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Opinion

AUGUST 2005
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IDEAS
Soroushism

Or lack of intellectual integrity: The old story of Islam and democracy
Sudabeh Siavashan

DEMOCRACY
Where we are

Report on the extent of freedom in Iran
Freedom House

Iranians cannot change their government democratically. The most powerful figure in the Iranian government is the Supreme Leader (Vali-e-Faghih), currently Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei; he is chosen for life by the Assembly of Experts, a clerics-only body whose members are elected to eight-year terms by popular vote from a government-screened list of candidates. The Supreme Leader is commander in chief of the armed forces and appoints the leaders of the judiciary, the heads of state broadcast media, the commander of the IRGC, the Expediency Council, and half the members of the Council of Guardians. Although the president and parliament are responsible for designating cabinet ministers, the Supreme Leader exercises de facto control over appointments to the ministries of Defense, the Interior, and Intelligence.

EDUCATION
Teach your kids

Why it matters to know about Africa and the rest of the world?
Daniel Patrick Welch

there is often a palpable resistance, a sort of willful ignorance -- almost a vehemence -- against knowing too much about the continent in whose exploitation we share such a disturbing complicity. From our parents' generation, there is an understandable, if a bit ugly, fuzziness about The Dark Continent. There were no "countries" -- no concern whatsoever, and the resulting violence is perversely used as "evidence" that such people cannot govern themselves. Popular culture sustained and deepened the official myths, if African managed to register at all on the cultural radar.

DEMOCRACY
Islam vs Democracy

It is Islam that poses a formidable challenge to democracy
Lawrence Reza Ershaghi

In a society, where everyone has a right to believe according to their own standards, everyone in effect has a right to be wrong. The thesis that all points of view are equally valid is clearly ridiculous. The absence of permanent values leads to hedonism, making pleasure the greatest attainable good. And we see this today in America, freedom translates to the glorification of satisfying one's carnal desires. What then is the difference between humans and animals? Thus, freedom becomes the freedom to pursue self-destructive tendencies. This is in utter contradiction with the Islamic injunction of "enjoin the good and forbid the wrong."

OPINION
Heaven: Here or thereafter?

Free yourselves of religious tyranny, go for secular democracy
Vida Kashizadeh

In the last 4-5 centuries however Islam has turned intellectually uninteresting which is what it shares with the fundamentalists of other faiths. There is a lack of capacity for open discussions and an intolerance of differing opinions. This in turn is the fruit of irrationality caused by the unquestioning submission to dogma. It is time for Islam to either take the steps towards reform and adjust to the times or become passé within the next four decades with of course a lot of bloodshed in between. So why not declaring Jihad for peace and the building of heaven on earth before landing on the eternal one?

TAHLIL
Dar haashiyeh

Balance of forces following Ahmadinejad's election
Ali Tahlili

OBSERVATIONS
Crouching camel, hidden dragon

America should be more wary of China than the Islamic world
Mahinn Bahrami

There was a certain bubbling excitement brewing inside me just waiting to burst. He looked at my face then looked down and with a big thumping sound made his mark on the page. The stamp was in Chinese and I guessed the translation to be "Permit to Enter People's Republic of China". I grabbed my passport and happily passed the customs officer to the other side of the gate. I was in a communist country, for the first time, and it was the most exhilarating experience.

IDEAS
Not private anymore

Contempt for Aramesh Doustdar has nothing to do with his atheism
Ahmad Sadri

From what I "have" read of man's work, I can discern the following: Doustdar has made a career on the claim that thinking is impossible in Iran and in Persian because of our subservience to religion. Fine. Let's say the impossibility is so dense that even Mr. Doustdar can't see through it to offer us one original thought in Persian -- no, the "very original" thought that thinking is impossible doesn't count. So, where is his contribution to Western philosophy in other languages that he has putatively mastered? Where are his volumes in German or French on Kant and Hegel and Heidegger?

