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September 4, 2001

* Will justice ever be served?

"Those prisoners who still insist on their opposition to the nezaam (establishment), are mohareb (enemy of God), and therefore are sentenced to death. In Tehran, with majority vote, Mr. Hojatoleslam Nayeri, Mr. Eshraghi and a representative of the Intelligence Ministry are responsible to decide who is mohareb (enemy of God).

For the record, the above was a segment of Ayatollah Khomeini's instruction for mass execution of political prisoners in Iranian prisons in summer of 1988, 13 years ago. This cost at least 4,000 lives in Tehran and Karaj's prisons. Some people believe that the figures are much higher than 4000.

Will justice ever be served? Can the Islamic government of Iran just keep ignoring this horrific and ghoulish act and wait till it is forgotten? Can we as the people do something about it? Can the international tribunal get involved?

For me, It will never be forgotten. I lost a friend, a dear friend to this incident. Every year around this time, I get restless. It is like it is happening again. I remember the face of my friend, his family, his old mother, and his son. I replay his last hours and minutes, the way I believe it might have happened, in my mind, over and over, and tears roll down on my face.

Sometimes my daughter notices my tears, turns around and walks away. She seems concerned and uncomfortable. That's why she just walks away. She knows something is not quite right. She is only eight. She has never seen Iran. She does not know who Ayatollah Khomeini was. She is effected by something that has happened, thousands of miles away, five years before she was born.

Did Ayatollah Khomeini ever realize that? I wonder. Did he know the value and sanctity of life? Did he realize that so many people would forever be heart broken? Did he have a heart? Did he ever love someone?

Every year around this time, I die with my friend. I feel every bullet his body received. I feel the pain of many thousand deaths. I feel the feeling of that dreadful moment he realized that he would never see his son again. He was supposed to have been released that summer.

Nader Shirazi

* Top priority?

Regarding the opinion ["Politics as usual "] written by Iranians for International Cooperation, I have a comment and a question.

1- Comment. It appears that the opinion is placing the emphasis on renewal of the Iran Lybia Sanction Act (ILSA) that originated in 1995 by Executive Order 12957 and was subsequently tightened by Executive Order 12959. It was this Executive Order that was just renewed for 5 years when George W Bush signed it into public law 104-172 on 3 August 2001.

Please note that ILSA poses a very mild sanction compared to the Executive Order 13059 that was signed by Bill Clinton on 19 August 1997 called Iranian Transaction Regulation (ITR). It is the ITR that would put you in jail for 10 years and fine you $500,000 if you have ANY commercial dealings with Iran (not just an oil deal, but any deal whatsoever, including becoming an agent, a distributor or a representative of any American company for Iran).

For a full text of ITR (enforced by the U.S. Treasury Department) you may refer to www.treas.gov/ofac/t11iran.pdf Note that there is no 5 year limitation on these ITR sanctions. It is imposed indefinitely and independent of ILSA, until a US President decides to abolish it (apparently at his whim, without the approval of the Congress). So, while the Iranians for International Cooperation is concentrating its effort on reversal of ILSA, what are they doing about the real culprit -- the Treasury Department's 31 C.F.R. Part 560.

2- Question. Isn't our top priority creation of a true democracy in Iran? If so, there is no other way than abolishing the current constitution of the Islamic Republic and sending the mollas back to their mosques . You can do this either peacefully or through yet another bloody revolution in Iran. In either case, I have not seen a comprehensive debate and a conclusion as to whether the sanctions against Iran are a good thing or a bad thing to help bring about the ultimate objective -- a new constitution based on democratic principals.

There are people who believe that if you remove the sanctions, it will lead to the molla's continuation of "politics as usual". Sure, you may have increase in trade and creation of more jobs in Iran, but it pushes further away the achievement of the ultimate objective. Since the molla's continue to hold on to power, they will be the ultimate beneficiaries of removal of sanctions. In fact, there are people who believe the US should exert more pressure on other countries to place tighter sanctions against Iran so that the current regime deteriorates into total desperatin, creating an internal uprising to demand constitutional reform. So, what is the answer to this question: are sanctions a good thing or a bad thing for Iran?



* Real transformation

Just a brief note re the article from Iran about Tahmineh Milani's arrest ["Nimehye aashkaar"]: In it the author directly calls Khatami a "trickster and criminal". In the author's opinion the reform movement is not real. I disagree strongly.

For the same reason that the prototypical transformation in Mohsen Makhmalbaf's life is real, the reform movement in Iran is a very real political transformation toward societal maturity. It is a real tragedy that the author is apparently so hurt by the blind forces of ideology that s/he can't see reality.

