Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Iran & US

Thinking the unthinkable, or the logical?

"Anti-Iran hawks will be horrified at the idea to partner with Iran against al-Qaida. Iran’s ties to Hezbollah and Hamas, they will claim, establish Iran and al-Qaida as woven from the same terrorist cloth.

But such charges gravely distort reality. There is no such a thing as good and bad terrorism; terrorism kills and maims innocent civilians, regardless of the cause. But failure to grasp the importance of conflicts between al-Qaida and Iran benefits al-Qaida and blinds us to common American and Iran-ian interests in the peace, security and stability of Iraq.

Ideologically, the worldviews of Iran and al-Qaida clash. Iran is a status quo power, and al-Qaida is a revolutionary non-state terrorist actor. Iran seeks to shore up its national security interests, whereas, al-Qaida aspires to tear down national boundaries and re-establish the caliphate, the seventh-century Islamic empire.

To al-Qaida, jihadists serve its chiliastic mission of establishing Islamic rule worldwide. To Iranian leaders, Hezbollah and Hamas function as deterrents to Israeli military strikes against Iran.

Al-Qaida leaders are unlikely to abandon their holy war against the West and Israel. By contrast, Iran has offered to discuss its ties to Hezbollah and Hamas and to accept a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Such underlying philosophical differences between Iran and al-Qaida were on display in the wake of the savage attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001. Within hours of the attacks, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami condemned them as "assaults on human dignity and rights" and told the world later that the attacks were perpetrated by "a cult of fanatics" who could communicate with perceived opponents only "through carnage and devastation."

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was the first Muslim cleric in the world to declare holy war (jihad) against terrorism as a "global scourge." Thousands of ordinary Iranians held candlelight vigils for the American victims of terrorism."

read more of professor Ramazani's column in the Daily Progress ...

Also, Trita Parsi's take on Bush's Anti-Diplomacy

From discourse of democracy, to discourse of normalization

Fouault, a Mullah Lover?

In the 37th issue of the New Politics, Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson offer their analysis of Foucault's relationship to the Iranian Revolution:

The Seductions of Islamism Revisiting Foucault and the Iranian Revolution

Selective excerpts:

Progressive and leftist intellectuals around the world were initially very divided in their assessments of the Iranian Revolution. While they supported the overthrow of the shah, they were usually less enthusiastic about the notion of an Islamic republic. Foucault visited and wrote on Iran during this period, a period when he was at the height of his intellectual powers. He had recently published Discipline and Punish (1975) and Vol. I of History of Sexuality (1976) and was working on material for Vol. II and III of the latter. Since their publication, the reputation of these writings has grown rather than diminished and they have helped us to conceptualize gender, sexuality, knowledge, power, and culture in new and important ways. Paradoxically, however, his extensive writings and interviews on the Iranian Revolution have experienced a different fate, ignored or dismissed even by thinkers closely identified with Foucault's perspectives.
Foucault staked out a series of distinctive political and theoretical positions on the Iranian Revolution. In part because only three of his fifteen articles and interviews on Iran have appeared in English, they have generated little discussion in the English-speaking world. Many scholars of Foucault view these writings as aberrant or the product of a political mistake. We believe that Foucault's writings on Iran were in fact closely related to his general theoretical writings on the discourses of power and the hazards of modernity.
Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, where Foucault's writings on Iran have been only selectively translated and the contemporary French responses to him not translated at all, his Iran writings have been treated more kindly. His last two articles on Iran, where he rather belatedly made a few criticisms of the Islamic regime in the face of the attacks on him by other French intellectuals, have been the most widely circulated ones among those that have appeared in English up to now. They are the only examples of his Iran writings to be found in the three-volume collection, The Essential Writings of Michel Foucault, issued recently by the New Press (Foucault 2000).
oucault carried out a probing analysis of the shah's regime in his October 1978 article for Corriere della Sera, "The Shah Is One Hundred Years Behind the Times."1 He wrote that in Iran, "modernization" took the form of the shah's authoritarian policies. Situating himself in a postmodern position, he argued that the shah's plan for "secularization and modernization," handed down by his father Reza Shah, a brutal dictator known for "his famous gaze," was itself retrograde and archaic. Here one can discern echoes of his Discipline and Punish, published three years earlier. The Pahlavi shahs were the guardians of a modernizing disciplinary state that subjected all of the people of Iran to the intense gaze of their overlords. Most notably, Foucault was criticizing the surveillance methods and disciplinary practices adopted by the regime of Muhammad Reza Shah and his notorious secret police, the SAVAK, whose methods and practices remained brutal and retrograde.

