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July 2006

AKBAR MOHAMMADI
Murdered in prison

Sayeh Hassan
July 31, 2006

A prominent student activist Akbar Mohammadi died in the notorious Evin Prison Sunday night July 31st, 2006. Mr. Mohammadi had been on a hunger strike for more then a week, protesting the refusal by the Islamic Regime to allow him to seek proper medical treatment for life threatening injuries suffered as a result of torture.

Mr. Mohammadi was threatened and beaten by prison officials in order to stop him from continuing with his hunger strike, but he would not falter. He had chosen his path and would continue to the end... There are reports of him being beaten severely by prison guards the night of his death. Mr. Mohammadi did not die, he was MURDERED at the hands of the Islamic Regime.

Akbar Mohammadi was arrested during the July 1999 student uprising. His death sentence was commuted to 15 years imprisonment, and he had been serving his sentence for the past seven years. During his incarceration in the Evin Prison he was subjected to brutal torture which resulted in many permanent health problems including loss of hearing and severe back problems. Even during such trying times Mr. Mohammadi never backed down and at all times maintained his innocence. His love for Iran, freedom and democracy was greater then anything else, and he endured seven years of brutal torture and imprisonment at the hands of the barbaric Islamic Regime for his beliefs.

Unfortunately the news of Mr. Mohammadi's hunger strike was not widespread. Most major media outlets took upon themselves to ignore this important news. It is ironic that most of those same media outlets had no difficulty reporting the death of Mr. Mohammadi. The silence of the Media may very well have been one of the factors that lead to the death of Mr. Mohammadi. Unfortunately the Western Media refuse to report the truth until it is too late. How many more innocent people need to die, before media outlets such as AP, AFP and Reuters start reporting on what is really going on in Iran? How long and how many innocent lives later until they start reporting on the brutality of the Islamic Regime?

Unfortunately it was not only the Western news sources but also Iranian ones who neglected to report on Mr. Mohammadi's hunger strike. Most Iranian people abroad were silent while Mr. Mohammadi was going through unthinkable torture. How many more years and how many more murdered students until we decide to take the faith of our country into our own hands? How much longer until we stop our passivity and start to care about what is happening to our students? On this very sad day I cannot help but to think, shame on us, SHAME ON US ALL.

Mr. Mohammadi will live in my heart and the hearts of all freedom loving Iranians. He will never be forgotten and his death will not be in vein. As long as our country has brave and courageous people like him the Islamic Regime will never win. Comment

Long Live the Student Movement

Sayeh Hassan, B.A, LL.B is a human rights activist residing in Toronto, Canada

CHOICE
Down to Coke or Diet Coke!

Pedram Moallemian
July 31, 2006

I often get asked if I am a "Democrat". Not the type that believes in the concept of democracy, but meaning someone who supports the Democratic Party in U.S.

It is natural, I suppose, for people to hear or read my low opinion of the Bush administration and automatically assume that I must be supporting the only other party represented in the country's power structure. Well, the answer is a resounding "MAYBE"! Please, let me explain.

If by "Democrat", they are suggesting I would support the other half of this one directional monster, that is not me. If they mean I would support a moderate Democrat to replace a fanatical Republican, then the answer is yes.

I'd campaign against Lieberman, if I lived in his state. He is a Republican and a zealous one at that. But I would gladly help at least a dozen or two of the current Democrat members of Congress, and back many others who have and will run against almost any incumbent Republicans.

Is that my ideal state of affairs? No, not even close. But I can't help to think that we may have been headed towards a different direction if Al Gore hadn't been cheated out of his victory in 2000 and/or Republicans didn't have control of both the House and the Senate.

Ideally, I'd love to see more choices. Maybe even a real democracy. Not the limited Pepsi or Coke options [or I may even argue it is now down to Coke and Diet Coke only], but a full bar. With everyone having a realistic chance of being heard, spending campaign funds, operating in equal footings and capturing public's imagination.

Until then, my answer will remain a maybe. And my opinion is best described by the illustration below:

LANGUAGE
Purging Persian

Guive Mirfendereski
July 31, 2006

When we were growing up (not that we are now fully grown up), we used to make fun by assigning to some unsuspecting ethnicity or region of Iran the equivalent of a common word. One that I recall easily was the word balkon, mostly believed to be from the French balcon meaning "balcony." The fun was to say that the Rashti called it abestan divar, the "pregnant wall." There was no second meaning to describe the section of a theater.

While Mighty Mouse Ahmadinejad and his Farsi police excise the term balkon from Farsi, they need to pause and pose the question "What if a foreign-sounding word is really of Farsi/Persian origin?" One case in point is balkon itself. I happen to think that the foreign balcon comes from the Farsi bala-khaneh (also used in Ottoman Turkish), which means the upper level of the house.

How about limu? We all know that lemon is really of Farsi origin as are myriad other words. We should definitely get rid of adams as the word for chewing gum, as it is derived from Adams, the name of the American chewing gum that arrived in Iran probably during World War II.  The biggest challenge will be to do away with the industrial and scientific words that have entered Farsi from French and English -- from oxide to molecule to acid to telephone to tank to...!

Good luck also ridding Farsi of the word "parking" and all its derivatives -- like park-kardan (to park) or jay-e park payda nakardam (I did not find a parking spot). Let us say that a Farsi word for "park" is coined, what will happen to the international "No Parking" sign which is typically the letter "P" with a line through it. This latest folly by Mighty Mouse Ahmadinejad is yet another juvenile attempt to isolate Iran from the rest of the world.

