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September 26, 2001

* Situations that breed new bin Ladins

On Tuesday afternoon, September 11, while I was walking in the commercial section of Tehran next to my office, my wife called me from Norway with the shocking news that two passengers planes had crashed into the World Trade Centre towers in New York.

That evening my family and I gathered in front of the TV to watch the BBC World and CNN with their horrendous images from the scene of the disasters. The anxiety with which in particular my young nephews and nieces received the news was apparent in their faces and the deep depression that seemed to grip them as they empathised with the victims. Everybody suddenly started talking about the bomb shelter that my brother had built in the basement when Iraqi missiles rained down on my city in the 80's.

I tried to persuade the family that they had no reason to fear any attacks on us by the Americans. Before I could give my reasons my nephew broke in to remind me that only a few weeks earlier President Bush had extended the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) for another five years. It stamps our nation as a terrorist state. That Act was the product of the work by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), referred to by The New York Times as "the most effective" lobby group in Washington.

We tuned over to the Iranian Television to hear President Khatami say, "On behalf of the Iranian people and the Islamic Republic, I denounce the terrorist measures, which led to the killing of defenceless people, and I express my deep sorrow and sympathy with the American people." Even the most conservative and hard line elements in Iran later that evening referred to the attacks against New York and Washington as "heartless acts against humanity".

Walking past the American Interests Section at the Swiss embassy in Tehran the next evening, I felt proud to be Iranian, seeing rows and rows of lit candles that Iranian youths had placed there as tokens of sympathy with the victims of the bomb blasts. That gesture was followed up with a minute of silence before the World Cup-qualifying match between Bahrain and Iran.

Upon my return to my second home in Norway last weekend, I was happy to notice a similar outpouring of sympathy by Norwegians outside the American embassy a short walk from my office.

I am now asking myself: how can the civilised world fight the monster of terrorism? In the short term we can possibly eliminate Osama bin Ladin. How far does that take us if we do nothing about the unjust political, economical and social situations that give birth to new bin Ladins by the day ­ embittered persons likely to command even more fearful weapons than hijacked passenger planes?

What, I ask, was achieved by the bombing a medicine factory in Sudan after the destruction of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania without adequate proof, and by the demonization of people? The civilised world should fight terrorism with international cooperation under the banner of the United Nations.

As for Afghanistan, there can be no doubt that its people's heroic resistance against Soviet occupation had contributed towards the fall of the Soviet Communist empire and the ending of the Cold War. How much has that saved the West, and the world, in terms of fear, anxiety, and waste of resources upon a "hot war to end all wars" for which it was primed?

According to the world's aid agencies as of last week there were some five million Afghanis depending on their handouts of food to stay alive. There are presently a further approximately four million Afghani refugees in Iran and Pakistan, and both countries have stated they are unable to cope with the refugee crisis. How many more are now fleeing to places of illusory safety -- to escape destruction? Are we going to have a refugee tragedy bigger than the American people are facing now at this moment of sorrow?

Afghanistan's tragedy is graphically depicted in a recent film, entitled "Travel to Kandehar", by the world known Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. In one of the most disturbing scenes a teacher asks a group of schoolboys if they know what a "Kalashnikov" is? One of the small children (eight to ten years of age) pulls out a Kalashnikov submachine gun from underneath his desk and says, "A Kalashnikov is a warm weapon." (A knife is considered a cold weapon!)

Farshad Tehrani

* Saudis have oil, Taliban don't

I read your latest article about fanaticism and I think you missed something: this is not a war against the regime and the practices of the Taliban ["We are the victims"]. This is a war against terrorism and terrorist camps hidden in Afghanistan and supported by the Taliban (or at least that is what is should be). Nobody says the US is trying to remove the Taliban from power or even to make them change their policies towards women.

Though I agree we can not tolerate such behaviours such as those medieval ones in Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia..., I don't see how you can change your attitude towards the use of force after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11. Either you didn't know what was going on there before, and just learned about it like 95 % of the Americans, or you have a weird way of thinking...

I mean how can you correlate the terrorist attacks and the way women are treated in fanatic Muslim countries and then go on to say you approve retaliations. These have nothing to do with each other... Besides, wanting to get rid of these regimes is not the responsibiliy of the USA, and you certainly don't want them to do that (no thanks, we have already seen them at work!). Don't they support Arabic sheikhdoms such as Saudi Arabia where women are treated the same way as in Taliban Afghanistan? The only difference is that Saudis have oil and Taliban don't, hence the American attitude.