Later, in February 1979, just after Khomeini had assumed power, Foucault made an astute prediction in his article, "A Powder Keg Called Islam," also in Corriere della sera. He mocked the hopes of French and Iranian Marxists, who had believed that Khomeini would now be pushed aside by the Marxist Left: "Religion played its role of opening the curtain; the Mullahs will now disperse themselves, taking off in a big group of black and white robes. The decor is changing. The first act is going to begin: that of the struggle of the classes, of the armed vanguards, and of the party that organizes the masses, etc."
In ridiculing the notion that the secular nationalist or Marxist left would now take center stage and displace the clerics, Foucault made a keen assessment of the balance of forces. Indeed, he exhibited quite a remarkable perspicacity, especially given the fact that he was not a specialist on either Iran or Islam. Even more importantly, he noted, a new type of revolutionary movement had emerged, one that would have an impact far beyond Iran's borders and would also have major effect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: "But perhaps its historic importance will not hinge on its conformity to a recognized �revolutionary' model. Rather, it will owe its importance to the potential that it will have to overturn the existing political situation in the Middle East and thus the global strategic equilibrium. Its singularity, which has constituted up until this point its force, consequently threatens to create its power of expansion. Indeed, it is correct to say that, as an �Islamic' movement, it can set the entire region afire, overturn the most unstable regimes, and disturb the most solid. Islam -- which is not simply a religion, but an entire way of life, an adherence to a history and a civilization -- has a good chance to become a gigantic powder keg, at the level of hundreds of millions of men."
As to the saintlike Khomeini's advocacy of "an Islamic government," Foucault was reassuring. He noted that "there is an absence of hierarchy in the clergy" and "a dependence (even a financial one) on those who listen to them." The clerics were not only democratic; they also possessed a creative political vision: "One thing must be clear. By `Islamic government,' nobody in Iran means a political regime in which the clergy would have a role of supervision or control. . . . It is something very old and also very far into the future, a notion of coming back to what Islam was at the time of the Prophet, but also of advancing toward a luminous and distant point where it would be possible to renew fidelity rather than maintain obedience. In pursuit of this ideal, the distrust of legalism seemed to me to be essential, along with a faith in the creativity of Islam." {{this makes me think of Pen Name}}
While many prominent French intellectuals had become caught up in the enthusiasm of the Iranian upheaval in late 1978, none to our knowledge followed Foucault in siding so explicitly with the Islamists against the secular Marxist or nationalist left. Others with more background in Middle Eastern history were less sanguine altogether, notably the leading French specialist on Islam, Maxime Rodinson. An historian who had worked since the 1950s in the Marxian tradition and the author of the classic biography Muhammad (1961) and of Islam and Capitalism (1966), his leftist credentials were very strong. Rodinson's prescient three-part article entitled "The Awakening of Islamic Fundamentalism?" appeared on the front page of Le Monde in December 1978.

...Rodinson poured cold water on the hopes of many on the left for an emancipatory outcome in Iran. He pointed to specific ways in which the ideology of an Islamic state carried with it many reactionary features: "Even a minimalist Islamic fundamentalism would require, according to the Koran, that the hands of thieves be cut off and that a woman's share of the inheritance be cut in half. If there is a return to tradition, as the men of religion want, then it will be necessary to whip the wine drinker and whip or stone the adulterer�Nothing will be easier or more dangerous than this time-honored accusation: my adversary is an 'enemy of God'."
Foucault never responded directly to these various attacks on him in the reviews of Iran: la Révolution au nom de Dieu. Unlike some of the previous attacks on his writings, for example those by Sartre and de Beauvoir on his The Order of Things (1966), hardly anyone defended Foucault's Iran writings. One exception was the post-structuralist feminist Catherine Clément, who wrote in Le Matin that Foucault had simply "tried to discern what has escaped our intellectual expectations" and that "no schema, including that of �Human Rights' within our tradition, can be applied directly to this country, which makes it revolution from its own culture." Foucault published two more articles on Iran in April and May 1979, one of them for Le Monde, in which he made a few very mild criticisms of the revolution. Then he lapsed into silence over Iran.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What's behind the chain arrests?