IDEAS
Dumbtellectuals

The Islamic Republic of Iran will give way to democracy not *because* of our great thinkers and intellectuals, but in spite of them
Anonymous

People created the constitution of the United States at a time when the ultimate imaginable position of freedom and power was to be British and a loyal subject of the king. A time when slavery was an accepted fact of life. A time when a great man like Alexander Hamilton would get into a *duel* with the vice president and die. And yet, their writings and arguments show that they were far ahead of our most elite Iranian intellectuals of TODAY!

POLITICS
Obedient soldier

Strongest point of contention for me is the link between Ahmadinejad's supposed popularity and his proposed economic planning
Roozbeh Shirazi

I feel you are doing some image-repairing for Ahmadinejad. It's genius to claim to be a populist while pocketing untold billions of dollars that rightly belong to the Iranian public. Ahmadinejad's unfortunate victory is the latest symbol of Iranians' knee-jerk resistance to their oppressive government, and is devoid of legitimacy to the 45% of the eligible voting population that did not partake in the elections. Why reinvent an obedient regime soldier as a populist hero battling neo-liberal forces?

LANGUAGE
Ezdehaame mafaahim

Politics & words
Mohammad Ghaed

OPPOSITION
Adame khoshoonat betanhaaee kaarsaaz neest

Inadequacies of a purely non-violent strategy
Manuchehr Jamali

RIGHTS
Civilized indifference

Akbar Ganji could have been in Istanbul and receive more public sympathy
Farrokh A. Ashtiani

The Islamic Regime is in fact supporting and promoting Ganji’s hunger strike for one important fact -- to prove to the Iranians inside the country and most importantly to show to the thousands of Iranians abroad that “you have no voice and power.” The British have proved to us repeatedly that we can only mourn our heroes and we never get a chance to raise them to the pedestal of leadership, because first they get assassinated and most importantly we prefer shedding tears for a disaster than the elation of success. This is the doctrine of the Iranian version of Islam.

LIFE
You need a hug

... to fathom the existence of a great marriage
Sanaz Khalaj

Have you ever thought that a revolution may have had something to do with the psyche and therefore downfall of some Iranian marriages? Not to mention, Iranian women who've come to this country and have become more successful than their husbands, that is the main reason my mom's friends have divorced -- so add these criteria to your statistics. People like you -- who marry for the wrong reason(s), will end up middle-aged, divorced, and unhappy. The only time anyone should get married is when and only when they are ready. I am getting married in 2 weeks and I couldn't be more thrilled and excited, because I'm marrying my best friend.

IDEAS
Destiny unfolds

All systems harbor their own seeds of destruction and will sooner or later give birth to their own opposites
Arash Sayedi

I'd like to remind my brethren in arms that this is a crucial point in our history. With effort we can transform this time into a hinge at which our fate could turn a new page and give us the opportunity to freely create our own destiny on the blank canvas of tomorrow. The enemy is weak and retreating. Its cause forever lost and its roots exposed. This is the time to strike. This is the time for dealing hammer after sledge hammer of philosophical blows to the roots of this evil which has for so long befallen our proud nation.

CIRCUMCISION
Damaged goods

A child’s right to maintain the integrity of his/her healthy body should not be violated
Jahanshah Rashidian

The foreskin protects the glands of sexual organs. Thus the foreskin is an essential part of human sexual anatomy. The foreskin is a sensitive, functional organ with a rich concentration of blood vessels and nerve endings to keep the glands soft, moist and sensitive. The general studies have proved that all individuals, regardless of religion or gender, who have genital cutting imposed upon them as unconsenting children, bear different degrees of physical, sexual or psychological wounding.

POLITICS
Not that bad

To millions of voters of modest means, Ahmadinejad symbolizes resistance to the anti-democratic global free-trade elite with whom the relatively secular reform movement has aligned itself
Rostam Pourzal

There is a quite modern side to his grassroots popularity, too, that stresses non-dependent national development. Like the French and Dutch rejection of the proposed EU constitution earlier this summer, Ahmadinejad's landslide win was a vote for authenticity and against forced globalization. At a time when rational science is trashed in America by fundamentalist evangelicals tied to the White House, Ahmadinejad won on a platform promising to double the already exploding public funding for advanced scientific research.

