Monday, December 15, 2008

An eye for an eye

Wrath and the desire for revenge: those must be the most human emotions. When I meet people who are forgiving and compassionate in the face of great personal disaster, I am in awe. I think I have met two such people. Well, maybe one. But trust me, his forgiveness is awe-inspiring, compassionate, and smart. It's also completely baffling. I mean, who wouldn't want to personally torture the executioners of a loved one?

As much as we might enjoy a Dirty Harry film or a Charles Bronson revenge flick, the reality of "an eye for an eye" is a gruesome one that reveals the darkest part of our humanity. (I almost wrote "lizard brain," but couldn't actually imagine a lizard committing an act of vengeance.) Thomas Erbrink's article in Sunday's Washington Post, about a young woman blinded and disfigured in an acid attack by a spurned lover who has successfully lobbied to have her attacker blinded by acid, graphically illustrates the moral problems at the heart of legal systems that allow for vengeance. The very legality of corporal punishment, no matter how rare or common it might be, allows victims and their families to unleash their dark revenge monsters.

This monster exists inside most of us. I mean, how could it not? It's only natural to want to revenge a wrong. Imagining a vicious crime committed against me or someone I love is enough to make my blood boil... the reality of it... well that would be even worse.) Reading Erdbrink's article, made me feel incredibly sad that such a vicious crime was committed in the first place, and that the woman and her family have spent so much time and energy to ensure that the perpetrator gets a dose of his own medicine by having 5 drops of acid placed in each of his two eyes. Will fewer men stalk and harm women as a result? Somehow, I doubt it.

On a closing note, a few weeks ago, a friend told us the story of a European woman who was raped in Iran and who called for the men accused of the rape to be executed. This case was particularly difficult for European diplomats who spend so much of their time in Iran campaigning against the death penalty. The second one of their own citizens had the opportunity, she called for execution.

This is what the law is for: to protect us from the worst of ourselves, not to transform us into vigilantes.

Other blogs discussing this:


Here, There, and Everywhere


I know there are a lot more, and even more in Persian, but I'll stop there. I do want to borrow a comment left by Mrss at The Kvetcher:

In this culture (which I know something of, though I’m American.) It’s likely that if they blind him, his family will force a close female relative (a younger unmarried sister or cousin most likely) to dedicate the rest of her life as his full time caregiver. She will never be allowed to marry or pursue a career or education, and she will have no choice in this. In this respect, I would rather he die than destroy another innocent woman’s life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stop the Execution of Farzad Kamangir

I don't normally call for political action on this blog, but we just heard that there is a strong possibility that a Kurdish teacher and activist may be executed tonight.

I took these instructions on how to act from the site of the International Campaign for Human Rights:

Write to Iranian leaders to stop the execution of Farzad Kamangar, a 32 year old Kurdish teacher and social activist, sentenced to death following an unfair trial.

Cut and paste the following letter into your email. In the subject line write: "Stop the Exceution of Farzad Kamangar"

Send your email to:

* Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Seyd Ali Khamenei: info(at)
* Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hasemi Shahroudi: info(at)
* President of the Islamic Republic, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: dr-ahmadinejad(at)
* Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee: iran(at)
* CC: info(at)


Your Excellencies,

I am writing you to express my concerns about serious violations of international and Iranian standards in the trial of Farzad Kamangar, whose death sentence of 25 February 2008 by Branch 30 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court has reportedly been upheld and confirmed by the Supreme Court.

In imparting my concerns I also appeal to you to commute the sentence and order a new investigation and trial under your supervision, both to ensure justice in this case and to protect the integrity of the Judiciary itself.

Security agents arrested Mr. Kamangar around July 2006 in Tehran. Mr. Kamangar was held incommunicado for seven months, and even after that, contacts to his family were very limited; there have been none since the beginning of the Persian New Year, 21 March 2008. Being held incommunicado violates Principle 19 of the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1988.

Mr. Kamangar has been denied access to his lawyer, before, during and after his trial, which violates Principles 17 and 18 of the Body of Principles, as well as Article 14 (3) (b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the Islamic Republic of Iran ratified on 24 June 1975

While the charges against him have been changed in the course of his case, Mr. Kamangar has been denied any and all information concerning the case against him. This violates Article 9 (2) of ICCPR, as well as Principles 10 and 11 of the Body of Principles.

Evidence confirmed by multiple sources strongly suggests that Mr. Kamangar has been tortured during his detention. Your Excellency, I do not need to remind you that torture, as well as ill-treatment in detention, are egregious violations of human rights, and prohibited by Article 7 of the ICCPR.

Your Excellencies, I am confident that an objective review of Mr. Kamangar’s trial will lead to the conclusion that no factual evidence whatsoever was presented in support of the charges against him. According to his attorney, there is no evidence confirming the charge against him (Mohareb, taking up arms against state) in his interrogation records, his file, in the prosecutor's presentation in court or in the judges ‘decision.

Indeed, Mr. Kamangar was reportedly informed that he had been identified by intelligence and security officials as Mohareb prior to his trial.

It appears that the result of this trial was prepared in advance and that the trial was staged in order to give the appearance of a proper legal process leading to this result. Mr. Kamangar was not allowed the possibility to prepare a defense, and he was afforded no fair hearing before an impartial court. His trial in Branch 30 of Revolutionary Court in Tehran lasted no more than seven (7) minutes, three (3) of which were consumed by the reading of the indictment against him by the prosecutor. Neither Mr. Kamangar nor his lawyer was permitted to speak at his trial. Thus, Article 14 of the ICCPR was violated.

Your Excellencies, the life of a person hangs in the balance and is dependent on your decision. Given these grave violations of international standards and those governing the judicial system of the Islamic Republic, I sincerely hope you will give positive consideration to a review of the case.


Monday, November 10, 2008

The Right to be Inconsequential

I'll open this post from my sister with a question for my parents: Has the sanctity of your marriage been threatened in any way shape or form by the marriages of gay and lesbian couples? I think 49 years of marriage gives you the right to answer as experts. (Happy Anniversary!)

Ruthie the Riveter on Prop 8:

Over the last several days, friends, family and colleagues from around the country have asked me why proposition 8 passed in California? In California of all places? I have three words for that - marketing, marketing, marketing. The supporters of prop 8 were very good at marketing the fear. They told a compelling story of fear for our children. By the time the opposition was able to get the story out, it was only an answer to the fear.