Last year, at around this time, Ramin Jahanbegloo, the junior Iranian-Canadian professor of political science in University of Toronto was arrested in Tehran, on the charges of endangering the Iranian national security. After the usual human-rights complainst, and the usual profile-makings of the IRI, that serve little purpose but media buzz, he was released. His books are being published in Iran by the Ney publishing house (Nashr-e Ney) and quite a few of those were on display at Tehran's international book fair this year.

I have not read his books. My brother (who lives in Iran, and works in Iran, and whose civil and intellectual liberties are subject to the same kind of limits as others) has; and he felt they read like a "PhD dissertation" and tenure-track-aimed publications. In other words, he considers them "still" raw, and he finds Michele Foucaults' Disciplin and Punish--which is also translated and available in Iran--a far more "dangerous" book than Mr Jahanbegloo's The Forth Wave (I'm not sure what it is in English/French, but here's an English work of his Iran, Between Traditiona and Modernity ) for which he was considered a threat to the IRI, and arrested for a few months!! (Nevertheless, Jahanbegloo is a graduate of Sorbonne and a prolific writer ans thus, in the coming years, his name will be quoted in many a political philosophy text books. Good for him, and my hat off to him, and I promise to read his books as soon as I have free time during which I do not blog.)

Anyways, the point is not to discuss philosophy here.

The point is to contextualize the recent arrest of Iranian-American scholars (Haleh Esfandiari, Ali Shakeri from the center for peacebuilding, and Kian Tajbakhsh), on the eve of the long awaited Iran-US talks. Jahanbegloo came to my mind because he was arrested in this very season: mid spring with similar charges of velvet or silk revolution!

So, unless the IRI suffers spring fever, why would it be arresting American-Iranian scholars with no track record of aggression toward IRI, or no neo-conservative related controversy tied to their name?

Omid Me'marian answers, and because I agree with his points, I translate excerpts [I left out a couple of paragraphs of rhetorics]:

What is the message conveyed by the arrest of the Iranian-American scholars in the past few weeks? Who has issued this message; why and towards what objective? Within the three weeks between the arrest of Dr Haleh Esfandiari, and Drs Kian Tajbakhsh and Ali shakeri, what important event has taken place?

All three are well reputed among their colleagues.

Dr Esfandiari has had one of the most realist perspectives on the changes in Iran. Her published articles and speakers she has invited to the Woodrow Wilson Institute indicate her diversion from the hawkish Washington interests: most importantly that Iranians are sensitive to their future and try hard in making their own future, and no one else's will shall surpass theirs.

Dr Tajbakhsh, university professor, researcher and consultant of many Iranian and international organizations, is known to be one of the best specialists in the field of urban sociology. Dr Shakeri, is one of those whose anti-war, in an open democracy, is heard by many.

These individuals, although live abroad, but are considered the national pride of the Iranian diaspora. And now, they are confined under various charges laid on them by the security officials. The dug up evidences on these individuals do not reflect the journalistic genius of the "toopkhaneh" paper [ I think this refers to Keyhan?], rather the availability of the documents to the public. However, the evidence are read with paranoia and are twisted with disinformation. And this shows how empty handed the accusers, and how innocent the accused are. Because, considering the web sites of these individuals, and their publications reveal that the false accusations against them resemble inventions.

[...] such usual spreading of lies aims to both frighten the Iranian diaspora whose heart beats for Iran, and also to send a warning message to those who might aim to use such individuals towards their own [political] goals, unaware that with such "accidental" or 'false" arrests, they are shooting themselves in the foot. [here the author is pointing the finger to the hardliner papers that are putting wood in the fire.]

