Monday, June 27, 2005

Juan Cole comments on Iran's elections

I wish Juan Cole would not waste his breath making comparisons between Bush and AN. It's exhausting... I'm exhausted from these arguments...

And I don't know how much he really knows about what goes on here and what AN will or will not do...

The fact of the matter is this: AN ran a compelling campaign in the one-week between the first and second rounds of the election. All of the other candidates pledged their votes to Hashemi which just made AN look more appealing to Iranians who do not trust the establishment.

Only time will tell what will happen here.

Informed Comment: All that said, it is probably true that there was some ballot stuffing by Ahmadinejad supporters. It was alleged by clerical moderate Karrubi, and it is plausible. These presidential elections are the least free and fair since the early 1990s, though all along there has been a problem of the exclusion and vetting of candidates by the clerics. On the other hand, it seems undeniable that Ahmadinejad's campaign struck a chord with many Iranians tired of corruption and economic stagnation. He may well have won the second round even without those 'extra' ballots.

Thanks to Diana for pointing me in this direction.

In the interest of even more fairplay...

More on Secure Computing...

Yishay Mor; Slightly informed, highly opinionated.: "Some time ago I posted a call to ban Secure Computing, the company that makes SmartFilter.
The reason: these guys are selling their software to Tunisia, which uses it to block pornography and political debate.

Today I got a comment from Mr. David Burt, PR manager, explaining that secure computing do not licence software to Iran, due to its strick adherance to the US embargo, and any Iranian ISP using SmartFilter was doing it illeagaly.

I almost flogged myself in public, but then I re-read my original post. Hang on Dude, I say, I was talking about Tunisia. What about Tunisia? You know, they are using your software to shut people up. I even warn him that I'm going to post his response.

Here it is:

We sell to ISPs where the law allows. It's really up the customer how they use
our software.

right. thanks. have a nice day."

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Comment from PR spokesman at Secure Computing

In the interest of fair play...
Blogger: Post a Comment: "Secure Computing has sold no licenses to any entity in Iran, and any use of Secure's software by an ISP in Iran has been without Secure Computing's consent and is in violation of Secure Computing's End User License Agreement."

Today Iranians Woke Up to a New President…

Our friends are crying and depressed and sick. "Last night they started arresting boys and girls out walking together," a friend told me. "People are saying no more colorful scarves; no more parties…" This may seem to be the least important aspect of the whole election, but it's not. Live without a normal social life and see what happens to you…

Iranian tv is saying that Iranians have shamed America and Western news is saying that Iranians have taken a hard turn to the right. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that neither are correct.

This election was not about America.

This election was not about Islam.

The election may have been about the revolution.

This past week AN presented these simple messages:

Rich against poor and honesty against corruption.

People voted for AN. Raf voters voted against AN.

The middle class voted, but many of them voted for AN. The rich went on vacation.

The poor voted for AN. And there are a lot more poor people than rich people in Iran.

AN knew something about Iranians: they are sick to death of corruption, and they think every rich person is corrupt. They hate mullahs, but they still love Islam. And one more thing: the majority of his opponents are apathetic.

"I don't think it mattered who we voted for ever," a voting friend tells me. "This is the result they wanted from the beginning. They got it in the parliament and now they got it in our new president."

Her eyes are red from crying.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cowboy campaigning in Iran

Hear in your head the theme song for the old television shoe Ponderosa.

Now imagine instead of a cowboy, the Islamic fundamentalist: Ahmadinejad. That is what I will do the next time I hear the song.

Last night I watched AN's campaign film. There was something so attractive about it. Here is this unassuming man who lives the way many Iranians live: simply and unpretentiously. He makes it clear that he has not been corrupted by money. He portrays himself as a friend of the poor. He is an idealist. "Our culture has come so far from the culture of the revolution."

He's right.

Now he may be elected as president of Iran. A very professional, efficient, modern friend of ours called and claimed that she will vote for him. She will call back to tell us her reasons. What could they possibly be? The undeniable sex appeal of facism? Romance with socialism? A utopian world view? A desire for change? A passion for Islamic rule? Who the f*** knows?


Hashemi is portraying himself as the future of Iran. A poster portrays him looking down, without the turban that identifies him as a cleric. The text reads something like: Against terror and for freedom.

What will it be?

Filtering the Internet in Iran

Iran is the country of stupid filtering tricks. I have read that they bought their web filter from an American company: Secure Computing... So much for spreading free speech all over the world... Hey Bush, wanna' spend your free speech money wisely? Impose an embargo on companies that restrict free speech.