What if the story that was told was one that I had experienced? When my kids were in 1st and 4th grades they rode the bus to school. And every morning we would meet up with the other kids, moms and dads at the bus stop while we waited for the bus to arrive. At our bus stop, there were my two kids - half Filipino, half Caucasian; there was another child being raised in a single parent household, that child was also half African American and half Caucasian; there were two other children - half southeast Asian, half Caucasian, and finally there was one other child at the bus stop being raised in a two parent household; sometimes the mom was there waiting for the bus and other times her step mom was there waiting for the bus and a lot of times, they were both there waiting for the bus with their daughter. The only thing any of us had in common was that we all wanted to make sure that our kids got to school ok. We wanted to make sure that they were wearing their uniforms, brushing their teeth, and doing their homework. There were days where one of us had to run off to work to make sure we made that early morning meeting and we felt comfortable leaving our kids with any one of the other parents. We laughed about our kids together, and we worried about our kids together. We were the villiage that it takes to raise a child. Am I better or worse for the experience? No. Are my kids better or worse for the experience? No. In fact, it was so inconsequential that when we all had to go our separate ways when the school shut down, and we had to find ourselves a new village, that I hadn't even thought of it until today. Whether straight, gay, white, black, or brown we all want the same rights to worry about our families and to laugh about our families. More importantly, we want the right to be inconsequential.

For those of our readers who don't keep up on California politics, you can read more about Prop 8 here:

Schwarzenegger's reaction to the vote

Prop 8 and the San Jose Community

Vote no on prop 8

Andrew Sullivan on Prop 8

Some people even want you to vote yes.

Text of prop 8 in pdf format

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Obama Effect

I am trying to convince my youngest sister (author of the love letter to our parents) to start keeping a blog. Soon, she'll have her own. Until then, I am posting her latest email to me:

I think its been three weeks, that's how long I've been holding my breath. And on Tuesday, November 4th at 8:01 pm pacific time i was able to exhale. I think our whole country exhaled at the same time - it might have been the winds of change that were felt at that moment. And the entire world was in Grant Park in Chicago, also known as the Windy City. Weathermen might call it the lake effect, those of us who live by the ocean blame it on the tides, but this wind, on this day, at this moment is what we call the Obama Effect. And when I awoke from a most restful night of sleep on Wednesday, November 5, I realized that I had forgotten to pay my rent- the Obama Effect, at least that was what I told my landlord. Later that afternoon, while waiting for my 6th grader to get home from school, and wondering why he still wasn't home 40 minutes after school had been dismissed, I realized it was my carpool day - the Obama Effect. I'm wondering, can I blame the pile of dishes in the sink on the Obama Effect? Maybe not, but at least I'm breathing again, and with every breath I take there is hope - that, for sure, is the Obama Effect.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

10. Tips about dealing with Iran for President-elect Obama

My long-term companion turned to me this morning and said, “The regime better watch out now. They can no longer argue that America doesn’t want to talk. With Obama as president, they can’t keep making America their enemy.

He’s right; an Obama presidency means “all options are REALLY on the table.”

Stepping on the flag by Vahid Nikgoo (Thanks to Kamangir for the translation of this cartoon from Vahid Nikgoo's blog)

Of course President-elect Obama will have his Iran experts: people who have studied the country’s politics, society, revolution, history, and language more thoroughly than I would ever dream of doing. There are people who know the rules of taarof better than Iranians themselves and who understand the historical roots of certain forms of behavior better as well. There will be people who have examined the DNA of Iran’s leadership and who know just how many misspellings were in that fake Oxford diploma (It sounds as though it was forged by the same people who sold my friend fake Johnny Walker whiskey featuring a label with 17 misspellings.) I won’t let this stop me from offering my free advice to the next president.

1. Bluster is bad
Do not make threats that will not or cannot be carried out. Ever. There are circuitous ways to threaten Iran, if that is necessary. This means, of course, explaining to Americans that diplomacy is a subtle game and that we cannot always come out and condemn or threaten openly and still expect to be taken seriously. Direct bluster simply makes us look weak.

(related posts: Interview 3: Gary Sick talks about negotiating with Iran
Negotiating with Iranians)

2. Don’t say that you respect the history of the great people of Iran…
…And then revoke visas while people are in flight to the US, detain them without reason, or insult their intelligence.

3. Temper the demands for transparency
Demanding immediate transparency from Iran is like demanding that all Americans learn a second language. Tomorrow.

Have you ever worked with someone from Iran? And by from Iran, I mean someone who has not had the opportunity or need to adapt to the new culture? Many (not all, by any stretch of the imagination) have what my friend calls a “bazaari mentality.” There are secrets, deals, patronage, and negotiations ad nauseum. Decision-making is a very private affair and the reasoning behind a decision is deemed unnecessary. (I know that Iranians are not alone in this... just saying that it comes naturally)

Iranian culture is not, by nature or nurture, a transparent culture. Look, Ahmadinejad can’t even give a straight answer to a question about the ages of his children. The very power structure of Iran’s government is a secret even to those participating in it. It is secret, even though it is openly documented. Even where there are NO secrets, many of my Iranian friends construct secrets and conspiracies. (Earthquake in Bam: underground nuclear testing; fire at mosque: explosion, let's not even get into 9/11, the holocaust, or the moonwalk...)

A friend of mine, who has become Americanized, wondered why his own father would tell people he ate kebab for lunch when instead he ate chicken with rice. “What’s wrong with chicken?” he asked, baffled. “Why did my father feel like he had to tell people he ate kebab?”

There have to be ways to ease into a transparent relationship, rather than demand one. How? Ask the experts.

4. Doubt and challenge your experts
The first thing I learned when I went to Iran is that my expat Iranian friends did not have any idea what Iran was like. They had frozen it in time, at its very nastiest. Once I got past this, I realized that their view was extremely limited by their class and geographical location. Many of the people I spoke with extrapolated the feelings of all Iranians based on the feelings and beliefs of their own family members. I have been guilty of this as well, but not nearly so desperately as many of the people I met inside and outside Iran. Iran is a seriously classist society. Seriously. It's also "placist." Here's one of my favorite examples (one that I heard tens, if not hundreds, of times):

Why do people think we have camels in Iran? There are no camels in Iran. (News flash: I saw a camel on Dibaji Jonubi in Tehran!)

The next thing I learned is that experts can be too, let's say, "expert." Knowing the historical, cultural, and linguistic roots of certain forms of behaviors means attributing meaning where there may be none. Iran, like the US, has a culture that changes. It is a dynamic, modern culture where every single action is not necessarily as self-aware or as historically rooted as the experts think it is. Society is still changing in Iran. Many of the young people we met there have cut all ties with tradition: some consciously, some in a nihilistic manner, and some for no reason at all.

5. All Iranians hate the regime…
NOT. Even those who tell me quite openly and vehemently that they hate the regime don’t really hate them. I know that so many people I know and love would love to believe that what they really long for is freedom and democracy, but what I saw in Iran were strong familial efforts to control the behavior of their children. Some use the regime as an excuse, albeit a valid one. Allowing their children the social freedom that nearly all adolescents and young adults long for could bring them into dangerous conflict with the religious police. Ok, I’ll give them that. Despite that, I sincerely believe that despite social changes in some social classes in Iran and some cosmopolitan areas, most families in Iran want to control their families.

