Monday, November 28, 2005

Taxi Talk

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Bad traffic. Our 20-minute trip in heavy traffic became a 45-minute trip in heavier traffic. Who knows why?

Our driver: tall, silver flecks in black hair. Black shirt. Big prayer ring.

He began by complaining that foreigners were screwing up the economy.

“Why do you say foreigners? We do it all ourselves,” K said. “What other country gives inexperienced and immature people such positions of power? Would you let a 12-year old manage your investments?”

“He might be a smart kid,” the driver joked.

“Yeah, but he puts all your money into candy.”

“That’s may be true.”

“All over the world, Iranians are successful. Let’s not even talk about engineers or doctors,” K said, “there are Iranian architects, Iranian designers, Iranian pop stars, Iranian journalists. Just look at CNN! But here: we can’t be successful at anything. We have everything; every talent; everything we need to be successful, and then a bunch of immature and inexperienced leaders.”

“What about Clinton? He was young when he became president.”

“The difference between a young Clinton and a young guy here goes from the ground to the sky. Clinton goes from high school to college to work. He builds his experience step-by-step. He doesn’t go from basij to oil minister in one step, does he?”

“But the West is always trying to influence us,” the driver added.

“Oh, and aren’t we trying to influence Armenia and Iraq and Afghanistan? That’s the way the world works.”

Later in the conversation…

“I was a member of the Basijee,” the driver tells us. “But it soon became clear to me that it was just a group of people out for revenge. They told me, go and get your revenge, but I told them: why should I do that? I joined because I believed in Islam and the revolution. All those guys believed in was vengeance.” (After the car ride I asked K why he kept talking about throwing bricks. K explained that that meant “taking revenge.”)

“What religion tells you that it’s okay to lie, cheat, and steal? Here in Iran, you cannot function without lying, cheating, or stealing.”

“This is not Islam,” the driver says. “This is its opposite.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Opip - an observation post: Conversation with Nasser Zarafshan

From Opip's Blog an interesting interview. I know I was late finding it, but that doesn't make it any less interesting:

Conversation with Nasser Zarafshan

Under the title „Tehran’s reformist mask has come off“ the German newspaper „Junge Welt“ published an interview with Nasser Zarafshan on Saturday.

Dr. Zarafshan acted as a lawyer to the relatives of Iranian writers assassinated in the ‘serial murders‘ (more on the serial murders), when he was himself arrested in 2002. He has been in prison ever since. In June he went on hunger strike to protest his detention. During the summer he was shortly transfered to a hospital to undergo treatment for kidney stones.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Isolating Iran is what the Fundamentalists Want

First the comment:
Anonymous said...
Ah, if only Americans could finance microbanks in Iran the evil regime would be less secure.

Sorry, the NY Times editorial is the usual Times pap about how the world be great if only we were all nice to each other and that it is always America's fault if we are not.

The Iranian regime is serious about the systematic destruction of the West. It even says so itself. Isn't that what Death to America means? Helping the Iranian people unfortunately means helping the regime. We are better off withholding our help.

My response:
Now you are thinking like the fundamentalists in Iran! You guys agree. They don’t want out help, and you don’t think we should give it.
Fundamentalists strive for isolation. Their goal is to isolate Iranians from the rest of the world: economically, culturally, and intellectually. They are itching for a fight. Sanctions and strikes would help build their power base.

Believe it or not, the Iranian regime is not 100% fundamentalist. There are dissenting voices that want to keep Iran and Iranians engaged in the world. Iranians themselves are far from 100% fundamentalist. And, guess what, they are overwhelmingly pro-American.

Sometimes I think Iran is like a tube of toothpaste. The regime just keeps squeezing people so that they leave or lose the will to fight.

Read “Soldiers of the Hidden Imam” by Timothy Garton Ash

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sex Appeal

A friend of mine is convinced that Westerners are erotically obsessed with the hijab. “They love the photograph of the chadori with the rifle and the basij headband,” she raves. “It turns them on. I swear.”

Maybe. After all the “adult” shelves are filled with nun fantasies… It’s the same outfit more or less.

We had dinner with a couple vacationing in Iran. “This is how much the whole hijab thing affected me,” the man told us. “After just one week here I felt like a twinge of excitement watching a strange woman take her headscarf off when we would come inside a house. I felt like such a voyeur. I was constantly trying to imagine what the women were wearing under their hijab. Tell me what was it?!”

“A spaghetti strap, skin-tight top and stretch pants,” I answered.


GM from San Francisco sent a link to this article in the Jerusalem Post: “Exclusive: Immigrant moves back 'home' to Teheran”

"I have a lot of Muslim friends and they all knew I'd moved to Israel," he said. "They asked me, 'Why did you come back?'" His Jewish friends in Iran already knew the answer.
Despite the declaration last week by Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel must be wiped off the map, the Shihab missiles displayed in Teheran with "Israel" painted on them, the broadcasting of anti-Semitic films on national television and the much-publicized trials of 13 Jewish Iranians on spy charges, Ishak insists that life in Iran is far better for Jews than life in Israel.
"If you have problems there, people help you - and they know you are Jewish," said Ishak, who has now briefly returned to Israel to sell his shop and leave for good. "But here, everyone is looking out for himself. You can't trust anybody."

Is it nostalgia? True? Or the interactions of a minority? I don’t know. I do know that when you are part of a minority, you get accustomed to a certain type of group behavior that is decidedly un-majority. I often wonder what happens to Iran’s Christians when they find themselves in majority Christian countries like America. Are they excited to be part of a big majority or do they retain the characteristics of a minority group. Any Armenians from Iran out there who want to respond?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Telegraph | News | Suicide bombers on Iran kids' TV

"Ahmadinejad is not a shrewd political operator," said Dr Ansari. "Most Iranians want to focus on domestic problems and this [his anti-Israeli stance] is alarming the international community and creating huge anxiety in Iran."

