remember back when Yahoo or Hotmail was also pulling something similar where they were denying Iran residents access to their accounts for a while, so perhaps Pandora can be convinced using whatever argument was employed in getting these others to change their foolish policy. In the meantime, if you hear of other sanction-related consequences that hurt the Iranian citizenry--whether it is small annoyances or major problems--please let me know the details.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Nowruz!

Happy 1388 to one and all!

Nowruz Message From Obama

I have to admit it, I am impressed!

There is less than eight hours until spring and the new year, so happy nowruz everyone!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Warning Against Project for "Training" Iranian Women

I just received an email urging participation in something called the "Iranian Women's Political Leadership Project." Now if this project were being initiated inside Iran or even if it were a transnational and independent project by and for Iranian women, then one could perhaps be enthusiastic. Unfortunately, none of this is the case, and unless unsuspecting Iranian women are warned about the nature of this project, they may risk great harm to themselves and their various campaigns for justice and social change.

According to the three page project summary document I received, the "Iranian Women's Political Leadership Project" or IWPLP as it calls itself, "stems directly from – and builds on – the connections within Iran of Dr. Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, IWPL Project Director, who has been a leader of the women’s movement in Iran, served a member of the Iranian Parliament, and is now a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston."

Haghighatjoo, who never misses an opportunity to stick "Dr." in front of her name, was at one moment an admirable and inspirational figure inside Iran. But this post is not about her as a person but about the project she is directing, so I won't get into her past or present.

At a time when Iranian activists have explicitly rejected foreign funded interference both to maintain their independence and to protect themselves from governmental accusations of being directed from the outside, this project dangerously and publicly claims that it will hold on-line and US-based "training of trainers" who "will conduct similar trainings in Iran with at least 100 Iranian women."

The distance learning courses proposed by this project include "Fostering the rule of law and judicial procedures: how women can gain access and fair
treatment in Iran" and "Understanding and influencing the legislative process in Iran." More than anything, such courses are insulting, since women inside Iran not only know their legislative process better than some folks sitting in Boston, but women in Iran have also been at the forefront of attempting to lobby and impact the legislative process.

Most shocking among these proposed courses, however, is a class entitled "Conflict resolution in a transitional state." What, exactly, is "transitional" in Iran at the moment? Why are they applying a term most often used to describe post-invasion Iraq and Afghanistan in a context relating to Iran? Do they know something we don't?

Along these same lines, the project summary says that they will create an "interactive website" to facilitate sharing information "on women’s political participation from all over the world, international organizations, and women’s issues during pre and post conflict situations." Again, what is the story about pre and post conflict situations? What eventual conflict are they preparing these women for? Perhaps a better question to ask is what eventual conflict are they preparing for, period.

The project summary also notes that the website will make available "all of the materials we develop as part of the NED training, plus blogs, chat-rooms, readings, and discussions." This is indeed the first and only time that NED is mentioned in the summary. The rest of the proposal refers to the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMASS Boston, where the project will presumably be housed.

This adds yet another dangerous dimension to the project since it will likely lure the participation of Iranian women using the cover of the university. While most seasoned activists in Iran are now accustomed to reading between the lines and fully investigating projects before joining in, younger and more vulnerable groups of women may fall for ill-conceived and misleading projects such as this at great cost to their credibility and safety upon return to Iran.

I know for my part, I will try to get this information out to as many Iran-based activists as possible. For those who work hard to maintain their independence, I think they deserve the fair warning.