6. Do not fall for the argument that Western culture is decadent…
If you cannot argue in favor of Western culture, then do not negotiate with the regime in Iran. If you cannot argue in favor of our family values and our society, just surrender now. If you cannot argue in favor the rights of women and minorities, give up hope. If you cannot champion free speech with all of its messiness, all is lost. If you cannot be proud of our open debates and disagreements, don't even go to Iran.

7. Walk a mile in their shoes…
Attempting to empathize with our foes has been demonized, yet there can be no meaningful peace until we start to do that. Empathy does not require capitulation, but it can lead to real discussions and more productive negotiations. Americans cannot continue to view the world only in terms of our own self-interest. We have to at least be able to imagine the interests of others.

Here are some places to start:
Sardasht: Iran's rallying cry, root of nuclear ambitions, by Borzou Daragahi

About the Iran Coup, 1953 and in the NYT

If you're really ambitious, read My Dear Uncle Napoleon.

And don't forget to visit the blogs in my blogroll and keep up with Global Voices.

8. Remember, Iranians still educate some of the best engineers in the world at Tehran University, their best political analysts are realistic and sharp, and many get their news from a variety of sources.

It does not make sense to speak to Iranians as though they are a nation of children.

9. The next revolution will not be televised…

When I tell my Iranian friends that I believe the current regime has infiltrated society to such an extent that it cannot be easily or happily removed, they tell me that Iran is full of surprises. It even surprises itself. I know that it surprised me.

10. Absolutely gotta repudiate torture, close Guantanamo, and observe the Geneva Convention.

And here is one tip for Iran's regime:

Do not make the mistake of thinking that an Obama presidency means that you can pull a Khrushchev. You have no choice now but to negotiate in good faith.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Return of the Stolen Bike

patent drawing of bicycle
Yes folks, my dear bicycle, which was stolen from in front of the house 2 months ago, showed up a block away, still locked, with just a tiny bit of damage to the chain guard. Oh happy day!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Harleys in Lebanon

From Borzou Daragahi's piece at the LA Times:

"Once you get on a Harley you feel that you are really free and that your spirit is always up high and you're going through the wind," said Abraham Kadoumy, 51, who discovered motorcycle culture when he lived in Los Angeles in the late 1970s and early '80s.

"Freedom is what it's all about," he says.

Harley-Davidsons also have deep roots in Lebanon. Police here have been riding them for decades. In fact, bike dealer Tarraf says he fell in love with Harleys after getting a lift on one stolen from the cops during the 15-year civil war.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cezanne? No! Seh Zan

When we hopped on the train from Amsterdam to Rotterdam to attend the opening evening of the Iranian Film Festival, I had no idea what to expect other than music from the incredibly talented Pejamn Akbarzadeh. When we arrived at the cinema, I heard that we would be seeing "Cezanne"
Cezanne painting: Still Life with a Curtain (1895). The Hermitage Museum.
Hmm... I thought, Cezanne, what does he have to do with Iran? The answer was that we were seeing "Seh Zan," Three Women, by the director of Women's Prison Manijeh Hekmat.

Pegah from the film Three Women

The film followed a woman, her daughter, and mother. The central figure tries so hard to control every aspect of her life from the potential loss of an historically significant carpet to the lives of her daughter and mother. As a result, she (physicall) loses all three: the carpet, her senile mother, and her young daughter. Her efforts to find them do, however, give her insight into the inner world of her daughter and mother.

I loved the film, despite the fact that our friend Shervin Nekuee thought that the ending was weak. "Most Iranian films have the same problem," he said, "They don't have strong endings." (I would say that a notable exception is Cafe Transit, which had a really strong ending.)

Okay: weak strong, the film had me and Kamran talking about it the next day. Kamran told me about the Radio Zamaneh interview with the director and then interviews with filmhouse owners who talked about why they are not booking her film (nobody wants to see it, they say). (We are going to discuss this in another post.)

On the way back to Amsterdam, we were joined by the (unknown to us) Dutch director Pim van Hoeve, who seemed interested in constructing a romantic comedy around our friend Pejman. He obviously has a great sense of character: Pejman would make the perfect protagonist: he's talented, charming, and mysterious. Proof of his talent:

More things to look at:

Three Women in Chicago

Manijeh Hekmat sells cigarettes
to earn a living

Hassan Rezai writes about the conditions in Women's prisons in Iran.

Myspace page with music from the Iranian band 127 who make an appearance in the film Three Women.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Wind Will Take Us Away

If you aren't reading Sahand's site Punch the Sun regualarly, then you do not know what you are missing. So don't miss this week's beautiful poem by Forough Farrokhzad. If you haven't read her, well then you are in for a treat!

(BTW, I also love the Kiarostami film that uses the poem's title as its own)

Intro to The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

Haven't read the book, but that does not stop me from enjoying the intro. Found via the blog: Fudzail. UPDATE: Just realized that the well-written commentary on Fudzail's site was from Iran Writes.

Now that you've seen it, I have 2 comments:

1. Only a man could claim to be "sometimes" reminded that he is living under Islamic rule. For women, the reminder is relentless.

2. I agree that the lack of fear is surprising in Iran; that there *can* be no palpable sense of secret police. I do, however, think that if he were to stay for a really extended time, say a year or two, he would have a different view. (If he had an American wife staying with him, I'm positive he would have a different view.)

I would also argue, that if he were a woman, he would think differently as well. Every woman I know who returned to Iran after spending a significant amount of time abroad, had the sense of being watched. Many of the Iranian women I met, who had become accustomed to life in the UK or the US or the Netherlands or any number of other places, had lost much of their ability to maneuver easily in the society. It wasn't even an issue of "ability," it was an issue of willingness.

It was so much easier for me than for my expat Iranian friends. My taarof mishaps were excused, my aggressiveness accepted... People expected me to be inflexible, selfish, and miserly. With those kinds of expectations, it's easy to impress. I was treated like a full grown child: spoiled and doted upon. Trust me, had I been culturally Iranian I would have been taken to task for every misstep: whether perceived or purposeful.

I would love to hear from expat Iranian women out there who want to chime in and tell me how wrong/right I am.

I'll even tag a few:

Pedestrian at Sidewalk Lyrics
Homeyra at Forever Under Construction
Beja at A Voice of Two Cities
Ava at Love Jihadi

(I hope commenters will add to this list and chime in with their own experiences)

Friday, October 03, 2008

How do people get doctorates

...and still believe that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is true?

Tehrangeles: Starbucks, sushi, and Chabad House

I was hanging out with a 22 year-old Iranian-Dutch woman who was telling me about her summer trip to LA to visit cousins. (Raise your hand if you have cousins in LA. I know I do, and I’m not even Iranian.)