This is not the first time that the [right-wing] security-organizational-journalistic ring undertakes such projects. Similar instances have occurred several times in the past years and it is possible to predict the outcome. I expect that as I am writing these notes, some of the wisemen of the conservative camp are scolding their hardliners for such impulsive actions; while on the other hand the hardliners are promising the prisoners that they will be free to go if they make a little confession.

Therefore, the stories of arrets, charges of espionage, leaking the interrogations in the headlines of the hardline papers, censorship of the news, refusal to allow access to legal counsel, perpetual lying, fear mongering in sectors of the society and throwing in names that are the objective of the future "intelligence-project", forced confessions and then release without court appearance [remember the British soldiers?] but with a hefty bail, is an old and repeated story, without any intelligence or humanitarian outcome.

Any Iranian citizen likes the intelligence officers to be among the elite. Both qualified and smart, and capable of providing safety and security with minimal expense and maximum cooperation of the citizens, which will lead to trust and satisfaction. But in the most optimistic assessments, the intelligence officers have raised so many false flags that one wonders why they are occupying such posts [makes me think of the CIA and the FBI and Saddam's WMD!]. The picture that these people project of Iran resembles the anti-human right picture that the American war-mongers portray of Iran.
Remembering what happened to Hossein Moosavian [the Iranian nuclear negotiator charges with espionage!!!!] and the heavy accusations made by the hardliners of the government, and his release after one week, practically shows that such "profile making" doesn't go beyond intelligence errors that are mixed with the political agenda of certain factions within the government. These agendas are not in line with the interests of the Iranian people, Iran, and not even the IR regime. In a state of crisis, that the regime needs to dedicate all its resources to repel the increasing threats against Iran, these arrests resemble suicide out of fear of death."

My conclusion:
In addition to being a fear-mongering device, this is a smoke-screen because Monday is a sensitive day. Some in Iran, like many in Washington, do not want Iran to sit at a table with the US! Thus, it is important for the government to appear tough on America's possible intervention in internal affairs of Iran. Of course, the Americans are not making it easy for these people, by publicly calling for "destabilizing action inside Iran".
Nonetheless, everyone will be freed unharmed!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sophia's Lebanon

Okey enough of self-soothing Iran-talk. A real crisis is boiling in the Middle East. The Iraq model is being replicated in Lebanon. The Zionists are cheering on while the Lebanese raise arm on the Palestinians. Suddenly, the Palestinian problem has become just an Arab problem. Suddenly Apartheid is not something the Israeli state can be solely accused of. No one describes it better than my blogging inspiration Sophia, with a vast view of the world; and a personal insight into the Middle East.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Iran @ The Cannes Film Festival

Again, Iran is upset over an animation block-buster-to-become.

But this time around, I am not upset about any silver-screen conspiracy! There is a fundamental difference between fictitious and propagandist representation of ancient history by some Hollywood producer (in the 300), and an animation brought to screen by the writer herself.

Marjaneh Satrapi's four-volume cartoon series called Persépolis (published in 2000 by the French publisher l'Association) is made into an animation feature film. I don't know what kind of an audience the Persépolis is targeting. Her series pleased me tremendously, because she accurately described every single experience that I had, growing up under almost identical circumstances. It is the simplicity of her expression and the honesty of her realism that touches me. Would someone who hasn't lived that kind of a life enjoy the comics as much as I did? I don't know.

I hear that Persépolis is a contender for the Palme D'Or in the 60th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Does this nomination reflects Satrapi's and Vincent Paronnaud's (a couple of lovely geeks) success in animation of her story; or does it hinge on the current political relevance of the motif? Or is it just Cannes' almost two-decade-long fascination with anything Iranian--as long as it is miserable enough to be true to "realism"?!

I do not know!

However, Persépolis is not the only Iran-related film at the Cannes this year.

Abbas Kiarostami (the darling of the Cannes, who has recently moved most of his operation under the French umbrella , and has stopped winning the Cannes' prizes) was present among 35 of the world's most famous directors with a 3-minutes short for the A chacun son cinéma, an episodic film comprised of 3-mins works of Cannes-winners such as Wim Wenders, Lars Von Trier, Gus Van Sant, Wong Kar Wai, and Roman Polanski.