I think it is the responsibility of the people of these countries themselves and this will come only with education, time, and certainly not with bombs. Please put some order in your thinking before writing and use more your common sense rather than your emotions.


PS: don't put my name and email... Thanks

* Need all the help they can get

You are telling me to think clearly when you yourself are most confused ["Saudis have oil and Taliban don't"]. If you read my "The first stone'' article you will see this is not the first time I have lashed out at barbaric acts especially towards women.

Now I know that the U.S is going after terrorism and not the Taliban. And that they couldn't care less about what these Muslim fundamentalists do to their own poor women. But I want to raise the awareness of how intrinsically unjust these fundamentalist fanatics are. And how us women see them as our enemies.

As far as the people in ''these countries" over throwing their own totalitarian regimes -- no one said that about the Jews in Nazi Germany. The women in these countries just like the Jews in Nazi Germany are victims who need all the help they can get in overthrowing these regimes. That, my dear sir, is my point. I think it came out clearly.

You may not agree with me but questioning the clarity of my thought process and the labeling of my thinking as emotional is the kind of patronizing trivialization of my argument that as an Iranian woman I am very familiar with -- unfortunately it is not at all surprising coming from a compatriot brother.

Setareh Sabety

* Soft Talibanism

This letter regards the article by Setarh Sabety's essay about how "women" are the ultimate victims ["We are the victims"] of "fanaticism."

In her wonderful article, "No "us" or "them"", Zara Houshmand lists three fears that Iranian-Americans have to endure these days (fear of terrorism, fear of being victimized by ignorance, and fear of war). After reading Setareh Sabety's article, I want to add another fear, the one that "we" Middle Eastern-looking "men" have to endure, namely the soft Talibanism of "Feminists" like Setareh Sabety.

The reason that I have put both the words "women" or "men" in quotation marks is because unlike Ms. Sabety, I am not arrogant enough to speak on behalf all men or women in the world, and in the process victimizing them in the deepest sense possible, namely dehumanizing them from individuals to gendered beings only -- please read my essay on Feminism -- "Reduced to genitals" -- for more information on my perspective.

When about a couple of months ago I wrote the above-mentioned essay on the root-problem with Feminism (capital letter F Feminism), I compared this kind of Feminism with Talibanism, at the STRUCTURAL level. In my naiveness, I thought this was more or less an abstract comparison. I did not know that Ms. Sabety would bring my abstract analogizing to horrifying concreteness as she "re-thinks" her stances. She says:

"I know my friends would say, "Well many of these women want to be treated this way." To them I say if only one of us is forced, then no one is free. You cannot quantify human rights. You either believe in it or not."

This sure sounds like a liberation "theology," in which universal solidarity of "us" erases the right to individual conciousness--the language that the "Borg" use in the Star trek series the "Voyager" to artistically criticize the "hive mind" of societies or systems that eradicate individual freedom of choice, in the name of the safety of the collective.

She talks about the human rights of the "women" she wants to "liberate," but in the process she reduces them to their genitals--people who are not full human beings with unique consciousness and the right to choose. Reza Shah felt the same way as he forced women to take off their chador, this process was ultimately reversed in Iran, as women were forced to wear the hijab. Indeed nothing is without history.

Ms. Sabety says that it does not matter even if all minus one women in the "Islamic" world choose to (for example) wear the veil, as long as ONE woman if forced to do so, "we" are not "free." In their "liberation theology," this is incredibly close to how the Taliban think. They also feel that they are the ultimate victims, and that they should "liberate" their "Moslem" brothers and sisters.

I suppose I should thank Ms. Sabety for showing how her colonial "Feminism" is ESSENTIALLY the same as "sexism" (in reverse), and as "racism" and its cousin "globalized market fundamentalism," which underlie the terrifying ideological foundations that resulted in the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. Indeed ideology blinds one to reality.


Moji Agha

* You are a kaafer

I read your article and I would like to raise a point ["We are the victims"] . You said "as a Muslim woman"; however, you are not a Muslim or Muslimeh. In Islamic terminology you are a kaafer so are the Shias of Iran.

I read your criticism about Islam and I respect your ideas. However, I hope what you say is based on your research on pros and cons of argument. I am 100% sure that you have not even read the Holy Quran, the main book of Islam. I am not talking about skim reading.