POLITICS
Blood-less coup

New-conservatives, regime crisis and political perspectives in Iran
Ardeshir Mehrdad and Mehdi Kia

What is totally unprecedented is what took place in June. The world witnessed structural, nation-wide and highly organised deception, led from the apex of the pyramid of power in favour of one candidate that took not just the world, but a large section of the ruling elite of Iran by surprise. The shape and scope of this scheme was such that it would not be an exaggeration to state that Ahmadinejad, a commander in the Revolutionary Guards Corps, took over the presidential palace through a blood-less coup or as revolutionary guard commander Zolqadr said afterwards "in a complex way ... and [through] multi-layered planning".

LIFE
'Til time do us part

The diminishing bond of Iranian marriage
Hamid Karimianpour

It is not a secret that many Iranians who live abroad have fallen prey for the ever-increasing divorce rate. One has to ask: does marriage still offer a perfect arena for mutual love, happiness, and fortune? Or do the transformations of the twenty-first century necessitate a call for casting a new light on marriage and relationship? Approaching this question is likely to offend the readers. However, the purpose here is not to ridicule anyone who chooses to marry, but to instigate a debate on this very important issue.

LESSONS
Miraase Mossadegh

Mossadegh's legacy and today's struggle for a secular democracy
Ramin Kamran
Full text pdf

RELATIONS
Which side are you on?

When it comes to relatives and members of the family, we are often judged based purely on which side we belong to
Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani

We are so selective with relatives that we pick sides and make sure each person sticks to their own side. Not only do we have a particular name for each relative, when we mention them, the undertone in our voices carries enough weight to define a few priorities. While to the rest of the world, an aunt may be just an aunt -- be it the sister of one’s mother, a sister of father or the wife of an uncle -- to a true Persian there are distinctions that cannot and will not be overlooked. To an Iranian each aunt has a special place and while we respect them all, they have to stay where we place them and no trespassing is allowed. Of course, the same goes for uncles, and most certainly, applies to in-laws.

RIGHTS
Standing up

... against the corrupt system that has ruled our country for the past 26 years
Amir Nasiri

Ganji is letting us know that nothing is more beautiful than a man who stands for what he believes. He is trying to tell us that we should have the courage to stand up against the corrupt system that has ruled our country for the past 26 years. He is trying to tell us that we should find the courage and expose the cruel acts and atrocities committed by this regime. He is telling us that we should speak for everyone in Iran, who is suffering in the hand of the mullahs.

REVIEW
The transparent sphinx

Political biography and the question of intellectual responsibility
Afshin Matin-Asgari

Abbas Milani’s The Persian Sphinx is an ambitious and sophisticated undertaking, easily the most outstanding example in the genre of twentieth-century Iranian political biographies. Moreover, its controversial topic, engaging style, and readable prose make it appealing and accessible to an audience beyond academia. Any such work is by definition controversial and provocative, but Milani’s book requires special critical attention because of its potential impact, particularly on the non-specialist public at large. While it has much merit, The Persian Sphinx is ultimately a disappointing work because Milani has injected strong doses of political bias into his historical reconstruction.

IDEAS
Demanding criticism

Aramesh Dustdar's sentences are pure delight, wonder and excitement on top of enlightenment
Abdee Kalantari

Aramesh Dustdar belongs to the same generation of Tehran's academic "philosophers" in the early 1970's, people like Shayegan, Davari, Enayat, Nasr and a few minor figures around them, who were thinking within the same problematic/ discourse that Ahmad Fardid (via Al-e-Ahmad) laid its parameters out: the destiny of our culture against the onslaught of Western civilization; questions of History (capital H), faith, modern science and technology and what lays ahead, our future in the world. Aramesh Dustdar was the black sheep of the gang, the antichrist among the gatekeepers of Hekmat-e-Elaahi.

RIGHTS
Kar shodeem

Why the lack of response to the public hanging of two boys?
Bita

What I am alluding to is the response, or lack of, to the public hanging of two young men or should I say boys, Mahmoud Asgari (16) and Ayaz Mahroni (18) at time of their execution, July 19, 2005 in Mashad, Iran. This is after serving fourteen months in prison, probably enduring more than the 280 lashes for theft, disturbing public order, and consuming alcohol. They were accused of raping another boy a few years younger than them who at the time was 13-years old. And I wonder why I haven’t heard from the people of the Iranian diaspora whether in self imposed exile, refugees, intellectuals, and millionaires speaking out against the atrocity of this act. What about this case creates such a void? Is there confusion as to the veracity of its injustice? Why the silence?