One of the reasons that Iranian students abroad excel in mathematics and sciences much faster than in English and other humanities is because of their familiarity with the "jargon" of the disciplines that are based on European words. This Farsification campaign is a disservice to a nation whose survival is not in isolationism but in propagating a wider acceptance of itself in the world. Language, commonly understood, is one way to ensure that. But then, Mighty Moush (oops another Farsi word) knows best. Comment

STARTUP
PersianHookas.com

Kayvan Farchadi
July 31, 2006

My name is Kayvan Farchadi, a resident of the Washington DC Metropolitan area and the son of Ms. Gelareh Bassiry. I attend school at The College of William and Mary and will be entering my sophomore year. In addition to being very active in the Persian Club and Persian Community at William and Mary, I am also active in the DC Iranian community. I have volunteered at the Iranian Community School in Vienna, VA for a number of years both working with students as well as video taping their Norooz shows. Further, I am an active member of the staff of IAAB (Iranian American Alliances Across Borders), a non-profit group that does a lot of good work aimed at Iranians in diaspora. Perhaps I have bored you too much with my details. I am a student constantly trying to find ways to fund my education. Recently, a friend of mine and I started a business called PersianHookahs.com . The purpose of this enterprise is to pay for our college expenses. We are very small right now, but believe we have amazing potential for growth to do the seriousness of our resolve and the urgency of our need.

WAR
Terribly wrong

Ben Madadi
July 29, 2006

George W Bush is saying that he is envisaging a radical change in the Middle East so that another September 11 would not take place. This is also why his administration is defending Israel in its hard action in Lebanon, so that another rogue element, Hezbollah, would be removed. The intention seems noble, to bring democracy to the Middle East. But Mr Bush is in a huge miscalculation, a similar one to the miscalculation that brought down the Roman Empire. Mr Bush, and many American politicians, see the Middle East as grumpy and week, as not necessarily a possible serious threat.

Comparing the US to the whole Middle East put-together, it is indeed true that the American military might is something incomparably greater. But we shall not forget that history has shown us that neither 'rightness' not military might are the ingredients for success. The ruthless rule of evolution, the survival of the fittest, simply disregards size, and it has no comprehension whatsoever about Jesus, Messiah, or any form of judiciary or moral standardisation. So you may be rich and powerful and you may be on the 'right' side of some sort of moral equation, you may easily fail if you use brute force without thinking about the possible consequences.

The Roman Empire was brought down not by the Persians, but by the Barbarians. The Persian Empire was brought down not by the new Christian Roman Empire of the time, but by nomad Arabs. Why these things happen? Because when you are rich and powerful you send people to fight for you and get paid for it. But when you are poor, but at the same time angry, and smart, you know very well that you have nothing to lose, no-one to pay, no-one to get paid by, and nothing much to worry about.

When you are the 'Barbarian' you know that you can either die or get a reward insurmountably fabulous. But when you are a rich empire defending your vital interests you are choosing between death and conservation. Therefore the Barbarians have two great advantages; they have nothing to lose, and they have much more to gain.

So, Mr Bush shall think twice before discounting angry Muslims as some week backward pathetic undemocratic dark-skinned men from far away. They may be smarter at times. The issue is that the US doing what it does and the way it does, seems to be an arrogant superpower using simple brute force. This is dangerous. Most Middle-Easterners are not ready for democracy. They will not be ready for a real democracy any time soon.

Accommodating dictatorships is wrong but too much interference and making Middle-Eastern Muslims more and more angry is no less wrong. The best way is to act smoothly, tactically, and with utmost care so that the final aim would be to show to the Muslims that the US is a friend who does not wish to exploit and ruin, but it rather wishes to create prosperity and freedom, the way it has done in Japan, Germany, South Korea and many other places, successfully.

The current US policy in regards to the war between Israel and Lebanon is wrong, terribly wrong, and it should be revised as quickly as possible. Iraq is a mess enough and it if becomes a prosperous democratic country (in our lifetime or sometime this century) it can be a great example for the whole Middle East. And Iraq has made, and continuously makes, a lot of Arabs and Muslims very angry toward the US, so it is enough, and a US supported Israeli attack on Lebanon is simply a very bad timing. It only helps the cause of the fundamentalists and antagonises an already antagonised Muslim mass. Comment

WAR
Engine of hatred

Farid Parsa
July 26, 2006

The already beleaguered world can do without the violence that Israel and Hezbollah are dishing out to each other. Israel is a classic case of democracy that has grown paranoid. People in Israel will vote for any government that would kill women and children, not to shield them against real, immenent attacks, but anxiety and panic attacks. Hezabollah on the other hand is feeding their engine of hatred by pointing the finger at Israel's atrocities, as another proof of their disregard for innocent Moslem lives. Hezabollah insists that they are in Lebanon because people want them to be there. They only go along with democratic processes when it suites their purposes but in reality they have very little respect for democracy in general. Hezbollah is a religious movement that cannot stand on its own two feet unless it finds an object of its hatred first, and Jews are only one of such groups that they hate. Comment

FILM
Love Iranian-American style

Ari Siletz
July 25, 2006

It’s been a long time since American documentaries haven't been reality shows. These days even the respected PBS science series NOVA occasionally airs like an unscripted drama. To create the documentary film Love Iranian-American Style director Tanaz Eshaghian recorded over the years her family’s quixotic quest to find her a suitable husband. The result has the charming humor of My Big Fat Greek Wedding layered over the educational substance of a college course in sociology.

Early in the filmmaker's interviews with the politely distraught Eshaghian clan we find out that Tanaz, unlike other women in her Jewish Iranian family, has no use for the strictures of traditional matrimony. She won't marry this doctor or that businessman and have children in her early twenties. She was raised in America and she wants to marry for love.

Realistic about the fact that Iranian men like to marry younger women, the family is worried that if their Tanaz delays much longer her suitors will disappear. In one scene a matchmaker offers to find Eshaghian an excellent Jewish Iranian husband for $10,000. The director replies that if she can't find her own match in five years then maybe they could do business. “By then it would cost you $100,000,” retorts the matchmaker. There was a roar of laughter from the theater audience.

Eshaghian’s comedy is dark. Throughout we are laughing at pain. The pain of guilt and embarrassment for disappointing her clan, and the pain of a traditional family seeing how Western individualism has contaminated their daughter’s psyche with dissatisfaction. She can no longer look at a rich, handsome suitor from her own social class and think “I could grow to like him.” Having breathed American egalitarianism most of her life, she can only see him as a loser too sissy to ask, “who am I, and what do I really want?”