“You wouldn’t believe it,” she told me, “My cousin drove for an hour to buy sweets so she wouldn’t have to buy them from the Jewish baker. She said, ‘I want my money in the pocket of a Muslim, not of a Jew.’”

Part of me was appalled, and part sympathetic. After all, when I was growing up, we bought from Jews whenever we could. That was the rule. My father still complains about certain university types who did not understand the importance of supporting Jewish merchants and would buy from anyone. “They just don’t understand how hard it is to earn a living,” he says.

Irangeles, apparently, is starkly divided by religion: Iranian- Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Bahai’s divided by semi-strict borders. “Even the coffee shops,” my young friend says. She told me of her cousin’s dismay when a group of Jewish 20-somethings dared to step foot in the coffee shop they were visiting. “They have their own. What are they doing here?” When my friend expressed her disgust with her cousin’s attitude, she was met with a blank stare. “We just don’t do that kind of thing in Amsterdam.” To be fair, Iranians in the Netherlands are pretty divided by political lines. It is true, however, that the 20-somethings are more likely to blur those lines than their parents.


Starbucks, sushi, Chabad House. Starbucks, sushi, Chabad House. A little Spanish, a lot of Persian, some Hebrew. That’s what Kamran and I experienced when we visited LA last Spring.

In a Persian restaurant in Westwood, a young Baha’i told us how disheartening it was to try to bring the Irangeles community together. He confirmed our Iranian-Dutch friend’s experience of the strong religious divisions in the community. Another man we met told us that when young Iranians arrive in Irangeles, they are comfortable crossing the borders between the religious communities. “They don’t seem to care at all about religious divisions at all. They’re just so much more relaxed than those of us who grew up in this community.”


Yesterday Kamran and I had lunch with some friends who live in Iran. “Do you think anti-Semitism is growing among Iranians?” I asked. (An article in the Washington Post had been haunting me since I read it.)

“Do you mean anti-Zionism?”

“No. I mean anti-Semitism.”

They told me that the young people born after the revolution to parents who lived most of their lives with the current regime had, in fact, become more susceptible to the message of the regime. “I mean, my friend’s younger sister has no problem throwing off her hejab and wearing a bikini in public, but when she talks you are surprised to hear her echo the message of the regime.” She’s not unique, just specific.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The chain breaks here, or not

Sahand and Helen, two people who I adore tagged me with one of the Internet's version of a chain letter, or meme, or whatever you want to call it. I've broken just about every chain letter I've ever received, and I'm old enough to have received chain letters with stamps on them. But here goes:

1. Post the rules on your blog
2. Write 6 random things about yourself
3. Tag 6 people at the end of your post
4. If you're tagged, DO IT and pass on the tag

6 random things

1. I walked through a glass door (Cooper Union, Spring 91 or 92) and survived with only a scratch. The secret is, and you will want to pass this on to everyone you know, NOT to back up. It's backing up that causes real damage.

2. When I cannot fall asleep at night (which is often), I review novels I have enjoyed in my head. I don't turn on the lights, I don't read, I don't get out of bed. My favorite sleepless night novel is Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick.

3. I've seen Babe at least 6 times: most of them with my amazing niece Frances who knew the dialog by heart.

4. The best place I ever lived was Miller Beach, Indiana.

5. I was bored by Archie comics when I was a kid.

6. My idea of heaven includes a big wooden table covered with printed newspapers and magazines, all of them in English.

Tagged (six is a lot)

Jonathan at Miniver Cheevy
Arash at Kamangir

Will Ward at Friday in Cairo

Esra'a at

Pam at Nerd's Eye View

Sepideh at Pars Arts

Sean Paul Kelley at The Agonist

Let's see if anyone responds...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A love letter to my parents

My sister summed up our (by ours: I mean my siblings) feelings about the melding of political and personal history so beautifully:

Dear Mom & Dad:
This week in our country is definitely historic. And while the word of the last several months has been CHANGE - and moving this country forward. Let us take a moment to recognize the change that has been quietly taking place for the last 45 years. There has been a lot of talk this week about those conversations that happen around the kitchen table - and believe you me - I am all too familiar with those conversations. But there were conversations that happened around that table when we were kids that culminated into the historical moments of the last week. To you, Mom and Dad, and the other parents of our generation, thank you for putting your history aside and making sure to raise us with openness and equality you are the true unsung heroes of this historical moment. Your efforts changed the world and you are my heroes!

All my love,

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Black Mark on the History of Iran: the mass killings of 1988, to never be forgotten

The 1988 mass executions of political prisoners in Iran cannot be called anything other than a black mark on the recent history of Iran. Thousands and thousands of people from many different political backgrounds were put to death in a barbaric way.

Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic republic of Iran, promised everybody that the Iranian revolution would bring freedom, equality, and prosperity. But we never even got close. After 8 years of war with his arch foe, Saddam Hussein, he was forced to accept a peace deal with Iraq in 1988. At that time Iran was already a killing zone for so many young and old who did not want anything more than what they had been promised and worked so hard for: a new and free society. The revolution, which was loved by millions who came to street for democracy and better lives, was co-opted with lies and treachery.

Khomeini’s “final solution” was the personal approval of the mass killing of political prisoners. It cost thousands of lives in August and September of 1988 and will and should be remembered by all people. The killing zone of the Iranian regime takes on new dimensions when you realize hundreds of those executed had finished their horrific sentences and were simply waiting for release.

Thousands of new political prisoners were executed just because they did not want renounce their political and personal beliefs. They were asked a couple of simple questions: Do you believe in God and the Islamic republic? and do you renounce your affiliations with other political organizations? Without knowing the consequences of their answers, many were murdered.

It is not just the number of people who ware killed that makse this an unforgivable crime, but the unprecedented violence that was used in those dark summer months. Many of those killed were teenagers when they were arrested. They were from all parts of Iranian of society: students, intellectuals, leftists, young boys, girls, and women. In the summer of 1988, Iran lost its dreams. Those of us in safety should never forget the horrors they went through.

I do not know anybody in Iran who was not affected by the post-revolutionary violence in Iran. Everyone I know had a loved one or friend who was killed because they could not accept the rules of those monsters.

The Islamic Republic totally denies the mass executions. I do not want to look at this from a political point of view or even an historical perspective. I am not a political activist or ether a journalist, I am just still shaken by the loss of so many young people my age who were tortured and killed. The Islamic Republic used every method they could think of to break people in prison and in some cases even turned them into executioners. Those crimes by the IRI should never be forgotten.
I left Iran four years before this horrific event. In the last 20 years I have met many survivors of this mass killing. I know many people who were not as lucky as me to live in safety. They never saw the sun again. Many people who managed to survive are harmed forever. I would always have respect for them no matter which political movement they represented.

I have seen in many of their eyes pain that I have never seen before. People who are responsible for those killings need to be brought to justice. They should know, wherever they are, whoever they are, that there will come a day when they will have to pay for this. They have committed an act that humanity should never forget. Iranians with all political backgrounds should work together to make sure those memories are documented for generations to come.

