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September 2006

Money exchange in Hamadan
Rami Yelda
September 30 2006

Excerpt from "A Persian Odyssey: Iran revisited" by Rami Yelda (A. Pankovich Publishers, November 2005):

Hamadan is another dull and overcrowded modern Iranian city. The center of town is the Emam Khomeini meydan with six streets radiating from it. Around the square circulated hordes of horn-blowing Paykans. To the city's credit, visually pleasing old Qajar-era buildings were situated in a circle around the square. On the northeastern corner was an ugly, boxy building, new and white, ruining the whole architectural composition of the square. This was the central bank that I was looking for to change money.

In the recent past money had been exchanged illegally on the black market. Now the government has legalized the exchange of foreign currencies and even publishes the official daily rates. In Tehran, I had exchanged money in the street without any difficulties. The rate would fluctuate at around eight hundred tomans to the dollar, and the exchanger would keep two tomans in commissiion for every hundred dollars. Standing in the street among the pedestrians, I had counted hundreds of tomans and had put big wads in my pocket without any worries of being mugged.

Changing money in the bank turned out to be a challenge. What had taken a minute or two in the streets became a twenty-minute ordeal. First I had to locate the vice president of the bank, whose office was in the adjoining wing. After the usual polite salutations and handshake, he asked for my Iranian passport, which I handed to him. After carefully examining it, he filled in a short form, initialed it, and thenreferred me to the gentleman in charge of the foreign exchange office. I found him, and he pulled a neew form from his drawer and gave it to me. I filled in all the necessary information, which included the place and date of my birth and my father's name. He inspected the form and referred me back to the vice president. The vice president checked the form again, coountersigned it, and directed me to the foreign money exchange counter.

I stood in line, and when it was my turn, I handed the form and a hundred-dollar bill to the cashier. He first looked at the form and then lifted the bill and examined it under light to make sure it was not fake. Having completed his investigation, he gave me yet another form to fill out. This one needed more information, such as my address and telephone number in Iran. I wrote the address and telephone number of my hotel in Tehran without mentioning the hotel's name. This satisfied him, since he then asked me to sign another form in three places and, after i had done so, turned it around and told me to sign on the back. This last form had to be approved and authorized by the vice president. I found him again in his office, and, again after some politesse, he signed it and referred me back to the cashier. There was a short line, and while waiting for my turn, I had to yell at a bespectacled young fellow with long hair who was trying to cut in front of me. Eventually I made it to the coounter and was given enough wads of tomans to fill two pant pockets. Comment

How to defuse Moslem anger
Siamack Baniameri
September 26, 2006

A Catholic co-worker asked what would it take for Moslems to forgive Pope Benedict for the offensive remarks he made about Islam. I told her that I'm not speaking for all Moslems, but watching the Pope getting circumcised live on Al-Jazeera TV performed by the Islamic Republic's ambassador to the Vatican... that will defuse my anger.

I'm scheduled to appear in court for sexual harassment. I'm really angry right now. Comment

Suggested apology letter
September 25, 2006

To my brethren in Islam,

I offer my sincere apology to Prophet Mohammad not because I am afraid of street hoodlums, but because it's not nice to talk behind the back of deceased people.

To the mobs of thugs who poured onto the streets, rioted, set my effigies on fire, burned down churches, murdered a nun, and showed their true nature I say this:

May your parents mourn your expiration for you are essentially two ugly groups: First those of you who are the paid agents of your countries' corrupt dictators, imams, ayatollahs, and muftis; and then those of you who are nothing but a bunch of ignorant idiots who get offended by anything that is not you. You don't even have the brains to understand that you cannot be violent in order to prove that you and your religion are not violent (although I doubt that's your intended message.) So may both groups rot at the bottom of hell's septic tank, and if you go to the paradise, may each one of you be given seventy two virgins that have PMS for eternity.