Brilliantly, Eshaghian also documents her failures in finding love outside of tradition. In a moving display of honesty, she interviews ex-lovers about why the relationship didn't go anywhere. Here the filmmaker scores an artistic victory in revealing to the audience the full scope of her tragedy. We find to our amazement that her previous boyfriends criticize her for her mental checklist of qualifications they felt they had to meet. One of them even thought he wasn't rich enough for her. All this time she thought she was running away from tradition, Eshaghian was really just circling back to familiar territory.

In a work of fiction this understanding would resolve the plot, rolling the events towards a happy ending. But this is real life. New understanding takes a long time to catch up with who we have become. In Eshaghian’s childhood pictures we see a stubborn looking, rebellious little girl whose wide eyes are brimming with inquisitiveness. She has grown up to be a tall beauty with the same inquisitive eyes. But years of saying “No, not good enough for me,” have left on her face--like a watermark—a subtle expression of haughty disapproval, as though the Universe is a cheap sale item she is about to throw back in the bin.

After the screening of her movie, I was introduced to Eshaghian and I told her I would be writing about her movie. “Oh,” she said, “Who do you write for?” By that expression on her face, I wish I could have said, “The New York Times.” Comment

T-SHIRT
Fighting terrorism since 1492

Javad Fakharzadeh
July 23, 2006

On a business trip to Seattle, I decided to visit the city I used to work at the Boeing during the 1970’s. On my way to Everett, Washington, just north of Seattle, I stopped at an American Indian reservation where they have built a remarkable casino. This building has very fascinating architecture. The architects enlisted the help of expert designers from Las Vegas. Outside gardens surround a huge building with the entrance porticos supported by well designed columns that cost $10,000 each.

On either side of the porticos are water falls that scale the entire side of the building resembling natural water falls with boulders and cascading down over the boulders resembling he natural be found in nature. The most striking and remarkable feature inside is a dark blue dome resembling the night sky filled with many star constellation twinkling as in a night sky. Because of its location in the Washington state known for its salmon, the ceiling is painted giving the effect you are standing looking up a salmon run river centrally located suspended below the dome is a artful large scale representation of salmon swirling around river plants.

Although I am not a gambler, I decided to go to the gift shop and spend my money on some artifacts and souvenirs, even though the money was a paltry sum, I still felt I was helping the native Americans.

Among many reproduction and other gifts and souvenirs, I spotted a stack of T-shirt that really caught my eyes and picked it up and examined the front message and picture and decided right then to purchase this T-shirt. The message imprinted was so eye catching that I decided to wear it on my return from SeaTac International Airport. The T-shirt has a famous Indian tribal chief pictured on it. Above the picture the caption reads: "Homeland Security", on the bottom of the picture reads: "Fighting Terrorism Since 1492!" Comment

CONFLICT
And the winner is...

Ben Madadi
July 20, 2006

Some do actually gain from other's misery. And it's not just about cynical feelings but factual material gains.

The current war in the Middle East, involving Israel and Lebanon, has had one curious, often overlooked consequence. It may or may not have been a conspiracy but the outcome clearly shows one single obvious winner and a lot one obvious losers. The winner is no other than the Iranian regime. It's said that the Iranian regime sponsors Hezbollah with about $100 million a year. This is while ordinary Iranians have so few jobs and Iran as a whole lacks many basic investments.

After the real unrest began in the Middle East, with the shelling from both Israelis and Hezbollah, oil prices went up, directly benefiting oil-exporting countries, such as Iran. The Iranian regime could just sponsor Hezbollah with the surplus income the oil price spike brings.

Other oil exporting countries benefit from a oil price hike but not all oil exporting countries have dysfunctional economies such as Iran. Some oil exporting countries have quite functional economic systems that would rather have stability and security rather than a short-lived inflated state budget. But Iran is definitely a kind of country that benefits from a rise in the price of crude oil.

There is also another motive for the Iranian regime's happiness with the current situation in the Middle East. It has come with just the perfect timing in order to put the discussion of the Iranian nuclear issue in the G8 summit on second priority, and of course with less available time for it, having another more urgent problem around the same critical geographical area. The conflict still continuing and likely to keep press headlines busy for some time, Iran can now enjoy a relative peace of mind for its nuclear plans.

So, maybe it has just been a lucky surprise for the Iranian regime, but knowing the facts about being Hezbollah's number one sponsor and as mentioned above being the number one beneficiary of the conflict, it's not too far from logic to look toward Iran for an answer. Does the Iranian regime care much about Lebanese Shia sufferings? Does it care about anybody suffering? It's just a clan decision that has little regard for human life. Comment

EXPATS
A couple of sandwiches short of a picnic

Siamack Baniameri
July 20, 2006

Somehow a brilliant salesman has sold Akbar Ganji the idea that Iranian expats can be a factor in brining democracy to Iran. One can't help but to feel sorry for Ganji for building his hopes and dreams of a civilized Iranian society on the quicksand of Iranian emigrants' landscape.

What Ganji doesn't know about us is that overwhelming majority of Iranian expatriates and our opposition groups are a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.

Twenty seven years of hardship, paranoia, lack of self respect, extreme materialism and insecurities has turn most of us into money-loving, self-hating, psychotic, zombies with short fuses and hatred of our own kind. I feel sad for Ganji but find the entire affair entertaining.

Shirin Ebadi, on the other hand, got it right. During her tour of the US and Europe, she became aware that Iranian expat political groups are divided, self-centered and wicked backstabbers. She stated in a gathering a few months ago that Iranian expats needed to spend their precious few weeks of yearly visits to Iran with real people of Iran instead of partying every night and roaming the Bazaar to purchase Persian rugs and pistachio. Comment

GANJI
Different agenda

Mehdi Amini
July 20, 2006

In response to Hossein Derakhshan's blog entry, "Is Ganji joining Sazgara?":

Akbar Ganji has been accused of being an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran while at the same time accused of working with the neo-cons seeking a “regime change” with the help of the American Administration. That is remarkable. He must be a fantastic Charlatan that has fooled us all with the exception of those labeling these accusations. And the accusers must have formidable sources that are knowledgeable about the true nature of Ganji’s trip abroad. There is only one problem. These sources have two opposite information!

It is no secret that Ganji is against the Islamic Republic and that he wants it replaced by a Secular Republic regime in Iran. At the same time, it is also no secret that there are those forces who seek regime change with the help of US Administration.

