NBC had an "exclusive" report tonight concerning a secret deal between the Whitehouse and Iran that involves exchange of Al-Qaeda terrorists with MKO members. You can read about it here and watch the television version too.
Despite my serious grievances with MKO and the obvious lack of sympathy for Al-Qaeda lunatics we all share, I can't possibly support a deal that will send anyone to face the "justice" that will be awaiting them in Iran. This is yet another bad move by this administration that will only cause more suffering, widens the gaps of mistrust even further and in short will help a terrorist regime to stay in power longer at the price of arresting some other terrorists.
Although this "deal" may seem like a positive move in the short run, perhaps it is a great opportunity for all of us to start thinking a bit beyond the immediate urgency and not sacrifice our long term goals in exchange for immediate satisfaction.
Everyday there are more and more English language blogs by Iranians either starting or discovered. Some, like our regular visitor faramin have been kind enough to even credit my plea to start blogs as the motivation behind the new ventures.
Here are some of the latest crop, plus the ones I've recently found: Farhad's Rad Pa, Cyrus J. Farivar, Nema Milaninia's Iranian Truth, HamMihan Irani, Az Los Angeles (bilingual), Crazed Fairy, Parvandeh, and finally Roz Omid's Learning to Dance with Paradox. If I have forgotten to mention yours, please drop me a line and I'll add you to my blog roll.
Congratulations and welcome to all the new citizens of blogland and to the veterans, please continue your wonderful work. If you still don't have a blog, what are you waiting for? Please write me and let me know if I can be of any help to get you started.
Also, the new electronic magazine I promised a while back is finally taking shape and should be ready to come out within a short time. If you are interested in writing articles for it, please contact me soon.
Click here and tell me this; is this an actual functioning poster or just a publicity stunt and made for domestic consumption as oppose to a useful tool for use in Iraq.
I mean, how effective is a poster in English with a phone number in U.S. in helping to capture Saddam where he is hiding in Iraq? How much of my tax dollars were wasted in design, production and distribution of this useless item? Or maybe it was the Iraqi money, badly needed for reconstruction of that country, wasted this way by "the Coalition Provisional Authority"?
At every turn, there are more examples of how poorly this illegal invasion is planned and conducted. This is yet another sample. I say; support our troops, bring them home!
Attention all those who wonder why many Iranians are still "obsessed" with the 50 year old CIA coup that brought Shah back to power:
National Public Radio's Terry Gross interviews New York Times Correspondent Stephen Kinzer, author of the new book, "All The Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror". The book is about the 1953 CIA coup in Iran that put an end to democratic rule, and in turn led the way for the Islamic Revolution of 1979. He writes, "It was the first time the United States overthrew a foreign government. It set a pattern for years to come and shaped the way millions of people view the United States."
Listen to the hour long program.
Read sample pages of the book on amazon.
To read more about the single event that started the mess we are in today, read this.
"It is a man's own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways." - Buddha
"Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: "If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Such tactics are justified, he said, because, "It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info." They would have been released in due course, he added later."
Source: The Washington Post.
The end Justifies the means?
Those of you who read this blog regularly (and I certainly appreciate you all) may have noticed that one Iran-related topic has been noticeably absent from my posts. Up to this point, I have not commented on or discussed the murder of Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi. At least 3 of you actually bothered to write me about it and inquire as to the reasons. I will explain why I did it as the silence is now over.
When the news of Kazemi's brutal and unnecessary murder was first published, I was in Toronto. I thought I should try to use some of my fading clout to see if anything can be done about it. As the first Iranian-Canadian nominated for a seat in the Canadian Parliament, ex-President of Iranian Community Association of Ontario, Director of Canadian Iranian Centre for Liberty & Equality (CIRCLE) and extensive involvement in numerous other campaigns, organizations and events, I figured somebody may listen to me. Well they did, but I am not sure if it made much of a difference.
My main goal was to try to get to the truth of what actually happened to her. The original explanations of "brain hemorrhage" or "stroke" didn't make any sense and there was an urgent need to find out more. I contacted a few of my friends (meaning those who'd know me on first name basis, but not close enough to invite me to private cocktail parties) who still occupy a seat in Parliament Hills. I was also careful not to make this a partisan effort (hey, I am not residing in Canada and therefore have no current and active membership in any party up there anyways), so I tried anyone who would listen from any political stripe. For my American readers, Canada isn't restricted to a choice of Pepsi or Coke when it comes to political representation and there is a presence of Mountain Dew and Orange Soda too with rumors of occasional glimpses of a few Labatt's Blues here and there.
My proposal to these distinguished members was simple; let's form a parliamentary committee, add experts from various fields (medical, human rights, international law, etc.) and go conduct our own investigation. We'll start with the crime scene, ask to speak to witnesses, question her captors, inquire the opinion of the physicians who treated her, examine the body and basically whatever we will be allowed to do to shed some light on the truth. I was sure at least a faction of Iranian government would co-operate and open some doors, plus we could carry so much information with us through the community of Iranians abroad, including details of secret cells and prisons, identity of interrogators and in short whatever may help putting the pieces of this puzzle together.
Well, I'm sorry to say that after almost three weeks I received the final reply to my proposal today and couldn't find a single MP to either have the balls (excuse my French) or interest to pursue the matter further. It was such a disappointing experience I am truly humiliated of even bothering to ask.
Now I had stayed away from saying anything because I truly wanted to remain neutral. Since I had volunteered to go with the group as translator or guide or whatever, I did not want to put their neutrality in question by already stating how I felt about the matter and keeping a completely open mind to not jeopardize their investigation. Well, since that is now all dead, here's my opinion:
This is a blatant murder of a journalist that was only doing her job by covering a public event. She was killed by her interrogators and while in their custody by what appears to be severe blows to her head.
This type of torture is common in prisons of Iranian regime. Most prisoners are trampled severely during the original interrogations, many die under such brutal beatings. The treatment is so savage, many usual "interrogation rooms" have a floor covered in a mixture of blood, other bodily fluids plus small and large parts of skin or other body parts. I remember passing out in one such room once, only to came to again by a bucket of water thrown on my face and looking at the floor my head was laying on and in the midst of this burgundy-grey-purple semi-hardened liquid there was a complete and in tact large finger nail. I learned later of this one interrogator's favorite torture where he would stick long needles under your nails and if that wasn't painful enough, he would then hold a lighter to the part still sticking out and as the needle got hot you'd eventually lose nails one after another.
I don't know what types of torture Zahra was exposed to. We may never know as her body is now buried and will probably never be examined properly. However, it is easy to imagine the kind of suffering she had to endure and unless an independent international body is ever allowed to investigate the matter fully, the truth will never be known. I tried in my own small way to get a start on such issue and failed to find any attentive ears. I hope others will not let the matter drop.
While I am at it, let me say how disgusted I am at the attempted diversion the Iranian government is trying to pull by coming out against the death of an Iranian teenager in a Vancouver suburb. Keyvan Tabesh's case is not even remotely close to what Kazemi went through. Whether Keyvan was a danger to the officers, or if being shot 5 times was necessary or if race played a part in that event is all questions that can and must be addressed by proper authorities and by way of suitable resources available to his family. However a teenage shot after a car chase and a journalist being detained, tortured and then murdered are in no way comparable events and it is a shame for a regime that has never been interested in murder of many Iranians around the globe to suddenly use this event as retaliation.
Lastly, on July 18th I had written an op-ed piece for The Toronto Star but their opinions page editor Jim Atkins decided not to publish it. Although some of the information is now dated, you can read it by clicking on the "continue" link below:
Team Canada should travel to Tehran
by; Pedram Moallemian
July 18, 2003
Days turn into weeks and soon it will be months. The brutal death of a Canadian by torture will be forgotten before long and we will all go back to wondering if the Jays can put a winning streak together or how long would it take for Eves to decide the atmosphere is suitable to call an election he could win. Or will it?
Zahra Kazemi a Montreal based Iranian-Canadian journalist was arrested in Tehran on June 23, while taking pictures around the menacing compound of Evin prison. She was photographing demonstrators protesting the arrest of their loved-ones during the latest crack down on student demonstrations for Camera Press Journal. What happens after that is still unclear but weeks later and while still in detention, she dies from injuries to the head area. French newspaper Libération recently accused the head prosecutor of Tehran's revolutionary court, Saeed Mortazavi of delivering a fatal kick to Kazemi's head. This is Iran, where prosecutors are also interrogators and interrogations normally involve physical torture.
Saeed Mortazavi is notorious already for his actions in closure of over 100 publications and detention of their journalists. The special press court is where he earned his stripes to get a promotion to the higher echelons of a corrupt and infamous judiciary system.
Canadian government was quick to make a strong statement abut this brutal and unwarranted murder. Ottawa demanded return of kazemi's body for an autopsy in Canada and warned of diplomatic measures if Tehran fails to co-operate. Later on, Prime Minister Chrétien told reporters that "We are very keen on having the truth ... and if crimes have been committed, we will demand (the perpetrators) face justice."
President Khatami responded to the call from Ottawa by ordering a special committee to investigate the murder. On Wednesday Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi, fearing further diplomatic isolation, assured his Canadian counterpart Bill Graham in a telephone conversation of a rapid resolution to the probe into her death but followed with a statement that "everybody has to wait until the real cause of Mrs. Kazemi's death is clarified." Kharazi then demonstrated the typical arrogance typically shown by some Iranian officials by stating ""In our view, no foreign government has the right to make any special comment in this regard."
Meanwhile Tehran has refused the request of Kazemi's son for return of his mother's body. The coroners report in Iran has not been released to the public but passed on to the "committee" set up by Khatami. It should be noted that Kazemi was arrested by the Intelligence Ministry, a body reporting directly to and under responsibility of Khatami. Having the cabinet and their advisors investigate other members of the cabinet and their establishment is curious if not corrupt. One member of the committee, Health Minister Massoud Pezeshkian has already acknowledged that he has personally examined the body and found no "bruises or cuts on the face", typical of a tortured prisoner. He then reportedly got angry at the suggestion of allowing Canadians to also examine the body, stating "We are knowledgeable enough to examine the body and find out the cause of her death, so we will not allow foreign teams to investigate." If there's nothing to hide, why so much secrecy?
As for the special committee, the last time a similar endeavor was put into practice (although more aggressively and with special courts and prosecutors also involved) was to investigate the brutal treatment of the demonstrators arrested, tortured, detained and killed by the police in 1999. At the end, only one drafted soldier was convicted of any crime. He received a minimal sentence for stealing an electric shaver from student's dormitory. In contrast, one student received a 10 year sentence for being photographed while holding a bloody shirt of an injured friend.
Are we going to allow this system to now bring to light the truth behind the fate of a fellow Canadian? We must take action and take action immediately.
I put forward the notion of creating our own "committee". This "Team Canada" should include one MP from all parties in parliament, plus physicians, human rights authorities and other experts to travel to Iran, survey the "crime scene", interview the accused, and examine the evidence. Thousands of former Iranian political prisoners currently living in Canada and elsewhere can provide all the details of covert prisons, interrogator's identities and other vital data to assist in this effort.
