* Where we are
Shirin Ebadi represents a set of values
shared by a great majority of Iranians. She is liberal. She is
secular. She is moderate. She is moral. She understands and respects
human dignity. These are all the things you and I and almost every
Iranian deeply believe in.
Some ask how can such a decent and courageous person survive
this long within the Islamic Republic? I don't know. But one image
came to my mind and that is of a chadori woman and her
little girl dressed like a Barbie doll.
Walk inside a park in any city in Iran and you will see very
religious-looking families with young children dressed-up
in cute Western clothes. And you wonder, is this what they really
want to look
like, but can't,
for religious reasons?
Shirin Ebadi represents all that is good in us. Intellectually,
we belong to the same age, that is, our version of the
Age of Reason. But there's a thick layer of religious dogma we
still have too shed. Old useless skin will peel off, easily.
-- Jahanshah Javid
* 3,800 Mojaheds
I was just listening to Rumsfeld testifying about the abuse of
prisoners in Iraq. He
mentioned that there are currently about 11,000 people in U.S.
detention on Iraqi soil. Then he noted that the number is actually
lower, because 3,800 of them are MEK members, who are
not really under criminal detention.
For the longest time people have been guessing the size of Mojahedin
Khalgh forces in Iraq. Now we know. It's more than I had imagined.
I wonder what's going through their mind these days; Iranians in
limbo in Iraq, men and women thirsty for molla blood and only one
very very very determined mission in life..
-- Jahanshah Javid
* Ayatollah Choochoo
This banner, in Tehran I presume, reads: "If
you have to choose between taking the plane or the train, you
should choose the
train. -- Great Leader" >>> See
Photo taken by?
-- Photo sent by Ramin T
* Iranians rule (Las Vegas)
Following statistics maybe of interest to your readers
(source is strategic marketing department of a large Casino holding
company in Las Vegas):
Money spent per player per visit by ethnicity
(German was #50 in the top 50 list)
Number of visits per year
Number of players who gamble over $25,000 per visit per 1,000
Player by gender
1) Filipina (48% female)
2) Mexican (43%)
3) Iranian (39%)
4) Vietnamese (34%)
Most popular table games for Iranians (Male players)
1) Black Jack
Most popular table games for Iranians (Female players)
1) Black jack
In total, Iranians gamble $194 million per year in legal gambling
win-loss ratio not available).
-- Manouchehr Mehrparvar, Los Angeles
* You go girls!
Looks like Khamenei is not just unpopular; people could
care less about him or his opinion or his decrees. Banner from
a cultural center in Tehran reads: "Based on the Great Leader's
-- Photo sent by SM
* From Saberi to Nabavi
There's no question in my mind that Kiumars
Saberi, who passed Friday, was a great satirist. He was for many
years, one of my heroes. He made light of the government and its
policies during the middle of a devastating war with Iraq in the
1980s, when authorities were far less tolerant of
I met Saberi on two or
three occasions at Gol
Agha magazine's head office, on Tehran's Apadana
Blvd, if I'm not mistaken. The office seemed relatively small for
that for many years boasted the largest circulation in the country.
The cartoonists and writers were busy working behind desks. From
on their faces you could tell they were bursting with jokes, but
they shared the really juicy ones only among themselves. They couldn't
Saberi was a short man, down to earth, gentle and always
smiling. His thick Rashti accent was very sweet, to use
the Persian expression. He hired me and
colleague of mine at IRNA's English section to translate
his book "Safarnaameh-ye Shoravi", about his travels
to the Soviet Union as a member of an
official cultural delegation from the Islamic Republic. I thought
the book would have some of his famous sense of humor,
but it was too dry, I thought, and I lost interest. I told him
not finish the translation, and I gave the excuse that
I didn't have time.
and especially Saberi's own daily column -- "Do
Kalameh Harf-e Hesaab" (Couple of Reasonable Words/Common
Sense" -- were brilliant for their time, especially in the 1980s.
The popularity of his daily column in Ettela'at newspaper
-- I couldn't wait to get my hands on it, I was a huge fan -- and
his weekly magazine indicated that his humor was in tune with
In his ridicule of public officials and their policies, Saberi
often sided with the moderate/reformist camp. He directed
sharpest attacks against the rich, religious extremists and the
corrupt post-revolution bureaucracy. But he knew his
limitations. He and his cartoonists were not
to criticize the clergy and sketches in Gol Agha could
not lampoon anyone with a beard; i.e. government officials [See
It was rather odd, for instance, seeing
cartoons of clean
shaven men representing members of parliament,
where in reality, nearly all MPs are bearded.
I remember Saberi saying that he was often threatened with censorship
-- by lower rank officials, judges or revolutionary guards -- and
he would seek direct intervention from the office of the Supreme
Leader, Khamenei, in order to ensure Gol Agha would hit
the news stands every week. In fact Saberi and Khamenei were close
friends, and for a while Saberi
Khamenei is known as an arch conservative, and
to a large extent, that is a true. But especially during the
early part of his leadership, Khamenei has been soft
loyal, as well as apolitical, artists
and writers. He
has a circle of friends and associates who are modern and liberal
liberal/democratic politics very well, and they may even believe
it to be a better system of government, but they have no desire
to interfere in politics.
Saberi's satire touched a lot of raw
nerves. But he had no intention of challenging the
key figures. Over the years Gol Agha's
subtle and non-confrontational style went out of fashion. The younger
generation preferred critics with sharper teeth and harder bite,
notably Ebrahim Nabavi.
Nabavi briefly worked for Gol Agha, if I'm not mistaken.
But he was too much of a loose canon, in Saberi's view. And he
was right. Nabavi is a totally different animal. He shows little
mercy; he wants to challenge everything, and has always pushed
the boundaries much farther than anyone thought possible.
On my last trip to Iran in 1995, I was invited to a football match
at Azadi stadium. There were four or five of us in one car, all
journalists of one kind or another, including Nabavi. On our way
to the stadium,
Nabavi acted out the role of a provincial policeman who was on
a radio show describing how he had been abused as a child. He was
funny as hell.
On that same car ride, Nabavi insisted that he had every intention
to question everything and everybody, especially the religious
establishment. "You'll see," I remember him saying, "You'll see
what I'll do to these bastards." I could sense the determination
and seriousness in his voice. But it was hard to believe him. No
one had gone where he wanted to go. It almost sounded like
suicide. Now we know he wasn't kidding.
I didn't want to start with Saberi and end with Nabavi. It just
happened this way. And now I need to get some sleep!
-- Jahanshah Javid