Monday, March 16, 2009

For Herzog Fans

This is for Werner Herzog fans, he comes through as his charming, crazy, obsessive, genius, lovable self:

Watch Werner Herzog: Beyond Reason [Part 1]  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Part II:

Watch Werner Herzog: Beyond Reason [Part 2]  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mousavi Enters Iranian Presidential Race

I am still suffering from election fatigue following the US elections, but the upcoming summer elections in Iran are getting too exciting to ignore. Former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi has confirmed that he will enter the race for the presidency. While I am looking forward to watching how his rivals will react, I am especially interested in seeing how the English-language, non-Iranian press/pundits/Iran "experts" will deal with Mousavi, as he defies many of the rigid categories ("reformist", "conservative", etc)that are most often used in talking about Iran. The relative silence so far may be an indication of how confused and caught off guard they all are, but it may be too soon to tell. All things elections will likely pick up after the upcoming Iranian New Year holiday, so much of the interesting political maneuverings are still to come. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The letter below was initiated by a group of Muslim bloggers inside Iran and calls on the Head of the Judiciary to act in bringing justice to Hossein Derakhshan, who is now entering his fourth month in detention. At the moment, I wont comment on the letter, but I wanted to translate and post it here so that the text is available in English:

"O you who believe! Stand out firmly for God as just witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety; and fear God. Verily, God is well-Acquainted with what you do"- The Holy Koran

To the Honorable Ayatollah Hashemi Shahrudi-

As you are aware, Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian blogger, has been in detention for approximately four months. As Muslim bloggers who believe in the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, the signatories of this letter have no intention of defending all of the past positions, behaviors, and actions of the above named. Yet following the principle of bearing fair witness requires that we state that in recent years Derakhshan not only admitted to his own mistakes and expressed regret about some of his past writings and actions, but he had also gained fame in the weblogistan and in the foreign media for defending the Islamic Revolution and the system of the Islamic Republic.
It is natural that many had reservations about the roots of the changes in his positions and to wanted to take certain precautions. Yet what is clear is that Derakhshan, given his recent positions and his role in providing information about the relationships and actions of some political groups and media active abroad, had been severely blacklisted by those who are known to oppose the Revolution and the system. The Persian language news media outside the country, contrary to their routine methods, did not create any commotion after his arrest, and refrained for a long time from even reporting the smallest news about him.
The signatories of this letter do not have any knowledge about the contents of the case against Hossein Derakhshan, however it appears that his long detention is not appropriate for the accusations that have been formally discussed in relation to him, especially given that with his recent positions and actions, Derakhshan was clearly taking steps to make up for his past. Without doubt, if he had not been detained during the brutal attacks of the Zionist regime in Gaza, he would have used his pen and weblog to further expose those crimes and to defend the innocent people of Gaza. We wonder, if Derkhashan has changed his ideas and actions in earnest, then what message does this way of dealing with him send to Derakhshan and others like him?
Despite our differences with Hossein Derakhshan’s beliefs, viewpoints, and tastes, we Muslim bloggers owe our familiarity with blogging to his direct or indirect instructional activities in the arena of weblog writing in Iran. In the spirit of knowing and learning, and given the special situation of this individual and his committed and respected family, we ask your honor to please order that his case be handled with Islamic mercy and his detention ended.
We thank you in advance for your consideration.

Best wishes for success,

A group of Muslim Bloggers

Mohammad Ale Habib, Aghazadeh
Shahab Esfandiari, Naghd-e Farhang
Amir-Reza Bagherpour Shirazi, Webneveshteha
Ahmad Reza Baligh, Engar
Safar Pourabbas, Salman
Mohammad Hassan Jalali, Namnamak
Omid Hosseini, Ahestan
Golara Hamzeh, Dadabase
Hatef Khalidi, Kharchangzadeh
Seyyed Kamaladdein Doaee, Shagh Al-Ghalam
Ahmad Zoalam, Telepathy
Saleh Zamani, Gozar Looti Saleh
Sajad Safar Harandi, Khosoosi Neest
Mohammad Ali Taebi, Mihan Parast
Hasti Ali, Goosh-e Ghermez
Hamid Reza Alagheband, Gerdbad
Seyyed Ali Alavi, Nasl-e Sevomi
Hamed Fatahi, Armanshahr
Seyed Ali Kashefi Khansari, Kashef Dot Net
Hossein Komeilian, Cinematograd
Masoud Levasani, Jaab-e Khaterat
Davood Moradian, Hees
Seyyed Morteza Hashemi Madani, Kalameh

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Confiscation and Auction of Iranian Historical Artifacts

In 2006, I wrote that the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute was being sued to turn over ancient Iranian artifacts so that they could be auctioned and the proceeds used to compensate victims of bombings in Israel(!).

