Saturday, December 26, 2009

There is more than one way to stop Iran

I doubt that the NYT will publish our letter to the editor about the recent op-ed piece by Alan Kuperman, so I am publishing it here.

Dear Editors:

Alan J. Kuperman writes that military action is the last hope for preventing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. His comment that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reneged his offer of a nuclear deal because of pressure from political opponents is a misinterpretation of the complex politics within the regime itself.

The opposition in Iran, as well as much of its population, does not want the West to negotiate with the Ahmadinejad government because they believe that it is illegitimate and that a nuclear deal would strengthen its position both domestically and internationally. The fact that for years the regime has sent inconsistent messages to nuclear negotiators is more a symptom of a deep rift within its own power structure than the result of opposition criticism.

We believe that a military strike would strengthen this regime, not weaken it. We also believe that it has been baiting the West for years now, knowing full well that it is losing the support of its population. It seeks a repeat of Iraq’s invasion of Iran, which unintentionally united the population behind the revolutionary regime.

If a democratic Iranian government were to come to power, the first things it is likely to do would be to 1) seek legitimacy in the international community and 2) look for ways to improve its flailing economy. A nuclear agreement offers both. The nuclear program is a huge financial drain and noncompliance with UN resolutions is preventing Iran from engaging with the world.

Sitting tight and allowing the population of Iran to express their own views is the best deterrent to a nuclear armed Iran. Bombing Iran now, when its population has taken to the streets in such great numbers to express their distrust of the current regime, would be a gift to Ahmadinejad and his ilk.

Tori Egherman and Kamran Ashtary

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Funeral of Montazeri and the Strength of Resistence

Masses turn out for the funeral of Montazeri in Qom, December 21, 2009

For the four years I spent in Iran, a dominant question from the “Western Street” was a variation of “Why don’t the world’s Muslims go to the streets to protest bombings?” The question presumes, of course, that the non-Muslim West knows all there is to know about the conversations, debates, and opinions of those in the mainly closed societies dominated by a Muslim population.

Meanwhile, I heard consistent condemnations of violence (of all types) from middle class and poor Iranians. Perhaps when you have seen the effects of war and terror on your own family and friends, you are much less likely to wish for its renewal.

On June 15, 3 million Iranians in Tehran went onto the streets because their hopes for peaceful and gradual reform of their government were so cruelly dashed by the blatantly fraudulent election results. Their individual courage was buoyed by the courage shown by others.

Yesterday in Qom, hundreds of thousands attended the funeral of Ali Montazeri, a grand ayatollah who had consistently spoken up for civil rights, the separation of state and religion, and against state-sponsored violence. They did this despite the risk of arrest and reprisals. Mourners went with knowledge of the brutal rapes of prisoners in Kharizak Prison, the torture and beatings and psychological anguish inflicted upon those in custody, and the random violence visited on demonstrators and passersby alike. They went with their eyes open and with hopes for freedom.

The only thing that can stop them in their quest for freedom now would be an attack on Iran from outside forces. The Iranian regime is doing everything it can to bait Israel and the West. It’s the schoolyard bully sticking out its tongue and begging for a punch in the gut. Wouldn't it just be glorious to defend oneself rather than to be the aggressor? There is nothing the regime wants more than an outside attack. Restraint would do more to end their reign then anything else. Let’s finally allow the Iranian people decide their own future and allow them to play out their long struggle for real freedom and real civil rights.

MORE:'s translation of Montazeri's declaration of citizenship for Baha'is

Enduring American's optimistic analysis of the turnout for the funeral of Montazeri in Qom

Great photos and summary at the NY Times

My article at ex Ponto about the Iranian summer of opposition

One of the last interviews with Montazeri from Radio Zamaneh

About Iran's constitutional revolution

Finally, a quote from an interview Montazeri did with Radio Zamaneh in 2008:

Reporter: But in religious teachings it is often said that oppression will not last. Do you think that this oppression will last?

Montazeri: After all, no government is everlasting. “The state may endure heresy but it will not endure oppression.” [Quote from Mohammad]

Reporter: Apparently not, but it has endured so far.

Montazeri: No, it shall not endure. We are too impatient; it will not endure. It is in my writings that the Mandate of the Jurist, as these gentlemen are representing it, began with Mr. Khomeini and ended with this gentleman. After him [Khamenei], the Mandate of the Jurist will not have any credibility...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Iranian Protester: an Inspired Choice?

Rosa ParksIf you could go back in time to 1955, the year that Rosa Parks became a symbol for the Civil Rights movement by refusing to give up her seat in the front of a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white person, and present the civil rights protesters of Montgomery as Time’s Person of the Year, wouldn’t you? Not Rosa Parks, mind you, but the groups that backed her, and that she was part of: the Women's Political Council, the NAACP, and the African-American churches where Martin Luther King was a minister. That protest, while not the first or the last in a long struggle for civil rights in the United States, galvanized not only the city of Montgomery, but an entire nation. That year Time put forth Harlow Curtice, 1955an auto executive. Obviously the auto has undeniably shaped American but he was hardly an inspiring choice. In a year when American auto companies went bust, and Americans inaugurated an African-American president it’s interesting to look back at 1955.

This year, one of Time's nominees for person of the year is the Iranian Protester. With more than half a million votes, s/he is a crowd pleaser. I think this is an inspired choice for Time. Those of us who have friends and family in Iran know how much courage it takes to go out on to the streets of Iran to protest the government, and we also know how many different types of people marched against the election results and how much danger they faced. The actions of the protesters changed the way the entire world views Iran and how Iranians view each other.

Change and reform is not always so exciting and sexy. For both the protesters in Iran and Barack Obama, who is the second most popular choice for person of the year, the inspiring moments are waning and the hard work is beginning.

Thanks to Mana for inspiring this line of thought in a late night Skype chat.
Cross-posted at

The train to the future in Iran

A friend who just returned from Iran and a visit to family and friends, “Everywhere I went, the message was clear. ‘We are happy with the support of Iranians all over the world, but we do not want their political advice. It is their support we want, it gives us strength.’”

One of her friends, who is a teacher, had this to say about young people in Iran:

“It’s as though the young people are on a train that has already left for the future. They don’t care about the past. Only the future. They like Mousavi because he is not charismatic and because he knows that he is on their train. He said, ‘I follow you,’ not the other way around. They do not want leaders right now. They are not idealistic. They say, ‘Rafsanjani, if you are on our train, fine. If not, stay on the platform.’ For them, Iran is already moving towards a new future.”