Also, Tahmineh Milani is present with a short break from her usual feminist themes.

Interestingly enough, I heard Milani's favorite actress Niki Karimi is on the jury of Cinéfondation and short films.

But over all, Iranian presence at the Cannes has been fading over the past two years.

Is it because the Cannes doesn't accept the films of Ahmadinejad reign, or is it because the better filmmakers of Iran are facing increasing difficulty in finishing their films with a masterpiece quality? Or maybe the increasingly bourgeois-cinema of Iran is not appealing to the spiritualists who discovered the Cinema of the 90s in Iran's version of neo-realism?

No accurate reports, yet! This needs scholarly investigation though.

The credit for this post goes to the grumpy anonymous visitor of this blog :)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Iranian Experience (5)

The Artist's Forum
(Khaneh Honarmandan)

The Artist's Forum (or--literally translated-- house or organization, call it what you wish) is a nice little corner in the center of Tehran. It's a soothing kind of a place. It is a meeting place of intellectuals, but it also attracts a lot of want-to-become artist students.

The more the number of "want-to-be" artists (and this is not a place for pop artists, mind you), the better. This shows that "high" art (not that I do believe in hierarchies of expression; but this is just to state that the works presented at this venue are often abstract and nonrepresentational) has an audience in Iran.

A few days before my departure, I heard a
close-to-star actor of the Iranian cinema had an exhibition of his woodworks:

The collection displayed Kianian's sculpturing talent on carved pieces of wood that he collected during his travels throughout Iran. I liked them. His collection did make one see a piece of shore-washed wood with a different eye: a totally randomly shaped stick would come to life with a minimal artist's twist, and would reward the senses with discovering a recognizable shape.

Reza Kianian was there himself; surrounded by young boys and girls, who listened on as a young girl interviewed him, perhaps for an assignment in her journalism 101. No bodyguards! No paparazzi. His work was not expensive, 300$ per piece on average; and most pieces already sold.

Speaking of Artist's house, the 4th Annual Theater Forum Festival was happening at the same time as Kianian's show. Unfortunately, I couldn't participate, but only got a wind of, as I went to the House for other business. Here are a few pictures of the closing celebrations. The women in the center in the left picture is Farzaneh Kaboli, a choreographer and dance artist, applauded by her performance group.

In spite of the (national and international) glory of the Iranian Cinema, theater in Iran is still a major and popular art, as evidenced by the number of national and international festivals dedicated to it in Iran.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Iranian Experience (Anna's)

A couple of days ago, I was telling one of my colleagues how I didn't dare sending him to Iran alone, fearing he would be traumatized.
"Why", he asked?

"First, since, unlike its neighbors, Iran has never been colonized, Iranians do not have a second language and thus you will have difficulty getting by", I said; "and secondly because you won't find beer!"

He laughed. "The secnd will traimatize me", he joked.

I am always fascinated by how the others see Iran. My flight to Iran was half full of British citizens. I wondered what they were going to Iran for. They looked so helpless trying to fix their gigantic scarves on their heads. And they seemed nervous. Entring Iran is nerve wrecking even for me; there is always the anticipation of something unexpected.

Anna is one of the visitors of this blog. She is a German Swiss (a little shy to write in English). Practically, that is all I know about Anna. She told me that she was in Iran at the same time that I was; late April. And she kindly allowed me to share her experience in Iran with the blogsphere. Here it goes, unedited (but I endulged in color coding the parts of her letter that struck me emotionally)

As somebody who kept for herself a mostly contemplative, psychologic and philosophic look "at the world“ and apparently being ab ovo just suspicious about any kind of cultural arrogancy, propagandistic, cynic endeavourings to create all over again „concepts of enemies“ with all this arrogant, despicable looking down at others as a method to to elevate oneself. I always considered it to be important to keep for oneself something just called openness, interest, love and looking at things and people without indoctrinated, „useful“ prejudicies. But sometimes it just makes me sad to recognize, that we never get to see something "new under the sun“ ... just the protagonists and ruling moron’s names are changing.