There is a saying in Iran that “Dar (Door) Baz (open/ a bird) ast! Baz Parandeh ast! Pass Dar Parandeh Ast.” (Meaning is a door is open, and open is also a bird, does that make the door a bird). With this analogy if Ganji is against the Islamic Republic. And the neo-cons are against the Islamic Republic! Does that make Ganji a neo-con!!!!

What makes Ganji different than the latter is that Ganji seeks this change with the help of the Iranian People where as the later seeks the help of US Government, caring less on the outcome of the change; even at the risk of a destroyed Iran.

Meanwhile, those that accuse him of being an agent of the Islamic Republic forget that he spent 6 years behind bars, 80 days of that on hunger strike and near death. Unless they deny these facts, what insane person would go through these pains if he is an agent?

I’ve been with Ganji for the last week or so. And my sources are not Mr. Taheri, Ahi or recently promoted student leader Mr. Fakhravar. But Mr. Ganji himself. I’ve seen his pain and intellects and he is no Mr. Sazegara. His agenda is different. I wonder if Mr. Sazegara and Ahi or anyone else for that matter wished that he had stayed in prison for a bit longer, or possibly had died from hunger strike. But to their misfortune he didn’t. Comment

WAR
Facing reality

Faramarz Fateh
July 19, 2006

Let's face it, us Iranians know everything there is about anything. Politics, medicine, soccer, history, technology, business; you name it, we spew opinions out faster than a 15 year old virgin boy reaches happy ending at his first sexual experience.

So, with that, I will spew out my humble opinions about whats going on in Lebanon: Israel is the 51st State of the United States of America. U.S.A. is ruled by Wall Street and like it or not, Wall Street is ruled by the Jews. Therefore, Jews rule the United States.

My wife hates these statements, but what the heck, I can manage sleeping on the sofa a few nights.

In the late 1970s U.S.A. created, funded and supported a very large movement of Islamic Fundamentalism to counter Communism and also hamper uncontrolled industrialization / modernization of the middle east nations, specially Iran and Iraq at all costs.

The first fruits of this movement bloomed concurrently in Iran and Afghanistan; in Iran, the Shah was kicked out and the piece of shit Khomeni came to power and in Afghanistan, the Mujahedin fought and finally kicked out the Russians.

Now that the Islamic Fundamentalist movement has served its purpose over the last 25 years, its time, for U.S.A., to dismantel it, because this movement has become a thorn on the side of the U.S. and Israel.

Who and what caused 9/11 remains to be discovered. But that event provided the ultimate excuse for implementation of U.S.A.'s plans.

The recent Israel Lebanon conflict is paving the road for Israel to wipe out fundamentalists in Lebanon and attack Iran's so called nuclear installations and to deflate the huff and puff of the current regime; reminding the missing link, Ahmadinejad, that he is nothing... I can't come up with any other word for him.

And we all know what's happening in Iraq.

In any event, a couple thousand innocent Lebanese and a few hundred Israelis are going to die until this plan is completed and Iran's aspirations for sabre ratteling as any type of power is put to rest.

Is this just or fair ? NO! Is it reality? YES. Comment

TRAVELERS
Half the world

Nasrin Sasanpour

"Isfahan is half the world"; so goes the Persian saying. Isfahan is in fact a unique historical site the way it is jeweled with the most beautiful turquoise tiles and their exquisite designs, against the backdrop of the city surrounded by the Zagros mountains and dotted with magnificent architecture of arches, minarets, palaces, and mosques ... The people from Isfahan are unique as well. They possess a great sense of humor peppered with a sweet accent; warm and clever, they come across as joyful & easygoing. The following depicts some of the eternal beauty of Isfahan >>> Watch

BLOGGING
End of childhood

Ali Dadpay
July 17, 2006

Since the first Iranian blog by Salman Jariri and the manual to write blogs in Farsi by Hossein Derakhshan, many have chosen to write and use weblogs as tribunes to express their thoughts and ideas. Even a larger number of young and old writers have made it their personal online diaries.

While former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi uses his weblog to keep the public posted on the inner circle of reformers and President Khatami, there are many who keep the public updated on their shopping habits, dance parties and travels. Reporting one's daily events has become such a widespread habit, that even journalists such as Nikahang Kowasr use their weblogs to report on their moving, conversations and dinner plates. After a while it becomes very boring to read about events that are somehow common in everybody's life.

The truth is that the demand for weblogs in Iran amplified initially by substitution factor. Following the ban on several papers and magazines, weblogs became a substitute for traditional media. They provided former journalists with an opportunity to stay in touch with their audience. This somehow acceptable short run solution proved to be very inconvenient in the long run.

Many bloggers went abroad to pursue their studies, careers or to have a different lifestyle. After losing touch with the realities of Iran's domestic affairs, their writing became a repetition of what they had already said on several occasions. It is interesting to notice that the public preserved an interest in those who wrote about their experiences within foreign societies or began to specialize on topics such as immigration or social sciences.

Those who remained home have been more successful in connecting with their audience and keeping a wider circle informed of what is going in Iran according to Iranians. However one cannot help noticing that some of the topics debated by both domestic bloggers and those abroad are rather unrealistic or of little significance.

Today there is no doubt that weblogs have failed to substitute traditional channels such as daily papers. Their succes is elsewhere. They have opened a new way of communication, and keep a larger number of people connected with each other and each other's intellectual evolution. They also provide them by an easy and inexpensive way of communicating their ideas and experience. It would be wrong to assume that the era of blogging is over but for its childhood.

Those who continue to write out of narcissism find themselves trapped in a small world. But those who use this medium to talk and present ideas or offer solutions are already facing a growing audience. It is no wonder that some Iranian economists, who believe in sustainable development and choice, have recently launched a website of their own. Comment

HUNGER STRIKE
If you don't hear from me

Siamack Baniameri
July 17, 2006

My out of office AutoReply email: "I'll be on hunger strike for human rights in Iran for the next few days with no access to email. If your issue needs immediate attention, please dial my cell phone. If I'm too weak to answer my cell phone, please leave a message and I'll get back to you when the hunger strike is over and I have some food in my system. If you don't hear from me by the end of the week, please call 911 and send help. Thank you, Siamack Baniameri."