Upstart in Iran Election Campaigns as Champion of Poor - New York Times:

"But if Mr. Ahmadinejad had one point that he wanted to get across it was that people should not fear that he will try to impose Taliban-style rule over Iran. 'They have said if I become president I will shut down the Internet,' Mr. Ahmadinejad said Wednesday night. 'Why do they say that?'

He added: 'My children and my wife are constantly on the Internet. They don't give me a chance to use the phone line. My wife loves doing her research on the Internet.'"

Forget politics, pornography, and other controversies...his wife is certainly not looking for any women's health information in the course of her research. You can't even access articles about breast cancer.

Ironically, the one thing that Iranian television freely presents are programs regarding health. But don't try to access the same information on the internet... it is forbidden.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Mural in front of the former American embassy

Another piece of the mural outside the "Den of Espionage:" The former American Embassy. Posted by Hello

Front-Runner in Iran Finds Students to Be a Tough Audience - New York Times

Front-Runner in Iran Finds Students to Be a Tough Audience - New York Times:

"'If Mr. Ahmadinejad comes to power, it will be a complete concentration of power like you have never had before in Iran,' said Amir Ali Nourbakhsh, a political and economic analyst in Tehran. He added, 'The question that will be answered for us will be, 'Will Iranians vote for radical Islamic socialism, yes or no?' '

But many of Mr. Ahmadinejad's supporters said they were not thinking that way, seeing him instead as a fresh face and a man of the people, while Mr. Rafsanjani is seen as a throwback, a part of a system they distrust.

'In my opinion, if Mr. Rafsanjani wins, they will have to replace his turban with a crown,' said Aida Shafiee, 20, a university student who was in the street on Tuesday protesting the failure of the Education Ministry to begin her program on time.

In fact, the street was crowded with protesters, young men and women, voicing their discontent. It looked like a natural constituency for the reform movement, but most everyone in the crowd said they supported Mr. Ahmadinejad.

'He has come from the people, and he is honest,' said Mehdi Gholamnia, 20, a student from the city of Bijar who said he voted four years ago for Mr. Khatami but this year will vote for Mr. Ahmadinejad. Iranians can vote when they are 15.

Mr. Rafsanjani's partisans were clearly taking the contest seriously and had stepped up their attacks on Mr. Ahmadinejad, with messages flashing on cellphones all over Tehran warning that he would usher in a Taliban-style government and put up dividers to separate men and women riding in elevators."

Monday, June 20, 2005

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to my father living in the Great Satan from his daughter in the Axis of Evil. Posted by Hello

The rumor mill

Itchy's comments on a recent post made me decide it was time for a post on Iran's well-oiled rumor mill. Many Iranians, for instance, still believe that the earthquake in Bam was the result of underground nuclear testing.

Rumors get spread from family-to-family, friend-to-friend, and taxi driver to passenger. (Taxi drivers are the source of most of my favorite rumors…) Rumors are the way that Iranians deal with their distrust of official sources of information.

As Itchy pointed out in his comments, there is currently a rumor going around that the mayor of Tehran made it to the 2nd round in order to solidify the country's voters around Hashemi. So far, this rumor is being spread by Westerners. The Iranians we know are still too shocked to spread rumors.

Before last Friday's elections, there were rumors of plans for dirty tricks. The rumors were not specific, but there was certainly an expectation.

Recently, Fox News reported a popular Iranian rumor and called it a "well kept secret." This particular Fox News piece claimed that it is a well-kept secret that Iran is harboring Al Qaeda members including OBL. K and I have heard this rumor from ever other taxi driver since our first day in Iran. I would hardly call that a well-kept secret. I would call that a "rumor."

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Election Results


Are bloggers and moderates so out of touch with Iran that they could predict a strong showing for Moin? Or did the heat convince borderline boycotters/voters to stay home?

[See poll (]

There are about twenty people around me now: all of whom are in shock: voters and non-voters alike. The news in Iran is that Ahmadi Nejad may be the top vote getter and that Moin will be fifth. All of the voters we know (which turned out to be many more than two days before the vote), save 1, voted for Moin. Even the 1 Rafsanjani voter who early on admitted to her intention to vote, voted for Moin.


Well there was a demonstration…
But it did not result in any deaths… I don't think.

Iran has a well-oiled rumor mill that I sometimes accidentally participate in.

