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 Pandora.com and received the following message:

We believe that you are in Islamic Republic of Iran (your IP address appears to be 94.185.154.82). If you believe we have made a mistake, we apologize and ask that you please contact us at pandora-support@pandora.com

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 Veoh.com

Part II:


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

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