ISRAEL
Feeding the fire

Leila Farjami
July 16, 2006

As following the news on Israel’s attack against the Civilians of Lebanon (unarmed men, women, and children) and not particularly the Hezbollah!, like the rest of you, I wonder what they are attempting to accomplish. There’s absolutely no justification for the invasive and murderous acts of Israel (occupied Palestine, actually), but I could not help perceiving this catastrophe as an ancient psychological predicament: the victims have turned into victimizers.

From a psychological perspective, when an individual is victimized, three outcomes maybe rendered: 1. the victim continues being a victim if left untreated and the cycle of trauma continues 2. the victim turns into a victimizer committing the same or worse atrocities 3. the victim adopts an objective view of the self through processing the feelings of pain/rage/resentment, healing the wounds of trauma.

Many Israelis have obviously continued the path of Hitler, using the same earthly element of raging fire, they continue burning the innocent relying on their own bogus rationalizations. Of course, this time the fire is not in Nazi camps burning the Jews alive, but rather, the fire has been in civilian neighborhoods of Palestine and now in Lebanon.

As the symbolism of reducing human beings into ashes through heat and inescapable suffocation continues, I can no longer discern between the first person who lit a match and his successors who continue feeding the fire. Can you? Comment

HUNGER STRIKE
From Gandhi to Ganji

Ari Siletz
July 14, 2006

Starting today there will be a 3-day worldwide hunger strike to protest the Islamic Republic's crackdowns against Iranians who insist on their human rights. The hunger strike has been organized around the feisty investigative journalist Akbar Ganji who nearly died last year after a prison hunger strike lasting several weeks.

A hunger strike is a powerful political tool. The tactic was used by the pre-Christian Irish as an effective way of demanding justice. There would be tremendous loss of prestige and therefore power for a lord who allowed a plaintiff to die of hunger at his gate. Gandhi used the tactic against the British, winning independence for India, and the IRA used it effectively to win sympathy for its cause. Ironically Bobby Sands street in Iran is named after an IRA activist who died during a hunger strike in a British prison.

We feel hunger as simple organisms in need of fuel. But in resisting hunger we become aware of our own complexity as humans. When other people are fasting with us, empathy and solidarity hugely expand this awareness so that the metaphoric hunger for freedom becomes as powerful as the physical craving for life sustaining food. Akbar Ganji understands this better than most, which is why he has called for this particular way of protesting.

Ganji gained notoriety during the relatively liberal Presidency of Khatami when he was allowed to publicly criticize Khatami's political enemies. The journalist went for the jugular, tracking the murderers of several of Iran's influential intellectuals. A few of the killers were tried and executed, but Ganji, never got his chance to fully connect the murders to the ruling Islamic elite. He was sentenced to Jail.

A former member of the Revolutionary Guard Ganji had been assigned to "Doctrine and Politics." His job as an intellectual was to encourage revolutionary values in Iranians. In a way this is still his job. Disillusioned by the Islamic regime's stewardship of the Iranian revolution, Ganji has been calling for a more democratic, more tolerant and less misogynistic rule in Iran. He believes religion and state should be separated and has asked the all powerful Supreme Leader to step down.

With his past in the Revolutionary Guard it is difficult for me to embrace Ganji politically, but he has shown the courage of his faith and he has helped bring murderers to justice. In a democratic Iran he would make a worthy opposition. Meanwhile I stand with him in this hunger strike . Comment

Here's some where-and-when info on this worldwide protest.

ISRAEL
Eight soldiers equivalent to dozens of civilians

Mohsen
July 14, 2006

Despites all the odds, through ups and downs I have always believed in one thing, that life or god or whatever you want to name it, is just. The idea of justice is not a system of belief but it has been my last link to this nasty, horrific, stinky life.

On the nights when I was in jail, being punched and kicked, starved and sleep depraved, and being humiliated worse than an animal, I was holding a candle in the dark corner of my heart that was shedding light on two words, Justice Prevails! And in order to see its glorious occurrence I collected all my power to stay on course to see it happens.

Now that I am getting older and am looking back at all the thick and thin days of my life and all the days and years that I've been waiting for the justice, I am asking, Justice Prevails?

Everyday my hope of seeing that day is diminishing, and I am thinking whether I have been thinking wrongly all these years. I wonder whether there is no justice, or that justice should be defined differently. So I am going to live another thirty years to redefine things.

I am going to define everything all over. Justice is not the punishment or reward as a proportional response to one's deed but it is an overwhelming rage against entities indiscriminately.

Eight soldiers are equal to dozens of civilians. A tank equals thirty something bridges, airports and many more buildings, and cars.

As I am writing I see more definitions coming. Comment

ISRAEL
Palestinians treated same way as Native-Americans

Daniel Pourkesali
July 12, 2006

The plight of Palestinians in the past 60 years eerily parallels that of America's native population and their treatment at the hands of the European settlers.

I recommend the book titled "A Century of Dishonor" as a must read for everyone . It is one of the best documented accounts written by Helen Hunt Jackson published in 1888, which clearly captures some essential elements of what occured -- forced removals, killings, and callous disregard for the natives as well as a pattern of exaggeration and one-sided indictment that has persisted to this day. The reduction of the North American Indian population from an estimated 12 million in 1500 to a mere 250,000 at the end of the 19th century represents a vast and most sustained genocide on record.

The parse and neutered remaining population were herded into desolate parcels of land called "Indian Reservations" which government found of little value much like the original inhabitants of Palestine have been forced to leave their farmlands and herded into several open air prisons with little habitable infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank.