To my own brethren in faith I say this: The lord works in mysterious ways. One slip of the tongue and even the pope is in deep trouble. And remember, not long ago, and especially in catholic faith, we were worse than these folks and we, too, slaughtered countless innocent souls for sillier reasons. I know that some of you are tempted to start acting like these things, but I want you to repent in your heart and do not become the grease on the slippery slope of sliding the humanity's progress backward, or I will come at you with some choice curse. Comment

Wassalam o Alaykum
Yours truly
Pope the Benedict
The Vatican

Nashaayad ke naamat nahand aadami 
September 25, 2006

Let me make it simple for you:

Let's assume that, Anousheh Ansari, is a brilliant, super intelligent, hardworking, ambitious, business guru and possesses all the positive features that you may wish to attribute to her. Let us also assume that she has not earned a single dime of her fortune out of dubious or suspicious deals or methods. Let me even make it easier for you and assume that she absolutely has no sympathies with the regime of the mullahs in Iran.

Now, let us see where Anousheh Ansari comes from. She is not an immigrant from the rich and happy countries of Europe such as Switzerland or Sweden. Nor is she coming from the prosperous countries of the Middle East such Saudi Arabia, Dubai or Kuwait. In case you have forgotten, she comes from a country that has been physically devastated and financially plundered for the last 27 years with more than half of the working population living just above or largely below the poverty line -- never mind all the horrific abuses of human rights that have taken place in the same period.

The fact that every average worker in the country, be it a civil servant, a teacher, or a nurse, must have three jobs in a day to make ends meet may go unnoticed by the Iranian settlers of the United States who left their troubled homeland behind and arrived in the land of opportunity to make their American dreams a reality, but it is adding insult to injury to suggest that Ms Ansari, is in any way representing her homeland by paying an astronomical sum of $20 million to realise her dream of a space adventure. What consolation is that to all the down and out of her impoverished homeland?

Anousheh may have obtained an American citizenship but her name, her looks, her accent and yes, her fickleness, are all typically Iranian. It goes without saying that she and the rest of the Iranian-Americans have every right to earn and spend their millions in very way they like BUT please let them be reminded to spare the people of Iran the pleasure of sharing their self-serving interest. If Anousheh had a modicum of selfless interest in the well being of the deprived people of Iran she would have embraced the timeless message of Saadi who wrote:

tou kaz mehnate digaraan bi ghami
nashaayad ke naamat nahand aadami 

(If you are unconcerned about the plight of others
You cannot be called a human being)

I only hope that when Ms Ansari will have literally and egoistically descended to earth, she would use her newly acquired fame and the remaining of her fortune to make up for the wasteful flight of folly that she made into the vast void of vanity.  Comment

Topless dancer
Siamack Baniameri
September 21, 2006

I read somewhere that Iranian-American space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, has claimed to be the ambassador of goodwill for Iranian nation in space. Excuse me, but I don't recall voting for her to become my representative in space.

I admire Ansari for her accomplishments, although she is under investigation for insider trading, and in return for the $20 million she spend to experience weightlessness in space she is getting back millions of dollars worth of contracts with Russian Space Agency. But I do not want Anousheh to be the ambassador of Iran in space.

If I have a choice to vote for an ambassador that would represent my country in space, I would elect a topless dancer. That's right folks, a topless dancer should be the Iranian ambassador to space.

You ask why? I say why not!

First off, a topless dancer would have enjoyed a huge discount. I'm sure that cosmonauts Yuri and Boris would have pitched in and picked up the tab just to spend a few days bouncing around with a topless dancer. Additionally, it would have been so much fun to have an Iranian topless dancer in space. Imagine the global confusion... People around the world would have scratched their heads and asked: what in the world are these crazy Iranians up to now? Why can't we figure these people out?  It just would have been so much fun.

Some of you might say that it would be difficult to keep a topless dancer in her spacesuit. But that's just a technicality that can be remedied with some training or even acupuncture.

Yet again, we Iranians missed an opportunity to showcase our fun-loving side to the world. Oh, well! Maybe next time.  Comment

An Iranian week
Peyvand Khorsandi
September 21, 2006

This week, Iran’s “humble” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became the first Iranian spaced-out tourist. In a visit to the United States, he repeated his claim that Palestinians did not perpetrate the Holocaust, and that Israel should in fact be occupying Germany. His speech to the United Nations general assembly was met my rapturous applause – by the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Chavez also made a speech, while wielding a copy of Noam Chomsky’s latest book, American Poo. He in turn was met by rapturous applause – by President Ahmadinejad.