I had the chance to feel me with this attitude of modesty (not to be confused with clueless simple-mindedness) to be "on the right side" during my yearlong and repeated stays in the former Sovjetunion aka and thanks to Reagan „The realm of evil“ whose people according to the useful prejudicies were just seen as heartless roboters or at least pitiful slaves, condemmned to live in chaines and without any freedoms. While I with exactly such people there have all over again spent unforgettable times. Liberty indeed is one of the greatest things mankind is capable to imagine and of course one all over again has to fight for it because it’s not falling from heaven like manna. But I am convinced, that it is so great – and not as paradoxon or contradiction in itself! - that it also can be lived in a nutshell-size ... just out of the hearts, the mindset and the spirit of people and all the ways they find to show, practice and live it. Something and its possibilities which especially in the spoiled West seems to be beyond imagination, where liberty just too often gets confused with "anything goes“ and paradoxically or nevertheless and often just is resulting in an unstillable hunger and endless search for somehow never to be reached what’s called "sense of life“.

And now the same happened to me in the downright heart of "the axis of evil.“ ... something that hasn’t really surprised me though but nevertheless touched my heart and soul. And the very best I could wish all those who use to call me 'terrorist-sympathisant and islamofascist’just because I’m not singing in their chorus of hateful ignorant chlichées, suspicion and arrogancy is „go to Iran and meet with its impressing and overwhelming beauties and richness in culture and landscapes and the openhearted friendlyness of people ... perceptable literally wherever one goes. And regarding the women: Yes, they are under the chador or with headscarf unless not at home, but even „on the street“ you’d be just surprised about their very self confident behavior. And see all the obviously loving fathers with the baby on their arms or holding by his hand if it’s capable to walk on own legs ... men you just use to call rapers. Get the honor to be invited into rooms of privacy and instead of feeling just nothing but ashamed about your world of nothing but prejudice and arrogancy, see and learn and finally just stop humiliating and hating the people because of their problematic rulers or maybe their religion. For YOUR rulers, having sworn by the Almighty and the Bible are problematic too!“

My trip led me from Tehran to Kashan, Abanyeh, Nain, Yazd, Zeyn-o-Din > an old (from time of Safavid-Dynasty), at the edge of Dasht-e Kavir singly standing caravansery where we stayed over night and felt like in an almost unrealistically beautiful oasis out of every time. Some tryed to verify its reality by talking a lot, two others just standing silently embraced on the roof and looking into the „talking“ endlessness of heaven and its stars. Then Shiraz, Persepolis, Esfahan and back to Tehran ... and of course these two weeks just passed by all too quickly. I was trying to catch the impressions with my camera too and also did ... but it has come true once again: I seem to be a bad photographer, or in other words: MY best and most reliable camera always turns out to be that of my very heart :-).

How could photos ever include or reproduce what you really see and feel, all your perceptions by all senses, all these „picture accompagnying“ fragrances and sounds: This exemplaric (!) man in Abanyeh for example talking with his Beo-bird and the Beo-bird with almost everybody. Schoolclasses who had their drawing-lessons somewhere outside and proudly whould show their works and wanting to know what we think about, do we like it, and for goodbye laying a flower in one’s hand and saying with a smile „come back to Iran again!“.

The overwhelming persian music we were invited to enjoy in an appartment in Shiraz, where the 80 years old, now practically blind and deaf violinist Ali Jabarian with 20 pretty sexy and elegantly dressed young ladies (all students in any kind of disciplines) played and sang for us. But not just for us, for themselves too! It’s all together about 60 young women who – and who from them ever has the time to - at least once a week are meeting there and cultivating this wonderful „hobby“ on an absolute worldclass level, I shouldn’t miss to mention here. The fragrances in the bazars, not to speak of those of the orangeblossoms, levkoyas and roses hovering now over the most wonderful gardens and parks like tender veils and often even together with additionally gentle sounds. And all the people, children and families enjoying these atmospheres. The four men sitting in a corner of the Esfahanian Si-o-se Pol, chanting Qu’ran-verses ... no-no ... not those about defending religion by the sword!!! I just remembered Khalil Gibran having answered somebody at the question „What’s for you the most important in the Qu’ran?“ „The most important for me is a flower I years ago have laid between its pages“, he answered. What a wonderful answer!

