Monday, March 29, 2010

Quiet Revolution

This is how one picture speaks a thousand words! With this series of photos, Karoubi puts yet another nail on the coffin of the so-assumed patriarchy in Iran.

If you have grown up in Iran, and if you have ever been in the vicinity of robed clerics, you would know that in any gathering they have a little kingly status: they sit at the best seat of the party; are given the best of food and are the center of everyone's service.

If you have grown up in Iran, you would know that by tradition, old men, especially those sporting a cotton beard as Karoubi's are not expected to serve to younger ones; even if the young ones are guests. If you have grown up in Iran, you would know that girls, by traditional training, will automatically get up and take over the serving services from the older hosts.

None of what I said above is a sign of female subjugation, or female exploitation or any of that feminist crap. It is just part of our cultural choreography. I have taken the tea tray from the hands of my father or uncles a hundred times, feeling proud of my good manners. (And I have had my old uncle refuse my help saying: "go away, I am not old!")

This is why this picture is so significant. Karoubi is serving to young girls who are his guest. He is robed, and yet he is (almost) bowing to his guests. In his posture, you can sense his unease, he is stiff. If he wanted to crank the pose a bit up, he would have to had bent a little more, smiling into the eyes of his guests. I am happy he is not doing that because it would have been inauthentic. Nevertheless, with the simple act of offering sweets to his Norooz guests, he IS bringing down the cleric king.

I don't rule out that this is a media campaign. But every media campaign reflects the forces that necessitate taboo-breaking.

This picture shall live in our memories. May it multiply!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Exiled reflections on the (Persian) new year's eve.

Don't get me wrong, my exile is not political. I am not living a life of danger. I am not a refugee and my longing for Iranian flavours has long subsided. I am a well integrated member of the Western society, that is not often detected as Iranian unless my accent is heard. These reflections, I share with those of you who have dropped me a line of support, affection, criticism, or silent traces. These reflections I share on the eve of our new year as I sit an ocean far from home, husband, sister, brother, parents.

I had wished to be home with my parents this year--for the first time in many years since I left Iran in pursuit of a dream. This time last year, I was an optimist. I blogged proudly about the democratic maturity my country was arriving at. I held my head up that Iran was not bullied. I had hopes that I was needed in Iran and I was devouring all I could from Iran, to make up for the past two decades I had committed it to some form of slumber, oblivion. When election time came, like many an Iranian worried about the war cacophony, like many an anti-imperialist fooled by Ahmadinejad's charlatanism, I wanted to vote for him. I even campaigned for him, trying to make my 'green' or 'karoubi' friends in Iran see the world from a global perspective and realize Iran's foreign tangles needed steadiness of the course to open. This was until I listened to the debates on TV; and the tragic comedy of Ahmadinejad's contempt for facts was played before my eyes. HE wasn't being a skillful politician, he was being an obvious crook. Disgusted by his lies, his cheap tricks, his deceptions and distortions of the truth, I listened to his opponents. They WERE authentic, both of them, Karoubi and Mousavi. The reformists stole my vote after the first round of televised debates. Ahmadinejad, although more articulate, was inauthentic, manipulative, and detrimental to a future envisioned by the MAJORITY of Iran's population: it's youth. The foreign threat I feared, would have been more prominent with Ahmadinejad around. That the reformists were wishy-washy westbenders was far from the truth--this has in fact been proven in the past 9 months. The passion of the youth eventually turned my vote green. I listened to those 10-20 years younger than me, admiring the realism and pragmatism of their aspirations, the simplicity and matter-of-factness of their demands.

On the election day, for the first time since the inception of the IRI, I wore a green scarf (I had it for years, a handmade silk present from China), walked to the poll, finger printed my vote, cast my ballot, smiled at a camera pointing my inky index at the lens, hoping to upload the picture on Neo-Resistance, waving it at the war mongering world: "dare you not lift a finger on our Iran". But then, just before I went to bed, everything in Iran started going awry.

People started getting arrested before the vote was announced, military started patrolling the city and before due process was complete, the 'soupreem lither' jumped in the middle to seal the 'counts' and hammer his nail: Mahmood! Graphs were fabricated and their fake immediately exposed. The fake graphs began getting forged to add noise to the data. People protested peacefully, like a great civilized nation. And the government opened fire on them, like a petty backward dictatorship. Many were killed and Neda became the bloody face of a hope that died before the world's eye. Then the plagiarist became minister of science; misogynist women pioneering the cabinet; the professors of law and philosophy got axed and with that mayhem, my dream of moving back to Iran vanished, and with it my desire, slowly.