George Bush took to the podium and addressed the people of Iran directly: “Do you find you’re suffering oppression at the hands of your leaders? You need US aggression. Research suggests US imperialism leads to weight-loss. You will feel thinner and more confident – all with no exercise. We will cut off your essential supplies from the comfort of your living room and bomb your neigbourhood. All you have to do is Sit ‘n’ Weight. Call 1-800-desertcoon toll-free and lose weight today.”

Meanwhile, the radically thin Iranian dissident Akbar Ganja has written a letter to America the Washington Post: “Dear fellow Americans, please vote for me in the next Iranian election. I believe in democracy, freedom, and lots of other lovely words. And I need your help. The men who run Iran are naughty, naughty men. Gender apartheid must be limited to lavatories. Freedom for Palestine – vote Ganja.”

In outer space, the weightless Anousheh Ansari, has been updating her blog: “Mahatma Gandhi, that famous Indian cosmonaut, said, the best way to help the ‘untouchables’ is to go to the US, become super-rich and demonstrate the best way to spend $25 million. I hope that all the untouchables in Iran will be inspired by my feat. Up in space we have to clean our own latrines. It’s very humbling.”  Comment

Visit Soul Bean Café

Losing to Ahmadinejad. That hurts.
Nema Milaninia
September 20, 2006

Ahmadinjead's popularity (and yes I do see him becoming more popular around the world) is more due to Bush's incompetence and inability then his own policy. The fact is, no one trusts Bush and no one trusts the American government. This administration has made mistake after mistake after mistake. It has lied to go to war which has benefitted largely only those large corporations which secure projects in Iraq (i.e. cronies close to the administration). It seeks to completely revert and roll-back generations of human rights standards. It stands hostage to a slight minority which has fundamentalist religious objectives equal to any terrorist group which espouses radical ideals about Islam. It has abused the notion of democracy and human rights and employed double standards in their implementation.

In other words, the US administration has been the single most influential factor in raising fundamentalism throughout the world and decreased America's own security. Imagine, without Bush Ahmadinejad would be forced to account for growing unemployment in Iran, for significant economic decline, stricter social controls, greater repression of free speech and thought and press. In other words, if there wasn't so much hatred for Bush and his own totalitarianism, there would be more pressure on Ahmadinjad to account for his own.  Comment


To dream the impossible dream...
Ramin Zamini
September 19, 2006

As a child in Tehran, I too often lay awake dreaming not specifically of space travel, (thanks to Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey I had become all too bored with it by age 12) but after girls, I dreamt of coffee. I would lay awake dreaming of the aroma, the beans, seasoned, blended, aged and roasted just right. I would hang out at Armenian coffee shops on Elizabeth Blvd., and I would tell my childhood friends, that "... just you watch! One day I will buy a cup of coffee! Just you watch!"

And so when my Daddy told me to, I came to the US and college and worked, mostly at high tech firms, that unlike some, did not land me a proverbial lottery ticket, but in fact often failed miserably, often resulting in brutal layoffs. But my dream and I never faltered, and the dream to one-day buy that perfect cup of coffee stuck with me, and I persevered.

In 2005, I decided that if the cup of coffee would not come to Mammad (Joon), then by golly I would go to the cup of Joe, and I started what informally became known as the Java-Prize. I offered the substantial reward of $4 (per day!) to anyone who could brew the perfectest cup of coffee. Many applied, but it eventually came down to 2 candidates, Peet's, a small but well known and hardworking local coffee purveyor, and Starbucks, the better known international conglomerate. I was getting closer to my dream!

For a while I did not know who would win. Eventually I chose Starbucks, and I know, you will all say that a corporate entity merely bought the prize for it's PR value, but were you there? Do you know all the angst behind my eventual decision? Go get your own $4 and you can argue!

It does not matter who won OK?

"For soon," I thought, "Everyone will be able to enjoy a $4 cup of coffee, just like me!" Maybe not right away, maybe not at first, but it will eventually become an everyday occurrence and common people, lesser people, OK let's face it, the poor! Will be able to simply walk into a Starbucks and order a $4 cup of coffee. And if they would like an Apple Croissant, why they can darn well have that too!

After all who am I to dictate what kind of pastry the poor should enjoy. What do I look like? Marie Frickin' Antoinette? Oh wait...

