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August 2007

Working class
Peyvand Khorsandi
August 15, 2007

This film directing debut by Edinburgh-based artist Roxana Pope (pictured below on location) is a charming portrait of the life of a cleaner in a poor neighbourhood of Tehran.

Shot beautifully, by Ian Dodds, the 30-minute Tehran's Backyard focuses on Pari, a 65-year-old who tells us she has worked for fifty years yet still does not think twice about supporting her husband, who is blind, and her family, on her meagre wages. It is a portrait of working class life in the Islamic Republic devoid of the plaudit-seeking posturing that dogs much of Iran's film output, while carrying, a subtle and touching women's punch.

Pope will be taking part in a Q&A on Sunday with writer Kamin Mohammadi at The Frontline Club in London following a screening of the film on a double-bill with Tehran Generation by Sara Bavar. Comment

Visit Soul Bean Café

Soldiers and terrorists
Mey Bokhor
August 14, 2007

I have, for a very long time, mulled over the subject of what follows here, for two reasons. One if my conclusions are right and two if it is at all wise to utter them. So let's set the record straight. I am not sure of my conclusions and NO I do not condone any form of violence, either legal (state sanctioned killings and executions, collateral civilian casualties, etc.) or illegal (murder, genocide, terrorism).

The thought experiment is this. If people of a country vote a government to power and that government commits the so far bloodiest deed of the 21st century, aren't they to blame? One possible excuse could be that they did not know the atrocities that their elected officials would commit in their name. But if the same people elected the same government for a second consecutive term well aware of its track record, can they still hide behind the "I didn't know" wall of protection? How innocent are they? According to existing laws, a person hiring another to commit murder gets a harder sentence than the hired person.

Besides, in many cases a defendant cannot hide behind an "I did not know" clause since the law says that it is a citizen's duty to know.

And here is the big question. Can residents of a democratic country be called (innocent) civilians? After all they are the ones hiring their elected officials. Soldiers obey their governments. Governments are hired by their respective citizens. So soldiers form the first line, governments the second line, and people the last line of any given war. Now if one of the parties jumps over the frontlines and kills members of the last line, is it much different that killing members of the first line or the second?

Fighting between the armies is called war and the other terror. That makes "war on terror" a sickening oxymoron. The same thing that happens to civilians in a terror attempt happens to soldiers. Does a soldier not feel a terror when he is shot at, when he is burned, when he loses limbs? The fact that that he volunteered will not comfort him in his last minutes.

I am against acts of terrorism -- of both kind, and I will not sanctify one over the other. The only difference that I see is that if the number of people killed is uncountable then it is called a war. Petty amateurs killing only a few are terrorists. And they have a tendency to kill themselves in the process too. Now that's an idea for the elected ones... Comment

Price of baseless accusations
Kianosh Saadati
August 12, 2007

TORONTO -- One of the most controversial and maybe most read Persian blogs has finally been shut down. It belonged to Hossein Derakhsan, aka Hoder. No doubt, many of his enemies and those who did not like him very much may be very happy. But only a few may even ask why this has happened. The following is a brief account about the rise and fall of the so called THE GODFATHER OF PERSIAN BLOG.

Some time in 2001 Hoder started to blog in Persian. It is not still clear whether he debuted blogging in Persian or not. However he was one of the first Persiam bloggers. From the start,  Hoder's blogs were based on extremely emotional and somehow sarcastic comments and views about different aspects of life outside and inside of Iran.

Although he always called himself a journalist, I believe he has no idea about the exact theory and practice of journalism. He used to write for a few Iranian newspapers. But he never showed any signs of professionalism in his writings.

I think one of his biggest mistakes was lack of knowledge and skill in the field of journalism and professional writing. Hoder was not aware of the terms and conditions of writing on the web. He simply accused anyone who did not think like him. Maybe this is why he called his blog: EDITOR MYSELF.

At the start he criticized the Iranian regime; maybe he was trying to impose himself as a political activist. But the problem was that he does not understand politics.

In the middle of the Iranian presidential elections in 2005, he went back to Iran to lobby for the reformists. But he was allegedly stopped at the airport by the Iranian ministry of intelligence. The details of this incident is still sketchy. But since then, Hoder has played down the game: Upon his return from Iran he U-turned and started to praise the regime.

This was not a problem because many Iranians outside the country still favour the Iranian regime. Without any evidence, he started accusing people of espionage and cooperation with the U.S. and other Western countries to interrupt the Islamic Republic.

He never provided a single evidence to support his claims. Hoder did not know that he was playing with fire and finally he paid the price. He simply created a circle of enemies around him and never knew some day they would come to help him.

One of his favourite hobbies was creating controversy around himself. It did not matter what you would say about him; even a single word was very satisfying to him.

We do not know whether he will be back or not. But what happened to him was a great lesson for all of us: THINK BEFORE YOU WRITE! Comment

August 12, 2007

Your left hand
shadows your right like a blown gas valve
cocking the night

All hail the mother-fucking muddy sticks
Who kill me and kiss me like the bend in the river
Used to
Before you
Before you

As much as we side with our heart-sure shocks
We are clueless in the dark
Detritus ejected from the bowells of a whale
Fists shaking anger to no avail

Buy us
Use us
Put us on edge

You did it
Now you bastard
Shake my right hand

Stalin alive and well!
Shemma Kalbasi
August 12, 2007

Hossein Derakhshan's blog is suspended by Mehdi Khalaji! Apparently Khalaji having had worked for and under the current regime of Iran before he was revolutionized has brought his Mullah mindset to the United States.