Only then we can once and for all find out what actually happened to Zahra Kazemi and finding out what happened to her is not only to the benefit of Iranian-Canadians, but every Canadian of every heritage, political or religious beliefs and profession needs the assurance that if ever faced with brutal, animalistic and cruel oppression in any corner of this globe, Canadian people and their government will not forget them and will do everything possible to restore their rights, protect their interest and stand up for what is just, honorable and fair.
Editor: Myself, particularly the Persian version is often called the godfather of all Iranian blogs. It was the first bog I regularly read and when I was ready to start my own, I got hold of it again for it's blog making instruction pages. Since then, I have also built a friendship with Hossein Derakhshan, but this post is not personal.
Hossein's Editor: Myself is one of the blogs currently "filtered" in Iran by the powers to be. His isn't the only one; the eyeranian for example, has not had a single visitor from Iran in nearly a month now. Since my blog isn't really geared towards readers inside Iran, this isn't as important for me. However E:M has been instrumental in a great way not only to spread the usage of blogs in Iran, but it has also served as an effective tool to educate and illuminate many Iranians on some of the taboo subjects banned by the current regime. This is a fact despite your opinion of the blog or if you agree with his point of view.
Filtering blogs and other web sites based on their content is yet another method of oppression and limiting freedom of speech, and this time I want to ask the community of bloggers and blog readers to join me in protesting such practices.
Let's join one another and flood the offices of the Iranian ministry responsible for telecommunications with protest letters, calls, faxes and emails. I am asking all of you to make Editor: Myself the focal point of this protest and as a way of focusing our efforts not only for the removal of filters on E:M, but all blogs and sites currently under such restrictions.
Please take a few moments and write a short note demanding the restrictions must be removed.
You can fax the Minister of Post, Telegraph and Telephone, Mr. Ahmad Moetamedi's at; (9821) 864-015. Add -001- at the beginning if you are faxing from U.S. or Canada. His phone numbers are (9821) 843-1516 & (9821) 811-3306. His assistant is Mr. Davari-Nejad and can be reached at (9821) 831-9478 and (9821) 811-3897. The main switchboard is (9821) 8111 and fax : (9821) 860-1697. Mailing address: Ministry of Post, Telegraph, and Telephone, After Choddosi Cross Rd, Dr. Shariati Ave, Tehran, Iran. Their web site was just hacked (or is being filtered by my server, LOL) but I'll work on getting an email address somehow.
Inspired by the great stirical works of Ibrahim Nabavi, I'll be attaching a beeping lie detector to various historical and current characters to measure their honesty. This is part of a continuing regular feature of this blog, under the title of "Truth or ...?"
“In Iran’s Islamic government the media has the freedom (beep) to express all Iran’s realities (beep) (beep) and events, and people (beep) have the freedom (beep) (beep) to form any form of political parties (beep) (beep) (beep) and gatherings that they like.(beep)” (Ayatollah Khomeini in an interview with the Italian newspaper Paese Sera, Paris, November 2, 1978)
"I (beep) don't want to try to put our troops (beep) in all places at all times (beep) (beep). I don't want to be (beep) the world's policeman (beep) (beep) (beep) (beep) ." (George W. Bush, first Bush-Gore debate, October 3, 2000)
Add this to your files under "just unbelievable".
I'll be the last person to defend either one of Saddam's sons, although they'll never be tried so the extent of their possible crimes will never be proven. Of course their opponents have much to present in alleged atrocities contributed to them, but all stories have two sides and even a possible crazy mass-murderer tyrant deserves his/her day in court.
Now, let me see if I got this right. All accounts point to their cousin, the homeowner they had been hiding with, approaching the U.S. command and basically turning them in. Supposedly he had his wife and daughters leave the property that morning, then surrendered with his son as soon as the troops got there.
Apparently the higher ups were told who the targets are, although the front line troops had no idea (as it should be). So, the $30 million guy spills who is hiding at his house and probably offers more details as to how many guards they have and how well they are armed. Now the U.S. army command knows there's only one guard, plus a 14 year old boy and the two targets. They also knew no heavy weaponry is present and they only had personal firearms and maybe grenades.
Now you surround the house and as is usual vacate the vicinity. Homeowner and his son come out, confirming who is left inside (if you had any doubts). You are the commander in charge, what do you do? As for me, I'd just camp out and wait. Where are they going to go? You have two of the three top targets of this entire operations inside a house. You know they have no heavy weaponry. You know there is no escape tunnel or similar, as the homeowner surely supplied a floor plan. There's limited food and water in the house and what is there as for utilities, etc. can be cut off from outside. I'd bring in extra enforcements, secure a solid perimeter and wait it out. They either commit suicide or give themselves up. There are no other options and in both case you come ahead.
But no, this is not how the cowboy mentality works. The cowboy only wants to conquer, overpower and destroy, just ask the native communities of North America. Everyone wants to be their own one-man terminator and use full force, regardless of if it is the best choice or not. Or perhaps them coming out alive wasn't such an attractive possibility anyways. We may never know now. So, out come the missiles, rockets and other explosives, combined with heavy fire and at the end, four severely damaged bodies are left. Volumes of knowledge and unique information, destroyed forever. Best possible scenario? Doubt it.
The display of bodies was just repulsive, also. Particularly the bone out of the leg and autopsy cuts. This was a new low for this or any war. If you have people not believing your word, maybe it is a good time to look at your past conduct and find out how you lost your credibility and maybe fix it. Not try to prove a fact by using ghastly displays. Besides, as we have all seen, such conduct will only backfire as non-believers will not be convinced and the rest are just appalled.
One last note, Saddam's father was Hussein (whose father was Majid from Tikrit, thus his full name of Saddam Hussein Al-Majid Al-Tikriti). So, how western centric is our media to even assume the entire world uses the western style first name, last name system and calls them Odai and Qusai Hussein?
PARADE magazine, the freebie that comes with the Sunday paper in many U.S. cities had a short article this week titled "America Reaches Out To Radicals In Iran". Unfortunately I couldn't find the piece on their web site but the "radicals" are allegedly the student movement and the most interesting part is this allegation:
"There already are unconfirmed reports of American-backed covert operations inside Iran in support of the anti-government protesters."
Is this just a baseless assertion or does Parade know something I don't? Could it be involving the MKO's out of work volunteers in Iraq? Maybe Reza Pahlavi's newest best buddy, Mr. Tabarzadi is getting some of this "backing"? Maybe it's the faction that recently left the intelligence ministry and has a very public spokesperson in California? Maybe the Azeri separatists are being encouraged again? Then again, maybe it's nothing, made-up by a rather bubble-gum Sunday magazine. Maybe.
Yeah I know there has been an intruption of these, but knowing what a great week this is going to be, I couldn't help but to bring them back. Enjoy!
The fundamentals have not changed, and there are no "new"
fundamentals! Creating a great life does not take
extraordinary luck, unusual talent or skill. Building a
great life does, however, require that we follow the
"rules" that make life work out well. The fundamentals are
not sexy or exciting or sophisticated, but they are tried
and true. Use them to create the life you truly want.
"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is
the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing."
-- Theodore Roosevelt
"In each of us are places where we have never gone. Only by
pressing the limits do you ever find them."
-- Dr. Joyce Brothers
"Man is so made that when anything fires his soul,
-- Jean De La Fontaine
"Most of the things worth doing in the world have been
declared impossible before they were attempted."
-- Earl Nightingale
I doubt Saddam will ever be captured alive. Getting him alive may mean a lengthy and public trial and there are too many people involved with possible fear of such event. Imagine this; Mr. Hussein, did you attack Iran with chemical weapons? Yes, you supplied them to me, plus strategic and considerable intelligence as where their troops were and how I could use them more effectively. Mr. Hussein, did you invade Kuwait without reason? Yes, I told you I was going to and you all said you will look the other way. Mr. Hussein, did you murder thousands of your regimes opponents? Of course I did. Don't you remember we were friends while I was doing it?
It all started with e-mail problems, bouncing some messages and just deciding to not send and just receive or vice versa. Then there was the message stating the parent hosting company was either not around anymore or not responding properly and as I write this, bandwidth limitations seems to be the cause of you not having access to the eyeranian.
I don't know what the real story is. I don't even know if you would ever get to see these words. One thing for sure, I'm not going anywhere. Just hang in there. I'm sure this is just a temporary bump on the road.
Meanwhile, if you need to contact me, use this email: pedram(AT)writeme(DOT)com . Write it down, quick! It may not be visible next time you return here!
I have considered the opinions of Mr. Emami of Iran carefully and after detailed review of his incredibly sensible suggestion have decided that he is absolutely correct in assessing that 1) the internet is indeed something related to science. 2) science is good. 3) we can all overlook bad science parts that somehow contradicts with the adam, eve and the snake story. 4) there are other parts of science we must also ignore. 5) moral corruption is rampant amongst the readers of this blog. This last one came about after a particularly demented email that suggested I should do things to myself that are physically very difficult to do, if not impossible.
As such, this blog has new rules starting today and they are as follows: Men and Women shall use, view and access this blog only during separate hours, where they will have no cyber contact with one another, as who knows and the lines in cyberspace may somehow get crossed and some immorality may transfer through. The odds of this phenomena are increased if you currently use cable connection or god forbid have T1 available (god may have mercy on your souls). The new hours are as follows:
12:00 AM - 10:00 AM : Men only.
10:05 AM (leaving enough room for men to log off) - 6:30 PM : Women only.
6:35 PM - 9:25 PM : Girly Men only.
9:30 PM - 11:25 PM : Women exclusively wearing comfortable shoes only.
11:30 PM to 12:00 AM : Blog owner plus whomever he wishes to be immoral with only.
All visitors are expected to adhere completely to the above rules and other bloggers are expected to report any infractions of their friends and family immediately. If you are currently reading this at a time not assigned to your particular group, you must close your eyes immediately and hit Alt+F4. Thank you!
Be proud of who you are, regardless of what the they think. Do not let them impose their narrow vision on your private and personal life. Live well and enjoy every minute.
All those who wish to help establish democracy in Iran and feel this blog is contributing in a small way to that end, please send your checks and/or money orders right away. Credit cards and even COD orders are also accepted…
Had all these wonderful things (at least in my own opinion) I wanted to write about. “Inspirations” that come to you during the day and while you are doing something completely unrelated, but manage to nurture and develop in your own mind ‘till you get a chance to pour them all over the keyboard. Then you get home and your body and mind are so tired, you don’t remember a single one, never mind having enough power and enthusiasm to finalize them properly.
Left home this morning at exactly 7:24 AM and walked in only about half hour ago, about 10:30 PM. Work sucks, no matter how much you enjoy what you do. Then again, there are plenty of “work” I can think about that probably don’t suck. Maybe one day…
On a somewhat related note (not really, but it’s my blog and it’s related if I say so) there is this policy/platform convention and everyone has issues and resolutions they want to be debated and included in some form and this particular gathering of like-minded people have this resolution about the need for “total employment” and some other good stuff but somewhere in the midst of their proposal, there’s a paragraph about work and it’s relation and importance to humans, which includes a line (paraphrasing) like: “work provides dignity…”. There’s some heated arguments about that concept and finally a respected member of parliament gets behind the microphone and with one sentence ends the debate. He said (paraphrasing again): “I know plenty of lotto winners who no longer work and most of them are quite dignified people.”