Cross-posted at United4iran.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Letters to the President: thoughts on the documentary

Sunday, I saw the movie, Letters to the President, which is one of the movies we are going to be showing at the 12-12 Studio /K event in Amsterdam. It was heartbreaking and entertaining and not at all what I expected. The blurb made me feel like I was going to see something vaguely supportive of Ahmadinejad’s policies, but that’s not the story I saw in the movie at all. It was a much more powerful critique of Ahmadinejad's economic policies because it allowed the story to unfold without taking sides.

After the movie Kamran spoke, I got into a bit of a tiff with someone who wanted to lecture me about the October Surprise and America’s responsibility for the Iran-Iraq war, and we met up with a friend who had just returned from Iran. She grew up in a village not so different from the villages Ahmadinejad traveled through during the course of the film. She told us what one of her cousins said, “This regime has turned us into beggars.” Our friend went on to explain, it makes them beg for a yearly subsidy of about $50 a year that no longer even covers the cost of two kilos of meat: that’s how much prices have increased in the past couple of years.

One of the other speakers, Nikita Shabazi, claimed that Ahmadinejad’s regime brought more people out of poverty than any other, which is why she would have voted for him had she been dragged kicking and screaming to the polling booth. She quoted The Brookings Institute as her source for this data. Here is what I find when I go the Brookings Institute for information:

Significantly, during the first two years of the Ahmadinejad Administration (2005-06) inequality worsened in both rural and urban areas, possibly because higher inflation hurt those below the median income level more than those above it. This is not so much an indication that Ahmadinejad was insincere in promising redistribution but how difficult it is to redistribute income without fundamental changes in the country’s distribution of earning power (wealth and human capital) and political power, which determines access to government transfers from oil rent.

The author goes on to show a steady decline in poverty, since its high in 1988. This is an achievement that can hardly be attributed to the Ahmadinejad presidency.

If you are in Amsterdam, please join us for the 12-12 event. Petr Lom will be there to discuss his movie, along with many others.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Message from an American Family to your Khanavadeh

I hope that people in Iran will be able to see this video, I uploaded the smallest version available. If you'd like to see it in higher quality, check out the youTube link or the Vimeo link.

The struggle for justice and civil rights is a long and difficult one. Good luck...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Making People Disappear: Erasing Karroubi and Mousavi

The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
- Milan Kundera in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Today, the Iranian regime has announced that the names of Mousavi and Karroubi can no longer be printed in Iranian newspapers. (Story in Persian via

I can't help thinking of the dramatic scene in the Ten Commandments when Pharaoh says, "Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet." Or Milan Kundera's amazing short story The Lost Letters, that tells the story of the end of the Prague Spring by introducing us to Vladimir Clementis, who was erased from Soviet history after being charged with "conspiring with the enemy." He is the man with the camera in the photo on the left. The photo on the right shows the retouched version with Clementis erased and replaced with a wall. According to Kundera's story, that's his hat on the head of the man speaking at the microphone, Klement Gottwald:

Four years later, Clementis was charged with treason and hanged. The propaganda section immediately made him vanish from history and, of course, from all photographs. Ever since, Gottwald has been alone on the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the bare palace wall. Nothing remains of Clementis but the fur hat on Gottwald's head.

We are now faced with a terrifying situation in Iran: the prospect of Stalinist purges coinciding with the rise of Iran's shadowy Qods Force (Jerusalem force) to positions of very public power.

I hope that I am wrong.

BTW, the images are from the amazing book by Alain Jaubert: Making People Disappear

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The arrest, beating, and interrogation of Farhad M.

Send us your stories

Report from Farhad M., who was imprisoned from July 9-27,2009
Finglish text below

On the 18th of Tir (July 9), I was walking not far from Fatemi street. The street was busy, but no one was chanting at that time. It was about 5:30 when two guys in plainclothes approached me from either side. It was interesting that at that moment I had no sense of being part of a demonstration and was just walking normally in the street. Still, I was nabbed and put into a car and left there until about 9 pm. Everyone in the car was blindfolded the whole time, and then we were driven somewhere. Three days later, I figured out that we had been driven to Motahari Street. There we were randomly assigned to an interrogator. My interrogation went on until 1 am, but I was not asked any questions. I was beaten with a cable and with other things without being asked a single question. Unfortunately, I had things in my backpack that made things worse for me: films of demonstrations on my mobile phone and a notebook of writing for my weblog. After three days, I was transferred to Evin. Others were sent to Kahrizak. I was lucky to be sent to Evin where I was kept in solitary for one week. Twice a day, I met with an interrogator. They did everything to get me to confess. To demonstrate to me that they had no belief in anything, they even burnt the Koran in front of me.


When I was put in the cell with others, I understood that what happened to be was much better than what happened to the others. I was not raped. Among us there were some whose colons had been ripped because of rape.

In any case, I understood that all my conversations during the past three months had been recorded, and that they had everything. When they arrest someone and get their telephone number, they look at all of their email, all of their facebook activity, and all of their weblog activity. Because I had political posts on facebook, in my weblog, and in private correspondence, the accusations in my file are extremely serious: breaching national security and plans to overthrow the government, for which the worst punishment is execution. If you confess you get a lighter sentence, but still you have to have patience and wait for your court date, which has not been announced.

Barkhi az goftehaye yeki az zendanian havadese pas az entekhabate 22 khordad be name Farhad M. (zaman dastgiri 88/04/18 zaman-e azadi be gheide vasighe pishaz zaman-e dadgah: 88/05/05):