I made a choice to not go back to Iran as long as the government did not apologize for the way the post-election affairs were conducted, as long as the supreme leader maintained his position of tyranny, as long as he was coerced to run the show according to his international clown's agenda, as long as the militia were above the law.

I chose my exile. If I had not, and if I went to Iran yesterday, I would have been greeted by polite passport officers. I would have walked in the shiny halls of Imam Khomeini airport and would have listened to music in my brother's car when we passed through made-up highways that connect the airport from god knows where to Tehran. Tehran, which is warm enough in March for people, who are just released from the IRI prisons, to wear short sleeves.

But I have chosen to exile myself from a place I longed for because going back will have demanded of me to either act bravely, to speak up, to shout, to write and possibly to get arrested or harassed; or to act in compliance with a totally illegitimate government and subject myself to its lawlessness. I wear no purple hearts of courage and sacrifice; if I went to Iran I will have been the latter. My exile is the only form of protest that I can afford.

As the rain trickles down, as the solstice draws near, I stare around my apartment:
I have no haft seen; no 'sabzeh', no 'somagh', no 'serke', no 'senjed', no 'seer', no 'seeb', no 'sekkeh' or 'sonbol'. I don't have a gold fish, or coloured eggs, nor a mirror. I don't have a Qoran or a Divaan-e Hafiz. I don't have a present to give, nor one to get. I don't have 'ash reshte', or 'reshte polo', nor 'sabzi polo & maahi'. I have not done spring cleaning; I have not finished the laundry; I have not gotten a facial nor coloured my white hair black. I have a heart full of melancholy. I feel I am not the only one who is dipped in blues tonight. Yet, when tomorrow comes, be it hell or high water, shall I venture out to get all I need, to do a little ritual, to celebrate spring. This one tradition, this greatest of all occasion ... spring ... new day (norouz)

Happy new year ...
Happy spring ...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Updated: List of prisoners and those temporarily released (on hefty bails!)

A few Months ago, Pedestrian had provided a list of prisoners arrested in the early stages of the coup d'etat fiasco. This was before the 22 Bahman and Ashura events and therefore, this list is not complete today. But, I have been curious about those who are presently out of prison. I am marking their names in green. I hope that all others will be released for our new year (see my posts from previous years) that starts this Sunday. Please note that being out of jail doesn't mean they are free. Many are on prison -vacation' on bails as high as US $800,000. I have used a few facebook pages and Rah-e Sabz Azadi. If you have updates, please let me know.

Islamic Iran Participation Front (Jebheyeh Mosharekat): Mohsen Mirdamadi, Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, Seyed Mostafa Tajzadeh, Saeed Hajariyan, Mehdi Safayi Farahani, Mohsen Aminzadeh, Ali Tajerniya, Saeed Shirkavand, Shahbeddin Tabatabaie, Ali-asghar Khodayari, Davood Soleymani, Abbas Koosha, Ramezanpour, Saeed Nourmohammadi, Hamzeyeh Ghalebi, Reza Homayi, Zoya Hasani, Saeedeh Kordinejad, Hossein Mousavi

Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization: Behzad Nabavi, Majid Nayeri, Hojat Esmaili, Mohsen Bastani, Mehrdad Balafkan, Feyzollah Arabsorkhi, Mohammad Javad Emam, Sadeq Norouzi, Amir Hossein Mahdavi

Freedom Movement of Iran: Mohammad Tavasoli, Ghafar Farzodi, Majid Jaberi, Rahmatollah Amiri, Rouhollah Amirpour, Amir Hassan Jahani, Ali Ashraf Soltaniazar, Rahim Yavari, Mohammad Reza Ahmadiniya, Ahmad Afjeyi, Mohandes Emad Bahavar, Mojtaba Khandan, Saeed Zeraatkar, Rouhollah Shafeie, Ali Mehrdad, Reza Arjini, Mansour Vafa, Bagher Fathali Beighi, Jalal Bahrami, Sadeq Rasouli, Ahad Rezaie, Mohsen Hakimi, Mohammad Bagher Alavi, Mohsen Mohagheghi, Amir Khorram,

Religious-Nationalists: Keyvan Samimi Behbahani, Abdorreza Tajik, Hadi Ehtezazi, Ahmad Zeyabadi

Executives of Construction: Mohammad Atriyanfar, Jahanbakhsh Khanjani, Ali Mohagher, Hedayatollah Aghayi, Roshanak Siyasi, Ayda Mesbahi, Hossein Mar'ashi (recently arrested, again)