UPDATE - Work Sucks!
The Farsi pages of BBC are a popular destination for many Iranian surfers. One of the features often used by many, is the ability to add comments on the same page as the original article. You've got all types of visitors coming to the site, most of them from inside Iran and as such the comments are seldom boring. This is the latest example, courtesy of Omid Bamdad, a blogger on the group blog Khakestari (Grey);
Left on an article about the attraction of chat rooms for youth and dangers involved with it, "Mustafa Emami" writes:
"Our country is free and democratic and people enjoy complete social freedoms. The internet is a scientific phenomena and if used properly, it is a noble element. This regime is not against science. Mr. Khamenei himself owns several sites. The important factor is how it is used. In my opinion, if chat rooms are divided into separate men and ladies rooms it will be better and could prevent spread of moral corruption."
This is another post and topic I stayed away from for a few weeks. The reason? There was another rather unfortunate discussion about the same topic happening on a different blog and I wanted to stay clear of that line of thinking. So, here it is;
It hit me while watching The Pianist . This is Roman Polanski's movie on the true life of Wladyslaw Szpilman. It hit me when just before one of the scenes it had the actual date of what was about to be depicted and I was taken back by it. It said 1945. You see all these years, I always looked at WWII as sort of ancient history. The black & white documentaries and actual footage of the war, plus recollection of "survivors" and others talking about the last big war all seemed like way too long ago. I suppose when you are 15 (for example), thinking of 35 or 40 years ago is indeed ancient history. However as one starts to get older, time shrinks and becomes much more tangible.
I'll explain what I mean. Do you remember 22 years ago? In specific, do you remember 1981? I sure do and I think many of you reading this, do also (forgive me if you were born after 1975, but hang in there). 1981 was actually a pretty important year for me. I was 14. This was the year I got banned from school (resulting failing for the first time after being a great student for years), was hunted down, had to disappear and re-birth myself in a new environment so I can go to a different school, started a small business, was hurt during a demonstration, was arrested 3 times and eventually was sentenced to death. I know it sounds rather outlandish. To be perfectly honest, it often sounds unbelievable to myself and I sometimes think back to those days and can swear that it must've happened to somebody else, not me. But it is all true and it sure feels like it was only yesterday.
So, what is the point you ask? Well, 1945, the date from The Pianist, was only 22 years before I was born. When you think of it that way, suddenly things look much more material and real. Suddenly WWII, Hitler, Nazis, Auschwitz and everything else you looked at as ancient history, becomes too close, within reach, things that happened during your parent's life, not things that happened way before your great grandparents were even born. Maybe I've been too thick to make this connection up to that moment, but during The Pianist, it all hit me.
The story of what happened in Europe not very long ago, is not the story of Jews, homosexuals, Catholics, gypsies or any of the other victims of that catastrophe, it is the story of humanity and what we are capable of doing, the depths we can sink to, the heights we can reach. For that matter, I hope there's never an end to the work done to remind us of it all. Hope there are a million other movies on the same theme, songs are performed, paintings are displayed, statues are crafted. I hope we will never allow ourselves to forget what strange and complex creatures we humans are.
And for the same reason, I also hope that one day we can make movies about a young teenager crumbled in a corner of a small dark cell, with 24 other teenagers cramped in a space built to hold 2, shivering of the night's cold and pure freight, counting the number of single bullets heard near dawn, knowing fully well they are the single shots emptied in the heads of executed victims of that night to finish them off, and losing count at one point ...35...78...109...161...230...299... maybe falling asleep, maybe blocking out reality, hoping this is only a nightmare you open your eyes from and find it all was all just a horrific dream
I'm not going to close my comments section or ban some readers from posting there, but can we all please be a bit more observant of other visitors as well? It feels like sometimes the discussions here become only a two or three way argument, peppered with name-calling and often one-liner jabs at one another with no real goals or achieving anything. I love to see you come back as often as you like and participate in the debates, but one person with 8, 10 or 12 comments on a single day, most of it longer than the original post, the rest one-line teasers, seems just a bit too much. If you like, I will gladly set up a discussion list more suitable to such uses, otherwise please be more courteous, please.
It's official, the eyeranian has the smartest readers ever. Last night I made two mistakes on my posts, one was sort of factual and the other on proper use of a word and within half hour I have two emails from two different readers correcting my mistake, which was re-posted again. Then there's the comments; some smart ass leaves a comment like "so sorry to hear that Uday and Qusay have been killed. You must be devestated" (I know, like myself he can't spell either), obviously not understanding who he is talking to (when Saddam and his sons were busy killing our countrymen, his government was busy supplying him with chemical weapons after all) and he gets this reply from yet another smart reader:
"I for one am devestated that they may be dead. Those suspected or possibly involved in crimes against humanity must all be tried in fair and open international trials so humanity can watch and learn and hopefuly never repeat the same crimes again. If Hitler had made it to such a trial, 60 years later we may have not had to go back and question his deeds or even have people that consider him a hero. I hope Saddam is captured and tried fairly for that matter."
(can anybody spell right here?)
I couldn't have said it better myself visitor. Thank you all (well, almost all) for being so super and so smart.
In many parts of the world, the most recognizable symbol or logo or graphical illustration is not the golden arches of McDonald's or even the two funky C's in Coca-Cola's logo. For most of these folks, some version of this image of Ernesto "Che" Guevara is more familiar and more respected than any corporate logo or commercial symbol.
I know that for the early part of my teenage life (before having such an image was too dangerous), there was one of them on my wall. Mine was a less picture-like version done in black and red and the star on his beret was yellow. On a trip to Hassan-Abad, a street in Tehran where most of the army suppliers and surplus dealers are located, I even bought a black beret and after spending most of the day, managed to find a similar star too. In those days, political affiliations in Iran were more important than gang memberships in certain parts of LA. Each "clan" had their own style of clothing, lingo and manners. A beret didn't fit into any of such groupings and as such, mine spent most of its life in the back of the closet. However, I would occasionally take it out, re-paint the star that had been colored at least a dozen times (in most colors, but never in red as that was an opposing clan's symbol!) and wear it around the house to be "Che".
Back then, being Che was as critical to us as being John Travolta meant to other teenage boys who had discovered Saturday Night Fever already. We only listened to Bee Gees after we had finished practicing our revolutionary anthems.
I now read that the famous picture was taken by a photographer named Alberto "Korda" Gutierrez, who never got to enjoy the commercial success the picture brought to Italian publisher Feltrinelli after Che's death. I hope this story isn't true. We all like fairytale-like happy endings, don't we?
The story about the image of Che Guevara
- as told by Alberto "Korda" Gutierrez (1928-2001) in Havana - December '93
The 5th of March 1960 a Belgian arms transport exploded in Havana harbour, killing 136 members of the crew. As a staff-photographer at the Cuban newspaper "Revolution", Alberto "Korda" Gutierrez was assigned to cover the following memorial ceremony held in Havana. Among the prominent guests were Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Fidel Castro held one of his endless speeches and Korda was shooting away, when Che Guevara suddenly appeared on the stage. Korda managed to make two shots of him, before Che turned around and disappeared.
Back in his darkroom Korda enlarged, among others, one of the Che frames. The editor at "Revolution" picked a Castro-picture for the newspaper and returned the rest. Korda liked the Che picture and put it on the wall in his Havana-studio.
The picture was still hanging on the wall in 1967, by now tobacco-tinted though, when a man knocked on the door. The person did not present himself, but handed over a letter of introduction from a high-ranking member of the Cuban administration. The letter asked Korda to help this person in his search for a good Che picture. Korda pointed at the wall saying: "This is my best Che picture". The visitor agreed and asked for 2 copies of the print. Korda told him to return the next day, which he did. When asked the price of the prints, Korda replied, that since the visitor was a friend of the revolution, he didn't have to pay.
What Korda didn't know, was that the visitor was the famous Italian publisher Feltrinelli. Well known in Europe for smuggling the "Dr. Zivago" manuscript out of The Soviet Union. Feltrinelli came to Cuba directly from Bolivia, where he had been negotiating the release of Regis Debray. Having learnt from Debray, that Che Guevara was the guerrilla-leader in Bolivia and that the end might be near, Feltrinelli saw a business opportunity in the possible assassination of Che.
The corpse of Che Guevara was hardly cold in Bolivia, before you could buy big posters, all around the world, with the Korda-image of Che. Copyright Feltrinelli it said, down in the corner. Korda told me, that in half a year, Feltrinelli sold 2.ooo.ooo posters. Later on the image has been transformed, transplanted, transmitted and transfigured all over the world.
Korda never received a penny. For one reason only - Cuba had not signed the Berne Convention. Fidel Castro described the protection of intellectual property as imperialistic "bullshit".
©Michael Harder Photography 2001
His latest, America, its wars and the truth points the finger at media in this country, as well as the public that accepts their fabrications for some of the mess we find ourselves in. He states ;
"The fault for Iraq lies not with Bush, who got the war he wanted. The fault lies not with the military, which does the job it is given.
The fault lies with the media and with the public – the former for lacking First Amendment skepticism, the latter for accepting that Fox-style news is what the First Amendment is about."
America, its wars and the truth
James O. Goldsborough
July 21, 2003
Democracy depends not only on the consent of the governed, but on a free and honest flow of information to the public. Government does not do this voluntarily, which is why Jefferson wrote that forced to choose between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government, "I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
During the Vietnam War, the public was misinformed. The Johnson administration distorted both the war's causes and its progress in order to shore up patriotic enthusiasm. The media, acquiescent early, eventually understood and exposed the distortions, and the public demanded that the war be brought to an end.
The controversy over Iraq concerns the same issues raised under Johnson. As the Iraq war started, we again found an administration manipulating information. We again found a media going along with the manipulation and a public, that, uninformed, supported the Bush premise that Iraq, like Vietnam, was a threat to America.
Not one editorial page of the nation's top 50 newspapers opposed Bush's war, according to Editor&Publisher, and most "big city" newspapers, said E&P, called for "fast-track invasion" of Iraq. Hip, hip, hurray!
Television was worse. As the Columbia Journalism Review and American Journalism Review both concluded, television showed Americans the sanitized and patriotic war "they thought Americans wanted to see."
Take Fox News, which operates as Bush's unofficial ministry of information. Rupert Murdoch, Fox's right-wing Australian-immigrant owner, sees his news empire as a means of currying favor with governments that then return the favor. In Fox's view, media that take the First Amendment too seriously are guilty of suspect patriotism.
Mr. Murdoch, meet Mr. Jefferson.
Americans are beginning to see how much they were manipulated over Iraq. Ask 10 Americans the causes for Bush's war and you get 10 answers. Or maybe no answer at all. Even the Bush administration isn't sure of the causes any more, having dropped the pretext of weapons of mass destruction because of the very real possibility they don't exist.