dar rooze 18 e tir nazdik be kheiabane fatemi dar hale ghadam zadan boodan. khiaboon shologh bood vali too oon moghe kasi shoar nemidad. hodoode saate 5:30 bood ke 2 nafar lebas shakhsi be samte man oomadan va az do taraf mano gereftan. jaleb inja bood ke too oon moghe man aslan halate yek tazahorahi nadashtam va kheili mamooli dashtam rah miraftam vali be har hal mano be samte ye machine bordam ke ta hodoode saat 9 oonja boodim baad cheshme hamaye oonayi ke too machin boodan ro bastan va be jayi raftim ke man baad 3 rooz fahmidam ke samte khaiboone motahari boode. oonja har nafar be toore tasadofi ye bazjoo barash entekhab mishod. bazjooyi man ta saate 1:00 tool keshid ke albate amalan az man hata soali porside nemishod balke faghat ba batoom o cabl o harchize dige yi kotat mikhordam be doone inke soalli beporsan. motaasefane chiz hayi tooye koole poshti e man bood ke ozamo badtar kard mese filmaye ke az tazahoram tooye mobilam bood va hata ye daftarche az dastneveshte haye weblogam. baad az 3 rooz ke oonja boodim be evin montaghel shodam albate bazia ro be kahrizak bordan vali man joze afrade khosh shanse boodam va be evin raftam. oonja yek hafteye too enferadi boodam ke roozi yeki 2 bar bazjoo be soragham mioomadam. oona baraye eteraf gereftam harkari mikardan. baraye inke neshun bedan be hich chiz eteghad nadaran va hich chiz barashum mohem nist ghoran jeloom pare mikardan. vaghty varede band shodam va kasaye dige ro ham didam motavajeh shodam raftari ke ba man shode joze behtarin ha boode chon be man tajavoze jensi nashod vali beine ma kasayi oonja boodan ke dar asare shedate hamalate tajavoze jensi dochare paregi roode shode boodan.

be har hal oonja fahmidam ke tamame mokalemate afrad ta 3 mahe ghabl zapt mishe va hamaro daran. faghat zamani ke adam dastgir mishe va shomareye adam ro be dast miraran hameye ina va hata tamame email ha, safahate facebook va weblog kamalen chech mishe. man be dalile dashtane matalebe siasi facebook, weblogam va mokalemate poshte tell etehamati too parvandam daram ke kheili sangine: ekhtelal dar nazm va amniate omoomi va eghteshashgari, talash baraye bar andazi nezam va ... . badtarin hokmi ke mitooni baraye in jorm ha vojood dashte bashe edame ke albate dar soorate ezhare nedamat va pashimani anjam nemishe vali be har hal bayad ta rooze dadgah ka hanooz ham elem nashode baraye hokm sabr konam.

Cross-posted at Vote for Iran

Sunday, August 02, 2009

False confessions, biting satire, Facebook roundup

Long overdue review of Facebook posts. I have been working hard on the United 4 Iran event and Vote for Iran for awhile now and neglecting this blog.

We tried velvet, match revolution... excuse me I can't read this... cartoon by Nik Ahang Kowsar

"We tried velvet, match revolution... excuse me I can't read this... cartoon by Nik Ahang Kowsar"

A few weeks ago I went to a lecture by the author of Torture and Democracy, Darius Rejali. (Link to 90-minute lecture on google video) I was one of a handful of people for what was a fascinating discussion. (I first became interested in Rejali's work because of his discussion of taarof in his earlier book, not because I am somehow obsessed with torture.) He made several points including: a) torture does not work to elicit the truth often enough to be called even remotely effective and b) it is surprisingly difficult to get people to make false confessions. They will withstand quite a bit of pain before they will lie.

Anyone who has been following events in Iran knows that beating and torture has been a part of the incarceration of many political detainees. False confessions have been part and parcel of the Islamic regime since its inception. This time around, people in Iran have been sabotaging state television broadcasts through coordinated power outages. Nobel prize winner, Shirin Ebadi has called for people to turn off their televisions instead of watching the lies spread by Iranian state tv. Demonstrators have chanted in favor of those on trial, and no one, save the most gullible, believes that the confessions are even remotely based in fact. Friends have been sharing articles about and images from the trials, including this one:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

U2 Amsterdam July 21, 2009

U2 Amsterdam July 21, 2009
Originally uploaded by

Wish I could have been at the concert.

U2, please support United 4 Iran! You could help us cover some of the costs of the demonstration. We don't need a lot.

Be a Hero: Unted4Iran, July 25

This is my first ever youTube upload created with the help of the amazing united4iran-amsterdam all volunteer team!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Green Brief

Josh Shahryar's newest Green Brief:

Protests / Unrest

1. Mir Hossein Mousavi has endorsed his protesters’ tactic of causing massive black-outs. The Iranian Government has equated the tactic to sabotage, but protesters have used it as a non-violent means to defy the government.

2. Neda Aga-Soltan’s family will be congregating at her grave site on the 40th day after her death on July 30, 2009 (the 40th day after a person’s death is traditionally the most essential day of mourning for Muslims). No prior announcements will be made - however, the family said they will welcome anyone who may want to partake in Neda’s bereavement.

3. There are calls for demonstrations tomorrow to commemorate the deaths of protesters killed on June 20th. It has not been confirmed whether or not it has the backing of any opposition leaders.

4. Italian fashion designer, Guillermo Mariotto, wore a shirt that said “Neda Alive” (in green writing) during Haute Couture. All the models presenting his newest creations also wore green wristbands in solidarity with the Green Movement in Iran. Video:

5. Archbishop Bishop Desmund Tutu – a Nobel Peace Prize winner and South African human rights activist – has announced that he too will be joining the Global Day of Action in support of the Green Movement. Other prominent Iranian and international personalities including Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams, Betty Williams, Mairead Maguire, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Dariush, and Simin Behbahani. Details on the event can be found here:

6. Noam Chomsky – an eminent American philosopher, linguist, author and lecturer who is 81 years old – has announced that he will partake in the hunger strike in support of the Green Movement in New York. The hunger strike is reportedly being held from July 22-25, and will encompass many important Iranian and international figures.


7. The grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, Sayed Hassan Khomeini, has reportedly left the country. Reports indicate he left the country after being pressured by the government to attend Ahmadinejad’s Inauguration Ceremony - in order to provide the government with much needed legitimacy.

8. Mousavi had a meeting with families of detainees today, where he made several statements:
* He announced that the Green Movement was a peaceful movement, BUT that it was ready to make sacrifices should the need arise.

o He asked the government to ensure freedom of speech. He claimed that it would foster a calm environment in the country – a much better alternative to the current atmosphere of fear created by the extensive use of security forces.

o He stated “The Iranian Nation had matured and that the use of pre-1979 tactics wouldn’t be enough to silence it,” and “The Nation had been reborn and was going to defend its achievements.” He condemned the on-going arrests in the country and called it a “National issue – one that would not solve the government’s problems.”

o He called it “An insult to the Iranian Nation to suggest that foreigners had orchestrated the post-election protests in Iran.” He also criticized the government for defending the arrests of peaceful protesters and called it unjust and cruel.

o He added that, “NO ONE in the international community was going to believe the lies the government was spreading with forced confessions from detainees.” Mousavi, Karoubi and Khatami have been holding regular meetings with the families of detainees during the past three weeks.