For example what you were talking about has nothing to do with women being considered inferior. It is only FOR ONE CASE AND THAT IS BUSSINESS TRANSACTIONS becuase in traditional socities it is considered the job of men to do any transaction and women are kept out of it as was the case for my family. So women tend not to be involved in the process and when there is disagreement, their lack of involvement makes the testimony error prone. This does not apply in present case if the country is not based on traditional values.

One more thing, I am an Iranian with a traditional and respectful family. My mother covers herself and she has got more respect more than any one here -- definitely more than most women here whose underwear are showing off in the street. Yet she never complained about living in a Muslim country (not Iran which is a country based on Shia ideology). She owns a business and she runs a huge international company. She has overpassed the abilities of many men and so-called CIVILIZED women like you. However, she is a full fledged Muslim who spends all her vacations in Makkah and Madina.

Your problem with Islam is not testimony, it is the decision between being naked and being covered, between comitting adultry with as many men as you want and being a commited mother to a husband and etc. Remeber if being naked is considered civilization, animals are the most civilized! It is people like you who make killing of civilians in Palestine possible. The price they have to pay so that you show your legs off.



* Not just fanatics

I was wondering if you realize that all the crimes that Islamists commit against you as a woman, are prescribed in the Qoran by "Allah" ["We are the victims"]. Here are the relevant verses in Qoran, you can check and verify: Qoran 2:282 -- 4:34 -- 38:44 -- 24:31.

What is to blame is not just the Islamist fanatics and fundamentalists. It is Islam itself, as it is misogynist to the core! Islam was invented by men, for the beneift of men. Naturally, the men in the middle of the desert were fantasizing about women, fruits, and drink. And the invetor(s) of the Qoran promissed them precisely those things in heaven, as long as they joined the Islamic armies to invade foreign lands. That's what I call efficient military recruitment.

To learn more about the place of women in islam, read these articles: //www.golshan.com/rationalthinking/wemen's_paradise.htm //debate.domini.org/newton/womeng.html



* Fanatics vs. free-thinkers

An Iranian born friend forwarded me your excellent piece, "Blond or bearded" . You put it so well. Not one nation vs. another. Not one religion vs. another. Simply fanatics vs. free-thinkers.

Thank you and best wishes,

Glenn Wenig

* Unity

I am an American and have been dating an Iranian for the past year and my hope is like most people as far as coming together and putting a stop to all the terrorism. I love the man that I am dating and many people are looking at me and us as if we are the outsiders or looking at him as if he were the one that caused the war. The only thing that comes to my mind is how uneducated and narrow-minded we are.

My hope is also that Iran unites with the U.S. but at the same time I can see why there is a hesitation, what might be what we think is an end to something is only a beginning for the people in Iran.

I haven't met his family that is back home, but I pray for them everyday and the only thing that we can do is sit back and watch what might happen to the innocent people all over. America is known to be the land of the free, we are used to people coming here from all over. What I want is for Americans to not let this tragedy be the base for them to pass judgement on Middle Eastern people, because that is exactly what they are and that is people so instead of judging them without knowing them.

Let's come together and show the people that are doing the horrible things and are the main cause for this, that this is not breaking us apart but it is only bringing us all together which is the thing that they fear the most. UNITY! Without judgement of background or religion.

All the best to people from everywhere and may God keep us all safe from those who might want to harm us.


* Ignorance and arrogance

"But I will not hide myself. I will remain proud of my Iranian heritage, and also I will always stand by my beloved homeland of America, her democratic values, and for freedom. But above all, despite my conflicting "sides", my eyes have cried tears for all of humanity. I may call myself an American or an Iranian, but above all I am really just a simple human being. Let us not forget that."

The above comment by John Robati-Yull ["Just a simple human being"] is something I must speak out against. As the statement above is conflicting. I two am a half breed. I call myself an Anglo/Persian. However in the history of America, and especially for us within these past weeks it has been obviously evident that there is no freedom in the United States of America. It is no different than Nazi Germany with ethnic cleansing.

I have no love in my heart for America, a place that denies me freedom of speach. I now feel 100% more Iranian. I used to see wearing a veil oppressive to women; I now see it as protest against the West. I have never felt un-American. Being American was what I was; it was a fact of life. But my thoughts these days is on leaving the United States. I have given up on the United States, as the United States has learned nothing from its history of violence, from Indian genocide to African slavery and the list goes on.

If Americans want to remain ignorant, let them, but I do not want to be part of their identifable group when the rest of the world decides to attack. I want to wash my hands of America's ignorance and arrogance.