DIPLOMAT
Signed, sealed & delivered

Casting the affirmative vote for Iran in approving the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948
Fereydoun Hoveyda

It was past midnight December 10, 1948, in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations, in the Palais de Chaillot, place du Trocadero in Paris. The President 's tired voice pattered in the microphone: "52 in favor, none against, 8 abstentions. Adopted ". The rasping of his gavel was covered by a burst of applause, mainly in the public and press areas. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights had just been approved. As a the Iranian delegate looking back at that historic night I can affirm with absolute certainty that despite what cynics believed in 1948, events have vindicated the Declaration. Rights are as global as the economy and the flow of information.

LETTER
Make the dream come true

Bloggers write an open letter "To the people of Iran" offering a new strategy to achieve democracy

OPINION
Who's calling who a nuclear threat?

Now, what happens if I say that the fact that the U.S. has built 67,500 nuclear missiles from 1951 to the present makes me nervous?
Tahereh Aghdassifar

The idea that Iran may possibly have a very limited number of nuclear arms in ten years makes everyone a bit jumpy, but no one questions the reasons behind the U.S. holding so much nuclear power. Again, if it were up to me, no one would have nuclear arms, but slowly I've learned to give up on some of my more idealistic views, and now I'm left with the question of why. Why is it okay for the West to hold "weapons of mass destruction" but not Iran? Are we worried that in Iran the weapons may fall into the wrong hands? That perhaps terrorists will acquire some of these nuclear weapons?

OPINION
Divine violence

Scratch the surface of a Radical Islamic society and you will witness its antithesis deeply permeating its every aspect
Ardeshir Mehrdad and Yassamine Mather

The pan-Islamist movement opposes democracy in all its forms. The movement’s beliefs, class make-up and historic direction come together to reject popular sovereignty and the right of the people to determine their own destiny by majority vote. It is forced to locate the right of sovereignty above the heads of ordinary people, to make it the overarching authority that must resolve the movement’s internal and external contradictions. Divine rule, where all rights belong to god, is the only realm where there are no tensions and dissent. And it is only the divine that can give away this or that right on earth to the chosen people - whether the Islamists in question wear clerical or civilian apparel.

RIGHTS
Haghighat-e oryan

The plain truth about Akbar Ganji and my disrobing at the Berlin conference
Parvaneh Hamidi

OPINION
Neo-leftists

The left's vision of Iran
Bahram Moghisi

What is the proper attitude within the left vis-a-vis American power? In her article, Naheed Rasa asks rhetorically, "Can we use American power to promote democracy in the region?"   However, "leftist" may be a misleading term by which to designate one who poses this rhetorical question. The right label would be "neo-conservative." Remember, the neo-conservatives were a movement of leftists and democrats who, despite their progressive social agenda, were disenchanted with the left's refusal to support the use of American power to spread "America's democratic values" abroad by coercive means.

DEMOCRACY
Left out

Why is the liberal/leftist discourse of the West incapable of including Iranian voices of freedom and democracy?
Naheed Rasa

Let me make this threat even more clear and even more frightening: If the Left/Liberal discourse does not address the concerns of Iranian movements for justice, democracy and freedom, it is very likely that these movements will be attracted, at least for tactical purposes, towards policies offered by Conservatives. And this does not appear to be a temporary situation. In fact, Akbar Ganji may well die one of these days, but even if he is saved, there will be others like him in the near future, and as long as our "natural allies" pay no attention to such events, we will witness the strengthening of the Conservative discourse in our midst.

OIL
New Oil Disorder

Purge in Iran oil sector would rob industry from its experienced decision-makers
Reza Bayegan

If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would embark on another purge and get rid of what he calls ‘mafias of power’ he will deprive the oil sector of people who, irrespective of their ethical standing have gained invaluable experience over the past two decades. This cannot be but disastrous for the Iranian oil industry. The dilemma he faces is that defenestrating an experienced, albeit corrupt management, who are the people he is going to replace them with? Where is he going to come up with a new team?