In breach of countless UN resolutions Israel continues its violations of the human rights of the Palestinians, including deportations, demolitions of homes and other collective punishments; its confiscation of Palestinian land; its establishment of illegal settlements; and its refusal to abide by the U.N. Charter and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

Unfortunately the world has turned a blind eye to what Israel is doing today much like it has done and continues to do with other people they perceive as "savage", "dangerous", or somehow "sub-human". Comment

INTEGRITY
Self-righteous lashing with no facts

Ari Siletz
July 11, 2006

In her web article, "Selling out to sell a book," Sudabeh Siavashan criticizes an interview she has not heard. This interview is about a book she has not read. By this author's own statement her opinions are based on what she calls a "very short and I believe very useful [website] piece." Armed with this hearsay she has launched an attack on the wrong coordinates, inflicting collateral damage to the reputations and careers of innocent Iranian writers and poets.

About KQED's June 29 Forum interview with the authors of "Let Me Tell You Where I Have Been," Siavashan says the authors "probably went on criticizing the US policies in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons!" This is guesswork , not fact. Here's an audio link to the interview. Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib were never mentioned by any of the authors.

Siavashan tells us that these authors ignore torture, rape and imprisonment in Iran. This is factually incorrect. Niloofar Kalam in "The Sun is a Dying Star," stuns us with how she materializes, from simple party banter, the terrifying ghosts of imprisonment and rape in Iran.

Siavashan states that the authors of "Let Me Tell You... " represent a category of Iranians who never seriously criticize the Iranian government. This statement is not borne out by the facts. Mitra Parineh's "Inheritance," bruises us with the brutality of the Islamic regime and infuriates us with how that regime humiliates its own citizenry.

Siavashan claims the authors of "Let Me Tell You... " avoid statements that may get them in trouble with Iranian authorities. This is also incorrect. Some of the authors are unabashedly forward in ways that would be punishable in the Iran. For example one contributor creates an image of two teenage girls touching each other's genitals.

With no facts to back her accusations and in the self-righteous style of the Islamic Regime, Siavashan condemns these innocent Iranian writers by declaring, "I am disgusted by these self serving individuals... " and concluding that they lack "a minimum of conscience."

Ironically, Siavashan justifies her rancor against these writers in the name of human rights. More sober proponents of human rights however would decline to associate themselves with Siavashan until she tempers her activism with her own statement of principle: "In order to understand... the most important requirement is intellectual integrity."

For Siavashan it would be good practice in intellectual integrity to read a book before lashing out against it. After she has mastered this exercise in fairness, she is welcome to join the rest of us in our human rights concerns.

To undo some of the damage, here's a review of "Let Me Tell You Where I have been" on my website.
Comment

WORLD CUP
Something very bad

Parham
July 10, 2006

For some 24 hours, the greatest mystery surrounded the issue of Zidane's head-butt to Materazzi's chest, which happened during the final of the World Cup yesterday, 9 june. Everybody was saying that Materazzi must have mumbled something really nasty to have pissed a gentleman like Zidane off that badly.

There were all sorts of rumors coming out of the rumor mill about the incident. One that was made by the Brits and that was denied almost immediately told of a racist remark, depicting Materazzi as calling Zidane a "dirty terrorist". But as I said, that one didn't turn out to be true.

There were also rumors coming out of the French camp about Materazzi having said something very bad about Zidane's mother. Something in the order of "hey, I screwed your mother, it was great."

However, nobody knew for sure about that one, although I must say it seemed to be the most plausible rumor. Ultimately, that one was also denied by a very embarrassed Italian side, who said that the statement was only "partially" correct, but refused to say what part of it was actually wrong.

As this only added to the ever-growing mystery and shifted the world's focus on Zidane's sister instead, various international TV channels actually brought-in lip-readers to try to see what was said during the exchange. This had now become the hottest news item on earth in the last few days or so - hotter than the war in Iraq, hotter than Bush's latest twist of the tongue.

The mystery has now been solved as announced on world media a few minutes ago. Besides benefiting from the relief factor of the story's denouement, we were shown once again that all the rumors were false. Or almost.

According to what they said, what Materazzi exactly told Zidane was, "Hey, I drew a cartoon of your mother. It was great." Comment

WORLD CUP
Missing TEAM genes

Faramarz Fateh
July 10, 2006

Iran team-e melli dareh, Italia va Farance ham team daran!! ey vallah.

Congratulations to France and Italy! The best 2 teams played the finals and the best team overall won.

As I watched the quater, semi and final games of the world cup, I realized more and more that Iran's national team didn't even deserve to be in the top 32.

Compared to say France, Italy or Germany, Iran's team needs to play the street soccer leagues in the Middle East. With the likes of Saudi Arabia etc.

The funny thing is that when you talk to some patriotic Iranian idiots, who are a dime a dozen in LA, they keep saying we lost because of government influence on the team, or because Ali Daie fought with Ali Karimi in the locker room or because of this or that.

Face it, Iran as a country is decades away from having any kind of TEAM in any sports. Its just not in our culture, not in our genes. Comment

CHOP CHOP
Middle East Made in USA

Nima Kasraie
July 9, 2006

Ralph Peters, once a Colonel of the US Army, has a map in his newly released book ''Never Quit the Fight'', (Stackpole Books. 2006). According to him, the solution to the Middle East crisis is to dissolve Iran and Iraq into separate little independent republics. Just thought it might be interesting. I got the map pictures from Baztab, which they claim got it from his book.

"Ralph Peters is a novelist, an essayist, a former career soldier, and an adventurer in the 19th-century sense. He is the author of a dozen critically acclaimed novels, two influential works on strategy, 'Beyond Terror' and 'Fighting for the Future'. Mr. Peters' works can also be found under the pen name 'Owen Parry'. He also appears frequently as a commentator on television and radio networks." -- fantasticfiction.co.uk
Comment

TEHARN MUSIC
Take that LA!

Bruce Bahmani
July 8, 2006

It seems the power of music is stronger than politics, government corruption and possibly faith. At least that is the way it seems it might be in Tehran these days, for Benyamin Bahadori, specifically.

A friend visiting Tehran recently told me this story; As he was being driven around town by a cousin, they noticed a car full of young men sitting on the back end of a vanette/pickup next to their car, stuck in traffic, per usual. The men were listening to a song being played surprisingly loudly in their car, and to my friend's amazement, his cousin began singing along with them. It was a very snappy pop tune, and clearly everyone except my friend knew the words.