My dear friend Darya died in the World Trade Center. She was a beautiful young woman. While my heart goes out to her, her family, and the other victims I also cannot stand back and not denounce the American government as savage, as racist, as war crazy monsters that they are, who in all their arrogance want to dominate the world.

This crap about how we are all united. I want to know when we got united, because I don't remember becoming united. We aren't Black and White, we are just Americans. That is bullshit. America has some of the worst racial issues, it has for centuries. Don't tell me that we don't have any ideological differences and that we are just Americans because if you tell me that then you mean that I'm livin in a dictatorship.

My grandfather was a communist against the shah. I sympathize with him. He struggled for a better life, for human's right to express. He thought the United States was a symbol of freedom. Like many others he was wrong. 90% of people want to have bloodshed, fight, fight, war, revenge. 10% of Americans are anti-war. I have always been politically outside the mainstream, but I have never felt so alone as I do now.

This Saturday, the 29 of September I will be marching in Washington D.C. against war and against racism! Don't you think that our national media has decided not to show the anti-war demonstrations on the television. They only show us what they want us to. It is a dictatorship!



* I wonder

Interesting letter your "Watching ballboys", Mr. Parsi. Mario Benedetti wrote once about how strange it is that people get angry when "pacified from the back". You know, maybe I need to learn how to fish but I definitely do not need you, or the West or your 'rational knowledge' to come to my land, get my fishes, give me some and keep the rest. That is not helping me in any way and that is NOT better than nothing. If you NEED (for whatever bigger threats you can dream of) coming to my land to conquer me or to rob me, do so if you can but don't be as foolish so as to believe -- or worse, want me to believe -- that you are helping me.

And to keep you in perspective, it is a bad joke for you to mention vaccines at this moment when Colombian Dr. Patarroyo still finds problems trying to GIVE (not sell!) his vaccine against malaria or the recent conflict around AIDS treatment when South Africa tried to make it themselves in order to lower prices. Always problems when "help" doesn't mean profit for the Western rationals.

It is at least curious to see how everybody that receives Western and specially American help suddenly become "not healthy brained" as you say. It is also curious to see how every time USA helps, USA becomes richer, and every time USA goes to war, USA becomes richer. And how America and the West forget to help when it is not economically rewarding (see how slow -- almost 20 years? -- is Western help on the Sahara-Morocco conflict and how fast it was with the Kuwait-Iraq, just to give an example).

I wonder how fast will America get credit out of this Infinite Joke against no enemy. Do you believe there will be less terrorism thanks to a war? I wonder. And I wonder what kind of fascism will raise to protect us from these invisible enemies. With or without your "help".

I understand it is almost blasphemy to remember all this at this time of grief, but your comments are insulting. Your "global context" is definitely out of tune, brother. Keep studying. And keep cool.

And as Moji Agha in his "Mohsen & Bono" article says: "What are we to do? I say, before jumping to DO anything, let us first go deep deep down to our hearts and pay Buddha-like attention to the mixture of jewel and garbage that we will invariably find."

I'm sorry.

(Eo Saltasebes)

* Let's move on

I like many share the sadness about the events that happened in the US in the past week. What happened was by all means a barberic act. However, I am honestly sick and tired of reading articles in your magazine all related to these events. One article after the other talks about the same thing, US securitiy, fate of Iran, people of Afghanistan and so on and so forth. If I wanted to read about these issues I watch CNN.

I used to read your magazine because the articles were interesting and at least for a minute or two I forgot about my problems and those around me. Even Kobra Khanom's segements which used to be very entertaining, talks about these issues.

I want to encourage you and your writers to write about topics other than than the US. I dont know if you writers notifce that writing about these topics allow the terrorists to "win". Their intent is to focus the attention on "them". ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Let's MOVE ON.

Babak Peyvandi

* Strict limit

Due to increased number of letters, it has become difficult to spend a lot of time to read or even sometimes to scan the letters section of iranian.com. I am in total agreement with Ray Irani ["Get to the point"] and believe that from now on you should put a strict limit on the length of the letters , say 250-300 words.

It has been said that President Reagan didn't accept any report longer than half a page, believing anything longer was a waste. I think you should adopt such a policy and publish only the first certain number of the lines of a letter and leave it to the writers to decide whether they want all or part of their letters published.

This letter is less than 150-words long , and anything 2.5 times this size should be more than enough.


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