Now many of you will likely say, that I should do something more useful with my $4. That if I sent it to orphanages in Iran it would help a lot more people. And that may well be true. But I want my $4 to be a symbol of the power of dreaming about helping people, not actually doing it.

For without dreams what will we have left? A semi-conscious paralyzed world, in which self indulgent people deny the impact they could have, and choose to ignore their responsibility towards the inconvenient and uglier problems of mankind?

I say Yes, er No. Wait, Uh, can we get back to dreams again, cuz I really like that part. A lot!  Comment

It's good to be a woman (in the USA)
Faramarz Fateh
September 18, 2006

Yesterday as I was browsing through the new Nordstrom catalogue, I noticed that the first 47 pages were dedicated to women, a few to children and the last 6 pages to men. It got me thinking. Most everything, with the exception of male entertainment such as topless dancing establishments, ARE really for benefit of women.

If a woman has bad skin, there are 100s of products to heal and conceal the "bad" skin. If a man has bad skin, well, he is shit out of luck. If a woman is short, she can wear 4" heels; can you imagine a guy wearing 4" heels? I agree that 99% of guys probably don't want to wear heels, but what if a guy did?

Let's talk about hair. Women can color their hair to just about any color they want. Look at the Iranian women of LA; majority are bottle blondies. I know that some young American guys die their hair. But imagine a 37 year old guy working as an investment banker dies his black hair and goes into work as a blond. I know most readers think that when a guy, like me, talks about hair color or shoe heels he is gay, transexual or a candidate for sex change operation.

Believe me, I am a middle aged hairy Iranian beast with a wife, 2 kids and chelokabob belly. There is not enough money in the federal reserve to pay for my laser hair removal to start the process of sex change. Nor will a gay guy ever look at my ass because it's just revolting. My proctologist can attest to that.

Women get facials, massages, manicures & pedicure regularly. What do men do? If a woman is in a bitchy mood, she can easily use PMS as the excuse. If a man acts like an ass, he has no excuse unless he's drunk. Even then, if he uses the drunk excuse more than once, he will be labled as an alcoholic.

Has a woman ever spent 4 months salary on an engagement ring for a guy? Has a guy ever gotten a 500SL as a thank you gift ? Has a women ever had to eat a plate full of khoreshte gheymeh which tasted like dog vomit and then say "Oh honey that was wonderful"?

Let's face it, at least here in the U.S.A., women rule. Comment

Ancient history today
Khodadad Rezakhani
September 17, 2006

From now on, anyone with an interest in Ancient Iranian history and knowledge of Persian can take advantage of a new and freely available web-based peer reviewed journal. The Bulletin of Ancient Iranian History (BAIH) is the first Persian language, academically reviewed publisher of articles and book reviews about various aspects of Ancient Iranian history and culture. The second issue of the Bulletin has just been released and contains several articles on various aspects of history and archaeology, as well as excellent book reviews and list of recently published articles about Ancient Iranian history. The Bulletin is the result of a joint venture of some of the prominent scholars of Iranian history both inside and outside Iran and is available free of charge on the internet. For those who might prefer reading their journals in print, all of the Bulletin's articles can also be accessed as printer-ready PDF format >>>

To goat or not to goat
September 14, 2006

The recent  appearance of Adam Gadahn, a young California man in turban and long beard alongside Dr. Ayman al-Zawaheri, the second banana of Al-Qaida, and Adam's invitation to all Americans to convert to Islam or perish evoked some very deep thoughts in me.  This event, in conjunction with reports of execution of a number of goat herders in villages near Baghdad on the orders of some religious authority is unsettling to the alert mind.  According to a National Public Radio report on August 7, these shepherds were executed because they failed to properly diaper their goats which allowed the animals to run around in a provocative manner. 

What makes Adam Gadahn's situation special is the intriguing similarities between him and some of the most important names in human history.  According to the media, this white boy convert to Islam grew up in his parent's home in Riverside, California where his father raises goats for a living.  This means that Adam, from the beginning and during the formative years of early childhood and eventually during the tumultuous teen years has always been in the company of goats spending countless days with them up on Riverside county mountains.  Freudian psychology informs us that such intimate co-existence creates a very especial bonding between man and goat.