We had 2 days of vote talk. At the last minute one of our friends began to canvass for Moin. He called everyone he knew and convinced them to go out and vote. "What are you waiting for?" He asked friends, family, and strangers. "Do you think America or Europe is going to come in and save us? Are you going out onto the streets? Do you think we should have a new revolution?" These are the questions he asked the non-voters. He was able to convince many to go out and vote. Many others remained unconvinced.

Boycotters argued that only a boycott would send the right message. I have always been dubious of this argument. I think it is difficult to weed active non-voters out from the apathetic.

And now we hear that Karoobi is leading. What?

Friday, June 17, 2005

TV coverage

Television programs are really pushing the vote. Iranian television is even broadcasting strange, fake LA satellite programs that urge people not to participate in the vote. I think these are meant as a form of comedy. A skinny guy with a tinny voice takes calls and makes himself look like a fool. I think that the government was so successful broadcasting snippets of the Zoroatrian guy who said that he would bring 50 full planes to Iran to bring about peaceful regime change that they thought that it would be a good idea to fake an LA-based call-in program calling on people not to participate in the vote.

I have a sense that there is a growing urge, if not intention, to vote. I found another person who is planning to vote. He plans to be the first Moin voter of the day. So in my informal poll, I have found 1 Moin voter and 1 Rafsanjani voter.

My taxi driver told me that fights have been breaking out all over town. "Yeah, supporters of the various candidates have taken to the streets and the police are busy breaking up their fights all over town." This has been confirmed by others.

K's nephew just stopped by to tell us that on his way here, the streets in front of one of the broadcasters was packed with police. "The driver said that there had been a demonstration against the government and that two people were killed."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Taxi Poll

The taxi poll

I've been in a lot of shared taxis lately: that means 5 passengers plus the drivers. Our conversations have been mostly mundane or non-existent. If you have a gregarious driver or gregarious passengers, shared taxis can be fun. If not, you have a quiet trip: you just sweat and, unless you are short and skinny, sit uncomfortably.

When K is with me, he always asks if anyone is voting. So far, only one person has said yes. One guy said, "Why should I vote? We already have a president. What difference would voting for a president make? It's just a title."

Last night, K and I were out waiting for a taxi to drive by to take us home. There were some young men working on their car: music blasting. A car pulled up. "Rafsanjani voters," K said pointing to the guys working on their car.

The driver who was young himself said, "Just wait. Three days after the election, they'll start cracking down and arresting people again."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Bombings in Iran...

7 Bombings Shatter Iran's Pre-Election Calm, Killing 10 - New York Times:
"Even so, if a pro-Hussein group is responsible for the bombings in Iran, that suggests that the instability plaguing Iraq may have begun to spill over into Iran. It also suggests that Iran's leaders could get more involved in Iraqi politics.

Mr. Mohammadi rejected the possibility that Iran's armed opposition group in exile, the Mujahedeen Khalq, was behind the bombings. But he said the bombings were aimed at undermining public participation in the election on Friday.

Bomb explosions have been almost unheard of in Iran since the eight-year war with Iraq ended in 1988. .

There were some indications that the Ahvaz bombings might have been rooted in a more local dispute. Ahvaz was the site of ethnic protests in April over rumors that the government wanted to relocate some of the region's Arab population.

The rumors grew out of a letter that had been circulated suggesting that there was such a government plan. The government said the letter was forged, but 250 people were arrested in the protests, and at least one person was killed."

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Rock the Vote

Last night Rafsanjani had a Q&A with university students. One asked if he had ever been in love. "My thoughts are on the hereafter," he answered.

Another asked if it was okay to wear bright colors. "Of course," he answered.

Others complained that they were sick of being hassled every time they walked out on to the streets. Girls wanted to hang out with boys. Boys wanted to hang out with girls.

My Iranian friends and political activist friends tend to dismiss these concerns. "Iranians don't really want freedom. They just want to have sex," one friend stated just a couple of weeks ago. When we first came here, K commented: "Iranians think freedom means that they can walk hand-in-hand with their boyfriend or girlfriend."

Well isn't it? Aren't these personal freedoms important? Isn't fun important? Isn't political freedom part of this equation?

UPDATE (2013): a bit of the discussion with Rafsanjani was published on YouTube. For those of you who speak Persian, here it is:

Basically the young woman, a 23-year old student, is explaining why she doesn't want to vote. She's tired of the harassment. She's sick of all the bs. She's sick of the mistrust. "I don't have any expectations from you. Just give me back trust."