I ask: how tall is the bill of ideological blindness in Iran's modern history?


Moji Agha

* Plight of Afghanis in Australia

Dear Mr. Makhmalbaf, ["Limbs of nobody"]

Thankyou for your wonderful article about our neighbour, Afghanistan. And sorry that I can't talk to you in farsi, but I just wanted to tell you what an effect reading your article had on me, and it urged me to write to various people about this forgotten country.

As you probably know, in Australia where I live, we have had 460 refugees, mostly Afghani's stranded in a tanker because the government here refused them entry. It has been a big drama, but what has impressed me the most is the ignorance of the government of this country.

The media here is very right wing, and has shown nothing of how terrible things are in Afghanistan. These people have been branded que jumpers, and illegals, and unfortunately racism is rife in this country, particularly when it comes to moslems, or someone from the middle east.

Anyway I have emailed your article to a variety of people here, the prime minister, leader of the opposition and media. One journalist has expressed interest in contacting you to discuss your film, so I have given him this email address. If there are better ways to contact you please let me know, because I think the more people hear about Afghanistan, the better we can remedy the problem of invisibility of the Afghani's plight.

Thank you for a most wonderful article, and I look forward to seeing your film. Do you have a distributer yet for Australia? I am a big fan of your films and your creativity. It inspires me also to be creative in my life, where i can be.

Roshanak Vahdani

* Propaganda

Extremely interesting article, and well documented ["Stirring a nation"]. It brought back painful souvenirs on the revolutionary propaganda and on propaganda in general. The comparison of the pictures with religious Christian portraits is interesting and explains the power these posters exerted on the masses and eventually on foreign journalists, and correspondents who truly saw in the first years of the revolution, Khomeini as a just leader.

I have mentioned in previous letters, on the impact of the revolutionary propaganda through tapes, posters and speeches mainly spread during the revolution and shortly in the aftermath of the Shah's downfall by leftist organizations (notably the Mojahedin Khalgh) of the time as confirmed by the writers Peter J. Chelkowski, Hamid Dabashi.

The Western governments especially European democracies were facing a major moral and economic crisis due to the two oil crisis, and many saw in the Islamic revolution a sign of change and economic opportunity. Many blindly saw in Khomeini as a new Gandhi, including women's liberation movements. Organizations such as Amnesty international called for the arrest of the Shah for crimes against humanity, and most Western democracies refused to give him political asylum after his departure from Iran.

Before the war with Iraq was declared, or more precisely before Saddam attacked Iran, the West closed its eyes on the crimes and executions that were taking place in the country not only of military officers, but of intellectuals, homosexuals, prostitutes, or claimed so if they were not following the "Khateh Imam".

I still have vivid memories of the first year of the revolution, and clearly remember how the new regime's propaganda was gradually replacing the previous, softer propaganda, on TV. Many TV shows including variety shows with Iranian singers like Googoosh and others stopped being shown abruptly and replaced by religious programs. Popular American series, like the "Six Million Dollar Man" , not to mention "Charlie's Angels", or "Run Joe Run" (the latter being about a dog trained during the Vietnam war) were suppressed from the TV programs.

Given the anti-American turn of events and the takeover of the American embassy, this could be considered as a logical consequence. Many East German series were gradually replacing the American ones. However given the new Islamic rules, woman did not appear in any of the movies. This gave certain incomprehensible cuts in the editing. A man was to speak to a woman, but you would never see her. The censorship extended to cartoons such as a Polish one called "Lolek and Polek"; if a girl was seen kissing a boy it was immediately censored.

Shiraz (where we lived) was less touched in its regional programs by what was taking place in Tehran, but logically what was taking place in the capital was gradually winning the provinces. I recall a program initially destined for children which suddenly took a political turn when the kids invited to the show were asked to participate in a game which consisted of throwing arrows on caricature portraits of Jimmy Carter and the Shah.

At the time the Islamic "uniform" was not imposed as radically, and the kids were wearing Western clothes. The parents were not aware of what was going, until they saw the program and gradually started to call the TV station to ask the programmers to stop the show. And that is precisely what happened. This was a rare occasion where direct public intervention was to be taken into account.

These were the first signs which proved to have their impact on Iranian society and later on Iranian cinema. In retrospect it is interesting to see how Iranian filmmakers over the years managed to work within this censorship, and finally through their talent, bypass it either metaphorically or through subtle editing.

