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Opinion

DECEMBER 2005
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REGIONAL
Commonwealth

... of Iranian peoples in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucuses
Shahriar Zahedi

What strikes the first time visitor to Central Asia is the backwardness of the region as a whole. It is as if time has come to a halt. Their language, their music, their dress, and their culture resemble those of ours, but from centuries ago. It seems that at some point in history after the contact with the motherland was severed, everything stood still. The Iranian influence, however, has always been felt strongly in these regions. Iran has a great deal to gain by lending support to her kinfolk in the area. Countries like Afghanistan and Tajikistan; land-locked and devoid of much resource or infrastructure, can use Iran's economic assistance to improve their living standards. Iran can help modernize their agriculture and diversify the types of crops that are produced.

IDEAS
Wanted: Military man

Iran will remain theocratic and Pakistan quasi-secular! Unless...
Iqbal Latif

I cannot remember the number of times people make the tired prediction that Iran will have a counter-revolution within this decade whilst Pakistan will become the world's latest Sunni theocracy. It is vital to note that nowhere within the Islamic world has there been a successful revolution without crucial support of the army, it is the military that determines which and what type of government will rule the nation (since in most cases it is the only truly national institution which transcends ethnic & religious irredentism). Image of a strong man is integral to any Muslim society. From Morocco to Brunei we see quasi democracies or theocratic royalties with the exception of Turkey.

POLITICS
Promises they did not honor

Personal reflections on Iran's reform movement failures
Ali Dadpay

Why did the reform movement fail? The answer to this question varies dramatically. But there is some common consensus among my esteemed compatriots Iranians. A wide range of elites, reform activists and politicians blame Iranian people in different words. Mr. Tajzadeh, the former energetic deputy of ministry of interior, told a reported in last July that Iranian people are not citizens of Switzerland so one should not expect much. I asked the same question from a 36-year-old female physician in Tehran and she exploded: "These people do not deserve even Ahmadinejad. He is too much for them and their level of culture." Iranian people voted for Ahmadinejad -- at least 17 million of them. The others voted for him with their silence.

CHARACTER
21st century values

The Persian empire was not really anything to be proud of
Ben Madadi

As long as Iranians link their presence to a very distant huge and powerful empire, this connection bears some responsibilities as well. Mohammad Reza Shah, or the Shah as he is known in the West, was like his father, very keen in exploiting Iran's imperial past, trying to build a nation based on that lost glory. That can easily be the case for many other nations, such a Egypt, Greece, Iraq and so on. What the Shah, his father, and their then entourage actually missed (beyond the dodginess of the link between such a distant past and the modern realities of the Iranian society) was that the Persian empire was not really anything to be proud of.

MUTILATION
Kaalaaye masdoom

Damaged goods: Circumcision
Jahanshah Rashidian, translated by Ario Dadmehr

TORTURE
Masaleye shekanjeh

The issue of torture
Ramin Kamran

WORDS
Gerdu

An Iranian love affair
Guive Mirfendereski

The other day I went past the baking section of the supermarket in quest of dried walnut (Persian: gerdu) for the winter salad that I planned to build for our cherished Iranian guests. Unlike them, we hardly entertain, largely because I have such an exaggerated sense of hospitality that usually the thought of entertaining renders me paralytic for an entire day in advance. What adds to my anxiety is also that I will not accept a new invitation from the same people without first reciprocating for their last invite. It is a dance.

TRAVELERS
The logic of cab fares

Part 12: Smoldering in Tehran
Sima Nahan

One day I rode with a taxi driver of especially dignified bearing. He was about sixty years old, well spoken, with intelligent eyes. I never did find out what he did before or concurrently with driving a taxi. On our long drive from Toupkhaneh to Farmaniyyeh in stop-and-go traffic, it was I who did all the talking. I leaned my elbows on the seats in front and vented in his ear. He listened patiently. I ranted about how bad things are -- about the Islamic Republic, the U.S., war, poverty, the chaos of Tehran. I expressed my disgust at the last election, the whole lot of the presidential candidates, and the fact that election itself has become such fraud.