The song, as it turns out was "Taraneh Vazheh" (Words) a hugely popular hit on the street. The song is made up of what at first appears to be random words thrown together, "Sa-at, Divar, Cheshm-at, Ghalbam, Nemi-Ay, Albom, Geryeh, Nameh, Ashegh, Nemi-khai..." you get the idea. It makes no sense, but strangely it makes total sense.

It is a Da Vinci code of sorts, because as it turns out, the words are merely the first word of each Beyt/Stanza of a popular poem. What's the poem? You'll have to find that out yourself!

When you read the actual poem it's like you figured out a teasing riddle. A lot of fun.

The album is a blend of rich techno euro-anthems much like Daft Punk or Eiffel 65's non-"I'm Blue" songs. With the same tormented and obsessed Iroony boyfriend's voice. It's not super special, but it is new and highly infectious pop music. The kind of album the more you listen, the more you like.

Now for the kicker.

This album was recorded, produced and distributed inside Iran! Yes, Iran is now producing romantic, Iroony-girl obsessed, techno infused, pop music! The album my friend brought back from Iran was bought from the official government store right at the airport.

Take that LA! Comment

Click for a Medley of songs from "Benyamin 85"

HOT AIR
Yeh gooz be eftekhaare hameh!

Azari Asal
July 8, 2006

Why is farting such a big deal in our community? I mean realistically, it shouldn't be an issue since we all have a great admiration and love for medical science.

Iranian couples often avoid farting anywhere near each other not even in the bathroom, if the spouse is nearby. I know of many Iranian women who think that a single, innocent, harmless, gooz can break up their marriage. How weak is that?

I had a chat with a friend who's been married to her abusive husband of 26 years. She has at times suffered physical and emotional abuse. Even to this day, she's frightened of him. Not to undermine her misery, but I was curious if she has ever farted in front of her antar husband. So I asked the million dollar question. Her answer was a stern "NO." She explained, "baa hameye in sakhtee haa maa oon pardaro paareh nakardim."

I just think we are too uptight about things that don't really matter. So instead of an applause or a salavaat, from now on, I ask we all "gooz be eftekhaar hameh" and get it over with.Comment

NEW VOICE
It was not easy just sitting in your seat

xAle
July 8, 2006

Chicago was the first city on a US tour for a new voice, ROJAN. And such a delight to hear her\ warm, rich and powerful voice accompanied by accomplished musicians who truly enjoyed playing their instruments >>> Listen to songs from "Delshodeh"

Last month the Chicago audiences were treated to a wonderful evening of great music, Persian songs and poetry, Kurdish folk music and lots of heart warming sounds from different regions of Kurdestan. The masterful musicians directed by Tahmores Pournazeri, came from Kurdestan. The sound of Tombak, Tanbour, Dohol, Daf, Santour, Setar, Ud, Kamancheh and Barbat filled the halls. The program started with a duet by Tahmores and Sohrab Pournazeri on Setar and Kamancheh and was followed by the rest of group and the voice of Rojan.

It was not easy just sitting in your seat. The music was so vibrant that I wished I could stand up and dance in the isles. The group also brought Hajar Zahawy, a percussion player from Iraqi Kurdistan with them and the sound of Dohol and Daf shook the walls.

If you have a chance to hear Rojan as they travel to other cities, do not miss it. With all the clutter in the Persian music in the US market and over playing of the good voices of the past. It is a pleasure to hear a new professional voice and master musicians.

Rojan will be performing tonight, Saturday July 8th, at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco and July 22nd in San Diego. Comment

GOOGOOSH
Talagh? Jesus Christ!

Bruce Bahmani
July 6, 2006

OK, I'll admit it. I am a die hard Googoosh fan. As one of the founders of Googosh.com I know my fair share of Googoosh trivia.Take for example her name. Of course we all know that Googoosh is an Armenian name. But, did you know that Googoosh is actually a boy's name?Aha!Another thing about Googosh that we all know is the sheer modernity and advanced nature of her music.

Not the newer stuff which unfortunatley LA influenced and sorrily is nothing more than dated crap. I'm talking about the old stuff, which in it's day was about as avant garde as anything Pop at the time. Googoosh also gave us the trippy MTV style music videos via the hugely popular TV show Rang-a-Rang. She also gave us loops, or the use of other songs' hooks in her own songs to make an entirely new song. Sometimes a better song.

Probably the best known of these is the fantastic 70's anthem, "Talagh". Did you know that the intro to Talagh was taken from the then not so popular Andrew Lloyd Webber's Rock Opera "Jesus Christ Superstar"?

The loop that the now famous "Iranian" song used, was originally taken from, is "Heaven on Their Minds" the opening number of this huge broadway hit. Disappointed? You thought this loop was all ours? Don't be! The original Broadway song never really made it past the other more popular standards this show turned out, which were, "I don't know how to love him", and the main theme of "Jesus Christ Superstar". Altogether of significantly lesser value to us than the one Googoosh, er "lifted" for her own holy masterpiece. Comment

MP3s

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Talagh Remixes

WORLD CUP
France is really awsome--seriously

Parissa Sohie
July 6, 2006

Four years ago, I wrote you about our sudden passion for a sport. Well, as i see it, M and I will be downright nuts every four years. The day of the Portugal-France game I was itchy to see the game, but was at work. M had already announced that he would be 'working from home'. One of my co-workers found a way of streaming the game and was wondering out loud if we should go to the conference room to watch the game. Before he could finish his thought, I had rounded up speakers and mostly set up the conference room (complete with mini pizzas) and was 'working' as we watched the game. I was jumping up and down and trash talking with the guys--who had never even seen me listen to anything related to sports. I think I impressed them (when I wasn't scaring them). France is really awsome--seriously. I'm looking forward to all of this being over so I can celebrate France's win, Zidans's retirement and return to my regularly scheduled life. Comment

BOOK OF THE CENTURY
Celebration of life

Jahanshah Javid
July 4, 2006

A few months ago I was on mage.com and "From Persia to Napa: Wine at the Persian Table" caught my eye. They said it was going to be on sale soon. Well, it's finally here and publisher Mohammad Batmanglij emailed me last night that my complimentary copy is on its way. I'm thrilled. I have not read a word of the book yet, and I'm not even a fan of wine (I like beer), but Najmieh Batmanglij's choice of subject is so original and refreshing that I can't help but strongly recommend it to everyone. It shows a side of us that celebrates life. And I'll drink to that, anytime. Comment

TRAVELERS
Paris to Persia

Michael McKinley
July 3, 2006

I recently returned from a month long trip to Iran and France, spending most of my time in Tehran and Paris. During the course of my trip I had the opportunity to really put my cameras to use; here are what I consider to be some of the better photographs from my trip. I have over 1000 images but I thought lowering the number to around 100 would be sufficient. The photographs cover my travels from Tehran to Ahwaz then back via Shiraz, Isfahan (or Esfahan), Qom, and many other wonderful places before ending in Paris.