How sad is that?
Guardian Unlimited | World Latest | Eight Killed by Bomb Blasts in Iran:
"TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - At least eight people were killed and 36 others injured Sunday in four bomb explosions that targeted government buildings and officials in southwestern Iran, state-run television reported.

At least four women were among those killed in the explosions in Ahvaz, capital of the southwestern Khuzestan province which borders Iraq. The blasts were the deadliest explosions in Iran in more than a decade."

Saturday, June 11, 2005 / Middle East & Africa - Islamic virtue takes a back seat on Iran's new-look campaign trail:

"'If a candidate tries to escape from democracy and shows toughness, it won't work,' said Hamid-Reza Jalaei-Pour, a sociology professor at Tehran university.

For the first time in Iran, there is a candidate clearly running for a party. Mostafa Moein, a reformist contender, was chosen by Mosharekat, the main reformist group. In a reality check to polished electioneering, Dr Moein appeared on Wednesday on state television in an interview with Saeed Hajjarian, the leading reformist journalist partially paralysed by an assassination attempt by Islamic vigilantes in 2000.

'You are an example to our young,' Dr Moein told Mr Hajjarian, whose questions were run as subtitles because of his slurred speech.

But just a week before the election, candidates are struggling to motivate a disillusioned electorate. Iranians are sceptical about politics and politicians' promises after wearying years of revolution, high unemployment and inflation, and Mr Khatami's battles with unelected state institutions. 'Not even all the changes in the way of campaigning may be enough to make people vote,' says Mr Jalaei-Pour. 'We have had 25 years of sloganeering, so now it's very difficult to fool Iranians.'"

[emphasis mine]

Friday, June 10, 2005

Watching from Shariati Street

Our friend thinks that there was a revolution two nights ago. She was out on Shariati Street where the crowd was tearing down election posters and young women were burning their headscarves.
Anyone else see anything like this?

Our crowd was celebratory and peaceful. I cannot imagine a more mellow group of football celebrants. They had fun without getting into fights.

"Imagine what this would be like if these guys had a few beers in them," K commented.

"They'd probably toppling cars and setting them on fire like sports fans everywhere else."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Iran qualifies to 2006 World Cup

Iran has qualified for the World Cup and, on top of that, has qualified undefeated.

I was talking on the telephone when the final second ticked off. There were whoops and the sound of firecrackers. "It sounds like Iran won." (Hey, I saw the rerun of the game at midnight… I'm new to soccer: remember, I'm an American.)

K came to get me off the phone. "Let's go out," he said. "Let's celebrate!" I thought he was joking, but he wasn't. We went out. All of our neighbors were out. Some of them had boxes of pastries and were passing them out passersby. We turned the corner and went on to the main street. Rafsanjani supporters were out with giant SUVs blaring electronica and trays filled with fruit drinks. Moeen supporters were handing out pastries to people in cars stopped at the light.

We made it to Valiasr right before the major traffic started. We arrived just in time to see thousands of celebrants running down the street with faces painted and flags waving in the wind.

Drivers honked their horns and young men blew these noisemakers. There were firecrackers galore. Some of the flags were simply green, white, and red. Most were the current Iranian flag.

Young men danced in the street. Iranian men are really sexy dancers. (Although I hear that Iranian women don't find their dancing sexy. Well, foreign women do. Trust me.) We came across a group singing and dancing. A woman in her late 60s was encouraging people to clap. "What's your problem!" she would yell to passive onlookers. "Clap! Sing!"

Rafsanjani's campaign was out in force. Young people were covered with his stickers. They were dancing and yelling.

The Qalibaf campaign handed out zero alcohol beer from an Efes truck. I can't remember the exact slogan printed on the truck. I think it translated to something like "Life goes better with Qalibaf." So many people were running after the truck that you would have thought they were receiving 2.5% beer.

We saw a small, solemn group of Moeen supporters who held his poster up over their heads and walked quietly up and down the streets.

Later we saw a yellow hummer driving through the crowd. "Is Schwarzenegger in town?" I asked.

Groups of celebrants seemed to wander in and wander out from all directions. People were happy and relaxed and somewhat anticipatory. Did anything more dramatic happen? I do not know.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Big Game
K's nephew predicts that tonight the Iranian national soccer team will beat the Bahrain team Doh-heech (2-0). A tie would make them one of the first teams to qualify for the World Cup. ( Read the story )

But more importantly, this big game is happening just 9 days short of the election. 12,000 police will be on the street. Their mandate is to use as little force as possible because the government does not want a forceful confrontation with crowds of young Iranians at this time.