My lovely human rights activist friend, who is very committed and works non-stop for human rights in Iran, is currently helping with an event in Amsterdam to remember those who were killed. My friend thinks that we Iranians should be open to dialog. My response was please tell me fist what all those international organizations who attempt to create dialog with the IRI have accomplished? Have human rights improved?

From Amnesty international

“International human rights law requires that the Iranian authorities carry out thorough and impartial investigations into violations of the right to life such as those which were committed during the 'prison massacre', which began in 1988 and continued into the following year, and to identify and bring to justice those responsible. The failure to do so to date and the time that has elapsed since the killings do not in any way reduce this responsibility.“

Friday, August 29, 2008

Twenty-year Anniversary of Mass Executions in Iran

20 year anniversary of mass executions

For those of you who speak Dutch, read more here...
for the rest of us: here.

In Amsterdam and many other places there will be ceremonies tomorrow to mark the 20th anniversary of the mass executions of political prisoners in Iran.

The Iranian regime seems to be marking that anniversary by executing as many people as they can find guilty of capital offenses and flouting international law.

Twenty years ago thousands of people were killed in Iran. Anyone who could challenge the authority of the fledgling regime was killed. They essentially got rid of an entire generation of leaders: in most cases, people who fought long and hard for the overthrow of the Shah and the implementation of a more just government.

Kamran has been researching these executions for some time now. I hope that he will post here shortly.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Harry's Place Censored

The UK's libel laws seem to have put the fear of legal fees into the server that hosts Harry's Place. Via Mick Hartley, we can read the last post at Harry's Place:

Harry's Place may be removed (or rather have it's DNS disabled) after a 'complaint' to the company that our domain name is registered with.

We assume after threats were made on the weekend that this 'complaint' originates from Jenna Delich or her supporters.

Though we have not yet seen the complaint submitted, we assume it runs along the lines that pointing out that Ms Delich linked to the website of a known neo-Nazi figure and former Ku Klux Klan leader is defamatory.

This is extraordinary since Ms Delich has not denied that she circulated links to David Dukes website. There would be no point since the evidence is in the public domain.

Nevertheless, a malicious complaint has been made to the company hosting our DNS.

We would like to assure readers of Harry's Place that we are doing everything we can to prevent a disruption, but that - of course - we will not concede any ground. We have posted nothing defamatory, and we stand by the information we have supplied.

ISPs often run scared of UK libel law and malicious complaints are thus common. Sadly, it is a well known - and usually successful - way of censoring websites which publish truths that they'd rather not be generally known.

We ask our readers and supporters in the meantime to publish this information as widely as possible. The disgraceful tactic of dishonest and malicious complaining should not be allowed to succeed.

Those on the UCU list, please also make this know there.

Please spread the word.

If we go down, email us at harryblog at gee mail dot com for updates.

At Zionation, the author writes:

Most interesting perhaps, is the supreme irony that the people who rant about the "Zionists" muzzling criticism are quick off the mark to shut down a Web site that dares to tell the truth about them.

Read about UK libel laws at The Guardian.

Oh, and interestingly enough, both David Dook (purposely misspelled) and the prez of Iran feel the need to remind us that they have PhDs. Because, as we all know, smart people need to keep telling us that they are smart lest we forget. ;-)

Botox and the cockeyed smile

It’s not that botox isn’t used for cosmetic purposes in Iran: it is. It’s used in such copious amounts that it can be impossible to find when needed for medical procedures other than making wrinkles disappear. In fact, the first time I saw a botox paralyzed smile was in the film “Marriage Iranian Style” where one of the actors spoke from a half-paralyzed mouth. “It’s botox,” a friend watching told me. “No,” I argued, “I’m sure he has bell’s palsey.”

My brother-in-law had bell’s palsey. For about six months he spoke from half his mouth. “Thank god his face didn’t get stuck when he was doing something weird,” my sister said at the time. “Can you imagine?”

I was not exposed to the full extent of botox-mania until leaving Iran, when I fell into a kind of stupor that found me hypnotized by the television. I saw one paralyzed smile after another. Every other someone over 38 (is it younger?) seems to have developed a kind of happy snarl.

Here's the one Tom Brokaw smiled on last Sunday's Meet The Press:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"I will not stand by while my neighbors are denied basic human rights just because they are Baha'is"

From the folks at

The first time I attended an all women's party in Iran, there were many Bahais, a couple of Christians, a Jew (me), and several Muslim women. One of the Bahai women told me that although the Iranian regime had become less tolerant of the Bahai, the Iranian people had become more tolerant since the revolution. I know that many in Iran would like to see a lot more religious tolerance in their country. I am tempted to close with Inshallah, but we all know that tolerance is our own personal choice and not subject to the will of God.

BTW, This video was made by predominantly Muslim youth...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Boy with Buddha

Boy with Buddha
Originally uploaded by edithtori

We visited a friend's grave in Almere this week. Almere is a fairly new part of the Netherlands, having been claimed from the sea in the 1970s. The cemetery is filled with recent graves: most people there died sometime in the past 7 years. The graves are touching and personal and, often, whimsical. You can see others on Flickr.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Study tells us that it would be difficult to destroy Iran's nuke facilities

How often do studies tell you something you don't already know?

I don't see the report up at the site for the Institute for Science and International Security, but journalists must be reading it already.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

America, America, America

America, by Liselot van der Heijden

Our friend, the great artist Liselot van der Heijden, just showed us this piece she made four years ago. It should be a YouTube hit, but you have to go to her site and watch it.

It may be from 2004, but it's just as fascinating today as it was 4 years ago.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My Own Newsha Tavakolian Photo

Tori in Tehran, taken by Newsha Tavakolian

Thanks to the talented Newsha Tavakolian for a picture of myself that I actually like! So now you know what I look like in hejab, wearing a 40-year old silk scarf that has its own little pocket.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Plea for the release of the 2 doctors

If the previous post didn't convince you to take action on behalf of the doctors, maybe this guy can help:

Monday, August 04, 2008

Pioneering HIV/AIDS Doctors charged with fomenting revolution

Hamid Tehrani at Global Voices is asking why Iranian bloggers are not speaking out about the arrest of two prominent AIDS physicians:

As the XVIII International Aids Conference started on August 3 in Mexico, two internationally recognized Iranian HIV/AIDS specialists who were supposed to attend the meeting, are being held in prison accused of planning to overthrow the Iranian state.

The two physicians, Kamira and Arash Alaie, are brothers, and have pioneered educational and harm reduction campaigns among drug users, prostitutes, and prison inmates in Iran and throughout the Middle East. They were arrested last month, and have had no legal representation.