And so on and on. And no! I do not deny or dispel all the obvious and lurking problems and complications, also deficits in what is called freedom and equal justice for everybody, men AND women, and so on. Just I’m not willing to stare just and exclusively at them and overlook everything else existing as well! These are processual developments and they must go on and be intensified from inside Iran and its people! (and it’s a fact, that the manyfold forms of subverting Iran by foreign interests and intelligence, are a not to be underestimated factor in paralysing exactly such inner-iranian progresses and ressources). They can not be imported, or exported to Iran from those who think they are obliged and justified to do so!

And as for the very private impressions: I finally also „physically“ met a friend of mine, who over and above turned out to be the iranian tour-guide for this small group ... there somehow simply are no haphazards, it’s all just fate and time arriving to see and recognize. And to understand its „language“. Let us call, with the words of my friend, such a meeting and its circumstances kind of possibly everybody’s special version of „Rang-e khoda.“ (The colors of the divine). I can’t but agree. Never in my life – and as an agnostic – I remember having had so essential and deep going, mutually enriching talks with a person who does believe in God, but often just can’t help badly missing him and to whom belief is not just a source of answers, but much more a source of questions. All these eternal convictions, dimensions and questions about heaven and hell, devils and angels and sense of life, hope and desperation, feeling oneself found or lost ... but in fact conditions all over again just created by people, not by what’s called God. It’s all just left up to mankind (!) and every one of us to represent or contribute to the one or the other.

There ain’t no other choice left: I must and will go back to Iran again, to this country having become for me all-in-all kind of a love-story beyond all naiv romanticism though, but a place to be and nevermore to forget or to be indifferent about. Including everything that’s worth at all to be called love: Suffering, compassion, happyness, darkness, light and hope. And respect, something that never will blossom on ignorance, prejudicies and arrogancy.

Yesss, I have seen the Khomeinis and Khatamis and the Martyrs portraying paintings or posters looking down from walls and bridges. I even have got an impression about the activities of the guardians of public morals. I have heard from Ahmadinejads idiotic playing down the drastic inflation telling the people on TV to be a bit flexible and to buy their tomatoes or whatever down in „his“ south of Tehran, where everything is cheeper. I know about all the corruption that he could not stop in contrast to another promise of his. I know that men from Yazd and Rafsanjan having been in school for just 6 years and except the Qu’ran not knowing very much, are called in high positions. I know about these 30% of workless people. I already thought quite a lot about what whould be if Iran tryed to lead all its energical ressources into other projects than “just” into its prestigeous nuclear projects ... while at the other hand even such thoughts of mine come only in full awareness, that I finally couldn’t call the western theater on Iran about this matter anything else but part of all these too well known hypocritical doublestandards! And so on and on. But all this simply just could not prevent me from writing and just having had to write kind of a declaration of love for this country and its people “like you and me”.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Iranian Experience (4)

Tehran's 20th International Book Fair

To be able to go to Tehran's International book fair, after 15 years, was not a dream I could let get spoiled by controversies about relocation from Tehran Expo to Tehran Mosalla, or about important publishers boycotting the event. After all, I wasn't going to buy any books; I was going to pay homage to a nostalgia; and perhaps to seek traces of when I was younger in the crowds. But I discovered new things!

I discovered Tehran's Grand Mosalla! Once finished, it will become a major monument! It is still under construction. Serious construction. So much so that the unusually wet end of April, left many books soaking, and further embarrassed the organizers--who were already criticized by the publishers community that threatened to boycott the exhibition.

Mosalla was a discovery because like may other new constructions of the IRI, it is under heavy surveillance and photography is forbidden. (I have taken a few timid snapshots.) The other reason why it is not iconized (like Milad tower--or Iran's CN tower, if you like--or like Rasalat Tunnel--made in style of Pantheon) is that it is perhaps an executive embarrassment! The Mosalla project has been in making for at least 15 years. It is a formidable structure; and I cannot blame a government hampered by economic volatility to have left it unfinished. But there may be other politics involved. Once finished, the Friday prayers will have to move from Tehran University (the symbolic heart of nations intellect) to this new ground. And Mosalla, at its present state lacks that distinct identity that distinguished Tehran University. I am personally excited to see the Mosalla construction come to an end. It architecturally appeals to me.