I by no means defend Derakhshan for I have observed his actions and his support for the current regime of Iran but am surprised at Khalaji. He is supposedly promoting a democratic Iran?! He too can write and express his opinion but to shut down a blog is nothing short what we observe in today's Iran where newspapers and blogs are shut down or filtered every day.

I am sorry to see Khalaji and his like minded friend Trita Parsi do nothing but sue and threaten people for their ideas and writings. It was last month that Parsi threatened to sue Voice of America for re-inviting Hassan Daoleslam and calling him MKO member and a supporter of war on Iran without facts to support his accusations.

These people are Iran and Iranians lobbyists? These people are bringing Iranians Democracy? These people are human rights advocates? Well I for one say such democracy, such lobbyists, and these people who seem to have the mindset of dictators, these people who can't stand their opponents, yes these people are only good as their actions are! Comment


Lena the bank teller
Layla Khamoushian
August 10, 2007

She has all white hair. Her skin is choorook, her hands are shaking. A tiny lady at least 80 years old, no joke. Her name is Lena.

And she is working as a bank teller at Bank of America. I wonder how old she was when she first learned to use the computer?

I am not comfortable when she calls me to her window because I have never dealt with a teller her age. I almost feel like she should not be here, that it's wrong and cruel for her to be working. But she is pretty quick, knows the job well and we move quickly. Of course I don't have a BofA account, and I am cashing a check, so she gets a chance to make a sales pitch to me.

Well, I had a BofA account. In fact, BofA was my very first bank. I opened it in 1993, last year of high school, but then certain things went wrong and that account was closed. Oh well...

I wonder what happened to her retirement fund? 401K? Social Security not paying enough? Did she lose her husband early? Does she not have any kids to support her? Did she fail to save enough money as 70% of Americans fail? Or is she simply just bored at home and this job is the highlight of her day?

I have a very strong urge to know her life story all of her life story.

She asks if I am interested in opening an account. I think to myself of course I am...why not? let's have three or four checking accounts while we are at it. But I don't have time today, I tell her politely. So she writes her name down on a "Teller Referral Form" and hands it to me. If I use this form, she will get a point, which will eventually accumulate, hopefully, and she might get a bonus at the end of the year. Or a stupid placard stating "Employee of the Month". 

I take the referral form and decide that I will come bank and open an account later, just for her so she could get that one point.

That's the least I can do for Lena. Comment

What matters is her work
Asghar Massombagi
August 7, 200

This is the second time in as many months that someone has written a piece attacking poor Parsipur and defending Mahshid Amirshahi on the grounds of the former's personal opinions on certain issues. Grow up, people. And this nonsense is coming from individuals obviously living abroad. [See: "Nah eshgh, nah toofaan" and "Mozele baanuye saal"]

Who cares what a writer thinks about this or that issue, what matters is her work. If we were to disqualify writers and filmmakers and poets based on their politics or positions on social issues then T.S. Elliot or Ezra Pound should never be read.

What is this, Stalinist literary criticism practiced by the right of centre? I haven't read anything from Ms. Amirshahi although I'm aware of her fine reputation as a writer but regardless of how fine a writer she is, Men Without Women and Touba are some of the finest literature that has come out of Iran in the past 25 years. Perfect, no but what is?

Parispur's time in prison has nothing to do with my assessment (neither would Ms. Amirshahi's defense of Bakhtiar government influence my assessment of her work) although only bitter pathetic individuals can actually attack her for having written her memoirs of the dark times she spent there; pathetic indeed considering they make their attacks from the comfort of Europe and America. Comment

Juvie court
Layla Khamoushian
August 6, 2007

Today is my first time appearing at Juvenile Court.

Juvenile Court or "Juvie", as some in-crowd criminal defense attorneys call it, is different than a regular courtroom. This one especially is a trip... it's next to a golf course and looks like an elementary school, with its inside walls painted with random happy pictures and encouraging phrases such as "Sky is the limit"... a last failed attempt at reversing the direction of their lives -- these kids -- who have started to get into trouble. God forbid if we make juvie court look scary to fact, we have made an enjoyable experience. Except of course, there are the metal detectors at the entry, but I hear some schools have them too these days too!?

The courtrooms are like small classrooms with minimal formalities. There is some soft but annoying music playing in the background in the hallway, while the police, public defenders, and bailifs walk around and go about their daily business....

My client is a 14-year-old girl who was charged with assault and battery, and witness intimidation. She shows up with her mom. Both seem nice. Some high school incident. The district attorney asks that she would not have any contact with the "vicitim" while her court proceedings are pending. She tells me later the victim had gone on her MySpace page and had asked her to be friends again! So her mother pulls out a print-out from MySpace to show me as 'evidence'...

Interesting world kids live in these days.

While we wait, I hear two men talking about kids on probation and the education system, justice, etc. They talk about changing the world, well, their communities at least. I, too, used to think I could change the world... then... well, then life just happened and you know the rest... reality hit.

I realize I am uncomfortable there, although these are just kids. Nope, criminal law is not for me, I rather just go to civil court and argue over trivial matters... like two neighbors who fight over tree height and fence line. Yup.

As I do my task and get out of there quickly, I remind myself of the infamous phrase "Innocent until proven guilty" but it's not working. Comment

Citizen of the world
Sandra Nunez
August 6, 2007

Walking in the flatness of this world,
listening to the same old abrupt sound.

What if our memories hadn't been lost ,
and our ancestors claimed the laces of our roots?

Then the North would be the South, the East would be the West
and in the middle we would remain
in the utopia we've been longing for

Alas, history has proved us wrong,
from our dreams we've been awakened,
from our homes we've been kicked off

They shall take everything we own,
but never our dreams of hope.

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The Poems of Hafez
202 ghazals in English
Translated by Reza Ordoubadian
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