The problem is that the media and the public supported Bush because of his allegations about Iraq's WMD. If Bush had not used forged documents and wild exaggerations to justify his war, there is a real possibility there would have been no war. The doubts about war finally bubbling up today are because the WMD – war's putative cause – have disappeared.
The war, however, has not disappeared and will not disappear for years to come. Before long, more Americans will have died in Iraq since Bush – arriving in full flight regalia on the carrier Abraham Lincoln – pronounced the war over two months ago than died during the war he claimed was over.
Do Americans dying each day believe the war is over? "Bring them on," goads Bush to Iraqis still fighting, words easily said from the Rose Garden or his Texas ranch, but Gen. John P. Abizaid, the new military commander in Iraq, disagrees. Last week he said the war is not over and we will be in Iraq for years to come.
Bush is doing what politicians do. Jefferson knew full well that governments lied and suppressed criticism to protect themselves, which is why he believed so strongly in a free press. He opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which criminalized criticism of the government, because he knew those acts – passed under the Adams administration in emulation of English laws protecting the Crown – virtually nullified the First Amendment, if not the Revolution itself.
But what if the press practices self-nullification? What if all the media were like Fox News, serving as an adjunct to the White House Press Office? What if the press does to itself what Congress and the Adams administration did to it in 1798, and which it took Jefferson to undo?
Had Fox controlled things 38 years ago, there would have been no Walter Lippmann to warn readers of the coming catastrophe in Vietnam. There would have been no Walter Cronkite 35 years ago to tell viewers of a war gone badly wrong.
Even democracies, Jefferson knew, need a free press. Democracies with a press in league with government have no practical difference from dictatorships that control the news.
What Soviet newspaper condemned Stalin in 1939 for his alliance with Hitler? What German newspaper condemned Hitler in 1939 for claiming Poland attacked Germany? What American newspaper warned against Bush's trumped-up attack on Iraq?
The fault for Iraq lies not with Bush, who got the war he wanted. The fault lies not with the military, which does the job it is given.
The fault lies with the media and with the public – the former for lacking First Amendment skepticism, the latter for accepting that Fox-style news is what the First Amendment is about.
WMD were the pretext for war, not the cause. To get the full truth, Republicans should stop blocking an independent investigation. As we thought we learned from Vietnam, only a full understanding of the causes of a bad war can keep it from happening again.
If you read blogs regularly, I am sure you have already seen this article about how Masturbation 'may prevent cancer'. Now comes this one to announce Pizza can fight cancer. So, having some history of cancer in the family, I'm going to call Pizza Hut, rent a couple of pornos, and start a serious regiment of fighting cancer starting now!. And they said I'd never become yet another health nut if I move to California.
So, I am sitting with Hossein Derakhshan at this restaurant/bar in Toronto and we chat for a couple of hours. He had the Schnitzel (left) and I had a "Chocolate Volcano" (right) as I had already had lunch.
This topic came up and I am sharing it with you; let's assume you wake up tomorrow morning to the sound of your radio announcer reading the news of Khamenei, Rafsanjani and the rest of the gang packing up the night before and taking refuge in Syria or North Korea or Burkina Faso. Iran is free. Now what? I mean let us assume Mojahedin didn't capture the national TV, Radio buildings, important ministries, bank vaults, etc. and we actually had some sort of a parliamentary democratic republic in place tomorrow. How do we run it? I don't mean what constitution we write or who collects unpaid parking tickets but what experience do we have in functioning within a democracy? How many of us have ever actually had to sit down and think about this or more importantly, how many of us have had the opportunity to practice it?
This new generation of Iranians, currently a large majority and without a doubt the people who will get a chance to elect and be elected, is highly individualistic. That by itself is not necessary such a bad thing. What is bad is that this generation shows no desire or inclination of working within the confines of a group structure or god forbid a political/societal party. So, who will introduce platforms, present candidates in national capacity and run campaigns or seek command? Even if they wanted to, do they know how? Do we import foreign experts to teach us basic principals of a party structure or democratic exchange of ideas within an organization? I'm primarily speaking to the millions of Iranians who have lived abroad, many of them with the desire to return when their country is free. How many of them have bothered to learn in the countries they live in?
A conservative figure would be 2 million Iranians living in U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe. Another cautious guess would be half of them will (or might) one day go back. That's ONE MILLION Iranians who have lived in some sort of a democracy, some of them for decades or longer. How many of them have actively participated in the political lives of their adopted home, practiced and learned democracy and can help in establishing such values back home? 100? 1,000? 5,000? Isn't that just sad? We were all given this golden opportunity to learn from this great experience of humanity in person, namely the current western style democracy structure, and only a very small percentage of us bothered to take advantage of it. Disheartening, no?
One of the best and most educational experiences of my life was the years I spent as a member of Canada's New Democratic Party. I never forget the first general party council meeting I attended where the leader of the party sat in front of about 500 party activist to answer questions. One of the far-left members got up and spent about 10 minutes (it felt like an hour) saying anything negative he wanted, short of announcing he had just had a three-some with the leader's mother and sister while his father watched. At the end, he puts a motion on the floor for leader's removal, gets rejected by all present (except two), the leader answered his questions and the party business moves on. There's me, one frightened Iranian spectator who had only seen one style of politics, expecting a massive bloodshed. No such thing happens. Later I catch the rebel chatting with the leader outside, while munching on some fund-raising Samosas.
Over the years I got a chance to see and experience the party, and a working component of democracy, from different positions and functions; activist, volunteer, campaign worker, federal candidate, member of various committees and teams. I learned a lot and regret not being able to continue my "education". I hope to use this exerience one day in a more productive capacity.
If you live in a country that allows you such an opportunity, what are you waiting for? If not for involvement in the political life of your new home, at least as a learning experience for the future of Iran, get involved. Doesn't matter what political stripes best match yours or at what level you want to be involved, but do something. Learn a bit and use what you learn in a practical environment. Maybe your experience becomes fundamental in transferring such knowledge to other Iranians. Maybe you get to influence a friend, a relative, a small gathering, a future political organization. Maybe you'll get to take part in shaping of your country's future. Just maybe, and all it takes is a few hours a week, every other week, a month or even every few months. Small investment for such huge possible payoff. Wouldn't you say?
At first I thought this was a joke. This is Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary of the United States. He is visiting the nation his country (along with very limited troops from 2 allied nations) has invaded. He is often credited as the "architect" of the entire Iraqi invasion policy, although I believe the true architects live in a different time zone, 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. So, what does he have to say while there? This title says it all; "Wolfowitz Warns Foreigners Keep Out of Iraq". Excuse me? The exact quote is "I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq." Am I the only one that finds this absurd and preposterous? You spent billions to take hundreds of thousands of soldiers and equipment to the other end of the globe in an invasion mission, now you say foreigners should stay out??? Who is a foreigner here? Unbelievable.
U.S. "civilian" administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer: "There is absolutely no evidence that the Iraqis want us to go home."
Former Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf: "I triple guarantee you, there are no American soldiers in Baghdad."
If you have a decent internet connection, you'd want to watch 405 The Movie, a short (3 minutes) feature that I really liked. It is just amazing what you can do with the power of graphics and special effects available today, even to those without huge budgets. Enjoy!
I have finally updated the Links page on the right side of my blog. Hope I didn't forget anyone. If I've missed yours or you feel you should be there, please remind me and I may update it again.
I had to wait a few days before jumping into this one with both feet. To be quite frank, I really wanted to see if the original writer would offer some worthy explanation or a defense for what appears to be just absurd commentary.
The writer is Pejman Yousefzadeh. He recently wrote a piece for Tech Central Station, titled “Meet Iran's Future Leaders.” Pejman lists five people “who might increasingly be found at the head of the reform movement as protests against the regime continue”.
Hoder originally pointed to the article, concluding that the list “proves that Pejman knows nothing about Iranian political situation and its important figures.” A few days later he followed up on the same post with an explanation as to why he thinks Pejman’s list is just hilarious.
Before I get to the list, let’s look at who Pejman Yousefzadeh is;
M. H. MohammadShahi recently provided some background on Pejman. According to him, Pejman is a 31 year old Philadelphia -born Iranian of Jewish faith, currently practicing law in California. Pejman has never lived in Iran, except for a few short months prior to the revolution of 1979 and has a limited command of Farsi.
Pejman started blogging at PejmanPundit and later graduated to Pejmanesque, the only Iranian blog I know with a “I’m a proud friend of Israel” button. MohammadShahi believes that during the recent months, the tone of Pejman’s posts have noticeably shifted from “a center right position (like Glen Reynolds and Jeff Jarvis) to more of the extreme right (like Michael Ledeen)”. He also claims Pejman himself has drastically moved his views from a liberal Democrat and avid Clinton fan, to his current position.
According to MohammadShahi, an invitation from Tech Central Station to write Iran related articles (something Pejman had rarely done before), completed the turnaround in Pejman’s views as he tries hard to be the “Michael Ledeen of Tech Central Station, whose deceiving Persian name will provide a more credible podium for his opinions”.
Now the list; Pejman’s list of potential heads for “the reform movement” includes 1- current speaker of Majlis (Parliament) Mehdi Kahrubi, 2- Reformist MP Hossein Loghmanian, 3- University Professor Hashem Aghajari, 4- Azeri autonomy advocate M. A. Chehregani and finally 5- Reza Pahlavi. The list has problems right away as the last two names don’t have any interest in “the reform movement”, never mind a desire to “lead” it. They both advocate an overthrow of the regime, not reforming it.
Even a brief overview of the list proves what a humorous tale it is; 1- Kahrubi has very little popularity with Iranians or the two camps present in the Parliament. He only became speaker as a compromise candidate to avoid further rift between the two factions after Rafsanjani decided to not accept his seat. 2- Loghmanian is a low ranking, not very significant Member of Parliament that only became famous as the first MP ever arrested. He has never shown any leadership abilities or aspirations. 3- Aghajari is an academic and not a politician or leader. He was only forced into the spotlight after giving a speech about the role of clergy in Islam, as up to that point he had always prefered to stay in the shadows and continue his scholarly work. 4- Chehregani is a non-existent entity, only recently pulled from under his rock by the Bush administration and has never expressed any interest in leading Iran or Iranians. His goal is to separate the Azerbaijan section of Iran and create a new country. 5- Puhleaseeee! Even Pejman acknowledges the unlikely event of Reza sitting on the Peacock Throne in his lifetime.
So, why the list and where did it come from? I figure it’s one of three scenarios;
A – Pejman is completely out of touch with what is going on in Iran. Probably picked the names off newswire reports over the last months and wanted to pretend as if he had some insight into the inner workings of the two opposing camps within the Iranian government.
B – There is some behind the scene dealings with Kahrubi or Loghmanian types (unlikely) and this is part of an attempt to somehow bring them into the foray and include them in future considerations.