As an American traveling in Iran I was awestruck by the natural beauty of the country as well as the hospitality of the people. The people of Iran are the most generous and warm hearted individuals that I have had the pleasure of meeting in all my travels. I am ready to return; heat up the chai, order me a plate of pheasenjoon, and let the conversation continue.

This is not a solicitation; I just want to share my photographs with people of Iranian descent and westerners that don't know the beauty of Iran. I guess this is my way of trying to bring people together with my photography and without the interference of governments. When you visit the website you will have the opportunity to view it as either a Flash or HTML page, the Flash page has music and the HTML page has room for comments. Feel free to visit either or both, also feel free to forward the website to any friends and family that you think might enjoy it >>> www.persiatoparis.com
Comment

UNCOMMON SENSE
Only in Berkeley

Neshat Rezai
July 3, 2006

Berkeley was the first city to ban Styrofoam and to start curbside recycling. Moreover, Berkeley also took the lead in calling for the government to divest from South Africa during Apartheid era. Berkeley was the first city to desegregate its public schools without a court order. Berkeley is the only city with an edible schoolyard project. Berkeley is often associated with the Free Speech Movement of the 60's... And NOW: Berkeley is the first city to put a resolution on the ballot calling for President Bush and Vice President Cheney to be impeached!!! ONLY IN BERKELEY!!! (If you live in Berkeley, make sure you vote!!) Comment

TRAVELERS
Long bygone and yet so alive

Nasrin Sasanpour
July 3, 2006

Shiraz was as beautiful as ever. The air was fragrant with jasmine and roses, the nightingales sang freely, and the great poets of the city, Hafez and Sa'di stood tall in spirit besides their tombs, greeting hordes of lovers in different garbs & moods. Persepolis spoke of another era... long bygone and yet so alive, reminiscing of the glory of people 2,500 years ago. In the minds of Persians, the question, rings here and then: A civilization so great, what happened? And can it ever be resurrected. The following is a sample of what I experienced during my visit to Shiraz in April 2006 >>> Watch
Comment

MEMORIAL
Bless their souls

Reza Kayhani
July 3, 2006

July 3rd is the day 290 families, their friends and relatives mourn the loss of their loved ones on this day in 1988. The Iran Air Flight 655 was brought down over the Persian Gulf by U.S.S Vincennes, by Capt. William C. Rogers III, at 10:24AM local time. The plane was an Air Bus (EP-IBU) piloted by Capt. Mohsen Rezaian, and Co-Pilot Kamran Taymori, both educated in USA. God bless their souls. Let's pray for peace across the world, amen. Comment

MUSIC
Haunting performance

Babak Khiavchi
July 2, 2006

This was originally from the album Endless Vision, a live recording with Hossein Alizadeh & Jivan Gasparyan on stage in the Niavaran Palace outdoor venue in Tehran (Sept.4-6, 2003) with more than 12,000 spectators. The attached mp3 file is a haunting live performance of Sari Galin, sung in Azerbaijani, Armenian, and Farsi. Alizadehs arrangement is amazing, and Afsaneh Rasaee's emotional singing stands out even though she can't sing solo on stage in a live performance in Iran. Jivan Gasparyan sings the Armenian lyrics with the calmness and assurance of a true master musician. The Farsi lyrics give the song a whole other dimension when they start.

Hossein Alizadeh (Shurangiz)
Jivan Gasparyan (Duduk, Vocal)
Vazgen Markaryan (Bass Duduk)
Afsaneh Rasaee (Vocal)
Hoorshid Biabani (Vocal)
Armen Ghazaryan (Duduk)
Ali Boustan (Shurangiz)
Mohammadreza Ebrahimi (Oud)
Ali Samadpour (Dammam, Udu, Vocal)
Behzad Mirzaee (Daf, Tombak)
Comment

HERITAGE
Alarming precedent

Daniel Pourkesali
July 2, 2006

The decision by U.S. District Judge Blanche M. Manning to allow liquidation of ancient Persian artifacts on loan to University of Chicago in order to settle a lawsuit by American survivors of a bombing in Israel will establish an alarming precedent which will further damage U.S. image and open a flood gate of litigation by survivors of American-financed bombings around the globe.

First of all if Iran is legally responsible for any hostile action taken by Hamas then the reverse is also true. And we all know when it comes to killing civilians indiscriminately, nobody does is better than the U.S. and the Israelis. Just ask the survivors of the $2,000,000+ dead Vietnamese or the 40,000+ dead Iraqis or those victims of Israel's policy of assassinations which clearly amounts to intentional and willful killing in clear breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and subject to international criminal prosecution.

Secondly the ruling Iranian regime has no more ownership right over artifacts produced centuries ago by the ancient Persian civilization than any other government over historical treasures that belong to the people and collectively define our shared human heritage. Any museum trusted by the people to display these artifacts in essence holds its current ownership and should act on behalf of the people to defend their right in such legal proceeding. Comment

HERITAGE
They belong to the people

Nima Kasraie
July 1, 2006

Dear President Bush,

I urge you to step in and save the priceless treasures of the Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago and Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History from being given away to plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Iran's government. In reality, those treasures are not the property of any government, but belong to the people. They are an irreplaceable cultural patrimony, irreplaceable as a scholarly resoure for understanding world history and heritage, and NOT a commercial item. Please step in and stop this unique world heritage from being given away by District Judge Blanche Manning's ruling. Comment

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