9. Supporters of Mousavi in Eastern Azerbaijan Province held a meeting Sunday night and released a statement in support of Mousavi. Hundreds of prominent members of society including politicians, human rights activists and university professors attended the meeting.

10. Press TV quoted Mousavi as saying that he had “spent nearly $3.5 million US dollars on his campaign,” and that “Mahdi Karroubi had spent roughly the same amount.”

In a rare break from the government, Press TV’s printed:

“According to Mousavi, Iran needs what he called a ‘free media’ to reverse the growing ‘appeal of foreign media’ which he claimed is a side effect of the ‘lack of press freedoms’ and the national broadcaster's ‘mistaken approach.”

The report also accused protesters of turning to violence and claimed that the Guardian Council had authenticated the elections after ‘launching an extensive probe’ of examining the complaints from the defeated candidates.

Government / International

11. Ali Motaherri – a representative of Tehran in the Iranian Parliament – criticized Ayatollah Yazdi’s statements that questioned Rafsanjani’s sermon on Friday. Motaherri said, “A regime’s legitimacy was only guaranteed by people’s support.”

12. Khamenei issued harsh words today to ‘Iran’s Elite.’ He said, “The Elite should watch their words and actions carefully, because they are facing a test.” He added, “Failing the test would mean that not only would they lose their positions within the regime, but also lose their credibility and become pariahs.” Although no names were mentioned, many say his speech was directed at Rafsanjani – for creating insecurity and disorder in the country. Khamenei declared, “The Iranian Nation would hate anyone who participated in such actions.” He called the “creation of violence the biggest sin.”

13. President-Select Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office has asked people who want to help the country to come forward and offer their services. According to his office, the government was looking for people to help the president’s administration at different levels and that a committee will soon be formed to recruit such people.

Arrested / Released / Killed

14. Partially-confirmed reports from Evin Prison indicate that one protester was tortured for days in order to extort a confession. After all torture tactics failed, a doctor was brought in to examine the detainee who was found to be deaf and mute. He was later released. Other reports from Evin Prison suggest a new torture tactic: hanging detainees’ upside-down for hours, and sometimes the entire day.

15. Mohammad Kamrani’s body was laid to rest today at Beheshte Zahra Cemetery. He was one of the protesters who was detained and tortured severely. He was transferred to Tehran’s Mehr Hospital unconscious and shackled. He never regained consciousness, and later died.

16. It is now confirmed that Hamid and Puran Ebrahimnezhad – who have been in detention since their arrest – were in fact arrested on July 7, 2009. They were reportedly beaten while being hauled away.

17. On a positive note, detained political activist Mehdi Khazali has been released from Evin Prison. In a statement released today, families of political prisoners asked the government, yet again, to “promptly release all prisoners and stop the violent repression of the populace at the hands of security forces.” Their statement also thanked Rafsanjani for taking a bold stand against the continued detention of political prisoners and peaceful protesters.


18. A leading Iranian Cleric – Hojatoleslam Seyed Mehdi Tabatabai - criticized Ahmadinejad’s statements (against his opponents right after the election) in a televised interview on IRIB. He said, “Ahmadinejad should have immediately called for dialogue with his opponents and should NOT have subjected them to ridicule.” He added, “The post-election violence was caused by hostility stemming from the blatant ridicule.” It should be noted that this is one of the very FEW instances where Iranian media has allowed criticism of Ahmadinejad to be broadcasted on IRIB.

Note: The Green Briefs are a daily report that is compiled using sources on twitter, Iranian websites and other media outlets. Verification of most news items cannot be obtained using regular mainstream media standards; however, they have been as authenticated as possible given the current ban on most foreign media outlets in Iran.

Friday, July 17, 2009

July 16th on Facebook: "Open your eyes, Sohrab! Your mother is devastated by your picture."

This has been a week of heartbreak. Families discovered that loved ones had been killed, beaten, and abused, and a plane on its way to Yerevan from Tehran crashed 16 minutes after take-off. For many the crash just seemed to pile heartache upon heartache. Anyone who has ever been depressed and experienced calamity knows that when people say, "It can't get any worse," it can.

It's also been a week of rumors and confined hope as people buzz about a planned compromise, speculate on strange twists and turns, and hear that Rafsanjani just may be giving the sermon at Friday prayers with Mousavi and Karoubi in attendance. I've tried to summarize more than today's postings on Facebook, but frankly I have not made a dent in the backlog.

"How quickly you've grown in these 25 days that your mother has been going door to door looking for you," said the poem, posted on Norooznews. "Open your eyes, Sohrab! Your mother is devastated by your picture."

The biggest story of the week is the heartbreaking one of Sohrab Aarabi, the nineteen year old who disappeared on June 15th, the day of the first mass demonstration after the election results.

Sohrab Aarabi

Sohrab Aarabi

After a week in which we heard that a young man had died from beatings in custody and that the family was being told to keep quiet or risk not having his body returned, Sohrab Aarabi's mother has decided to speak out about the death of her son. (We do not know, however, if Sohrab's mother was ever told to keep quiet about her son's death.) Friends are sharing videos posted on youTube that show his funeral and her grief. One friend wrote, "That's my mother 27 years ago." We see the mourners chanting, "Allah-o Akbar," with their cell phones raised in the air to record the funeral. His mother shouts about the cowardice of the men who killed her son. Earlier in the video, we see her on one of her daily trips to Evin to search for her son. She brought his photo and asked for help finding him.

There is news of Rafsanjani's return to leading Friday prayers in Iran. This will be his first public appearance since the election results were announced and there is much anticipation of what he will say. Twittering activists are calling for chants of Hashemi, Hashemi throughout the sermon to demonstrate support.

In its summary of events in Iran,
Enduring America
has reported that Keyhan editors have been called to court to answer to charges of disseminating lies.

Taraneh: Arrested at the Ghoba Mosque in Tehran

Taraneh: Arrested at the Ghoba Mosque in Tehran

Over at Words, we read of the horrible abuse against those arrested.

On Friday July 19, a large group of mourners gathered at the Ghoba mosque in Tehran to await a speech about the martyrs of the post-election protests by presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. According to one Iranian blog, 28-year-old Taraneh Mousavi was one of a group of people that was arrested by plainclothesed security forces for attending the gathering.

Taraneh, whose first name is Persian for “song”, disappeared into arrest.

Weeks later, according to the blog, her mother received an anonymous call from a government agent saying that her daughter has been hospitalized in Imam Khomeini Hospital in the city of Karaj, just north of Tehran — hospitalized for “rupturing of her womb and anus in… an unfortunate accident”.