Rafsanjani is ready to claim the team's victory for himself. His campaign plans to keep a high profile tonight. Rumor has it that there are already Rafsanjani soccer victory campaign posters ready.

Despite all the shiny, happy campaign images around, I have not met a single person who plans to vote. Friends tell us that even the fashionable youth sporting Rafsanjani headbands do not plan to vote. It's just fashion and money and little bit of guerilla marketing.

Yesterday I saw a group of teen-aged girls tearing down campaign posters on fashionable Valiasr Street. It was 3:00 in the afternoon. The girls were not making any effort to be secretive about their actions.

Posters come up, posters go down.

That said, Iranian agencies are already planning their world cup tours. Iranians have the greatest confidence in their team. Go Iran!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I don't get the whole Rafsanjani fashion craze and, neither, it seems, do other bloggers. ( Farideh Nicknazar on Open Democracy's Iran Blog writes, "What I find interesting, and I have never seen this done before, is to see young trendy women (with makeup and minimum head cover) showing off headbands with "Hashemi" written on them in English... Why in English?")

Last night a friend of our's got a call from a friend: "I'm performing tonight, why don't you come see me?" he asked.

She agreed, called a couple of friends, and made her way to Rafsanjani's headquarters. "It was so strange," she told us. "The place was filled with chic young women wearing tiny little headscarves." (That description fits her as well.) "I could not believe it. I stuck my hair in my scarf because I thought that maybe I will have problems later. He's having these concerts every night."

"It's kind of the Rafsanjani disco," K joked.

Our friend laughed. "It was weird. The place was filled with chic, young women and mullahs."
The Nation | Blog | Editor's Cut | Bloggers of Iran | Katrina vanden Heuvel:

"Did you know that on the eve of the Iranian presidential election, that country--with 70 percent of its population under 30--has 75,000 bloggers? I find that pretty stunning--and I'm usually skeptical of blog-hype."

Get a list of her top ten Iranian blogs.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Sometimes even the second most polluted city in the world has clear skies. Posted by Hello

Living in Iran without a job

What to do if you are a foreigner living in Iran without a job
When you live in Iran, you start to realize how much pleasure there is in casual social drinking. I am not a big drinker. I come from a long line of lightweights. But in Iran, I really miss having the occasional social drink. When Iranians drink, they down a bottle of vodka in one sitting. (I know, I know: this is not always the case. But most Iranians in Iran drink to get drunk.)

K loves to tell this story:
The first time I came to Iran, my brothers took me out for a drink. When I say out, it was really out! It was the middle of winter. There was snow everywhere, and we walked to a park. They brought out a bottle of this horrible vodka and poured drinks. I mean, they had these tall glasses filled with vodka. I'm good for a shot or two, but a water glass filled with vodka? I don't think so. I was shocked. They drank these tall glasses like they were filled with water. I was terrified we would be arrested walking home. We passed soldiers and police. We were obviously drunk, but they did not care.

Iranians have forgotten how to have a casual drink.

Foreigners make a big deal of the casual drink, but there really is something to it. It is pleasurable to have wine with dinner. Sometimes I really want a beer after a hard day. Most of all, I want to drink in public.

But there is no more boring topic than whining about alcohol. Oh, unless it's whining about the hijab. Or whining about being bored. Which is why I am offering this tip to foreigners in Iran: Don't complain about being bored. I mean, there is so much you could do: you could learn Persian, hike, learn to ride a horse, travel, volunteer on an archaeological dig, volunteer with an NGO, write, paint, draw, dream, walk, shop, watch tv, go to the movies, visit museums, drink coffee, read, learn to play the tar, take lessons from real philosophers…

Being bored is just plain boring.

That said, there are things I would really like to do: go swimming in the ocean in my swimsuit with K, wear a short skirt outside, spend a lazy afternoon drinking a beer and eating croquettes…

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My first Joke

I told a joke…
We were in a taxi (as usual…). An SUV cut us off. "What does he think he is doing?" our driver complained.

I said, "We have a joke: where does a 500 pound gorilla sit?... Anywhere he likes."
(Just to prove that I can tell a joke in Persian: "250 kilo-ee gorilla koja mishineh? … Har ja keh mekhad.")

The driver laughed and said, "Exactly!" A few seconds later he said, "We have a joke too. Where does Rafsanjani sit? … Anywhere he likes."

Grapes in the Tajrish market Posted by Hello