C – It’s a trial balloon of sort, orchestrated by Ledeen-Sobhani spin masters to measure the reactions a name like Chehregani arouses. With MKO out of the picture for now, and the prospect of creating a coalition between Monarchists and Nationalists or Leftists becoming a non-starter, the “regime change” hawks need new tools and weapons to push their agenda. Pressing a social hot button like separation, will surely provide more propaganda, a cause to set aside some differences and the possibility of new ways to derail the people’s movement once again.
This game gets uglier by the minute and in the process, Pejman type characters who can change colors so easily to fit the mold set by others, or appear one way on the outside but carry a different agenda underneath are used by he enemies of Iran and Iranians to deliver their message of doom.
If you are the type that gets overly disgusted by the notion of your food not being as pure as you always imagined, you'd want to stop reading right now.
Fortune magazine reports that some of our food includes fun items like human hair and bug parts!
According to fortune, "The FDA permits a typical jar of peanut butter to contain over 100 bug parts." Yet another reason to hate peanut butter! and then; "A can of tomatoes can include one maggot or up to nine fly eggs." Yuck!
Then there's stuff like Carmine, Shellac, l-cysteine, Urea, Skatole and civet absolute. Oh joy!
Oh boy! I don’t know if I have ever heard such a pathetic and despicably flattering speech cross the lips of any politician. Tony Blair the leader of once mighty and progressive Labor Party, not to mention the Prime Minister of Great Britain spend an hour in delivering nothing of substance, but a kiss-ass, unabashed and perverse speech to a joint session of U.S. congress.
After “'because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do” and “what you can bequeath to this anxious world is the light of liberty” and “don't ever apologize for your values”, I was expecting him to denounce his British citizenship and beg the congress to grant him full residency rights here.
I mean how many heads of a government, regardless of the close relationship they may have with another country would scoop so low? There’s always a sense of national pride, patriotism and home-grown dignity showed by most citizens and magnified by their political leaders that even if false is honorable and praiseworthy. When your leader goes as far as he did, while saying very little positives about his own people and country, even apologizing for their past deeds (burning of Congress library), makes you wonder what his true agenda is.
Being somewhat disgusted by this display and feeing kind of sorry for the British, I had to call and wake up a friend in London. I selected a Labor Party activists, someone very involved, politically savvy and with plenty of experience, serving both within his party as well as Socialist International.
Eugene (not his real name) was bowled over as I read him the speech. He really didn’t know how to react but offered this possible scenario; Eugene believes Blair is politically finished. He says he can’t believe how unpopular he is at home. As his political future looks rather bleak, Tony is setting himself up for life post Downing Street. Eugene believes he is desperately seeking new possibilities and with this speech (along with his recent conduct) he has guaranteed himself more than a few board appointments, not to mention speaker fees Clinton never dreamed he could get after leaving the office. With that speech, I am wondering too.
Blair threw a few carrots during the speech as well, making nonsense observations such as “we need to go beyond even Kyoto” when even the minimum standards set at Kyoto are a long shot with most of the current right-wing governments in power.
There was also a significant change in the tone of his speech as Iraqi WMDs came up. The man that was so adamant they WILL be found, now sets the stage up for the very real possibility that his entire “story” about their existence was nothing but a fantasy. That’s why he wants to think that History will forgive “mistake” on WMDs.
Tony, not only the world will not forget or forgive your act of unnecessary aggression, it will also remember your speech forever as a yardstick for how wretched a politician can get in face of mounting unpopularity and desperation.
A friend has recently started Taha Press, a brand new news organization in both Farsi and English to get the latest on developing stories out to media as well as general public. I wish them all the best as more such resources are needed.
About the middle of last month I got this email. It was from one of the more prominent bloggers, one of the guys that has more hits on his site during an average bathroom visit than my blog gets for a week. I will not use his name as our exchanges were private and I do not have his permission to do so, but I am sure he will read this and he might like to do that himself. We have had some exchanges in the past and had found some common grounds to build a cordial relationship on. He wanted to talk about July 9th. At first I wasn't sure where he was going with it, but he ultimately wanted to co-ordinate an effort around what is expected to take place that day.
Risking the possibility that I may come across just way out of touch, I dared to ask what exactly is it that he was expecting to happen? I received three separate e-mails right away, each of them warning of upcoming "mass protests", "general strike" , "student uprising" and other mind-boggling things that was to happen that day. I wrote back to in essence state that I don't know where he gets his information from, but no such thing is expected to take place. He obviously didn't like that and replied with some rather harsh words that basically conveyed that I don't know what the hell I am talking about.
During the original student demonstrations in summer of 1989, I had served as one of the outside media contact points for a group of the students, so I decided to speak to some of them just in case I had been left way out of loop and I was about to miss this critical incident. After reassurance by friends that I was right to begin with, I wrote my blogger friend again and ultimately said that although nobody wishes for an end to this regime more than myself and I want to be wrong on this badly, but he has been had and he can safely assume noting of significance is planned or expected on that date.
This got me forwards of all these e-mails from some prominent monarchists along with Ledeen-Sobhani teammates written to him that essentially provided very detailed explanation of this day of Armageddon that was about to end the tyranny of ruling few in Iran and with one calculated, organized and monstrous move send them to the trash bin of history. There was even castle in the sky promises of "action committees" and "resistance cells" organized all over Iran, ready to deliver the knock-out punch and take over the country from sea (North) to gulf (South) and from U.S.'s 51st state (East) to its 52nd state (West).
I really didn't want to argue, so I let it just go but proposed a small wager that since neither one of us truly knows what may or may not happen, we'll both write down our predictions and the loser ultimately is forced to eat his words publicly. He got out of that by some swift maneuvering and going as far as saying things may happen as late as a week after the date, which is why I waited 'till today to write this.
A couple of weeks later, I get another email. This time it is another popular blogger, very upset at me for not displaying the banners/buttons/links they had made "in support of democracy in Iran" pointing to that date. Once again I presented my opinion and in essence received the same reply that I don't know what I'm talking about.
Now that date has come and gone. As predicted, not much was planned or took place. Outside the minds of a few LA based monarchist types that have even less support inside Iran than the hated regime, along with their TV/Radio apparatus and finally their connected buddies in high-places, July 9th was the honorable anniversary of a day when the forces of darkness managed to use terror and violence (their favorite tools), to suppress, maim and temporarily derail the peaceful movement of Iranian people towards democracy and freedom. Anniversary of a day where ordinary unarmed students stood up to the mighty regime and as such paid a hefty price for it. This was also the day regime had hoped to find an excuse to use the same tools to once again inflict further pain and suffering on the body of this frail but popular movement.
As I surfed around for the last few weeks, I saw more than a few blogs displaying buttons or banners with similar message of solidarity. I want to thank you all for having Iran and Iranians on your minds. However I couldn't help but notice that only a very limited number of Iranian sites and blogs (actually one blog only, as far as I can remember) displayed such buttons. Is it because they don't care? far from it. Maybe it's because they know the sources of such bogus information and organization of these "events" is suspicious to say the least. Maybe their opinions more closely reflects the opinion of larger Iranian community that not only detests such tactics, it considers them to be detrimental towards their ultimate goals. Maybe they are tired of a few outsiders trying to dictate to us how we should fight our battles.
In short, we DO want your help, your solidarity, your sympathy. But if you want to lend a hand, let us be the ones deciding what help we may want or need. Talk to us, as a community and as individuals, find out about our aspirations and our objectives. Then assist us in our endeavor, if you see fit. Under our banner, carrying our message.
Is that too much to ask for?
I'm not sure where the Left-Right political terminology came from. It probably originated from The British parliamentary set-up and the days where the more progressive opposition members used to occupy the seats on the left side of the chamber, facing the more conservative government MP's on the right side. Wherever it came from, I have had a hard time finding a similar expression that can easily relay the message and distinguish the line between the two camps so explicitly.
In this struggle along the political spectrum to determine which side one belongs to, there are benchmarks that act as forks in the road. Take the wrong turn and you are quickly on the other camp, despite your previous positions or beliefs. These are not grey areas where you may accept some points and refuse others, this is the land of black and white. You are either on one side or another, period.
Here are some examples; slavery and then apartheid, women's struggle for equality, rights of people vs. private enterprise, more equitable distribution of wealth, plight of the native communities and most other basic social justice issues fall into this category. Black and white.
Then there are very specific issues to separate the two camps even more distinctively. For years, the ultimate benchmark for one's point of view particularly as it relates to international justice issues was the question of Palestine vs. Israel. You could agree or disagree with certain players, criticize or praise specific actions, promote or vilify particular strategies, but you clearly stood with either camp. This is one of those issues that even if you failed to "take sides", your inaction was in fact an action in helping one side or another. Based on your point of view, you found yourself on either end of the scale; left or right.
The most recent example of this was the illegal invasion of Iraq. You either supported it or you did not and your position on this one issue, clearly put you in one camp or another; left or right. This is where the hypocrites in Washington DC and London, along with their supporters and like-minded individuals showed their true direction and intentions. This is where the once mighty left of center Labour Party failed to take the turn by the side of other progressive parties worldwide and as a result ended up in the farthest outskirts of the right. By the same token, their sister party in Germany, the Social Democrats chose to stick to their principals and by opposing the invasion made some of us forget their previous questionable moves that had threatened to dislodge the party down a slippery slide to oblivion.
The same is true for individuals. Jeff Jarvis did not like it when I suggested that his views on Iraq puts him in-line with the extreme right. Life is tough. You make your bed, you lay in it. He chose to take those positions and he shall live with that. I am yet to see a public self-criticism of his previous stand now that the world knows this invasion was illegal and no justification for the "pre-emptive" notion existed. My friend Dave is another example. In his case I can at least see the sprouting roots of doubt, but a public and open "cleansing" of the soul may be required on the way back into the land of progressive thought.
As for myself, I obviously am not perfect either. Over the years, I have taken the wrong road at many forks along the way. However, I have often found the courage to admit to them and by going through a process of self-criticism bring myself back to the principals I hold dear. I hope to continue doing this and this weblog is yet another tool to help with that process.
I hope not only the two friends mentioned, but all others who missed this vital turn on the road will now use the tools at their disposal to do just the same.
After I wrote about the importance of starting and expansion of more English blogs by Iranians, many of you wrote me asking for more information and asking for help in starting them. Iranian.com has just published something from me on that topic and here are two short paragraphs from the same piece:
"As events in Iran develop and dynamics of power and influence change rapidly, more Iranian voices are needed to express our wants and goals to the global community. English blogs are a vital way to express your views for this audience. With the current restrictions inside Iran, the safety concerns and language barriers, more of this load lays on the shoulders of those of us living abroad."
"So, where to start and what does it cost to have a blog? There are more than a few options for you to start your blog with and the best part is that it is almost always free! All you need is the desire, plus a commitment to spend some time in typing your views regularly. To start, I suggest visiting BlogSpot. They have an easy interface, allowing you to set up and start your own blog in a few minutes and they are free if you don't mind their banner on top of your site."
Blogs shall set you free
You need your own
July 15, 3003
Towards the end of last year I finally decided to start a blog. Blogs (short for Web Log) are personal diaries of sort. They come in an assortment of styles and topics, published on the web for the world to read.