OPINION
Human security

Violence seems to be the language of the new era
Majid Tehranian

Nine-eleven may be thus considered as the onset of a global civil war.   The new war has no physical or moral boundaries.  It uses the latest technologies such as electronic fund transfers, wireless telephony, internet, and manned and unmanned aircraft.  In future, it may use nuclear or biological weapons.  Some have called it the struggle between an “axis of evil” against a presumed “axis of virtue.”   Others, less inclined toward Manichean dichotomies, have recognized a qualitative change in the modalities of international struggle. Wealth and income gaps within and among nations are growing. That is a recipe for increasing social and political conflict.  State and opposition terrorism is one manifestations of the current state of affairs.

OPINION
An honest look in the Persian mirror

It is simply logical that when people are taught to hate another people, the outcome is sure to be that of a Holocaust or some other kind of genocide
Steven

If the IRI, to the exclusion of all other conflicts, obsesses totally with Israel's annhilation, then one must ask the simple question: "Why?" Why such hatred by a country that is insulted if it is mistakenly referred to as an Arab country? and calls Arabs "tazis?" Why no shouting "Marg Bar Serbia" or "Marg Bar India" for example? And "Zionist landgrabbing" and "Zionist oppression" doesn't cut it as an answer. What about the Arab "landgrabbing" of the 7th century, including Iran? Where does time begin for a people to claim a right to their homeland? Is it only from the advent of Muhammad's fatah? Is it 2,000 years? 5,000? History has shown that most - if not all - nations have overrun native peoples. And certainly Arabs are not native to any country outside of the Arabian peninsula.

REVIEW
Feminist discourse

Books by Parvin Paidar & Margot Badran
Masoud Kazemzadeh

The two books under review are among an emerging body of scholarship in Middle East studies that utilize Western social scientific concepts of gender, class and ideology to challenge the aforementioned paradigms. They criticize Orientalist, modernization, and neo-Orientalist scholars for their essentialist notions of Islam. Instead, they argue that there are numerous and conflicting Islamic groups and states, and therefore, that the view of Islam as coherent and homogeneous is false. They criticize the dependency and neo-Marxist scholarship for ignoring the saliency, if not the centrality, of gender and patriarchy in the analysis of Middle Eastern polities.

POINT
The view from Farang

Iran news has become more amusing - perversely - in recent months
Alidad Vassigh

Mullahs - we may say this of them - have been consistent in their claims and pretensions. Efficient, technocratic government was never their primary concern, but it is disputable to say that Iran's main problem is too much religion. Its problems are those that affect all badly-run, dictatorial states: lack of accountability, corruption, injustice, press censorship, torture and abuse in state custody. I believe they have that all over Africa. Deceit being one of the deplorable vices of politics, some of the worst offenders in that regard have been that assortment of trash in Iran called the Left. They lie and cheat like the venomous snakes that they are, only to win power and proceed with their murderous intentions.

TRAVELERS
Modified terror

Part 11: Smoldering in Tehran
Sima Nahan

Let’s say, over the years, the reign of terror in Iran has been modified. The main target of harassment in daily life is now young people. This made my trip much more pleasant than in previous years. Gone were the days when my friends and I would be stopped and dragged to komiteh for riding in a car with members of the opposite sex. Now I sailed through checkpoints no matter whom I rode with. The gray in the hair and the offspring in the backseat are now license for relative freedom. (“Time to party... !” as a friend said.)

LIFE
Desperate husbands

Lively conversations during afternoon tea
Farrokh A. Ashtiani

While we were chatting about a clever trick by the Brits, my friend’s wife brought up the issue of human rights violations in Iran and the lack of any respect for gays and lesbians rights in Iran as has been discussed by the BBC -the voice box of the British government. A bit puzzled I asked her why is it that BBC wants to promote the gay rights in Iran, and how come nobody is advocating the heterosexual rights in Iran? Are Iranians guaranteed civil rights so much so that we can now shift our focus to gays and lesbians? This did not go well with my friend’s wife and she said that heterosexuals are the majority so they don’t need protection.