I don't know enough to comment. I remember that when I was in Iran it was very difficult to get information in the first place. I also know that despite the fact that Iran has an active AIDS prevention policy, many see the disease as a punishment for sinful behavior. Despite the fact that the society is extremely homosocial, Iranians are homophobic. I have to say, that I hope that it's simply a matter of not knowing rather than not caring.

Kamin Mohammadi has a post about the two doctors up at Arabisto.

Kamin writes:
I cannot imagine that my friend and his brother, who have devoted their lives to helping the people of our country, could pose any possible threat to it. I cannot speak for the Islamic Republic's motives nor can I pretend to have any intimate knowledge of the brothers' activities. But I think the sterling work of the Alaei brothers should be able to speak for itself.

Both she and Tehrani link to this online petition and you can join this campaign over at Facebook.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Amsterdam is for Iranians

It's summer, and Amsterdam is filled with visitors from Iran here to visit family and enjoy the cool, long days. Our visitor, an old family friend, told us, "I've come from Hell and landed in Heaven."

Last night at a party with other friends visiting from Iran, he lamented the fact that his teenaged daughter was stopped by the morals police for showing too much hair. "Look how free you are here," he said. "Nobody bothers you. You can cover your hair, not cover your hair, drink a beer in the park. Nobody cares."

Some of our friends have been telling me that Obama said that if Iran does not agree to the nuclear demands made by the UN, then Israel will bomb them. This seemed a bit extreme even for an American politician. I found the quote, which is here:

"Nobody said this to me directly, but I get the feeling from my talks that if the sanctions don't work, Israel is going to strike Iran."

I get the feeling from reading that quote that Obama's been talking to a lot of hardliners. It's just a feeling though.

Even though all readers of this blog know that I am against an attack, I think it's important to remember that Iran does regularly threaten Israel. These are not all empty threats either. Iran funds Hezbollah and Hamas, even if it does not control them. So the fact that Obama would get a feeling that Israel might attack is not so surprising.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

How do *you* use the Internet

This survey is for bloggers, journalists, expats, analysts, and netizens (That's about everyone, right?). Please take it. I'm begging you.

Take the survey!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hints for Brian Williams for His Interview With Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad with empty pockets on the cover of Time

UPDATE: You can see the interview and leave a comment about it at Newsvine. My POV, is that there is no way to interview AN without also providing him with a platform. If you insult him, you lose. If you cut him off, you lose. If you are polite, you lose. Nice tie, though.

Omid Memarian supplies hints for interviewing Ahmadinejad.

Here's my response to a couple of his hints:
2- Don't use a rude tone in order to appear aggressive...

Exactly. Iranians are masters of the excruciatingly polite insult. Best to practice up ahead of time. Overt aggressiveness plays to his strength and makes people think he's been unfairly treated.

3- It's his answers, not your questions, that are important...

This may be true. But don't just let him babble on and on about things unrelated to the question. If you ask him about the Holocaust, he responds with the Palestinians (why doesn't anyone ever respond that the Balfour Declaration predates the Holocaust?)... I recommend firmly, but gently herding him into a direct response to the question.

4- Research Iranian cultural codes. For example, do not wear a tie to the interview. For Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials, a tie is a symbol of capitalism...

This is a crock of shit. Who cares if the tie is a symbol of capitalism? Wear it! In my experience, Iranians are smart enough to know that we Westerners have our own cultural codes. I completely, totally disagree with this kind of pandering. The only reason for removing your tie is the heat of a Tehran summer not what Ahmadinejad or anyone else would think.

It's more important to know how conversational formalities work than to not wear a tie.

5- Don't ask cliché questions...

What is a cliche question? (Read the full list at the Huffington Post

read more | digg story

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Get your war on

For those of you who missed the online comic Get Your War On, all seven years of it are still online.

Now it's even coming out in animated format. See the promo here.

(Saw the link first on the Huffington Post)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The anti-anti-American song

I'm stealing another post from Sahand: a message of conciliation from Sina Khani's alter ego Sina Turner.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Someone should have asked Robin Lustig to help find Karadzic

BBC - Radio 4 - World Tonight:

"The fiction in 1996 was that no one knew where he was. The reality was that within a couple of days of arriving in Sarajevo, I'd been handed a piece of paper with a scribbled map on it, showing the precise location of the house where he was living, in Pale, in the hills outside the Bosnian capital.

As I made my way to the house, I stopped several times along the way to ask directions. 'Excuse me, is this the way to Radovan Karadzic's house?' Everyone was very kind and gave me directions, even the Ghanaian officers at the UN police post just a couple of hundred metres from the house."

Diplomacy is like a Persian Carpet...

Gotta' love this quote:

Mr Jalili likened diplomacy to Iranian carpets, "which go ahead in millimetres". He said: "Our diplomacy is also delicate and precise and, God willing, it will have a beautiful, delicate and long-lasting end."

(read more)

Singularity on the brain

I'm not the only one haunted by Vernor Vinge and Singularity this week.

Muhammad Sahimi: Wish to be Poor and Unemployed? Support Military Attacks on Iran

Muhammad Sahimi: Wish to be Poor and Unemployed? Support Military Attacks on Iran

Posted using ShareThis

Salimi makes some interesting points about how an attack on Iran would threaten US economic and physical security. In the end, though, he makes the same argument that is heard time and time again: that there is no evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons. In fact, the IAEA report (which I have only partly read) states that IRAN claims it is not developing nuclear weapons. It does not state that the IAEA agrees (or disagrees) with that claim. The report is a sensitive diplomatic document. They are unwilling to state anything that they cannot factually prove. A diplomat I know told me that any trained diplomat reading the IAEA report can tell that it does not categorically state that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Salimi also says that an attack on Iran would make the attack on Iraq look like "child's play":

But, if Iran is attacked by the U.S. and/or Israel, its response will make the Iraq war look like child's play. Why? Because Iran is very different from Iraq. As I stated in a 2006 op-ed that I co-wrote with the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, Iranian nationalism, which has its roots in Iran's 4000 years of proud written history and many glorious contributions to humanity, is extremely strong.

Couple this nationalism to the Shi'ites 1300 years old tradition of martyrdom in defense of their homeland and religion. Add to it the belief of many commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards (Iran's elite military) that they should have been killed in the Iran/Iraq war and, therefore, have lived at least 20 years more than their "natural" life. That means that they will fearlessly fight back, if Iran is attacked. The result is a powerful and volatile mixture of proud nationalism and religion which, should Iran be attacked by the U.S. and/or Israel, will engulf the entire region in fire.

While I do not doubt the strength of Iranian nationalism, I think one could just as easily make the argument for Iranian (national, if not governmental) pragmatism and instinct for survival as for their fierceness. There is evidence of this as well.