I also discovered Tehran's subway. I am going to credit its cleanliness to its newness. But I am going to credit the stylized interiors to Iranian's flair for architectural ornamentation. I haven't seen such superfluous usage of marble and granite in public places as I saw in Iran. I was in rush so I saw only two stations, positioned on each side of Mosalla. Again, I was forbidden to take photos.

But did I recover my nostalgia? I would say no. I visited the exhibition on Thursday (right after the opening) and on Friday (which is a holiday). The first day let me take a good look at all different (Iranian) publishers. The number of titles published (52200 titles in the past year) was impressive. I was rather bored with the number of "how to live/cook/fix-a-computer/make-baby" titles. I was also bored with the number of Saa'di, Hafiz and Korans on display. By and large, the titles gave me the impression they were prepared for a non-reader crowd. Those who buy pretty books to decorate their houses with.

But there were publishers with translations of every major and minor work of philosophy in the West.

To my pleasure, I found Margaret Atwood's work translated to Persian. That was one of the things I always wanted to do; now one less duty on my to do list!

There were plenty of new novelists and new poets, that I wished to discover.

There was a fair bit of political history on display.

To find entire Sadegh Hedayat's work republished was something I never dreamed to see in the Islamic Republic of Iran!

To find Abbas Maarofi (whose literary magazine, Gardoon, was shut down many years ago) had become a prolific author made me happy. I also found new works by Mahmood Dolat Abadi. Ali-Ashraf Darvishian too had undertaken a few compilation projects, as well as publishing his new novels.

I brought home newly published the love letters of Jalal Al-Ahmad and Simin Daneshvar.

To find the books of Ramin Jahanbegloo (the Iranian/Canadian philosopher who was last year arrested in Iran on some bizarre charge of spying or being anti-regime) openly displayed made me scratch my head about the nature of "censorship" that the Islamic Republic is accused of!

Long time ago, I drooled over a copy of Shamlou , if it existed in a basement bookstore in front of Tehran University. This time around, with the exception of "The Book of Week" (ketabe hafte), I could almost find anything I wished by Shamloo.

This book expo, with all its short comings, exceeded my expectations in comparison to my past experience.

15 years ago, a book fair was not a place filled with young and old, rich and poor, literate and illiterate! This one, looked like an amusement park of some sort. It surely annoys some high brow intellectuals. But to be surrounded by books, regardless of the depth of their content, cannot be a bad thing. The mischievous kids who cluttered the corridors of the book fair, will grow to read.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Iranian Experience (2)

Endless Vision ...

Okey ... now I am not presenting my experiences chronologically. In fact, I discovered the Endless Vision just today! I bought the CD from Tehran's international book fair (about which I will write soon) last week, but I only had a chance to listen to it today. I bought the CD because it was the new work by Hossein Alizadeh and Jivan Gasparyan: a fusion of traditional Persian and Armenian music; and nominated for the Grammy award in 2006. One can never go wrong buying any work by Alizadeh. The Persian title of the Endless Vision album is "Watching the White Waters" ... it inspired me to take one hour off work and go listen to it by the river rapids.

Unfortunately I cannot write about music. But luckily for me TehranAvenue has a review of the concert and a few snippets of the songs. (Here's another review by Derek Beres.)

If you have not heard Alizadeh before, discovering Ney Nava is highly recommended.

I really don't know what music means, or what one can say about it. All I can say is I wish more people around the world will discover and enjoy Alizadeh's work.

Endless Vision is produced by the Hermes Records in Iran.

Read more about Iranian Classical Music

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

I'm back!

I like to thank all of you who sent me messages and inquired about my well being. I had to make an emergency trip to Iran to be with my father for his heart operation. All went well and he is slowly recovering.

I shall soon be making a post about my experience in Iran.
Till then.