It seems that this looting of Iranian artifacts is one step closer to realization, so please take a moment to write a letter to President Obama and the Department of Justice asking them to intervene. You don't have to sign the cheesy (and in some places, rather problematic) letter that NIAC has written up; I wrote up my own letter and used their form to send it. It is quite convenient and NIAC should be commended for taking up the effort, even if the actual letter they wrote leaves much to be desired.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


1. "Note to mainstream media: Iran cannot construct nuclear bombs with uranium enriched only to less than 4%." With Bibi Nethanyahu and his frothing-at-the-mouth allies, get ready for an overdose of anti-Iran propaganda!

2. “The Quran is perfect just the way it is, that’s why it is only written in Islamic.” Hey, anybody know where I can learn to speak Islamic? Does Rossetta Stone have their Islamic language series out yet?

3.The New Year is coming, and for all of you in the DC area, there are some great free events to celebrate.

Letter to Harper's

Does anyone read blogs anymore? Not too many even bother to write them either. The hay days of blogging seem to have come and gone, I'm not sure whether to mourn or celebrate.

Since the anti-blog bug seems to have bit me as well, I will just limit to sharing with you a brief letter I wrote to Harper's Magazine about the Index in their March 2009 issue. After reading my letter and checking out the offending piece, if you agree with me that what they did was weird, sneaky, devious, and/or hateful, you can send them a polite note at

Here is what I wrote:

"Dear Harper's-

Our household subscribes to your magazine, and we particularly look forward to reading the Harper's Index in each issue.

However, reading the Index as part of my bedtime ritual tonight, I was so aggravated that I had to get out of bed and write you this short note. Regarding Palestine and Israel, you included three figures. First, you put the estimated total in pounds of explosives Israel dropped on Gaza during the first week of the recent invasion (40,000) as well as the estimated total (also 40,000) that Palestinians fired into Israel over the course of the year. While one figure notes the amount dropped in a week versus what happened over an entire year, the fact that the figures are the same suggests some kind of equivalence of powers. But never mind that, what is even more troubling is that while you take care to note the number of Israelis who have been killed by Hamas rocket fire since 2001 (28), there is no mention of Palestinian casualties as a result of the bombs Israel has dropped on Gaza. As you may well know, the casualties on the first night of the recent Israeli assault on Gaza surpassed 28. If you care to count, and apparently you don't, there are credible estimates--by international, Palestinian, and yes, Israeli organizations--that can provide you with those figures.

Implying an equivalence in fire power between Israel and Palestine is a familiar trick, but choosing to acknowledge the victims of only one side is a whole other kind of low. I hope that at some point in the future, you will find Palestinian lives worthy enough to be included as a line in your index."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hero of the Day

Notice that David Ignatius of The Washington Post shows the same kind of objectivity and fairness in moderating the discussion between Turkish Prime Minster Erdogan and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres as he does when he covers Middle East issues in his newspaper.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Danger of Dennis Ross Still Looms

Believe it or not, and contrary to the direction some of my formerly Obama-maniac friends are going, I am actually becoming more hopeful in what is possible under an Obama administration. Anyone who was present among the masses gathered during inauguration can't deny that this guy is different, or at least different enough that it is worth engaging him. Instead of withdrawing, the progressive forces who are responsible for bringing Obama to power should continue to press him to make sure that he is held accountable for his promises.

And many have been doing that already. It appears that the outcry against Dennis Ross as the Special Middle East Envoy was successful. The appointment of Mitchell, while sure not to please everyone in the progressive community, is certainly perceived by most as a positive development.