That said, I don't doubt that an attack on Iran (especially one that goes horribly wrong) would engender a new wave of enemies against the US and Israel. I just wonder if those enemies would necessarily be Iranian.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lost in Translation

Over at Tehran Post you can see a comparison between a Newsweek article by Fareed Zakaria and its translation into Persian by Rajanews. Here's a sample:

Newsweek: For a superpower, being involved in a military conflict somewhere is more the norm than the exception. Since 1945, only one president has not presided over combat that engaged American troops—Jimmy Carter.

Rajanews: All these [Bush’s] military campaigns have been an exception among U.S. presidents since 1945.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blackouts, inflation, and sanctions

The same rice that I just bought in Amsterdam for $4 a kilo is $8 a kilo in Iran. Tea, according to friends who were just visiting, is up to $30 a kilo. When a friend asked her mother in Tehran what she should bring her from Amsterdam, the mother joked "rice and tea."

When a friend told me that there were blackouts in Tehran and that the sanctions were really having an effect, I thought he was joking. I thought he thought that I had become a doomsayer, like so many who no longer live in Iran, and was just feeding my hysteria. Turns out he was not joking. You can read about Iran's economic problems in an article by Thomas Erdbrink: Oil Cash May Prove A Shaky Crutch for Iran's Ahmadinejad

A small coterie of developers, oil traders and businesspeople with lucrative government contracts are profiting from the oil boom. Shiny new BMWs crowd the streets of northern Tehran, where real estate prices have doubled or tripled and where luxury developments can command $2,000 per square foot.

But the majority of Iranians have suffered from the inflation that analysts say is partly the result of government spending. Asgar Eskandiary, 32, a teacher, said he thanked God for the health insurance he bought years ago because it paid for a sinus operation. Otherwise, he and his wife would have had to spend rent money on the operation and "we would have lost our apartment for sure," he said, drinking a warm Coke at a fast-food restaurant where a blackout to save energy had deterred other customers.

Every visit to the supermarket brings unpleasant surprises, he said. The price of milk powder, which the couple needs for their infant son, increased from the equivalent of $3 to about $4.30 in just over a year's time. He makes the equivalent of about $540 a month and "can barely cope," he said. "We spend all we have for our small baby."

The teacher said he saw only one solution. "I want to write a letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He needs to bring back the experts, people who know about economy. The government doesn't know what they are doing."


"We simply can't transfer money, which means that we can't buy spare parts for our factories," said Bodagh Khanbodagi, honorary president of the private Iranian-German business chamber. German export credits backing trade with Iran totaled about $730 million last year, about half the value of German export credits in 2006 and one-fifth that in 2004, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service released this month.

"Nobody's coming over, and I don't see any minister visiting here in the near future," he said, sipping tea in an office decorated with pictures of himself with German and Iranian dignitaries.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Suicide is painless it brings on many changes

`Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.' (Vernor Vinge, NASA VISION-21 Symposium, 1993)

Benny Morris, who often predicts that Iran is out to annihilate Israel,has another op-ed piece about why Israel needs to mount a nuclear attack against Iran in the NYT.

But should Israel’s conventional assault fail to significantly harm or stall the Iranian program, a ratcheting up of the Iranian-Israeli conflict to a nuclear level will most likely follow. Every intelligence agency in the world believes the Iranian program is geared toward making weapons, not to the peaceful applications of nuclear power. And, despite the current talk of additional economic sanctions, everyone knows that such measures have so far led nowhere and are unlikely to be applied with sufficient scope to cause Iran real pain, given Russia’s and China’s continued recalcitrance and Western Europe’s (and America’s) ambivalence in behavior, if not in rhetoric. Western intelligence agencies agree that Iran will reach the “point of no return” in acquiring the capacity to produce nuclear weapons in one to four years.

Which leaves the world with only one option if it wishes to halt Iran’s march toward nuclear weaponry: the military option, meaning an aerial assault by either the United States or Israel. Clearly, America has the conventional military capacity to do the job, which would involve a protracted air assault against Iran’s air defenses followed by strikes on the nuclear sites themselves. But, as a result of the Iraq imbroglio, and what is rapidly turning into the Afghan imbroglio, the American public has little enthusiasm for wars in the Islamic lands. This curtails the White House’s ability to begin yet another major military campaign in pursuit of a goal that is not seen as a vital national interest by many Americans. (If you are not registered at NYT, Harry's Place has the entire piece posted.)

(Emphasis mine)

So, since everyone already knows that a conventional attack will fail since Iran has already planned for a conventional attack by building duplicate sites, far underground, and dispersing facilities all over the country, shouldn't we already jump to the nuclear option?

Which means what exactly? Just how much of Iran needs to be nuked in order for Israel to be safe?

My answer is this: this kind of war will never ever be won. It is impossible. Destroying Iran as an enemy only means creating new enemies in new places.

Hey, believe me, I understand why Israel feels the necessity to have a nuclear deterrent. I understand why its survival depends on being a bad ass. Iran getting nukes scares me. Anyone familiar with this blog will know that I have consistently taken an anti-nuke stance.

I do not want to see Israel destroyed any more than I want to see Iran destroyed. I am hoping that, on all sides, calmer heads will prevail. (But, as a Sci-Fi aficionado, I fear the coming singularity.)

It is useful to note that Iran sees itself as alone among enemies in much the same way that Israel sees itself. The threats go in all directions. Iran saw itself abandoned by the world when villages in the province of Kurdistan were gassed:

In total 360 chemical bombs were dropped on Iran against both military and civilian targets resulting in 100,000 casualties. There are now still some 45-52,000 people in Iran suffering severely from these attacks, many of them civilians who were not involved in the war but were just trying to live their lives.

What’s important to say at this point is that Iran is the only country in recent history that has had weapons of mass destruction used against it, and this by Iraq in full view of the international community which did nothing to help.

(From a text by Kamin Mohammadi)

(I actually remember that the official view of the US at the time was that the chemical attacks never took place.)

In conclusion (finally!), the premise of the argument for a nuclear attack against Iran is this: the regime is suicidal and willing to bring about the end of their own world. Everyone knows that a nuclear attack against Israel will assuredly result in devastating attacks against Iran. So, the regime must be suicidal to launch such an attack.

This begs the question: is a preemptive strike against Iran also suicidal for Israel? I think it is. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Blogging in Iran

Azadeh at Radio Zamaneh has an interesting interview with a disabled man who discovered blogging. He discusses how blogging made him feel less isolated and opened him up to a whole new world. As a result of this experience, he has set up all sorts of others in Iran with their own blogs.

If you can read or listen (I listened
), it's a great interview.

Persian Funk

Thanks to Sahand at Punch the Sun for turning me on to Persian Funk.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Iran missile test redux

Kamangir points out that a photograph published of the recent missile tests is from the same test that was photographed 2 years ago.

Check out his blog and compare the pictures for yourself.

Update: This just in from AFP:

Photographs published on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards website showed four missiles taking off from a desert launchpad.

But one of the missiles had apparently been added to the photograph using elements from the smoke trail and dust clouds from two of the other missiles.