RIGHTS
Dying for democracy

Akbar Ganji and the movement for freedom and an end to religious rule
Jahanshah Javid

Akbar Ganji is dying in a hospital in Tehran. He is not a prophet. He is not calling for a revolution. He is not doing George Bush a favor. He is a man who speaks his mind and is willing to die for it. But he must not die. We must do everything we can to force the authorities to let him go home. This is the democratic fight of the Iranian people. This is how democracies are built, by the people for the people, not by American soldiers for Uncle Sam.

RIGHTS
Portland's hunger strike

... in honor of Akbar Ganji
Goudarz Eghtedari

As a freelance journalist myself, I and a group of other concerned citizens in Portland, I have started a limited hunger strike as of Friday afternoon in the South Park Blocks in front of the Portland State University's library, as the sacred place of Book and Pen, in honor of Akbar Ganji and in solidarity with his wife and children who are going to be sitting in front of the United Nations' office in Tehran at the same time.

OBSERVATIONS
Crouching camel, hidden dragon

America should be more wary of China than the Islamic world
Mahinn Bahrami

There was a certain bubbling excitement brewing inside me just waiting to burst. He looked at my face then looked down and with a big thumping sound made his mark on the page. The stamp was in Chinese and I guessed the translation to be "Permit to Enter People's Republic of China". I grabbed my passport and happily passed the customs officer to the other side of the gate. I was in a communist country, for the first time, and it was the most exhilarating experience.

INTERNET
Finding god with blinkers on

They don't want us to look out the windows through the Internet, because maybe we will find the Truth
Daryan

Somewhere there is a problem and they know it and we know it. And I think that is what they fear; the possibility that the Koran maybe does not contain solutions to all our problems, and Sharia law does not create a perfect society. And because they are afraid they don't want us to look out the windows through the Internet, because maybe we will find the Truth. And maybe we will find many different channels and many different paths to God. And when enough of us do find the Truth they will no longer be able to claim a monopoly on the Truth.

REFORM
Baazandegaan

Reformists biggest losers in presidential election
Ramin Kamran

KURDISTAN
Mad in Mahabad

Recent uprising in the Eastern part of Kurdistan might be counterproductive if it loses peaceful character
Kamal H. Artin

The story of Shoan Qaderi, who was killed, hung from the back of a vehicle, and dragged in the streets of Mahabad recently is a clear example of this necrophilic culture and use of terror. What happened to Qaderi, for whatever reason, suggests that Eastern Kurdistan is under the control of extremists with a very deviant mind set. Clearly demanding any natural rights in Iran is a dangerous challenge and might be suppressed very brutally with bloodshed. It is worse than fighting with a stick against creatures infected with rabies. I am wondering how one could reason with or neutralize the behavior of such extremists except with a coordinated international force or with passivity.

INTERNET
The yellow triangle

Who will be responsible for the consequences of restricting internet access in Iran?
Karan Reshad

The issue of filtering in Iran goes beyong children and the danger of pornography. The important matter is the harm done to many individuals, particularly researchers. Why are some news and cultural websites, as well as community sites like Orkut.com, blocked? Is filtering compatible with human rights? Filtering encompasses all individuals. It blocks the researcher as well as the casual internet surfer. This is not a fair formula.

HUNGER STRIKE
Iran's Don Quixote

Akbar Ganji has defied that claim and forced us to reflect on the glaring disconnect between what we say we want and what we are willing to do for it
Roozbeh Shirazi

I have heard different people questioning whether Ganji's death will be in vain and what his struggle will actually accomplish. Is he our Don Quixote, foolishly dedicating his existence to fighting windmills and for a cause unappreciated by the rest of us? Considering the levels of apathy and hopelessness that characterize the vast majority of Iranians both in and out of Iran, Ganji indeed seems to be an outlier, an anachronism no one can relate to--a general fighting without an army. Put bluntly, Akbar Ganji may die at any moment and it still doesn't change a thing. But his death will not be in vain.

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