National Front:Kourosh Zaiim, Peyman Aref

Hambasteghi:Abbas Mirza Aboutaleb

Journalists:Mohammad Ghouchani, Maziyar Bahari, Jila Baniyaghoub, Mojtaba Pourmohsen, Bahman Ahmadi Amouyi, Mahsa Amrabadi, Saeed Laylaz, Behzad Basho, Seyed Khalil Mirashrafi, Rouhollah Shahsavar, Mashallah Heydarzadeh, Hamideyeh Mahozi, Amanollah Shojaiee, Hossein Shokouhi, Eesa Saharkhiz (goes on hunger strike, today), Majid Saidi

Human Rights Activists: Abdolfateh Soltani, Shiva Nazarahari, Alireza Hashem, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Somayeh Tohidlou, Emad Baghi

Association of Combatant Clerics: Mohammad Ali Abtahi

Etemad-e Melli: Hemghameyeh Shahidi

Members of Karoubi/Mousavi Political Campaigns: Mousa Saket, Maryam Ameri, Farnaz Kamali, Siyamand Ghiyasi, Mohammad Jafari, Morteza Khani, Bagher Oskoui, Mohammad Reza Jalaipour, Ehsan Bakeri, Ali Vafghi, Hamzeyeh Ghalebi, Saeed Nik-khah, Homayi, Fattahi, Zakeri, Haniyeh Yousefiyan, Rouhollah Shahsavar, Mohsen Rouzbahan, Hashem Khastar, Kaveh Servati, Hossein Tajik

Office for Strengthening Unity: Abdollah Momeni, Hamed Iranshahi

Students: Hamid Choobineh, Alireza Ashoori, Alireza Kiyani, Milad Hosseiny Keshtan, Ali Nazari, Siyavash Safavi, Ashkan Zahabiyan, Ali Donyari, Rahman Yaghoubi, Maziyar Yazdani, Ali Abbasi, Shovaneh Merrikhi, Payam Heydar Ghazvini, Nasim Riyahi, Mojtaba Rahimi, Ata Rashidi, Amin Nazari, Siyavash Hatam, Pouriya Sharifiyan, Mehdi Mosafer, Reza Jafariyan, Hojjat Bakhtiyari, Mostafa Mehdizadeh, Omid Sohrabi, Vahid Amiriyan, Fazlolah Jokar, Vahid Aziziyan, Mehdi Torkman, Nastaran Khodarahmi, Ali Ahmadi, Masab Ebrahimi, Saeed Parvizi, Bahareh Hosseiny, Hadis Zamani, Nahid Siyahvand, Imani, Ziyaedin Nabavi, Alireza Khoshbakht, Zahra Tohidi, Sohrab Ahadiyan, Reza Arkavazi, Karim Emami, Mohammad Hossein Emami, Elaheyeh Imanian, Rouhollah Bagheri, Farhad Binazadeh, Iman Pourtahmasb, Ezzat Torbati, Yasser Jafari, Mohammad Reza Hadabadi, Seyed Javad Hosseiny, Farshid Hedyari, Behnam Khodabandehlou, Mohammad Khansari, Mohammad Davodiyan, Mohammad Delbari, Ali Raie, Omid Rezaie, Ali Refahi, Seyfollah Ramezani, Ebrahim Zahediyan, Nasser Zamani, Majid Sepahvand, Hanif Soleymani, Mohmmad Bagher Shabanpour, Hamed Sheykhalishahi, Iman Sheydaie, Farhad Shirahmad, Saman Sahebjalali, Farhan Sadeqpour, Farshad Taheri, Ghamdideh, Hamzeyeh Faratirad, Esmaiel Ghorbani, Mohammad Karimi, Erfan Mohammadi, Mohsen Azmoodeh, Payam Pourrangh, Morteza Janbaz, Morteza Hajipour, Mansour Mousavi, Vahid Serfi, Hamid Motavalizadeh, Saman Kamkar, Morteza Razmkhah, Nima Rahimi, Mohammad Reza Horabadi, Sina Cheghini, Hessam Kamanghar, Siyavash Gholami, Khalil Karami, Moslem Salehi, Saman Sahebjalal, Hamed Rowshani, Mohammad Reza Khodaverdi, Milad Ceghini, Mostafa Ahookhosh, Saeed Shojaezadeh, Khosrow Mousavivand