In any case it's up to everyone to draw their own conclusions. But it is interesting to see the work done on this particular field of propaganda by these two writers. Art for the state verses art for the sake of art has often been a dilemma in totalitarian or authoritarian regimes.


Darius Kadivar

* Who not what

As I read the article, "Real Iranian girls?", and the related letter "Iranian girls: Best", questions arose. Here are some of them:

1. Are you an "untouched piece of cake" or do you only think about what YOU want? Are you yourself "moral, virtuous, chaste, and hard working"? If you demand this from a woman, don't you think she will also have standards? Or are you a believer in double-standards?

2. Is it fair to generalize about all women or all men in an area, e.g. Iranian women (all of whom I am sure you have met and dated, as a self-designated playboy) living in America?

3. Do intact hymens automatically come with intelligence, a sense of humor and a great personality? (all of which I am sure are very important to you, being such a deep person.)

4. Did you know that many Iranian girls say that they are virgins, and have reconstructive surgery on their hymens? Did you know that many Iranian girls have lots of sex, including anal sex, but stop short of penetrative sex? Would these women still be high and holy enough for you to consider wedding?

5. Do you think that Iranian women would tell you all about their sexual exploits??

Consider this: When it really comes right down to it, virginity doesn't matter, for a man or woman. The value of a woman, of a man, of any person, is in their heart and in their mind. If you were a secure man who would value women for who they are, not for what they are, you might just find a real person who would be interested in wedding you, too and not have to resort to khaastegaaris.

Zhale Esmaeili

* Get a servant

Having read the rediculous comments of Mr Raafat ["Real Iranian girls?"] -- sorry I don't mean to be rude, but in this case I have to make an exception -- I felt compelled to write this letter.

All my life I've heard Iroonis talk of this "double standard", even from my own brother, and all my life I've replied the same way: What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Guys like Cyrus make a mockery of marriage. They want to benefit from the freedom that the West has offered them, and all the experiences thay have gained from living in the west. Then, when the time finally comes to settle, they want to take an unexperienced "cherry" from the tree, thereby ensuring that they become dominant in the marriage. Shame on you ... Marriage is about finding your equal in life -- someone who takes you further ... and someone who provides you with a little extra mileage.

Instead, Mr Raafat is inviting us all to get a subservient "skivvy" who does as she's told and does not challenge her man .... how boring! Why don't you just get a servant ... in the long run it's cheaper!

Also, Mr Raafat should bear in mind that the girls he met with their "chaste" image, is a well rehearsed act performed on a regular basis, when ever a suitable bachelor is in town. So don't think you can judge this pretty book by its cover.

Better the devil you know than the one you don't ... I say.

Faz Moshfeghi

* Life is too short

In regard to the article "Acceptance" by Yek Irani (September 16, 1999), I would just like to say that it was very well written and honest.

Humanity is a very beautiful thing, and should be celebrated and cherished in all of its forms. It's too bad that it has an ugly side too -- homophobia! We should all try to accept each other and enjoy what the world has to offer, and enjoy the people living in it.

Life is too short to waste time hating and rejecting others who could quite likely be a source of enjoyment and even inspiration. Let's move onward and upward!


* Not so apparent

Dear Readers,

I posted an open letter regarding Islam and slavery. The letter was responded to by another reader. After lengthy correspondence, this reader never replied to my initial question. However, he did make some claims that are to him very apparent, yet not so apparent to me.

Can anyone verify the following

1) The crisis in the Balkans was/is due to the Western media.

2) Genocide in East Timor was fed by Isreali arms.

3) A pogrom was instituted against Middle Eastern looking people in the US after the Oklahoma City Bombing.

Normally, I would not appeal to you dear readers, but this person is a visiting scholar at a large university, and I find it shocking that he would make these claims yet have nothing to back them up with.

Thank you for your time,


* Not allowed but practiced

Dear David,

Slavery is not allowed in Islam but is practiced. Islam, like all other religions, was quickly used as a tool for dictatorship. I think Islamic governments in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and etc, should be guilty of many crimes that they commit, today, against their own citizens than what they did centuries ago.

Habib Farahani

* Hijri/Miladi

Hi All,

Does anyone know where I can find a software converter between the Hijri and the Miladi calendars? Any help would be extremely appreciated.

Warm Regards,

Ibrahim Ali

* Adopting from Iran

I am looking for some experts in Iran on particular questions relating to adoption. I was wondering if anyone has a relative or friend who works in the ministry of health and welfare, or is an expert on the way that the Iranian courts deal with adoption. please email hediyeh4u@yahoo.com

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