CHARACTER
The Ahmadinejad in us

A Look at Iranian anti-Jewry
Guive Mirfendereski

I am not sure what exactly is it about Mr. Ahmadinejad’s recent anti-Jewish pronouncements that grate on me. Is it his courage that speaks truth to power and all those who have turned the cause of Zionism and Jewish imperialism into a sacred cow? Or is it that he has managed to tear the curtains of hypocrisy and show to the world an elemental aspect of the psyche of majority of Iranians that is decidedly anti-Jew, if not vocal and in public, then in the quiet and private? Or is that his statements make a mockery of each of the three reasons that most Iranians of my generation always offered as evidence that Iranians are not Jew-haters.

POLITICS
Don't get us mixed up

Ahmadinejad is not, REPEAT not, the epitome of Iranian people's aspiration and their logic
Kia Atri

I read Mr Mordechai Kedar's article "Nucleotheism" last night I was amazed at the sheer lack of insight in his assertions. I reiterate Iran cannot be generalised away in the stereotypes we are accustomed to about Mid Eastern countries. This was particularly disappointing to me as generally the Israeli politicians and opinion makers are people of sober judgement. There has always been a general pragmatic intelligence which has underpinned the modus operandi of Israeli Statecraft. Let us hope that despite Mr Kedar's very professional credentials and academic standing he will not wield any where near the kind of influence when he is under this level of misconception.

POLITICS
Benaame etehaad baraaye tafragheh

Iranian opposition's meeting for unity in Berlin brings more discord
Hassan Behgar

POLITICS
Specific threats

What should worry Israel is that political events in Tehran are now being managed by one of the biggest and most belligerent enemies of Israel in Iran's political history, whose influence has started to expand in Gaza and the West Bank
Meir Javedanfar

Ahmadinejad's ability to shock the international community with his controversial statements has left many, including those in Iran flabbergasted. Dr Ahmadinejad is an ideologue. He in not however, as many like to believe, an uncontrollable extremist who says what feels good, without thinking about the consequences. Since his first “Israel must be eliminated” speech, Ahmadinejad has had a target audience in mind. The recent assault against Israel in which he called the Holocaust a “myth” also had a specific target, albeit a different one from his first verbal assault. This time Ahmadinejad was applying his tried and tested electioneering for the other important countries of the region, who are about to start voting, namely Iraq and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

IDEAS
Recognition vs. acceptance

Islamic discourses on ‘homosexuality’
Maziar Shirazi

A look at some of these factors, coupled with an understanding of how sexuality is conceptualized in Islamic discourses, show that same-sex relations have until relatively recent times had accepted niches in cultures of the Islamic world.  Trying to encompass all manifestations of gay and grey-area sexuality in Islam would certainly not do justice the topic at hand; for this reason, I shall limit my discussion to the scope of relevant background information surrounding the pre-Islamic world, pederasty (as opposed to alternative male sexualities as well as female and transgendered practices), the Qur’an, and certain Sunni juridical and non-juridical discourses encompassing the issue of same-sex desire and relations.

IMMIGRATION
First the bad news

New U.S. law targets Iranians and other Immigrants -- if passed
Raha Jorjani

There is a new law before Congress that will have a devastating impact on Iranian immigrants.  In 1996, there was a wave of new legislation that expanded the kinds of crimes that would make non-citizens deportable and made detention mandatory for many.  The effects of the anti-immigrant 1996 laws are still being deeply felt by immigrant communities. But just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse... they did.  Today, there is a new bill, HR 4437, that immigrant rights advocates are calling the most dangerous piece of legislation that they have seen since 1996.  