A British diplomat in London said: "The increase in anti-Israeli propaganda and Ahmadinejad's dangerous rhetoric will only serve to alienate him from his people and further isolate Iran. For the West, as well as Israel, the prospect of this man having his finger on a nuclear button is truly horrifying."">Telegraph | News | Suicide bombers on Iran kids' TV: "'Ahmadinejad is not a shrewd political operator,' said Dr Ansari. 'Most Iranians want to focus on domestic problems and this [his anti-Israeli stance] is alarming the international community and creating huge anxiety in Iran.'

A British diplomat in London said: 'The increase in anti-Israeli propaganda and Ahmadinejad's dangerous rhetoric will only serve to alienate him from his people and further isolate Iran. For the West, as well as Israel, the prospect of this man having his finger on a nuclear button is truly horrifying.'"

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Our Allies in Iran - New York Times

Great op-ed by Afshin Molavi.
Our Allies in Iran - New York Times:
"Iran's modern middle class, which is increasingly urbanized, wired and globally connected, provides particularly fertile soil for these aspirations. The Stanford University scholar Abbas Milani has described Iran's middle class as a 'Trojan horse within the Islamic republic, supporting liberal values, democratic tolerance and civic responsibility.' And so long as that class grows, so too will the pressure for democratic change.

If Mr. Ahmadinejad's foreign policy results in further global economic isolation or military intervention, however, the situation for Iran's democracy-minded middle class could deteriorate. Foreign hostility will furnish additional pretexts for the regime to frighten its people and crack down on dissent. Particularly if the European Union decides to participate in a tougher sanctions regime, liberal-minded Iranians will lose contact with the foreign investors, educators, tourists and businessmen who link them to the outside world.

Now more than ever, middle-class and other democracy-minded Iranians need to preserve and expand their network of institutions independent from the government - institutions in which they can take refuge from the rapacious hardliners who seek to control all aspects of Iranian life. That network should include a strong private sector; a rich array of nongovernmental organizations dealing with issues like poverty, women's rights and youth unemployment; and social, intellectual and cultural associations that communicate with counterparts abroad.

Unfortunately, United States sanctions now prevent any American person or group from financially supporting, say, a microfinance bank, a program to train future political leaders or even an education initiative for rural women in Iran. That is a mis- take. Elsewhere in the Middle East, the United States has programs that provide exactly these kinds of grants, in the name of democratization."

Eid is tomorrow…

Update: Welcome to View from Iran...If you feel like it, stay and read a bit.

I know that a lot of people are coming to this site for info on Eid 2007 in Iran... Eid-eh Shoma mubarak. I heard that there will be only one day of Eid this year, but who can be certain? Last year's 2-day celebration was a complete fiasco!

In Amsterdam, where we are now, the streets are filled with Muslims eating ice cream and sweets. Hope you are enjoying yourselves everywhere.

Woke up to stripes of snow on the mountains, rain-charged air, and fantastic after-rain light. It was the happiest I’ve felt in ages.
The end of Ramadan has been announced.
Rumor has it that AN is recalling ambassadors. Will they actually come back? Time will tell.
I do not have a clue about what is going on. The Iranian stock market is crashing. People are not making purchases. Iranians are preparing for sanctions. The regime is preparing for war.
No one wants sanctions… except, perhaps, the hardliners (which hardliners? I am sure there is a faction of hardliners that would prefer not to have sanctions.). Sanctions will be a boost for the hardliners who get stronger on depravation than they do on plenty.
AN promised economic reforms. How will those promises be met with sanctions? I was riding in a taxi when 20% pay raises were announced. “The prices have gone up 40%, but our pay is only going up 20%,” the driver told me. “You need 1 million tuman a month to have a life in Tehran, but all I make is 200,000.”
It’s hard to believe that the rial was ever worth anything.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Jee zuee, what the f***?

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The differences between the reformers and the conservatives seem tiny when compared to the differences between the hardliners and the hardliners. The reformers just wanted a kinder, gentler Islamic government. What do the hardliners want? You tell me.
I’m serious. Tell me.
I was riding downtown when I saw the giant posters “World Without Zionism.” A couple of days later, AN makes his firebrand speech. I am so sick of anti-semites (you know I don’t mean Arabs, right folks?) pretending that they are just anti-Zionists. Jezuee, you do business with the Russians for f***’s sake. Oh yeah, and the Chinese.
The weird thing is that most Iranians would be shocked to discover that the rhetoric of their various leaders makes me, at times, physically ill. They would never take it as seriously as I do.
They laugh it off. And I do not want to find out more. I do not want to know if they find AN brave (like a friend told me that many do) or honest or whatever. The Iranians I have met rarely make any connections between their hatred for Israel and anti-Jewishness. Jews are, after all, people of the book. The children of Ibrahim. Right?
Of course, many of the Iranians I have met have never heard of the holocaust. They still appreciate the Germans for fighting those evil Brits. They know next to nothing about World War 2.
Ramadan should be a spiritual time for Muslims. Right? But every fucking year, all over the world, it is used as a time for increased holy violence and vitriolic speech.
This year I stayed away from all Iranian media. I knew that if I watched it, I would be subjected to too much casual hatred.
But, like last year, I am sure that the day after Ramadan, everything will be back to normal. The vitriol will get watered down. Rafsanjani claims that the leader agrees that Israel should not be wiped off the map. If that’s true… what’s next from here?