Unfortunately, insiders in DC are now discussing rumors that while Ross may not receive any kind of "envoy" status, he may still be in charge of an "Iran Portfolio." The scope and nature of this position is not yet clear, but for all of the reasons outlined in my previous post, putting Ross in charge of Iran policy is tantamount to putting the wolf in charge of the chicken coop.

If Obama is serious about changing Iran policy, then he must steer clear of appointing someone who could have easily been appointed by the Bush-Cheney administration. While I understand the pragmatism and rhetoric of "working with both sides of the aisle," there is no need to reach out to extremists and place them in the most sensitive posts.

I hope everyone who is well-placed, or not so well-placed, will speak out against the appointment of Dennis Ross to any and all government positions dealing with Iran or the region more broadly.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pictures from Pre-Inauguration Concert in DC

Approaching the site of the concert, the Washington memorial can be seen on the left, and Stevie Wonder is on the screen:

A view of some of the port-a-potties (something like five thousand total) that are supposed to serve the couple of million people who are going to be on the mall on Tuesday:

The FBI and other security forces:

A view of the lincoln monument. U2 was playing and I think you can catch a glimpse of them on the screen:

This is another view of the lincoln monument during Obama's speech (you can see him on the screen):

These were among the many kitschy items for sale today:

This guy was my favorite person of the day. What I really wanted a picture of was his full length fur coat, but that was covered by what you can see is a very large portrait. He said he was here all the way from Minneapolis.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dennis Ross as "Special Envoy to Iran"

Around three days ago, CNN reported that Dennis Ross was likely to be appointed "ambassador at large" to the Middle East. While some insiders in DC are reporting that the Ross appointment as ambassador at Large/special envoy to Iran is not yet a 100% done deal, the fact that he appears to be the top candidate is very telling.

For those who may not know Ross, I am including below a list of relevant facts. Ross (along with Martin Indyk) are well-known for their disastrous impact on Palestine-Israel issues, but I am going to limit most of my points here to facts which will highlight why Ross will also be a huge disaster for Iran:

- Ross (again with Martin Indyk) co-founded the self-described "America's Pro-Israel Lobby", AIPAC, as well as its "think-tank" arm, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

-Ross was the director for policy planning in the State Department under President George H.W. Bush.

-In a November 2008 piece in Newsweek, Ross, after repeating all of the familiar--and baseless-- accusations about an Iranian nuclear weapon, insisted that "the more Washington shows it's willing to engage Iran directly, the more these other parties, will feel comfortable ratcheting up the pressure." This stance against straightforward negotiations , of course, in direct contradiction to Obama's campaign-time statements about his plans to hold unconditional talks with Iran.

-In a April 2008 testimony to Congress, Ross' options for "diplomacy" include suggestions to "tighten the noose" on Iran (meaning more devastating sanctions on the people of Iran). Although he says that he is for talks with "pressure", it seems to be a smokescreen so that they can say they tried diplomacy. Ross directly reveals this cunning strategy when he says: "Tougher policies—either military or meaningful containment—will be easier to sell internationally and domestically if we have diplomatically tried to resolve our differences with Iran in a serious and credible fashion."

For further reading on Ross and further proof (as if one needed it) for why Obama's-change-is-a-joke, you can see the following links:

-Dennis Ross interview with Nathan Gardels on the Huffington Post

-Top Obama Adviser Has Long Ties to Neocons by Michael Flynn.

-Obama's Neocon in Residence by Philip Giraldi

-The Same Old Change:Obama's Middle East 'czar' signals the Lobby's still in charge by Justin Raimondo

Friday, January 09, 2009

My friend Sima sent me the above photo from the gathering to protest the unprovoked murder of 22 year old Oscar Grant in Oakland, CA.

In case you can't read the sign, it says "Justice for Oscar Grant! Justice for Gaza! End Government Sponsored Murder in the Ghettos of Oakland and Palestine."

If you can stomach the horror, here is the video of the police officer shooting Oscar Grant in the back at point blank range. As you will be able to see, Grant was on the ground, on his stomach, in a position of surrender.