When Taraneh’s family went to the hospital to find her, they were told she was not there.

Cross posted at Vote for Iran

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Soft Reform, Non-Violent Change"

I have been interviewing people about their experiences before and after the June 12th elections in Iran. The interviews are long, but I will post some highlights here. This first interview was with a 52-year old teacher who I am calling Shirin. I learned a lot during the interviews. They provide a personal perspective to the events that many of us have been caught up in. So, without further introduction:

Shirin, 52, teacher of 7-12 year olds

The Decision to Vote

Photo from Reuters

Before the campaign really began, I thought that it would be better to boycott than to vote. It was my feeling that we shouldn’t vote. I had a lot of discussions about this with my friends and family and came to the conclusion that it was important to vote and to vote for Mousavi. I want soft reform and changes that are non-violent.

Election Day

Photo by Kamran Jebreili

Everyone at the polling station was so careful about writing clearly. Still, you might not know, but Ahmadinejad’s code was “44” and Mousavi’s order in the list was number 4. The difference between the code and the numbering was not clear. We thought this was done on purpose so that if people wrote in the number 4 instead of Mousavi’s code, which was 77, it could be changed easily to 44. I said to the poll workers, "My son has his Master’s and even he is confused by the difference between the code and the numbering. Why do we have to write the code at all?" The poll worker said, "You’re right, ma’am (khanum). Just write in the name of the candidate you support." Still I put lines on either side of the code so that nothing could be added to it.

At 2:30, the poll workers announced that they were closing the polling station for lunch. The people waiting in line argued with them saying, "You cannot close both doors. If you close both doors then we will think that you are changing our votes." After several minutes of discussion, the poll workers agreed to keep one door open.

I stayed up all night watching the results come in. I could not believe it. Since I do not trust state tv, I watched VOA. It was so strange that they announced the results so quickly. What really surprised me was how few votes Karoubi received. I asked myself, how could Karoubi get so few votes?

When they announced that Ahmadinejad was the winner, I couldn’t stand up. My legs were shaking. I thought, maybe a lot of people made a mistake with the code and that the computer only read the code, not the name. They are supposed to look at both and both need to coordinate. I just didn’t know what to think.

The next day, BBC and VOA were asking the same question: why wasn’t the number of blank or unreadable ballots announced? That put pressure on the government to announce the number of unreadable ballots.

Demonstration, June 15: The Monday after the Elections

Photo from UPI Photos

On Monday, we went out to the demonstration wearing all black. State television reported that the demonstration was cancelled, but we went anyway. Me, my son, my daughter. From Enghelab to Azadi, it was completely packed. I am not just talking about the streets, but there were people on every inch of ground. We were chanting, [Note from me: it rhymes in Persian, sounds way better!] Where are those 63%, Liar?

People were coming from three different directions. The chanting only took place on our way to Azadi. Once we got there, we were completely silent. The Basiji were moving through the crowds. My nephew kicked one to get back at them for beating him the night before.

One woman came up to me and said, "Oh that Karoubi, he is so arrogant. He came in fifth and he dares to show his face in the streets." I said, "Khanum, how could he have come in fifth? There were only four candidates."

I did not go to any of the other demonstrations even though I wanted to. My son said to me, "If you go, I have to come with you. I would be so worried if you went without me." But my son is still studying, and he could lose every chance for a future by going to these demonstrations. Because of that, I had to stay home.

Allah-o Akbar

In our neighborhood, very few people go out at night to say Allah-o Akbar. From 23 apartments in our building, only my son chants. Our neighbor does too. But we live in a neighborhood that is mainly Sepa-Pasdaran. Even though many of them voted for Moussavi – he had three large campaign offices in our neighborhood and a lot of support – they are afraid to chant Allah-o Akbar or to join the demonstration. Many who did, have had their windows broken and their property vandalized. Our neighbors are more nervous than others in Tehran because they are Sepa Pasdaran.

Response to the Recount

I am very disappointed by the decision of the Guardian council to approve the vote. I don't want to go back to work at all, but I have too. I will do everything in my power to make sure that work does not get done.

Monday, July 06, 2009

United 4 Iran, July 25

Join us in organizing a global day of action in solidarity with the Iranian people!
Join us on July 25, 2009 for a rally in your city in support of the Iranian people and in condemnation of the human rights abuses being committed by the Iranian government. Learn how you can get involved by emailing

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Rampaging Riot Police, Solidarity, Music, and More on Facebook

I've been working on and have been writing occasional posts there. (Less occasional than here...) I think our readers may be interested in the Facebook Reviews. Here is the most recent. And happy fourth! I hope to be celebrating Iran's independence day soon.

Facebook, July 2-3

I Know How the Caged Bird Flies
I Know How the Caged Bird Flies

The past two days have brought one piece of bad news after another: friends, colleagues, and innocents in prison; loved ones despondent; riot police on rampages. During the last two days much information has been shared on Facebook. Khatami and Mousavi's statements; routes for planned demonstrations; tons of stuff in Persian that takes me way too long to read (Shervin will review those pieces). The past two days, however, was not a time for more images of demonstrators being beaten; it was a time of music and poetry. We were treated to an interview with the great Iranian poet Simin Behbahani on NPR and heard new music from Mohsen Namjoo, among others.

One friend writes that this time has helped her bridge the generation gap that separates her from her parents, aunts, and uncles: "I never thought I would see similar days or make such a strong emotional connection to these lyrics..."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Many Iranians Speak Out on Obama

I wrote about my own wish for an "Ich ben ein Berliner" moment in a previous post that has sparked a lot of discussion. Since then, I have spoken to many people who are demonstrating each day and putting their own lives on the line. They asked me what Obama has been saying about them. I told them that he finds you inspiring and has condemned the violence. "Do you think he should say more?" I asked. Every single one of them told me, "No. He is doing the right thing." I asked, "If you could send one message to Obama what would it be?" and they all answered, "He should never ever recognize the government of Ahmadinejad."

I defer to their wishes.

And btw, I want Iranian diplomats to go to 4th of July celebrations at American embassies. Yes. Why not? As one friend in Iran has repeatedly said, the isolation simply serves to fuel their narrow world view. Travel, she always told me, would only help integrate them into the rest of the world.