After being shown the photograph by AFP, Mark Fitzpatrick of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said: "It very much does appear that Iran doctored the photo to cover up what apparently was a misfiring of one of the missiles.

"The whole purpose of this testing was to send a signal so Iran both exaggerated the capabilities of the missile in their prose and apparently doctored the photos as well."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Student demonstration in Tehran

This is the first time I have seen a video like this one. Usually videos of demonstrations are taken from inside the crowd. This one is taken from the Ministry of Interior in Tehran and you really get to see the size of the crowd. It seems that the people taking the video are trying to zoom in on faces, possibly for later identification.

This demonstration commemorates the student protests of 1999 . Maybe someone with better ears than ours can understand what is being said by the video makers and the students.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

An interview with me

Esra'a from interviewed me about my experiences in Iran and the book Kamran and I did there.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Congratulations on high oil prices

"We congratulate the Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian people the increase in the price of Iranian oil to $100 a barrel."

Translation of an sms going around Iran right now.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Could it be? Blogging punishable by death?

When was the last time any of us had any mental security? Was it when our mother breast fed us and provided for our every need? Well, in an effort to become the ultimate nanny state, some parliamentarians and judges in Iran are considering making 'disturbing mental security' a capital offense. Well, I, for one, am disturbed already.

Read Hamid Tehrani's round-up on Global Voices

“Don’t be upset, we'll execute you legally”

Nikahang, a leading Iranian online cartoonist and blogger, says [Fa]:

if this draft bill becomes law, everything will be based on interpretation and a simple blogger will be considered a center to destroy people’s religion! What can I say? Only people who disturb people’s mental security could support such a thing.

Mirza Kasra Bakhtyari writes [Fa] that Ali Larijani, the Iranian Parliament's President, supported discussing this draft bill and added that they have talked for hours with the Judiciary about it.

Ghomarashegahneh says [Fa]:

Mentioning ‘blogging' among crimes such as kidnapping, raping, armed robbery makes accusing bloggers easier than before… Such a law will harm the mental security of society more than the poor bloggers, who do not know what awaits them.

The blogger adds that the real causes of mental security problems are the economic crisis and repressive government policies.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wilders Mania

In defence of the right to offend (

But his announcement in late November that he would make a short film to that effect sent the government into a panic. The cabinet met in secret. It ordered foreign embassies to draw up evacuation plans in case of mob violence. It put the mayors of Dutch cities on alert. It arranged meetings with imams and other Muslim representatives, distancing itself from Mr Wilders' positions. The interior, justice and foreign ministers summoned Mr Wilders to meetings, and the country's terrorism co-ordinator warned him that he might have to leave the country for his own security. The government reportedly investigated whether it would be possible to block or delay Mr Wilders's broadcast.

The FT writer Christopher Caldwell looks at the Wilders controversy over his platonic film about the the Koran. This is an interesting point of view that equates Wilders with Western liberalism and its drive to separate us from Biblical command. Not so sure I buy the argument... Do you?

Mr Wilders is something of a bogeyman in polite Dutch society now. He should not be. His perfectly legal effort resembles the kind of mischievous testing of boundaries that civil libertarians have engaged in whenever they have sought to hasten social change in the face of an indifferent or hostile electorate. In seeking to reopen such questions as, first, whether Islam is a religion, and, second, whether ancient scripture is sheltered from our laws regulating hate speech, Mr Wilders is the comrade-in-arms of those western legal activists who have agitated successfully for gay marriage, euthanasia and bans on religious display.

In the end, the best response to Wilders is the cold shoulder or humor.

If there is a violent response, doesn't that just make his point? It's like fuel for him and even for people who might not agree with him but who see his vindication in a violent response. Who am I to tell people what to do? But if you are a Muslim who is offended by Wilders, then the most effective protest you can offer is to ignore him completely .

I prefer Eutopia's response to the mania. It's generous and humorous.

read more | digg story

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New site for K

Global Voices beat me to the announcement of Kamran's new site, which we worked on over the Christmas/New Year's holidays. I have to say that getting Kamran to launch his website was a bit like getting a cat to swim. He is the worst imagineable client: never satisfied. In fact, he has been fiddling with the design for the site for ten years. "It's too boxy..." "Can we do this?" "Why can't we do that?" In the end, I forced him to accept the limitations of the web and my own coding limitations, and I think the site turned out really well.

He plans to add some more images of New York and some of the images for his project: "Missing Son." So stay tuned...

It may be a bit image heavy for servers in Iran. Sorry... we will launch a tiny version someday.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A “Robot” for Analyzing the Persian Blogosphere

Interesting interview with Kamangir about his analysis of the Persian blogosphere. Here's an Excerpt:

Q: How do you evaluate Iranian blogs' impact in Iranian society?Big and even bigger. Not that every single Iranian reads blogs. But I am amazed how conveniently we cross the red lines put in place by the state to discuss issues of interest. There is a very long way to go, but this phenomenon is fantastic in that it offers a method to think together and freely discuss issues of mutual interest.Q: Any ideas to share with the Global Voices audience?One of my hobbies these days is to go inside the database of KiBeKi and look at random blogs. I am amazed how many fantastic Persian blogs are out there, most of which do not have the deserved readership. The Persian blogosphere has been initially shaped around a few famous blogs. This is gradually turning into a more scattered pattern of readership. I believe that anyone who wants to know about the Persian blogosphere has to refrain from restricting themselves to the “first-generation” blogs and must try to go deeper than that.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Republic of Suffering

I heard a fascinating interview with historian Drew Gilpin Faust who writes about the American Civil War. She talks about the way the Civil War forced Americans to redefine their notions of what made for a good death. In pre-CW America, apparently, the way a person died was a predictor of how they would be received in the afterlife. A Good Death meant a quick transition into heaven. She reads from a letter that a soldier writes while he is dying and states that he knew his father would be "delighted" to hear from his son as he died. It's really an interesting an interview.

Here is an excerpt from her introduction to her book, This Republic of Suffering:

The Civil War confronted Americans with an enormous task, one quite different from saving or dividing the nation, ending or maintaining slavery, or winning the military conflict—the demands we customarily understand to have been made of the Civil War generation. Americans North and South would be compelled to confront— and resist—the war's assault on their conceptions of how life should end, an assault that challenged their most fundamental assumptions about life's value and meaning. As they faced horrors that forced them to question their ability to cope, their commitment to the war, even their faith in a righteous God, soldiers and civilians alike struggled to retain their most cherished beliefs, to make them work in the dramatically altered world that war had introduced. Americans had to identify—find, invent, create—the means and mechanisms to manage more than half a million dead: their deaths, their bodies, their loss. How they accomplished this task reshaped their individual lives—and deaths—at the same time that it redefined their nation and their culture. The work of death was Civil War America's most fundamental and most demanding undertaking.