Let us time travel five thousand years back to the time of Moses.  Young Moses, after falling out with his Pharaoh (Fer'own) stepfather, hits the road and gets a job as a shepherd and naturally comes in contact with the community of goats and the dynamic relationship between man and goat comes into play.  Soon afterward, Moses climbs up the mountain and upon return, declares that he is the messenger of god.  It is noteworthy that before this declaration, Moses enters into a fist fight with another man in the market place during which he beats the excrement out of the man so badly that it results in the man's instant death.  

Now let us fast forward 3500 years to the time of Mohammad in Arabian Peninsula. Again we encounter a young man whose chosen profession is goat herding and once again history is witness to the interplay between man and goat. He, too, climbs the mountain, and after spending some time, comes back as a messenger of god and conquest of the world ensues.

It is important to mention that in the interim, Jesus chose the company of lambs, that are known for their modesty in tail configuration, and whose lack of horn renders them technically non-horny.  Again, Jung would tell us that the lamb's humility correlates to Jesus' humble and amicable method for spreading the truth.

The union of man and goat has given humanity the fabulous religions and traditions of Judaism and Islam as well as conflict and strife.  It is therefore the duty of historians, theologians, philosophers, goat herders, and other deep thinkers to weigh the pros and cons of this union and tell us what is it in the character of the goat that at one end, it ignites passion and spirituality, and at the other end, it provokes the urge for worldly quests and power.  They then must tell us once and for all whether goat is benevolent or a detriment to mankind.  Womankind is another story. Comment

Rocket on Anousheh
Saman Ahmadi
September 13, 2006

My mom, who lives about 90 miles from me, recently had the satellite that receives the Iranian channels installed. I visit her on some weekends and channel-surfed through the 1001 Persian language stations a couple weeks ago.

There are the old flicks, the many music videos, the continuous plethora of rug auctions with “unbelievable prices not available anywhere”, and, of course, the myriad call-in talk shows. For all the complaining that Iranians can’t agree on anything, there sure is one thing we do well in unison – almost without exception these talk shows are full of backbiting, slander and verbal assault.

After what must be more than two decades of free expression over the airways, we still lack a culture of civil discourse. However these shows do serve as a great source for those trying to follow the Persian saying: “adab az keh aamookhti; az beeadabaan / learning manners from those without manners”.

We pride ourselves on the 2,500-year heritage of a culture that has produced great art and science and this is what we show the world we can do with freedom?

I will be walking a little taller next week when Anousheh Ansari roars into space on a Russian craft. I lived in Dallas when she and her husband ran Telecom Technologies – one of my friends worked there. In the her interview with The New Times, she said that “[a] guiding principle of her life... is a quotation from Mahatma Gandhi: ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world.’ ”

I guess I’ll just stick to watching the music videos on Iranian T.V.

There was one I especially liked, a song performed by the group Arian: “faradaa maale maast”/tomorrow is ours” – a hopeful tune with children dancing and playing.

Although, I really wished more of us would seize today – rocket on Anousheh. Comment

Shot in the dark
Guive Mirfendereski
September 13, 2006

A friend was wondering a day ago if the word "sex" has anything to do with the word "seegheh," that very familiar notion in Shi'ite Islam, which means to contract girls, women and gum-job grannies for carnal purposes of a determined or indeterminate duration. The friend signed off his inquiry by saying, that his conjuration represented a "shot in the dark."

First, a word about seegheh! Presumably the child born from such "union" is legit and that is all that the institution tries to protect. Oh, yes, as long as the chick is seegheh, her family cannot get indignant and rip off the horny bastard. Because one cannot be seegheh to more than one person, this established the monopoly of the male over the object of his affection, depriving other males from vying for her -- legally!!

What I have been able to figure out briefly is that the word "sex" in English and other languages comes from the Latin sexus. I would venture to agree with my friend that this sounds very much like the Arabic seegheh that really means "gender" in a grammatical sense. There is also the Latin word genus that is what we know in English as "genus," probably the precursor of "gene" like in genetics of these days. This "genus" is probably the root of the Arabic "jens" that also means "gender," which also in use in Farsi.