TRAVELERS
The American's visit

Part 10: Smoldering in Iran
Sima Nahan

While the American husband waited in Istanbul, Roya applied for his visa in person in Tehran. I accompanied her on a couple of her many visits to the Foreign Ministry. In all fairness, getting a visa for an American to visit Iran was much more transparent and less humiliating -- and costly -- than getting a visa for an Iranian to visit the U.S. (This is noteworthy, since it is the president of United States who makes threats against Iran and not vice versa.) Roya’s frequent visits to the Foreign Ministry warmed the officials to her and expedited things. Calls from family members to the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul helped with last minute logistics. It is still sometimes possible to humanize bureaucratic processes in the Iranian system.

OPINION
Nucleotheism

Divinely authorized nuclear proliferation
Mordechai Kedar

There is a current universal concern to understand Iran’s activities in the nuclear sphere and, at the same time, the declarations of the country’s president on the destruction of Israel. For the Western observer, these pose several difficult questions: How is it that the Iranians fail to hear the powerful voices demanding the termination of their nuclear program? How can they fail to see the progression of steps being taken against them? How can they fail to fear a fate similar to that of Saddam Hussein? And if they do hear and see and understand all these developments, what is it that motivates them to persist in following this path in spite of their position which day by day becomes more problematic? And what motivates president Ahmadinajad of Iran, in such a complex situation, to voice declarations on “a world without Israel” and “the transfer of Israel to Europe”?

LIFE
Religious -- or not

I know He does exist. I just cannot believe in religion.
Mahnaz Zardoust-Ahari

Every day it seems, though not literally, I am inundated with the idea that if you do not have a religion then you are not normal. Well, I guess I'm not normal. Growing up the way I did, I had a viewpoint from both sides. My mother is an American woman and my father is Iranian. I learned about both Christianity from my mother and Islam from my father, but to be honest I never saw the difference between the two. I have asked people of both faiths to explain to me the differences and I have yet to find one person to give me a clear-cut difference. Now maybe I asked the wrong people or maybe I didn't ask the right questions. The one thing I did find on my endless quest, was that every religious person is the same. I'm not saying this as a bad thing; I'm saying it as a fact. They all are strong in their convictions and they are always determined to explain to you how you are wrong in what you believe.

ETYMOLOGY
Narangi and Porteghal

Bowlful of fruity meaning, Part 2
Guive Mirfendereski

The narangi (variation: narengi) that adorns my fruit bowl this time of year is also a perennial favorite. As a child, I often raided the hospitality room and polished bowlful of the fruit in short order. In Istanbul, I recall, I’d eat an entire bagful of the stuff on the way back from the market! There is no single meaning for narangi in English. Take your pick from among mandarin, tangerine, clementine and others and, as the line from a Billy Joel song paraphrases, “it is all narangi to me!” There reason for this is simple. The Occidental names for this fruit rely on the distinguishing marks of geography (places of origin like China or Tangiers) or the people who developed or introduced a particular variety (such as the French missionary in Africa, Father Clement). But in Persian the fruit narangi gets its name from one thing that all narangis, regardless of origin, share -- the color orange.

HOMOSEXUALITY
Beyond bounds

A brief history of male homosexuality in Islamic culture
Keyan Keihani

The lack of consistent information pertaining to Islam and homosexuality is generating a global indifference in a world where gender norms are deeply internalized. The modern attitude in Islamic countries has not been constructively explored, let alone recognized through a homosexual perspective. In this paper, I will confer the historical significance regarding homosexuality and analyze the contemporary dynamics of gays in Saudi Arabia and Iran while exploring the belief that it is not the existence of same-sex sexual relations that is new, but rather their association with essentialist sexual identities. Furthermore, I will derive parallels from within the Saudi Arabian and Iranian penal codes and note their prevalence with regards to Islamic law.