For the massacres in the Gaza ghetto, there are too many ghastly images to post, but this video posted in an earlier comment section, is another sad example of government sponsored, unaccountable murder of innocent civilians.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

"a big concentration camp" and the Ashura of our Time

You can always count on Ron Paul to say it like it is, as he did in this statement a few days ago, where he described Palestinians as being confined in a big "concentration camp" in Gaza. A representative of the Pope also spoke out in calling Gaza "a big concentration camp". I'm sure both the Pope and Ron Paul will shortly be bombarded with accusations of antisemitism.

In addition to nightmarish visions of Nazi concentration camps, the situation in Gaza is also prompting many to compare it to Ashura, the day on the Islamic calendar month of Muharram marking the martyrdom of Imam Hossein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammad. On his way to Kufa, at the Battle of Karbala, Hossein and his small army of men, along with scores of womenandchildren, were slaughtered by the massive army of Yazid, and the historic battle is often viewed as a symbol of the importance of fighting against injustice, even if one is outnumbered and facing a brutal army that shows no mercy.

One of the things still mourned to this day is the failure of the people of Kufa and others to come to the aid of Hossein.

The orientalists working for the Israeli Ministry of foreign affairs, apparently in their zeal to further the strife they have been creating and nurturing between Shia and Sunni, seem to have been so convinced about their own narratives about Shia/Sunni dischord that they figured bombing during Muharram would go unnoticed by the Muslim world.

Well, it hasn't. Calling Gaza the Ashura of our times in a recent speech, Hassan Nassrollah successfully tapped into the resonance of this story in a way that goes beyond Sunni/Shia divisions.

In addition to fueling world outrage against itself, Israel may have also dealt a blow to the US-Israel project of fostering Shia-Sunni sectarianism.

Yesterday, in marking Ashura, Iranians also remembered Gaza, making the same link between the historical tale of injustice and the story playing out before our very eyes. You may be surprised if you see the faces of some of the people who joined this commemoration, here is one example:

(original picture from here)

Despite the best efforts of State Department funded VOA and similar stations trying to brainwash the Iranian people to worry about their own troubles (why don't you take your own advice, State Department!), there are plenty of Iranians who can think and see for themselves.

I am happy that people of various beliefs, in Iran and throughout the world, are putting aside their ideological differences and joining one another in raising their voice against the massacres of Gaza.

Thousands of protesters around the world. The UN. Ron Paul. The Pope. Girls in Tehran with too much make-up and girls with their plastic surgery bandages still on their nose. I'm proud to be part of this diverse group!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Continuing Pressures on Shirin Ebadi

While I am still critical of Ebadi's statement on Gaza and other issues, she makes some important points in an interview published today about all of the pressure she has been under. I've translated a few excerpts from it and pasted it below. I have to say that I admire her tenacity and was moved by her declaration that she would never leave Iran. Countless people would have long left Iran if they faced the troubles she has faced; in fact, sadly, many people go looking for trouble just so they can have a remotely believable reason for asylum applications. There is a guy here in DC, one of Tabarzadi's gang now working for Voice of America, who apparently used to seek out and take money from desperate Iranian refugees in Turkey, promising in exchange to put their names in "student movement" newsletters so they could claim that they were politically active and couldn't go back to Iran. Anyway, back to Ebadi and the interview:

Question: Some say that one of the goals of these pressures is to force you to leave Iran. What do you think about this?

Answer: I can only say that as long as I am alive, I will leave Iran under no conditions. I am an Iranian and must live, work, and die in Iran.

Question: Mr. Ahmadinejad once said that he is willing to provide you with protection given the threats that had been made against you. But you did not accept. Why not?