I do not know offhand what the term gender or genus would have been in Old Persian. However, my friend's point about the conjured connection between "sex" and "seegheh" being a "shot in the dark" amused me to no end. First, the word "dark" was being used in connoting sex to a practice that is truly a practice (seegheh) from the Dark Ages of Shi'ism. Secondly, and more tantalizing, is the notion that the word "dark" itself is of Persian origin, deriving from tarik, in which "t" was transformed into "d" and "i" just fell off the cliff.

While on the subject of "dark," I would like to relate to the readers the notion that the word "rouz" that means "day" in Old Persian and Farsi is the root of "Russian." According to my cousin, whom an imbecile has derided recently in a published letters on this site as a fat cat (for going to Germany with his sun-and-lion flag), Russia is named after the people called Rousse. They were called so because the Iranians called referred to them as the people from the lands of the day light. The long Russians days in the summer and the snow covered terrain in the winter both lent to this notion that the Russians were the folks from the land of daylight. Comment

Welcome to America
Siamack Baniameri
September 11, 2006

Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami was slapped with a lawsuit by a group of Iranian Jews in Los Angles and received his court order to appear in Manhattan federal court while attending a dinner party at the Council for American Islamic Relations.

Khatami was unaware that the affair was financed in part by a Jewish organization for the sole purpose of trapping and serving him the court order. According to eyewitnesses, Khatami was quickly removed from the event and ushered back to his hotel.

Khatami, like many other Iranian officials, seems to know more about America than the people who live in it. Khatami speaks as if he has lived all his life in the US and he has mastered all aspects of American social, economics and political landscape. In his speeches, Khatami thoroughly knows what is good for Americans or what chain of events will make America more reputable or unpopular in the world community.

But all deceptions aside, for the first time, Khatami was exposed to real America. On Friday night at Council for American Islamic Relations, Khatami got firsthand education on what America is really all about.

Mr. ex-president learned three important lessons. Firstly: Jews are the most organized, powerful and influential religious minority in the US -- don't fuck with them. Secondly: nobody is above the law in this country and anybody's mother can be sued. Thirdly: before attending a dinner party, check to see who's picking up the tab.

Mr. President ... welcome to America. Comment

Freshen up
September 10, 2006

Here we got at most two hundred thousands people who believe rest of the 6 billion people on this planet are dead wrong! I am speaking of Zoroastrians [See NY TImes: "Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling"]. They are so convinced of their righteousness that the main headache they have is how to avoid inter marriages in order not to dilute their sect. I mean give me a break! Now, I am not saying these are bad people or anything like that. Most likely they are very decent people with good moral values but again after few thousands years they have to freshen up.

How much mileage can you get out of "Good thoughts, good deeds, good words"? They should have realized by now that "good" is not good enough! One needs more road maps more guidelines. For starter, is stem cell research a "good" thing? If so please send a letter to White House titled "So Said Zoroaster"!

Then again there is nothing special about these folks. There are tons of other small sects out there trying to survive remorseless history at the expense of assuming rest of us being eternally misguided and doomed. Don't get me wrong: ideologies or religions with many more followers don't necessarily fair better -- they make their living by sentencing the rest of us to eternal HELL!

I think some kind of modesty is in order for all people of faith! Let's be more inclusive not exclusive! For now we are trapped on this spaceship called earth. I suggest we get along! Comment

Visit Arash's

No thank you
Guive Mirfendereski
September 8, 2006

A few days ago I received an e-mail from an Iranian studies foundation inviting me to attend an evening with the former president of the IRI, Mr. Khatami. The invitation requested an R.S.V.P. by a date certain. I have ignored the invitation. Today, I received another e-mail from another source wanting to know where to send for me an invitation to attend Mr. Khatami’s “speech.” I am assuming that the invitation is for his shindig at Harvard. I declined this invitation in as polite a way as I know how. The person at the other end then wrote back, asking “May I ask why?”

I have declined to be a part of any public or private or semi-public gathering in which the object of adoration is a member of the theofascism that rules Iran. A number of Iranians and non-Iranians transfixed by the allure of this freak show will no doubt enjoy the time with Mr. Khatami and then go and tell the world about how they were privileged to be a part of such “important” gathering and in presence of such a “divine” individual. Many may even ask him to autography a copy of many of the books that he ahs written. Vanity has no limit and among the Iranians it is found in spades.