My decision was primarily based on the insistence of a few friends who felt I should write more. Plus, the occasional email from someone asking what I had written since the last piece they had read on Iranian.com or similar sites. I felt I needed a forum to express myself and have it available for others to view, critique and comment on.
I, like many other Iranians, became familiar with blogs by reading Hossein Derakhsan's. I had just moved from Toronto and he had just moved there. Hoder would occasionally post pictures from various parts of the city. Looking at pictures of his Kubideh Kabob at a restaurant at Yonge/Dundas area was my trip back to the city I had called home for 18 years.
I was later hooked on and fascinated by other Iranian bloggers, particularly those who dared to break taboos and post rather personal information on their daily lives, including notes of political dissent, romantic ventures, use of recreational drugs and even organizing to help the orphanages or mental asylums.
So, I took the leap and started my first blog and a few months later went "pro" by registering a domain and paying for hosting for my current blog the eyeranian. I had started my blog in hope of gaining a loyal readership of mostly friends, somewhere around 20 people. Now, only a short time later, I sometimes have over 1,000 visitors before midday.
I would like to think it's because I have something fascinating to say, but in reality it is in large part because I am amongst only a few active bloggers who writes about Iran in English and offers a viewpoint other than what is often represented in the West.
My readers come mostly from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Australia, in that order; the top four English speaking countries with broad public access to the web. Number of "hits" from Iran fluctuates as more restrictions are put on web access and connections often slow down to a halt. But considering the communication barrier, it still constitutes a significant portion of those who stop by.
When there is added attention and media spotlight is on Iran, such as during the last period of unrest or self mutilation of Mojahedin supporters, thousands of new visitors flock to my blog. They seek information and, more importantly, connections. It's a way to grasp the real stories behind the news they get from Fox or CNN.
My blog and others like it are a way for people to connect to people, direct and almost one-on-one, often a very personal level. This is why you need to start a blog and to do it in English.
Over the last few months I have engaged a fanatic Christian from the US Midwest who now understands the images he sees in mainstream media do not represent a very accurate picture of Iran and Iranians. A Muslim Malaysian was surprised to hear that the 1979 revolution was never "Islamic" in content or nature and included many others who were pushed aside when the Islamists stole the people's movement and rode it to power.
With the help of other bloggers, we managed to bring considerable attention to the arrest of Iranian journalist Sina Motallebi and made Iranian topics a central feature of many high profile blogs, such as Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine. Jeff is the president of the media company that owns owns several prominent websites and operates the sites for Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wired, Allure, GQ and many others.
Perhaps most significantly, the eyeranian has managed to gain the attention of a few people close to the highest circles of power. Michael Ledeen, arguably the Bush Administration's primary advisor on Iran and the main architect of the "regime change" doctrine, is now a regular visitor to my blog and often engages in direct discussions with myself or others who comment on his statements. I am told there are at least two other influential regulars, but they have so far chosen to remain anonymous.
You starting your own English blog will give all these people and others another point of view; YOUR point of view. It really doesn't matter what you write about. You can write about your own basic daily life, your interests, opinions or just provide links to what you find interesting on other sites. You can even choose to provide a digest version of translated Farsi blogs. You can find a list of those on BlogNama.
It also matters little if you aren't a regular "writer" or your writing skills aren't the best. One of the most popular Iranian blogs in English is Notes of an Iranian Girl that is written in less than perfect English from Tehran. For the inspiring writers, this is the best way to force yourself to write regularly.
As events in Iran develop and dynamics of power and influence change rapidly, more Iranian voices are needed to express our wants and goals to the global community. English blogs are a vital way to express your views for this audience. With the current restrictions inside Iran, the safety concerns and language barriers, more of this load lays on the shoulders of those of us living abroad. Besides, most bloggers choose to remain anonymous and there is virtually no fear of reprisal.
So, where to start and what does it cost to have a blog? There are more than a few options for you to start your blog with and the best part is that it is almost always free! All you need is the desire, plus a commitment to spend some time in typing your views regularly. To start, I suggest visiting BlogSpot . They have an easy interface, allowing you to set up and start your own blog in a few minutes and they are free if you don't mind their banner on top of your site.
If you are concerned about who will read your blog and whether you will have enough visitors to make it a worthwhile venture, do not worry. I will personally ask other fellow bloggers to help you in getting some traffic directed to your blog to build your own crop of regulars. Besides, didn't you hear "build it and they will come"?
Go for it! I look forward to reading your blog regularly.
Man! I'm speechless. No, I lied. I'm never speechless, really. But thank you for all the kind remarks, both here and by email. It's nice to be missed.
It was a great trip. Here are some highlights:
Toronto is a great city, period.
Hossein Derakhshan is an even cooler individual in person. I thoroughly enjoyed spending some limited time with him and look forward to working with him (and his friends) even more in the future. The only regret, I only got a brief chance to meet his wife Marjan and wish there was more time available to spend with both of them.
Had an amazing time at a friend's wedding.
Saw a couple of other dear friends and ate some very missed food both homemade as well as out.
It is really strange to meet those who read your stuff here, sometimes leaving comments even, and hear their impressions live. Thank you for all your kind remarks, as well as the odd criticism. And if there are others who are still not sure, YES, I do speak (and write) fluent Farsi.
1 - Do you have a fever?
2 - Do you have one or more of the following symptoms; cough, shortness of breath OR difficulty breathing?
3 - Have you been in contact with a SARS-affected person in the last 10 days?
These 3 questions are basically the only encounter most visitors will have with the difficult situation Torontonians faced during the SARS episode of last few months. They are presented to each visitor, both on entry (yellow sheet) as well as upon departure (pink one) and must be filled, although it is then largely ignored by those at the gates. On Saturday, there was also a walking memorial to the 39 people who lost their lives to SARS, attended mostly by Toronto's Asian community. North York General Hospital, the main battleground with the virus is slowly turning back to normal, but the scars on the fabric of the community are obvious and plenty. CBS did a great job on broadcasting the weekend's Molson Indy without mentioning anything though, while appraising everything about Toronto. Thank you CBS and Congratulations to Toronto's own Paul Tracy (start-to-finish winner). But F1 still rules!
So, the reporter from Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper wants to get some quotes and conduct interviews about community's reaction to the news of Zahra Kazemi's murder in Iran (more on that soon) and he needs to track me down to get it going. This is after I have not lived in the country for years and was only visiting for a few days, where he happened to have come across an old number for a relative. I, of course, put him in touch with the right people but so sad for the Iranian-Canadian community that still hasn't managed to create a "voice" for itself, an organization to speak for its interests, personalities that can act as its mouthpiece, contacts that can act when it's needed.
There are some new developments on that front, but I believe we are still way behind where we need to be.
Delta wins the award for worst airline as voted by the panel of writers for the eyeranian due to horrendous delays and loss of luggage.
The only bright point for Delta, showing a non-traditional movie on the flight back: Bend it like Beckham. In my section of about 100 people, only two people I could see (aside from me) actually paid the $5 to get headphones to watch the movie properly. Then again, what do you expect from a largely American crowd presented with a movie themed around soccer and starring a bunch of turban-headed, Sari-wearing foreigners, in which even the white people speak with a funny accent.
Toronto, Here I Come!
Kayhan daily, the primary mouthpiece of the "hardliners" in Iran has just published an interview with Ayatollah Khalkhali, the original special prosecutor/judge/jury in charge of the revolutionary courts set up immediately after the revolution of 1979. Khalkhali quickly gained the "butcher" title by Iranian people and foreign media due to his brief and unfair "courts" followed by immediate execution of many of last regime's ministers, army officers and all others with any connections to the Shah or system. Many have argued that while most of those responsible for oppression, imprisonment, torture and executions during regime's reign were never arrested and fled with the Shah or shortly after, Khalkhali insisted on execution of everyone, even those whose "crimes" were limited to serving as an education minister for the Shah for example or were merely accused of collaborating with SAVAK, his security police.
One of the controversial figures executed by Khalkhali was Shah's long time Prime Minister Amir-Abbas Hoveyda. The controversy has further increased since Abbas Milani, himself a political prisoner during Hoveyda's government wrote and published a biography on him titled The Persian Sphinx. Milani's well researched and detailed study on the life of Hoveyda fails to find any controversial or precarious aspects to a man that comes across as more of a delusional social democrat, arts lover, intellectual, with little authority as opposed to a murderer, bandit, corrupt head of government. He was even naive enough to believe that since he had done nothing wrong, he had nothing to fear and passed on the opportunity to run and instead turned himself in stating that Islamic justice will judge him fairly and set him free. The image above, stills taken from a French crew videotape, is last images of Hoveyda, days before his execution.
Khalkhali who is apparently suffering from severe stages of Parkinson's disease and is now a "moderate", was so ill that the reporter's 26 question, one-page interview was conducted in several sessions over a month's period. The result is a unique but brief look into the mind of someone deeply engulfed in religious fundamentalism and is a must read for all those involved with a struggle against such thinking. If someone cares to translate the entire interview, I would love to post it or provide a link to it. Here are a few selected points;
He considers his rulings as the "judgment and conscience of a 35 million people" (referring to the population of Iran in 1979) when he suggests Milani should re-think his position. This is typical of his type, hiding behind this imaginary population who approves of all they do and therefore they are the sole representative of the masses by default.
Khalkhali tries to discredit any dissenter's opinions by snide remarks such as calling them "escapees" suggesting that they couldn't possibly have a valid point if they had to leave the country to save their lives. Somebody tell him that if they hadn't escaped, they wouldn't be able to make a remark or have an opinion as his "court" and others like it would have made them vanish quickly.
He acknowledges he was appointed by Khomeini but takes full responsibility for his decisions personally. But he also concedes that when his harsh stand was faced with resistance from the temporary revolution cabinet, "Imam" grabbed his collar and told him to go grab them by the collar the same way. What a constructive approach to conflict resolutions. He further admits to his Imam's extended interference in government's affairs when he claims he was disqualified from holding a seat in the 3rd parliament but Imam sent his son to the "council of experts" to overrule their decision.
Khalkhali repeatedly claims both him and Khomeini wanted Hoveyda and others to have a fair trial, then he admits that he refused to allow him to obtain a lawyer and even when the National Front (Shah's long-time nemesis) offered Dr. Matin-Daftari, Mossadegh's grandson to defend Hoveyda, he says that he was suspicious of "him and his types" and would not allow him into the court. He also confirms Milani's account that Hoveyda was awakened at midnight and brought into court immediately, without an opportunity to prepare his defense. This is where it gets scary, he then actually suggests that in the Islamic justice system, Hoveyda didn't need a lawyer as Khalkhali himself was not only the prosecutor, judge and jury, but he was in fact acting as the defense lawyer as well (!!!). So much for the fair trial illusion.
Perhaps most telling of unfairness of this system of injustice, is his assertion that in his version of "science of law" there is a concept called "obvious guilt" where the accused is presumed and considered guilty if his/her "crimes" are "very clear" prior to the trial.
This is just a short glimpse into the system that has ruled Iran for over 23 years. This stain on the conscience of humanity needs to be removed and replaced with freedom, justice and peace. Iranian people will eventually get there, in their own way and using their own channels.