IDEAS
Divine mass psychology

Ali Shariati haunts the reform movement even today
Kia Atri

The accepted wisdom on Ali Shariati is that he was a Muslim Reformist intellectual; he is even known as the Martin Luther of Shia Islam or the precursor of Islamic Protestantism. The motion presented to this forum by this essay is that Shariati was a despicable cultist and charlatan. The political grouping ideologically closest to Shariati namely the Mojahedin Khalgh has displayed disturbing signs of this cult like behaviour. This is no accident there is a clear cut reason for this. We will explore those reasons here.

IDEAS
Helping hand

Giving women inside Iran a fair chance to gain their rights
Golbarg Bashi

Seeing those bruised women that day in Shiraz (my mother’s hometown), who looked at me with a glimmer of hope, shattered my solid none-conformist secular dogma, it broke my heart, thinking of it even 2 years on makes me sob uncontrollably and crushes my soul. It was in the tears of those innocent women, in their heart-rending pleas in my own mother’s Shirazi accent that I re-realised that comforting, bandaging and saving these women, women who cannot immigrate to Canada or Sweden, even if I have to do it by operating in a gender-apartheid is worth it all. Of course we can do more, and we are doing more, in almost every field and outside the realm of religion too. How wonderful would it not be if we could unite in solidarity and strengthen our joint-efforts to help our fellow sisters?

IDEAS
The cry of a shattered crescent

In their zest to overwhelm Muslims the Pan-Islamists continually failed to align their movement with reality ensuing its collapse
Iqbal Latif

Oft voiced is the fear of an austere or revivalist form of Islam sprouting in the dark tropics of Sub-continent and South East Asia, threatening to overwhelm the pluralism which once existed. Iranian revolution triggered huge revival of political Islam, the Sunnis not to be devoured by Ayatollah's created their version of extremism, it turned out to be much more virulent and much more violent. Iran, as I will argue in a following article, is not experiencing "revivalist Islam" or "Pan-Islamism" rather it is merely following its organic evolution dictated by its unique historical and cultural characteristics.

IRAN
Young, mature and bold

Interview with Majid N.: An image of Iran's youth
Fariba Amini

What do students hope for the future?
I am not sure what most students want or if they are after the same thing but from their slogans and their organizational structure I can say they despise the current mafia currents, and look down on party or factional business. As you are aware, we don't really have any type of functional parties in Iran. In other words, they are in a way tired of political engagement. What I can say for sure is that most students in Iran, like the rest of the world, want a future of hope, stability, peaceful atmosphere, work, employment, good relationships, and marriage. Because none of the above exists, the young people are quite unhappy and want to change the current status quo.

TRAVELERS
A slow night at Mehrabad airport

Part 9: Smoldering in Iran
Sima Nahan

“Asghar,” called a driver to another who had just pulled in, “come give this haj agha a ride back to Jeddah.” The haj agha (technically a man who has gone to Mecca, but liberally applied in Iran) was a tall man with a formidable belly in a long white djalaba. He was followed at demure distance by half a dozen black cones whose heavy veils with barely a slit at the eyes identified them as female. Their ease of movement signified their age. As the great patriarch strutted about, a couple of teenage boys in jeans and T-shirts -- sons and brothers of the black cones, presumably -- handled the family luggage. The Iranian cabbies snickered at the sight. “I wonder why they come here,” one said. “Well, for them Tehran is Paris,” said another.

CRASH
Flying nowhere

The C-130 transport plane that crashed into an apartment building near Mehrabad was a first rate catastrophe
Mahmoud Ghaffari

The other day I was in one of the Boeing buildings that houses the C-130 Avionics Modernization program for the fleet of C-130 “Hercules” that is in service around the world.  Boeing is under contract with Lockheed Martin to upgrade the analog displays to an all digital format for all the C-103C, J and E in operation with the US air force and ultimately to their other clients around the globe. As I was looking at some of the data and the program’s technological advancement, it prompted me to think about the ageing and dilapidated state the 15 or so Hercules that are in service with the Iranian Air force are. 

