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.