(BTW: Great interview on Fresh Air with Karim Sadjadpour.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Sermon Gives Permission for Bloodbath

Those saying that Khamenei's sermon today was a conciliatory one and a call for calm are living in a dream world. The fact that Ayatollah Khamanei called the millions of people who came to the streets in the past few days are "agents of the West" and calling the election fair and historic is shocking and divisive, but expected.

His unwavering support for Ahmadinejad and the unwillingness to investigate the vote has made it impossible for any compromise to be reached.

This speech was absolutely meant to terrify the Iranian people off the streets and back into their homes. He has now stated that any protest is illegal and that any violence will be the responsibility of the opposition.

His calls for using legal system for protesting the election results are meaningless when those laws have already been circumvented to declare AN the winner. Saying that Iran is a great democracy is also meaningless when any protest is illegal and lethal force is used to crackdown on demonstrators.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama, Turn on Your Charm!

I want "Ich Bin Ein Berliner". I want "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." I want the rhetoric that Obama is so famous for.

I know we can't say "We are with you," because that would be interpreted as an offer of military support as it was by Iraqis who attempted to rebel against Saddam Hussein in the 90s.

I know that diplomacy is a difficult and delicate game that requires a less than straightforward approach to many situations. I have used this space so often to call for diplomacy with Iran.

Ultimately, I know that rhetoric is just rhetoric. That the words of a president do not actually change history even though they become part of it.

If ever there was a time for Obama to turn on his rhetorical charm, it is now. Today at 4 pm there will be demonstrations in 20 cities in Iran. My friends *want to be on the streets.* They are parents, civil servants, accountants, receptionists, and yes students. In the end, with all of the violence, I am not sure that they will show up.

So Obama, turn on your charm. Use your powers of rhetoric to tell Iranians that, while we won't be sending in the marines, our hearts are with you. I know you can do a better job than I can.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why We Were (Not) Naive

We woke up to two messages: one from a friend who is 100% against participating in Iran's elections, and one from someone who is an Ahmadinejad supporter. You can imagine the glee they felt telling us "I told you so."

They did not tell us anything.

The fact is, there are vote counters out there who know very well exactly how we and millions of other Iranians voted. They know, and it terrifies them. If we had not participated, we would not have been able to send that message at all.

If you voted please do not kick yourself for being "naive." (BTW, Now readers know why I posted "Thanks for Voting" before the elections.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Iranians have their MOJO back!

During the last presidential elections in Iran I knew the situation was grim when one of our progressive, entrepreneurial, feminist friends announced that she would be voting for Ahmadinejad.

Today, while chatting with a friend in a 5-kilometer sea of green Mousavi supporters, I know that these elections signal more than modest changes in Iran. This is the Iranian people telling each other and the whole world that they are peaceful people who want the government off their backs and engagement with the rest of us.

If Ahmadinejad is voted out of office, it is time for the Western world to engage with Iran. We need to immediately reach out and help them build their economy (I know, who will help us build ours?) We need to be as quick in recognizing the message Iranians are sending us as the rest of the world was in understanding what the people of America were saying when we elected Obama.

Thanks for voting, Iran

Me at Jamshidieh Park

My Iranian Facebook friends have all turned green. I don’t know if they are recycling or conserving energy, what I do know is that they have put a green overlay on their profile images in response to Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s green campaign for president of Iran.

Do you think we should vote? An old friend texted me this morning.

Are you kidding me? I texted back. In the election four years ago, this same old friend tried to encourage friends, family, and strangers to vote for the Reformist candidate Moein despite calls for a boycott. “Do you think America or some other superpower is going to save us? No. We have to vote. It’s the only thing we can do.” In the end, he influenced a couple of people, but could not even get his own family to the polls.

Today he is on his way to Azadi Square to participate in a human chain of Mousavi supporters that will stretch to Sadaghieh about 1.5 kilometers away.

People may wonder why, an American Jew, am so passionate about Iranian elections. It isn’t just that my beloved husband is Iranian and that I lived there for four years and that I speak Persian. It is that for two years I lived under the current president Ahmadinejad’s rule. I was in Tehran when he organized a conference for holocaust deniers. I was there for the cartoon show about the Holocaust that was filled with anti-Semitic stereotypes. I was there when Iranian television rebroadcast the Egyptian serial Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And, believe it or not, I started to wonder if all of the Iranians who had been so friendly and warm and open to me, were not, actually, at heart disgusted with me. I started to wonder if Ahmadinejad did not, indeed, represent the true nature of the culture better than all of the wonderful people I had met.

This election is so important to me because I see an Iran that wants to engage with the world in a peaceful manner. I see an Iran that reflects the best of what I experienced while there: an open, warm-hearted society filled with people that would rather share tea and kebab with you than confront you. I see people who do not hate me either for being American or for being Jewish. I see people who would shake my hand and hug me and dance with me. I see, again, the culture and the people that made me feel so welcome.

Thank you Iranians. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reaffirming what I learned in Iran: that you are a peaceful and open people and that you know very well how to have fun.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The executioner's campaign

Ahmadinejad says that he has no money for advertising. He has complained about this during the debates with the reformist candidates.

So he uses cranes to hang his banners.

Do the cranes come free with the banners?

Where else have we seen these cranes?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Fight Club Campaigning

A short telephone conversation to a couple of friends in Iran yesterday turned into an afternoon-long debate about the upcoming election. My family and friends all know of my plans to vote. Some disagree with me. My simple question about the latest campaign news produced brand new jokes about the candidates. They tell me that they have heard all these promises before and remind me that it wasn't long ago that the president was Khatami.

Those like me who are planning to vote, only do so because they cannot take it anymore. One even told me that he feels like putting his head out of the window and yelling, "I am mad as hell and I can not take it any more."

To be honest, I never imagined that the presidential election in the Islamic republic of Iran would turn into such a public fight between the different groups running for president. Looking at the last couple of TV debates between the different candidates, one can conclude that the election campaign has turned into a nasty fight between people who have done everything they can to make sure this Islamic system would stay as it is for the last 30 years.I am not naive to think there is not much difference between the different candidates who are running with slogan of change, I know there is a difference. Who ever wins this election cannot pretend that this system is holy anymore. Instead of discussing how they plan to address the fundamental problems that we face, the candidates are busy accusing one another of corruption. Before this election, a normal person making the same accusations in the public sphere would be accused of being anti-revolutionary. Now the candidates are publicly stating what most Iranians have been saying for decades: the whole system is corrupt.