CRASH
On the wings of anger

The C-130 transport plane that crashed into an apartment building near Mehrabad was a first rate catastrophe
Guive Mirfendereski

Every culture has its icons. In mine, a special place is reserved for the fellow known to my generation as Asqar Taragheh (Asqar, the Firecracker). The allusion is to a character who blows his lid not unpredictably often at the end of a frustrating sequence of events and particularly when there is a failed or futile argument. The one who is habitually quick or prone to anger is also an Asqar Taragheh. When it comes to vehicular accidents in Iran, eight out of ten male drivers involved in an accident become Asqar Taragheh. The scenes of fisticuff, chokehold and shouting are common.

POLL
2005 Iranians of the year

Akbar Ganji and...
Survey results

TRAVELERS
Uncivil society

Part 8: Smoldering in Iran
Sima Nahan

The government notwithstanding, a major problem of building civic culture in Iran is the widespread absence of civility. People litter with complete ease as they call others heyvan for doing the same thing. Restaurant owners and staff ignore the patrons’ unanimous complaint of deafeningly loud music once the food orders are made. Traffic regulations are for the birds.

MEDIA
God I love this station

Rang-a-rang TV is a true paragon of quality, commitment and conscience in media
Pullniro

It's been almost 6 years since Los Angeles-based radios and TVs are broadcasting for Iran. All these years we have been witnessing things that no other nation in this world has ever experienced. We have seen hosts from one station fighting with their competitors using four-letter-words, TV owners begging for money to FREE us from the current regime, artists being lashed out because they had given the advertisement of their upcoming concerts to rival stations, singers, lyricists and composers attack each others over business-related issues and so on. Sometimes these conflicts take place inside a single TV station and one host attacks the other and accuses him of selling his country down the river. Among all these stations, however, there is a brand-new phenomenal TV...

IRI
Ahmadinejad’s ultimate moment

Ahmadinejad's campaign against corruption is more popular amongst the poor than any of his other policies regarding Israel, the US or even the nuclear program
Meir Javedanfar

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is one of the products and symbols of the longest struggles in Iranian history. The struggle in question is so old that it even outlasts the Iraq vs. Iran hostilities, which started in the early 70s and culminated in the bloody eight year war between the two countries. This struggle is so popular and emotive that it lead to mass demonstrations and coups years before the Islamic revolution of 1979. The struggle in question is that of Iran's class struggle. The rich vs poor. The haves vs. The have nots. The underclass in Iran have been ignored for centuries, yet they have not sat silent. They have taken every opportunity to try and make their mark on Iran's future and political direction.

OPINION
Neither this nor that

Neither regime change nor a deal with US: support the protest movements
Ardeshir Mehrdad

The US policy of giving prominence to Iran’s nuclear programme, notwithstanding all its negative consequences and its potential to create one crisis after another, is mostly an excuse to continue sabre-rattling with the clerics in power in Iran, similar to the kind of excuses that led to the war and occupation of Iraq. The fact that a nuclear Iranian regime will have greater bargaining power to use as a lever to confront direct military threats is not the same as saying the regime will be a threat to the greatest military power in the world, with its huge capacity to counter.  Nor is it plausible to think that Iran poses a real danger to the US’s regional client states. The real motive behind Bush’s insistence in dragging the Iranian regime to the Security Council and threats of economic sanctions should be sought elsewhere.

PSYCHOLOGY
Ravan va emam zaman

Ahmadinejad's mental state and a spike in messianic claims
Author/source unknown

LANGUAGE
Bowlful of fruity meaning

Part I: Etymology of Anar
Guive Mirfendereski

This is the time of the year when the fruit bowl that sits atop the eating counter in my kitchen begins to reflect the autumnal colors outdoors. In this still life the color orange is represented by the seedless narengi (tangerine), the mellowing bananas provide the browning yellow. But dominating it all in color and presence is the anar (pomegranate). I love pomegranate. Unlike any other fruit, perhaps with the exception of coconut or pineapple, it requires labor and precision in bringing its marvelous rewards to the lips. And, boy, is it ever worth it!

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