Mr. Khatami represents a regime that does not respect the right of an individual or his/her choices in life. I have nothing to say to this person, nor am I in a dire need to hear what he has to say. I have an added reason for shunning him.

Before arriving in the US he announced that he would not allow the US authorities to subject him to the degrading treatment of fingerprinting and interrogation. By all indications, he was not fingerprinted or bothered by the US authorities. My guess is that his plane was met by a protocol officer of the Department of State, who ensured that all the formalities of entry in the US would take place very pleasantly, while he and his entourage sat in the VIP lounge sipping tea.

Shame on the US government for playing favorite with this Eye-ranian, while hundreds of other arrivals daily get searched, fingerprinted and abused in our airports just because they are Eye-ranians. Just recently a good dozen Iranian visitors arrived here with valid visas and were still fingerprinted and retuned to Iran, missing their university reunion.

A greater shame on Mr. Khatami for accepting the US favor to treat him like a human being. In solidarity with my abused people, I would have arrived with my head high, walked straight into the processing center and held out all ten digits for the inkpad. Comment

Drowning in Ethiopia
Tala Dowlatshahi
September 5, 2006

In the Amhara region of Ethiopia, Gennette, who is twenty-five years old, sits idly waiting for wheat to arrive to help feed her and her one year old. They are stranded at a local flood victim camp where they have lived for the past two weeks. Her son Tegachew is tired and cries often. The Woreta camp, just one hour north of Addis by plane, has been a centre of refuge for rice farmers and local cattlers whose roots lie in villages like Shaga, where women like Gennette's great grandmothers also worked as farmers. Her husband stayed on to save the cattle, leaving her to take care of herself and her baby on her own.

"I am tired. It is difficult to sleep here and my baby is not happy. He misses his father. I also lost my cousin. I liked her very much and we played together as children," Gennette tells me.

The torrential rains and floods have plagued the country since early August leaving over 800,000 people displaced and a reported 639 people dead. As a result of the prolonged and intensive rainfall, many local communities also suffered loss of property and crop damage. In Woreta town, hundreds of local farmers gather in tents set up by UN agencies who have partnered this past week to launch an over 18 million dollar emergency appeal to assist the flood victims.

Essential needs are vaccines and medicines to combat the rampant spread of disease including cholera, malaria and meningitis which has increased with the deadly spread of polluted water. Assistance is also greatly needed in local health facilities including to health extension workers who have also been victimized by the floods.

The tragedy is that the severe health emergency has made seeking maternal care extremely difficult for mothers and their babies.

Ethiopia is a landlocked country saddled with the one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Poverty and a lack of emergency obstetric care professionals including skilled birth attendants, has put pressure on pregnant women to deliver at home without expert care. Maternal health complications like obstetric fistula, eclampsia and sepsis are common throughout the country.

Rural communities like Gennette's, have suffered most during this disaster. Their situation is worsened because the people are also burdened with decades long poverty, poorly built homes and a lack of proper sanitation and nutrition. Comment

Why mess with a superpower?
Ben Madadi
September 5, 2006

Why is it that the Iranian regime seems so anti-American these days? Because of a lack of serious argument for this it is funny that there is a wide-spread conspiracy theory in Iran that the regime itself is actually an American plantation. The argumentation for this conspiracy theory is extremely weak but it looks as rational as the opposition to America by the Iranian regime.

The conspiracy theory goes that America feared the rise of Iran during the Shah era so they planned to bring about a regime change, as they had done with Mosaddegh, so they facilitated the success of the Islamic republic. There is no proof for this, but in the Middle East where things have always been done behind the scenes people usually don't even need a proof. They believe that the most powerful is behind almost everything. And all the evidence points to the fact that the conspiracy theory is totally wrong.

Beyond this point, there is this huge rational problem, why is the Iranian regime so much against America, especially at these times of potential trouble? A rational being would think that if the Iranian regime desires to survive then it must not hassle too much with the superpower, because it is very clear that the only external force that could destroy the regime of Iran is none but America. So why oppose this external force, instead of appeasing it? It looks mind-boggling because there isn't one single chance in the whole world that if America seriously decided to invade Iran the Iranian regime could survive. So why doesn't this relatively weak regime sit quietly and hope that the boogieman fixes Iraq one way or the other (either by really fixing it, by bringing stability, or by fixing its role there, by dropping it) and goes away. That would really be a relief for the Iranian regime.