Interview link courtesy of Gooya News
The ruling mob in Iran keeps getting richer by the day while the working class finds it even more difficult to make ends meet in the wake of double digit inflation and sky high unemployment. Forbes offers the story they titled "Millionaire Mullahs".
Paul Klebnikov, 07.21.03
A nuclear threat to the rest of the world, Iran is robbing its own people of prosperity. But the men at the top are getting extremely rich.
It's rumble time in Tehran. At dozens of intersections in the capital of Iran thousands of students are protesting on a recent Friday around midnight, as they do nearly every night, chanting pro-democracy slogans and lighting bonfires on street corners. Residents of the surrounding middle-class neighborhoods converge in their cars, honking their horns in raucous support.
Suddenly there's thunder in the air. A gang of 30 motorcyclists, brandishing iron bars and clubs as big as baseball bats, roars through the stalled traffic. They glare at the drivers, yell threats, thump cars. Burly and bearded, the bikers yank two men from their auto and pummel them. Most protesters scatter. Uniformed policemen watch impassively as the thugs beat the last stragglers.
These Hell's Angels are part of the Hezbollah militia, recruited mostly from the countryside. Iran's ruling mullahs roll them out whenever they need to intimidate their opponents. The Islamic Republic is a strange dictatorship. As it moves to repress growing opposition to clerical rule, the regime relies not on soldiers or uniformed police (many of whom sympathize with the protesters) but on the bullies of Hezbollah and the equally thuggish Revolutionary Guards. The powers that be claim to derive legitimacy from Allah but remain on top with gangsterlike methods of intimidation, violence and murder.
Who controls today's Iran? Certainly not Mohammad Khatami, the twice-elected moderate president, or the reformist parliament. Not even the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a stridently anti-American but unremarkable cleric plucked from the religious ranks 14 years ago to fill the shoes of his giant predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini, is fully in control. The real power is a handful of clerics and their associates who call the shots behind the curtain and have gotten very rich in the process.
The economy bears more than a little resemblance to the crony capitalism that sprouted from the wreck of the Soviet Union. The 1979 revolution expropriated the assets of foreign investors and the nation's wealthiest families; oil had long been nationalized, but the mullahs seized virtually everything else of value--banks, hotels, car and chemical companies, makers of drugs and consumer goods. What distinguishes Iran is that many of these assets were given to Islamic charitable foundations, controlled by the clerics. According to businessmen and former foundation executives, the charities now serve as slush funds for the mullahs and their supporters.
Iran has other lethal secrets besides its nuclear program, now the subject of prying international eyes. Dozens of interviews with businessmen, merchants, economists and former ministers and other top government officials reveal a picture of a dictatorship run by a shadow government that--the U.S. State Department suspects--finances terrorist groups abroad through a shadow foreign policy. Its economy is dominated by shadow business empires and its power is protected by a shadow army of enforcers.
Ironically, the man most adept at manipulating this hidden power structure is one of Iran's best-known characters--Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has been named an ayatollah, or religious leader. He was the speaker of parliament and Khomeini's right-hand man in the 1980s, president of Iran from 1989 to 1997 and is now chairman of the powerful Expediency Council, which resolves disputes between the clerical establishment and parliament. Rafsanjani has more or less run the Islamic Republic for the past 24 years.
He played it smart, aligning himself in the 1960s with factions led by Ayatollah Khomeini, then becoming the go-to guy after the revolution. A hard-liner ideologically, Rafsanjani nonetheless has a pragmatic streak. He convinced Khomeini to end the Iran-Iraq war and broke Iran's international isolation by establishing trade relations with the Soviet Union, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In the 1990s he restarted Iran's nuclear program. He is also the father of Iran's "privatization" program. During his presidency the stock market was revived, some government companies were sold to insiders, foreign trade was liberalized and the oil sector was opened up to private companies. Most of the good properties and contracts, say dissident members of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, ended up in the hands of mullahs, their associates and, not least, Rafsanjani's own family, who rose from modest origins as small-scale pistachio farmers.
"They were not rich people, so they worked hard and always tried to help their relatives get ahead," remembers Reza, a historian who declines to use his last name and who studied with one of Rafsanjani's brothers at Tehran University in the early 1970s. "When they were in university, two brothers earned money on the side tutoring theological students and preparing their exam papers."
Disaffected, denied opportunity and just plain bored, Iran's youth have taken their frustrations with the clerics' regime to the streets.
Population : Iran 67 million U.S. 283 million
Percent under 25 : Iran 65% U.S. 35%
GDP per capita : Iran $1,800 U.S. $37,000
Inflation : Iran 25% U.S. 2%
Unemployment : Iran 18% U.S. 6%
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Department of Labor; Atieh Bahar Consulting; Forbes estimates.
The 1979 revolution transformed the Rafsanjani clan into commercial pashas. One brother headed the country's largest copper mine; another took control of the state-owned TV network; a brother-in-law became governor of Kerman province, while a cousin runs an outfit that dominates Iran's $400 million pistachio export business; a nephew and one of Rafsanjani's sons took key positions in the Ministry of Oil; another son heads the Tehran Metro construction project (an estimated $700 million spent so far). Today, operating through various foundations and front companies, the family is also believed to control one of Iran's biggest oil engineering companies, a plant assembling Daewoo automobiles, and Iran's best private airline (though the Rafsanjanis insist they do not own these assets).
None of this sits well with the populace, whose per capita income is $1,800 a year. The gossip on the street, going well beyond the observable facts, has the Rafsanjanis stashing billions of dollars in bank accounts in Switzerland and Luxembourg; controlling huge swaths of waterfront in Iran's free economic zones on the Persian Gulf; and owning whole vacation resorts on the idyllic beaches of Dubai, Goa and Thailand.
But not much of the criticism makes its way into print. One journalist who dared to investigate Rafsanjani's secret dealings and his alleged role in extrajudicial killings of dissidents is now languishing in jail. He's lucky. Iranian politics can be deadly. Five years ago Tehran was rocked by murders of journalists and anticorruption activists; some were beheaded, others mutilated.
Some of the family's wealth is out there for all to see. Rafsanjani's youngest son, Yaser, owns a 30-acre horse farm in the super-fashionable Lavasan neighborhood of north Tehran, where land goes for over $4 million an acre. Just where did Yaser get his money? A Belgian-educated businessman, he runs a large export-import firm that includes baby food, bottled water and industrial machinery.
Until a few years ago the simplest way to get rich quick was through foreign-currency trades. Easy, if you could get greenbacks at the subsidized import rate of 1,750 rials to the dollar and resell them at the market rate of 8,000 to the dollar. You needed only the right connections for an import license. "I estimate that, over a period of ten years, Iran lost $3 billion to $5 billion annually from this kind of exchange-rate fraud," says Saeed Laylaz, an economist, now with Iran's biggest carmaker. "And the lion's share of that went to about 50 families."
One of the families benefiting from the foreign trade system was the Asgaroladis, an old Jewish clan of bazaar traders, who converted to Islam several generations ago. Asadollah Asgaroladi exports pistachios, cumin, dried fruit, shrimp and caviar, and imports sugar and home appliances; his fortune is estimated by Iranian bankers to be some $400 million. Asgaroladi had a little help from his older brother, Habibollah, who, as minister of commerce in the 1980s, was in charge of distributing lucrative foreign-trade licenses. (He was also a counterparty to commodities trader and then-fugitive Marc Rich, who helped Iran bypass U.S.-backed sanctions.)
The other side of Iran's economy belongs to the Islamic foundations, which account for 10% to 20% of the nation's GDP--$115 billion last year. Known as bonyads, the best-known of these outfits were established from seized property and enterprises by order of Ayatollah Khomeini in the first weeks of his regime. Their mission was to redistribute to the impoverished masses the "illegitimate" wealth accumulated before the revolution by "apostates" and "blood-sucking capitalists." And, for a decade or so, the foundations shelled out money to build low-income housing and health clinics. But since Khomeini's death in 1989 they have increasingly forsaken their social welfare functions for straightforward commercial activities.
Until recently they were exempt from taxes, import duties and most government regulation. They had access to subsidized foreign currency and low-interest loans from state-owned banks. And they were not accountable to the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance or any other government institution. Formally, they are under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Leader; effectively, they operate without any oversight at all, answerable only to Allah.
According to Shiite Muslim tradition, devout businessmen are expected to donate 20% of profits to their local mosques, which use the money to help the poor. By contrast, many bonyads seem like straightforward rackets, extorting money from entrepreneurs. Besides the biggest national outfits, almost every Iranian town has its own bonyad, affiliated with local mullahs. "Many small businessmen complain that as soon as you start to make some money, the leading mullah will come to you and ask for a contribution to his local charity," says an opposition economist, who declines to give his name. "If you refuse, you will be accused of not being a good Muslim. Some witnesses will turn up to testify that they heard you insult the Prophet Mohammad, and you will be thrown in jail." The Cosa Nostra meets fundamentalism.
Other charities resemble multinational conglomerates. The Mostazafan & Jambazan Foundation (Foundation for the Oppressed and War Invalids) is the second-largest commercial enterprise in the country, behind the state-owned National Iranian Oil Co. Until recently it was run by a man named Mohsen Rafiqdoost. The son of a vegetable-and-fruit merchant at the Tehran bazaar, Rafiqdoost got his big break in 1979, when he was chosen to drive Ayatollah Khomeini from the airport after his triumphal return from exile in Paris.
Khomeini made him Minister of the Revolutionary Guards to quash internal dissent and smuggle in weapons for the Iran-Iraq war. In 1989, when Rafsanjani became president, Rafiqdoost gained control of the Mostazafan Foundation, which employs up to 400,000 workers and has assets that in all probability exceed $10 billion. Among its holdings: the former Hyatt and Hilton hotels in Tehran; the highly successful Zam-Zam soft drink company (once Pepsi); an international shipping line; companies producing oil products and cement; swaths of farmland and urban real estate.
Theoretically the Mostazafan Foundation is a social welfare organization. By 1996 it began taking government funds to cover welfare disbursements; soon it plans to spin off its social responsibilities altogether, leaving behind a purely commercial conglomerate owned by--whom? That is not clear. Why does this foundation exist? "I don't know--ask Mr. Rafiqdoost," says Abbas Maleki, a foreign policy adviser to Ayatollah Rafsanjani.
A picture emerges from one Iranian businessman who used to handle the foreign trade deals for one of the big foundations. Organizations like the Mostazafan serve as giant cash boxes, he says, to pay off supporters of the mullahs, whether they're thousands of peasants bused in to attend religious demonstrations in Tehran or Hezbollah thugs who beat up students. And, not least, the foundations serve as cash cows for their managers.
"It usually works like this," explains this businessman. "Some foreigner comes in, proposes a deal to the foundation head. The big boss says: ‘Fine. I agree. Work out the details with my administrator.' So the foreigner goes to see the administrator, who tells him: ‘You know that we have two economies here--official and unofficial. You have to be part of the unofficial economy if you want to be successful. So, you have to deposit the following amount into the following bank account abroad and then the deal will go forward.'"