I am deeply afraid that Mr Amadinejad could be elected again, not because people will vote for him, but only because his government and the right wing supporters of his presidency are doing everything -- I mean everything: legally and illegally -- they can to ensure his victory. This situation is so bad that a couple of days ago, a group of employees from Iran’s Interior Ministry (which is in charge of supervising the elections) rightfully warned the nation that a hard-line ayatollah, who supports President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has issued a Fatwa authorizing the changing of votes to favor Guess Who.

This is especially worrying because right after the last presidential election, one of the reformist candidates, Mr. Karoubi, who is currently running as well, protested of vote fraud to the leader of the Islamic republic stating that there had been clear violations of election laws because of interference from the Revolutionary Guard and the Basiji.

Considering all of the amazing public fights and debates in Iran, If people vote Mr Ahmadinejad out of office, it is not just to send him, alone, home, it will be a vote that questions the whole system with Mr Khameneie on top. People want fundamental changes, and they show this by supporting the only possible opton they have during this election.

My old friend for 25 years, who is on vacation in Amsterdam, told me, "Kamran, some of your dear and innocent friends were executed after a 3 minute trial in the so called revolutionary courts during the 80's." He continued, "You are naive to trust these people. It is all just a game for some candidate to get elected. Nothing will change," he told me from his heart. He said, "I will call you in one year again. You will see that nothing will have changed because their version of human rights and freedom is totally different from that of most Iranians. This election is only to make some people billionaires who feel they have been cut out of their share."

In a couple of days, I will take a 45 minute train trip to go to Iranian embassy in The Hague to vote. I am looking forward to my friend's call in one year, but I am not really sure if I will pick up the phone. I am not sure if those so called reformists will keep thier word and all those nice promises they have made in the past couple of weeks if they all elected. For most of my fireds this will be the last chance the reformists ever get. If they don't walk the talk, I will not be shocked if the future battles are about the entire system.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Yes, I Will Vote

Kamran Ashtary
In less than ten days, millions of Iranians will go to the polls to participate in what might be the most important election since the revolution thirty years ago. I want to vote because I believe that it is a fundamental right to use every democratic tool we have to try to influence change in our beloved land. This is especially true even when the options are not our dream options. The government of President Ahmadinejad has show and created a situation, nationally and internationally, that can easily get out of control and have disastrous effects for the country and the people we love.

I don’t believe in these people and do not think any of the candidates can solve the enormous challenges we face, but I am still voting. During the past thirty years, our rights as Iranian citizens have been constantly under attack. This has been true despite many promises of protection and invitations to engage in the building of our society.

I am voting with the hope that not only the hardline government will change, but that we will build a more democratic society where women’s rights, a free press, free speech, and human rights are not a dream. Last 4 years proved our right can be in more danger than we could even imagine.

Being part of this initiative was unthinkable for me just four years ago. Four years of right-wing Ahmadinejad has put Iran on a downward path. I believe that Iranian expats should play a more constructive role and not keep waiting for some magical transformation of power.

Let’s make a change. Let’s vote.

Cross Posted at Harry's Place

Friday, May 15, 2009


I never feel more American then during the Eurovison competition. This entry from the Netherlands embodies everything the competition means to me. I'll let you interpret what I mean by that. Enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The brain drain

School girls at Golestan Palace in Tehran taken by Tori Egherman

These girls were photographed (by me, Tori) in front of Golestan Palace in Tehran. They are not from the class of 1993.

My friend Maryam's high school class of 1993 is now gathering on Facebook. She showed us pictures of the group of teenaged girls posed in their black hoods and manteaus in the school's hidden playground. "We threw rocks at those windows all the time," she laughed. "Here we are throwing away our books. It was the last day of school and those books were from our religious studies classes."

Her school was a public school not too far from Palestine Square and the "Den of Espionage". In her class of 32 girls, 20 that she knows of now live abroad. 20! That she knows of. I told her that I am pretty sure that I am the only one of my classmates living abroad. (Any Central High School '78 graduates out there that want to challenge my assumption?)

"Of those 20," Maryam continued, "at least four have non-Iranian husbands." I am willing to be that as time passes that number will go way up. Most of my Iranian (women) friends living abroad are married to foreigners. They must think I'm nuts with my Iranian husband.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My Uncle Napoleon

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: My Uncle Napoleon is the best book about Iran that I ever read. It's author, Iraj Pezechkzad, will be at Stanford. So if you are lucky enough to be in the area (I'm not, unfortunately), go hear him speak!

Details at Payvand.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Campaigning: Mir-Hossein Mousavi Style

Photograph from a rally for Moussavi in Mashad
Photograph from a rally for Moussavi in Mashad.
Originally uploaded by mookoo1

Note: this is part of a series that we are starting on the current election campaign in Iran

We learn from Ghalam News, Mousavi's website, that his supporters are suggesting methods for spreading the word about his campaign. One suggests that supporters offer rides to travelers in order to gain an opportunity to promote Mousavi's campaign for the presidency.

The Mousavi campaign has selected green as its color (the red hankies and armbands may draw more attention than the green,, but you can still catch site of a few in the above photo). Supporters are being asked to wear green armbands or wave green flags. Some hardliners (Kayhan) have accused the campaign of trying to foment revolution (remember the Orange Revolution?)

“Our symbols are religious, not velvet,” Abolfazl Fateh, Mr Mousavi’s campaign manager, was quoted as saying by Kalemeh, the internet site.

Mr Shamsolvaezin said reformists were not inciting a revolution by adopting a symbolic colour and hardliners were worried because they do not know their own society well enough and think it is on the verge of an explosion.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Just in case you thought anti-Semitism was overblown...

...Ahamdinejad gives a speech that could have been written a hundred years ago by any classic anti-Semite. Jews are humiliating the world financially? Zionism is the most racist of all political movements? Somebody has been reading their Protocols of the Elders of Zion...(I heard that in a television interview last night, not sure where to find it... But clearly he was gearing up for his talk today.)

He knows his audience well, I'll give him that. I am sure that he feels he scored a victory as the Europeans got up and left the conference...

"And in fact in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine," Mr Ahmadinejad said.

"They sent migrants from Europe, the United States ... in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Black banners

If I lived in Iran, I would have a closet filled with black just to keep up with all the mourning I would have to do. It’s not as though I do not grieve here in Amsterdam as well, it’s just that I don’t wear black.

If I were in Iran, I would be painting a black banner. It would say that the young man who died was dearly loved by me and that I would never forgive him for dying.

If I were in Iran, I would be mixing orange syrup into cold water and passing out tea and dates filled with walnuts to each new guest.