Answer: My aim is defend all citizens. Providing body guards for one or a few people will not solve anything. Society should be safe and calm for all citizens so that they can live in complete security. And I'm sorry that I had to call the police for help on Thursday and two people from Yusuf-abad even came, but in their presence and right in front of their eyes, [the protestors] tore down the sign from my office and spray painted slogans against me all over the walls. And the police showed no reaction. My legal question for them is this: do gatherings and protests require permits or no? If they are not needed and the police did not stop those who attacked my house, then how come when women show the slightest protest in opposition to discriminatory laws, they deal with them in the harshest of ways? And if gatherings do require permits, then how come the police didn't deal with [the protesters] and just stood there watching? And if they had a permit, then they must announce which authority granted them that permit. This is a legal question and I put it out their for general consideration.

Question: How long will you bear these illegal actions?

Answer: As long as I am alive.

The full article in Persian is available here (I think this may be a fishy website, but the only other option was to link to gooya, so it is a lose-lose situation. If this interview appears on a less troubling site, I'll replace the link).

Thursday, January 01, 2009

More Empty and Shameful Statements

Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi and her organization, the Defenders of Human Rights Center, have been under a tremendous amount of pressure lately. First, the Iranian authorities shut down the Center on December 21, then they confiscated documents from Ebadi's private law office on December 29, and just this morning, a group of about 150 protesters showed up at her private residence, condemning her silence on Gaza.

It goes without saying that official harassment of Ebadi and her colleagues is unacceptable and must end immediately, but when one reads the maddeningly inane statement Ebadi's Defenders of Human Rights Center just put out, it is hard not to feel frustrated with its calculating hypocrisy. Had Ebadi not said anything at all, it would have been better. I have copied and pasted the full translated statement below in italics, with my comments after each paragraph:

What has transpired in recent days in Gaza has been cause for serious concern of human rights defenders and supporters of peace around the world. The raw and extreme violence perpetuated in Gaza has injured the conscience of humanity and it is clear that such developments will only work to further endanger sustainable world peace.

"What has transpired" and the "extreme violence perpetuated"? What, pray tell, has transpired and by whom? I understand the prevalence of passive construction in Persian, I use it all the time myself, but why doesn't Ebadi's statement name Israel in this or any other paragraph? Why don't they give us a sense of "what has transpired"? Why so vague?

The defenseless women and children of the region have been victimized even further by the perpetrators of violence who fathom nothing else but increasing their own power.

Here we go with the womenandchildren again. Are womenandchildren the only ones victimized? Are all dead, wounded, or starving men in the Gaza strip fair targets? And to say that these womenandchildren are victimized "by the perpetrators of violence who fathom nothing else but increasing their own power," is this not the most thinly veiled accusation against Hamas and only Hamas?

The world community has grown tired and impatient with the acts of murder, bloodshed and violence, and what is taking place in Gaza today is yet another example of these bitter and bloody events.

Ok, yes, "the world community", whatever that phrase means, have grown tired of bloodshed. But you know what else is tiresome? Carefully crafted statements by so-called human rights organizations who don't have the guts to call a spade a spade when it comes to anything having to do with Israel and Palestine. This used to be a problem that was particularly evident in the case of US-based organizations, but I guess when you start imagining that your main audience are the US-based groups who invite you to their conferences and arrange speaking tours for you, you have to adjust your language to that which pleases them.

We call upon the international community to react quickly and with force through whatever means possible to end the murder and violence in Gaza, and call upon humanitarian organizations to take necessary steps to defend the basic human rights of the citizens of Gaza and to quickly, seriously and effectively respond to and address the needs of victims in Gaza.

Even in the concluding paragraph, the writers can't bring themselves to name the perpetrators or to give an example of the violence they claim to abhor.

I haven't been this disappointed in Ebadi since she decided to parrot the US demands on Iran regarding the nuclear issue.

The Office for the Consolidation of Unity,dafter-e Tahkeem-e Vahdat, put out a statement on Gaza that was so shamefully bad that it makes Ebadi's look like a the work of a conscientious radical. I may write about them in another post, though I am not sure if they are worth the effort. It suffices to say for now, that I wouldn't expect anything more from a group whose leaders/role models are the likes of former NED fellow Ali Afshari and AEI favorite Akbar Atri.