Today Rafiqdoost heads up the Noor Foundation, which owns apartment blocks and makes an estimated $200 million importing pharmaceuticals, sugar and construction materials. He is quick to downplay his personal wealth. "I am just a normal person, with normal wealth," he says. Then, striking a Napoleonic pose, he adds: "But if Islam is threatened, I will become big again."
Implication: that he has access to a secret reservoir of money that can be tapped when the need arises. That may have been what Ayatollah Rafsanjani had in mind when he declared recently that the Islamic Republic needed to keep large funds in reserve. But who is to determine when Islam is in danger?
As minister of the Revolutionary Guards in the 1980s, Rafiqdoost played a key role in sponsoring Hezbollah in Lebanon--which kidnapped foreigners, hijacked airplanes, set off car bombs, trafficked in heroin and pioneered the use of suicide bombers. According to Gregory Sullivan, spokesman for the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau at the U.S. State Department, the foundations are the perfect vehicles to carry out Iran's shadow foreign policy. (One of them offered the $2.8 million bounty to anyone who carried out Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa to kill British author Salman Rushdie.) Whenever suspicion of complicity in a terrorist incident--in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Argentina--turns to Iran, the Tehran government has denied involvement. State Department officials suspect that such operations may be sponsored by one of the foundations and semiautonomous units of the Revolutionary Guards. If anyone in Iran is aiding al Qaeda, that may be the best place to look.
Iran's foundations are a law unto themselves. The largest "charity" (at least in terms of real estate holdings) is the centuries-old Razavi Foundation, charged with caring for Iran's most revered shrine--the tomb of Reza, the Eighth Shiite Imam, in the northern city of Mashhad. It is run by one of Iran's leading hard-line mullahs, Ayatollah Vaez-Tabasi, who prefers to stay out of the public eye but emerges occasionally to urge death to apostates and other opponents of the clerical regime.
The Razavi Foundation owns vast tracts of urban real estate all across Iran, as well as hotels, factories, farms and quarries. Its assets are impossible to value with any precision, since the foundation has never released an inventory of its holdings, but Iranian economists speak of a net asset value of $15 billion or more. The foundation also receives generous contributions from the millions of pilgrims who visit the Mashhad shrine each year.
What happens to annual revenues estimated in the hundreds of millions--perhaps billions--of dollars? Not all of it goes to cover the maintenance costs of mosques, cemeteries, religious schools and libraries. Over the past decade the foundation has bought new businesses and properties, established investment banks (together with investors from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), funded real estate projects and financed big foreign trade deals.
The driving force behind the commercialization of the Razavi Foundation is Ayatollah Tabasi's son, Naser, who was put in charge of the Sarakhs Free Trade Zone, on the border with the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan. In the 1990s the foundation poured hundreds of millions of dollars into this project, funding a rail link between Iran and Turkmenistan, new highways, an international airport, a hotel and office buildings. It even paid $2.3 million to a Swiss firm to erect a huge tent for the ceremonies inaugurating the Iran-Turkmenistan rail link.
Then it all went wrong. In July 2001 Naser Tabasi was dismissed as director of the Free Trade Zone. Two months later he was arrested and charged with fraud in connection with a Dubai-based company called Al-Makasib. The details of the case remain murky, but four months ago the General Court of Tehran concluded that Naser Tabasi had not known that he was breaking the law and acquitted him.
Few receive even a slap on the wrist. A rare exception: Hard-line cleric Hadi Ghaffari, who specialized in seizing expropriated properties, like Star Stockings (maker of sexy lingerie), and reselling them at a nice profit. He was convicted of embezzlement in the early 1990s.
Iran's most distinguished senior clerics are disgusted by the mullahcrats. Ayatollah Taheri, Friday prayer leader of the city of Isfahan, resigned in protest earlier this year. "When I hear that some of the privileged progeny and special people, some of whom even don cloaks and turbans, are competing amongst themselves to amass the most wealth," he said, "I am drenched with the sweat of shame."
Meanwhile the clerical elite has mismanaged the nation into senseless poverty. With 9% of the world's oil and 15% of its natural gas, Iran should be a very rich country. It has a young, educated population and a long tradition of craftsmanship and international commerce. But per capita income today is actually 7% below what it was before the revolution. Iranian economists estimate capital flight (to Dubai and other safe havens) at up to $3 billion a year.
No wonder so many students turn to the streets in protest. The dictatorship tells them what to think, what to wear, and what to eat and drink. It has also been robbing them of their future.
A friend sent me this and quite honestly it took me a couple of days to even absorb it enough to write about it. This kid (that's all he is) was arrested for heckling the U.S. troops "as a warning to others". Is this the "democracy" we brought to Iraq? Are we teaching them that "insulting" the U.S. or its troops is a punishable crime? Are there things or people that can not or should not be "insulted"? Then what is the difference for those who are arrested in Iran for "insulting" the supreme leader or his goons? Obviously I am still having a very hard time digesting this.
I had a chance to talk to Hoder today and most of our conversation circled around the need for more Iranians to start English blogs. We both agreed how imporatnt this is, particularly as events in Iran develope and media spotlight is focused there again.
Why do we let others try to translate and express how we feel? If more of us, even those with limited command of English, tried to use this tool and relate their points of view to the rest of the world, we wouldn't have others claiming that we want foreign intrusion into our country or we love the monarchy or we ...
Anyone interested in starting one, contact me. I will help as much as I can. Promise.
Hoder (not unlike myself) took a few days off from writing but came back with a couple of gems;
The first is his post "If you really want to support us, try to know more about us."
Then he asks for 5 suggestions as to "How can a non-Iranian person know more about iran".
I think both discussions are worthy and critical at this point and look forward to your ideas, comments and suggestions.
My challenge to you this week is to USE your freedoms. I
challenge you to make a list, set a schedule, and express
yourself! Do something different. Read something unusual,
state a minority opinion. This week, USE your freedoms!
"Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is
about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can
-- Harriet Rubin
What is at the summit of courage, I think is freedom. The
freedom that comes with the knowledge that no earthly thing
can break you."
-- Paula Giddings
"You don't get to choose how you're going to die, or when.
You can only decide how you're going to live. Now."
-- Joan Baez
"The secret of man's being is not only to live but to have
something to live for."
This isn't really about California, so don't change the channel and read on.
Democracy is a funny thing. It is so delicate and fragile, sometimes very well intended people don't even realize how badly they could jeopardize it's effectiveness or even harm it. Here's an example;
Currently there is a campaign in California to recall governor Grey Davis. That basically means to take him out of the office he won only 8 months ago. Now I don't want to sound like I am a supporter, as quite honestly I couldn't care less about Pepsi or Coke arguments. However I believe this campaign, funded primarily by Republican Congressman Darrel Issa (who would like to run for the seat if it becomes available and the Terminator isn't somehow running), is totally against the basic principals of democracy. Here's why;
One of the pillars of a democracy (in it's current form in most western countries) is the right to run for and hold a public office. In this endeavor, all interested candidates present their agendas and issues and the person with most votes (or a brother as governor and a supreme court of like-minded individuals) wins that post for a pre-determined period of time. During this period, any politician makes many decision, some correct, some not, some popular, others out of favor. The electorate gets an opportunity near the end of this specific term to judge the effectiveness of that individual and may or may not vote for him/her again.
Naturally, sometimes politicians are forced to make hard choices and explore options that may not be appreciated immediately. Just imagine if politicians started making every decision based on whether it is popular or not. How effective can they be when tough choices need to be made? Will they make the right choice, or the popular one, even if it is wrong? This is what this idiotic recall invention (not including provisions for any physical or mental incapability or legal convictions) brings to any political undertaking. The entire idea of a "recall" is designed to nurture even more spineless politicians. If Grey Davis is actually taken down, who is next? With Issa holding the office, should the Democrats start a petition to recall him as soon as he makes some unpopular choice? Where would this all end?
Now to their credit, some wise Republicans obviously realized how wrong this entire scheme is and have gathered together to stop the nonsense. But as I write this, some conservatives are very busy collecting signatures to put the issue on the agenda.
I don't believe anyone who understands and advocates a full and responsible democracy, could be part of what is going on in California.
The guy that was given the mission to rebuilt Iraq, retired Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner offered some insightful remarks today. He spoke of Saddam's "killing fields" without clarifying if he was talking about the ones Saddam created after the U.S. refused to to back the Shiite uprising following desert storm, or maybe he meant the ones filled with Iranian soldiers and Kurd villagers while Rumsfeld visited Saddam to ensure the chemical using dictator that he has powerful friends backing him in Washington DC.
Maybe we'll get further details when the 1 million bodies and WMD's are discovered. Garner didn't stop there; ''I think 90 percent of the Iraqi people are happy as hell'' that the United States invaded and occupied their country, he said. ''But they're not saying anything because they have the experience of, `He [Hussein] was there with us for 30 years, and nobody has showed me his body yet. And if he comes back, he's going to get even with everybody. ''So they're just sitting there doing nothing. They're fence-sitters just watching,'' he said.
Iraqi men and children celebrate as they tear apart a U.S. Army vehicle after it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Baghdad, July 3, 2003. At least one U.S. soldier and two Iraqi passers-by were wounded in the attack on Thursday and in a separate incident another six U.S. soldiers were wounded in western Iraq in the latest of spate of increasingly bold guerrilla-style attacks. REUTERS/Faleh Kheiber
The guys who are going to bring democracy to us, have a new outfit and web site. Iran Almanac is so democratic, inclusive and respectful of other people's opinions and points of view, it has chosen this lofty slogan:
"The one and only Iranian information website based on facts"
I guess all the other thousands of weblogs, news sites and e-zines are all based on lies and fiction. Not surprisingly, the first two featured articles are by 1 - "unbiased non-monarchist" Michael Ledeen and 2 - "crown prince" Reza Pahlavi.
Ask an Iranian friend to explain the Persian proverb of "do we believe the rooster's tail or the pledge of innocence, vowed to holy hazrat abbas".
If anyone has had any doubt about Toronto being one of the coolest cities on earth, I urge you to click on the picture above and check out the scenery at last weekend's pride festivities. Thanks to Hoder for the link.
Michael Ledeen left a comment on BuzzMachine which included this line:
"Did you see the latest poll, conducted by the mullahs themselves, in which 45% of the people said they wanted regime change even if it required foreign invasion?"
Michael, I did not. Could you please provide a link or reference to this poll "conducted by the mullahs themselves" that would show "45% of the people said they wanted regime change even if it required foreign invasion"?
Anxiously awaiting your reply.
Congratulations to the city of Vancouver for winning the opportunity to host the 2010 winter Olympic games. Although this in fact kills the possibility of Toronto's bid for the following summer games, it would offer Vancouver an opportunity to show off one of the most beautiful cities in the world, in front of a global audience.
Let's hope they take this opportunity to address some social issues and use the games to build a better city and province for all it's citizens.
Is it too early to bid for Tehran games in 2020?
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy kids command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
* Lyrics have been slightly modified to avoid a gender bias as well honouring separation of church and state