If I were in Ahwaz, families would be camping in the park a few blocks away, enjoying the new year’s vacation and the perfect weather. They would walk by the house covered in black banners and know that a young person had died. They would nod their heads in sympathy and thank god for the good fortune to be healthy and whole.

But I am in Amsterdam. At least it is dreary. I couldn’t take a cloudless day right now.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Obama's Norouz Message

Kamran and I have guest posts up at Harry's Place. (Mine is Naivety, Diplomacy, and Threats and Kamran's is Obama’s positive New Year message to Iran, even though Kamran originally called it a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.

Here are excerpts:

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing:

The Iranian regime wants us Iranians to believe that President Obama is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This message is their response to Obama’s election and policies regarding talks with Iran. Don’t forget that Ahmadinejad said that a black man could never be president of America. That means they were not prepared to deal with someone who would publicly offer a hand for dialogue and a better relationship.

Is President Obama sincere in his attempts to start a better relationship with Iran? We still need to wait and see. What is clear by now, is that if his policy of engagement fails it won’t be the fault of the US alone. It is fine if Obama want to quote our beloved poet, Saadi, to show respect and understanding of our long history, but we have heard this before, we have been there, and we know that game very well,

The US needs to come up with concrete steps and let us Iranians know what they are offering publicly. The one thing that Iranians from all walks of life agree on is our desire to be an independent nation. We won’t accept anything less.

There are a lot of measures that the US government can take to build trust. Not all of those have to do with the Iranian government’s willingness to start dialogue with the US. I see Obama’s New Year message as positive, but we need more than that.

At the same time the response of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, can be understood as nothing other than asking the US to go down on its knees and beg for forgiveness and take responsibility for the manipulation of the last 500 years of Iranian society. His demand for changes without discussion is the same as the American policy of demanding preconditions for talks.
Read the rest


Diplomacy, Naivety, and Threats

Everywhere I went in Iran, I met people who claimed to despise the actions of their government and the clerical regime. Taxi drivers, hotel clerks, waiters, government employees, mothers, fathers, accountants and butchers all expressed dismay and disgust at the Iranian government. Yet after four years living there I realized that despising the regime is a kind of national sport in Iran. It’s not new or even confined to the current regime. A nineteenth century French diplomat described Persians as “full of adoration for the country itself, they do not believe in any means of running it.” (You can read that quote in Fariba Adelkhah’s great book Being Modern in Iran.) The only politicians Iranians respect are those, like Mossadeq, who never had the opportunity to screw up because they were removed from office forcibly. While the actions of their government have very real consequences for the daily life of every single citizen of Iran, in reality most Iranians see it as superfluous: at best, defenders of Iran’s national interests; at worst, another tyranny to survive.

Since my stay in Iran, I have come to see the sanctions and the lack of diplomacy as counter-productive. The lack of official diplomacy with Iran since the revolution has, on one hand, been a boon for America’s image in that country. It meant that I was welcomed and beloved in every corner of Iran, despite what you might think if you are a viewer of Fox News. It’s fantastic to be an American in Iran. In fact, I doubt there is a more pro-American population outside of Texas. Why? Because we have not compromised with a corrupt and despised regime as we have in other parts of the world. That said, I don’t see that the lack of diplomacy and the sanctions have done any favors for Iran’s opposition or its people. The sanctions have strengthened the most powerful supporters of the regime who now have a stranglehold on the economy; read Abbas Milani’s article “U.S. Foreign Policy and the Future of Democracy in Iran.” (pdf). They have forced millions of Iranians into dependency on the government itself for work, food and basic necessities.

Read the Rest

Friday, January 09, 2009

Photos, blogs, and the continuing attack on women's rights

Just in case my loyal fan base has been wondering what I am up to... well it's obvious that I am not blogging... Here's an update on some of the things that have kept me busy for the past month:

Iason Athanasiadis has a show of photographs of Iran up at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. Many of my friends know the photographer, so I know how dedicated he is to getting a good photo. If you can't make it to his show, you can still buy our book.

Blogging Basiji

Apparently Iran's Revolutionary Guards are embarking on a 10,000 blog campaign. Hamid Tehrani writes about their efforts at Harvard's Internet and Democracy blog. From the tone of his article, it sounds as though the effort will be as successful as Orrin Hatch's ballads:

The presence of 10,000 Basiji blogs without interesting content and quality will fail to attract readers or promote any ideas. The Islamic Republic’s state-controlled media has been a failure for three decades. The Iranian regime in recent years launched several TV channels, but even poor-quality satellite dishes became a must-have for millions of Iranians to access banned foreign films, music clips or news.

Iranian regime terrified of a few women

They are so terrified of women that they are harassing women's rights activists claiming that they compromise national security and then harassing the lawyers who defend them. Shirin Ebadi's home and office were invaded by state actors. They closed down her office and have been coming up with increasingly ridiculous charges against her. From an LA Times article:

"They were looking for some excuses to shut down our center and increase pressure on us," said Mohammed Seifzadeh, another Iranian human rights attorney and confidant of Ebadi.

Then authorities accused Ebadi of evading taxes on cases she took without pay. Tax officials came to her office several days ago to inquire about financial records, which Ebadi said were not at the office.

Ebadi called the tax fraud allegation absurd, saying she hasn't charged any of her clients for legal work in 15 years.

"If the law and legal procedures are taken into consideration, I am not a tax dodger," she said. "But if . . . they treat us outside the law, they can do whatever they want."

Finally, I have been working a on a group blog: Riveter Posts. If you want to keep up with daily life in Iran, I urge you to read Catharina's accounts. She's been living in Iran for more than forty years now and is sharing her experiences with us now. Here's a short post she wrote on repairing her house:

I knew it was going to be bad, but in reality it’s so much worse than I thought it would be. I could live with the painters, who only broke a glass table, scratched up a solid wooden cabinet, dropped and broke some porcelain statues and made a mess when they sanded the walls and ceilings. I survived all of that. But then arrived a very nice gentleman who would repair and fix my parquet floor. At the same time some carpenters would fix the stairway and several doors to the bathrooms. They took the doors with them so they could fix them in their own workshop. So there I was: radiators taken outside as the floors beneath them needed fixing (and it was freezing at night), not a toilet or bathroom in the house with a door, and my whole house, including everything stored inside the closets, covered with a thick layer of dust because of the abrasing of the parquet floors. That’s when I started to cry. And what a coincidence! It was Tasua when all of Iran cries for the death of Imam Hossein. This was the first time ever that I cried with them.