Then again maybe what we see on TV looks irrational but there is some rationale behind all that is happening, but not as a concerted action. It is clear that Khamenei has most to fear because he would be the first target of any sort of regime change. So he would be wisest to seek some sort a desirable end for himself. But who is actually making all the noise, Khamenei, or Ahmadinejad? Surprisingly it's Mr Ahmadinejad, who hasn't done much except talk and who doesn't really have any serious role in all this.

Iran's presidents have always been quite weak. So, one really important issue here is some sort of a struggle for power, especially by Mr Ahmadinejad. He is a young ambitious man and he is smart enough to know where his chances lie. He is using all the possible ways of empowering himself, and he knows how little he has to lose. He's not really guilty of anything. He hasn't done much wrong. He has just recently been a successful spinner. It's all about Ahmadinejad's personal plans for power. The power he does not have, but he wishes for. I am sure Ahmadinejad would not say all the things he says now if he had the power, therefore anything sensible to lose.

But what about the nuclear weapons? Well, the nuclear weapons issue is not Ahmadinejad's plan. It is Khamenei's plan, but he would have done it without all the noise. Mr Khamenei has got a real power to defend, which may be worth sacrificing the whole nation, as most dictators would think. And ahmadinejad is actually making things a bit worse for Khamenei by all the noise he is creating, but yet again, these are human beings and they are usually not as smart as we think they are. And here I am referring to Khamenei rather than Ahmadinejad. Who knows what these two people think of each other anyway! Mr Ahmadinejad is ambitious enough to think about becoming a real ruler one day, but he must be really stupid to think that he can make Iran a true adversary for America. Comment

Let's talk about nuclear power
September 2, 2006

An American gets on a plane and finds himself seated next to an Iranian . He immediately turns to him and makes his move. "You know," says the American "I've heard flights will go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger. So let's talk." The Iranian who had just opened his book closes it slowly and says to the American guy, "What would you like to discuss?" "Oh, I don't know" says the guy, smiling "how about nuclear power?" "OK," says the Iranian, "that could be an interesting topic. But let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow and a deer all eat the same stuff... grass. Yet the deer excretes little pellets, the cow turns out a flat patty and the horse produces muffins of dried poop. Why do you suppose that is?" The American guy is dumbfounded. Finally he replies "I haven't the slightest idea." "So tell me," says the Iranian, "how is it you feel qualified to discuss nuclear power when you don't know shit?" Comment

Deferred dreams
Elahe Amani
September 1, 2006

The summer of 2006 marks the 18th anniversary of one of the most hideous waves of executions in Iran’s history. Let us not forget the crimes against humanity that took away and silenced thousands of the brave souls and bright young people in Iran. No one knows the exact number of political prisoners who have been executed since 1979.

But, the first decade of 1979-1989, and specifically during the summer of 1981 and 1988, Iran had one of the worst periods of human rights violations. What would happen to our collective "Deferred Dreams" for respect to human rights and human dignity? Will it explode as Langston Hughes’ poetry reminds us? (**)

Despite the tragic history, however, I have faith in humanity. I believe that one day people of Iran and the international human rights community will hold the government of Iran accountable for these crimes against humanity. As Gandhi said, "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty".

I look forward with hope and confidence to the day when the human race will respect the most basic human right, the "Right to Live " and to total eradication of all death penalty laws around the world, whether through injections, electric chairs, stonings, or fire squad executions.

The day that our dreams will not be deferred, will be the day when we actualize and realize the human rights of every person regardless of race and ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any other layer of identity that makes us so beautifully diverse. The day that our dreams will not be deferred will be the day that people are not being denied of their "Right to Live" and death penalties, honor killings, and stonings will no longer be a part of our vocabulary.

The world of our deferred dreams is possible. According to Arundhati Roy, “she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

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Book of the day

The Pursuit of Pleasure
Drugs and Stimulants in Iranian History, 1500-1900
by Rudi Matthee

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