Political Activists in Smaller Towns:Jalil Shirbiyanloo, Rahim Jaberi, Abbas Pourazhari, Laya Farzadi, Ms. Shabati, Ms. Shamlou, Dr. Ghafarzadeh, Dr. Soltaniazad, Dr. Panahi, Dr. Seyflou, Dr. Dadizadeh, Mehdi Yarbahrami, Mansour Ghaffari, Hojatollah Amiri, Amir Hossein Jahani, Yaghoubzadeh, Mehdi Khodadi Payam, Heydar Ghazvini, Nasim Riyahi, Mojtaba Rajabi, Ata Rashidi, Abdolmajid Maadikhah, Mehdi Abayi, Amir Eghtenayi, Saidollah Bedashti, Hossein Mojahed, Hamid Lotfi, Mahdieh Minavi, Mojtaba Shayesteh, Farhad Nasrollahpour, Reza Lotf

Others not listed in Pedestrian's post and still in jail.
Hossein Darakhshan (blogger), Mas'ood Lavasani (blogger), Jafar Panahi (world famous filmmaker, asks the world community to not give him preferential treatment and think of other co-prisoners in horrible condition), Mohammad Nourizad(a very conservative and religious filmmaker, ardent supporter of Khamenei who dared to send 'his' supreme leader a letter of criticism, his bail is set but he cannot afford it), Mehdi Boutorabi (blogger), Majid Tavakoli (the student activist who was 'humiliated' by a veil), Maryam Ziya (on hunger strike)
And a list of others who are released but not in the list above
Akbar Montajebi
Ali Ma'azemi
Mohandes Sheikh Attar
Azar Mansouri
Kian Tajbakhsh
Somayeh Momeni
Leili Farhadpour
Vahid Pour Ostad
Foad Shams
Keyvan Farzin
Morteza Smyari
Jamileh Darolshafayee
Mehdi Forouzandehpour
Amir Sheibani
Hadi Ghabel
Keyvan Mehrgan
Dr. Mohammad Maleki (suffering cancer)
Mohammad Sadegh Rabbani
Ali Hekmat
somayeh Alemipasand
Somayeh Rashidi
Mohammadreza Razzaghi
Alireza Beheshti
Mahmood Dordkeshan
Mehdi Hosseinzadeh
Reza Najafi

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Things that Iranians whose green card file goes to Ankara should know

1) People in Ankara do not speak English.

2) The Unite States immigration office has appointed a laboratory clinic called Duzen, which is located near the embassy, and adjacent to Kugulu Park. NO ONE in this otherwise fancy/modern/shiny clinic speaks English. Not even doctors. They cannot even understand simple words, nor can they produce them.

3) The doctors who are supposed to provide the health report do not speak Persian, but they are the only English-speaking hopes you may have.

4) The medical practice is rather sloppy for the followoing reasons:
- Older parents are given vaccine shots, without proper explanation and consent obtained from the patient. Older individuals have a suppressed immune system (natural to aging) and many shots are unnecessary for them and will produce side effects.
- There are 'translators' who operate visa-tours. The clinic basically puts your passport on a desk in some water-cooler area, and these tour operators have the ability to change orders and advance their own cases, irrespective of the appointment given to the applicant. Because they speak Turkish, they have the upper hand. I am very surprised how people's passports do not get stolen. I assume because the Iranian passport is not a hot commodity, but hey ... shouldn't there be some standard in the way people's private medical files and travel documents handled.
- The receptionists, who do not speak English either, are forgetful. Make sure you demand the health report package. It is a sealed 8x11 brown envelop with the laboratory logo on it. If they fail to give this to you, you are in for another visit to the embassy; quite an unattractive practice.

5) The doctor visit will cost you about 200 dollars (per person); this is because the doctor gives you those mysterious vaccines. Even if you insist for a list of the shots you were given, you will only receive a hand written receipt that says something in Turkish (one line) and the ~200$ written in front of it. For reasons beyond human logic, the receptionist will make you wait 4 days before she writes the receipt!!

6) At the embassy: the doorman does not speak English. At the Interview, the immigration agent does not speak Persian. The immigration officers can be somewhat clumsy, they are in fact VERY clumsy. They contradict the requirements that are mailed to you. Get one of your aggressive children to point these discrepancies at them. If they know you have an English speaker at the door, they will let them in.
7) People who have 'ever' worked for teh Iranian government, even during the shah's regime, are subject to extra 'administrative process'. Their cases will not be resolved immediately and they will be asked to return to pick up the visum.


Now some emotional rant:
I was very sad to be the youngest in the crowd of some 10 older (retired) individuals, having to go through this humiliating process, ONLY for the sake of their children--who happened to be doctors, businessmen, lawyers, professors in the US. None of those people wanted to live in the US for good; they just wanted the green card so that they didn't have to suffer the meat treatment in Ankara or Dubai when processing travel visa application. I was sad when one of those grandmothers told me how the vaccination had messed up her system. I was sad that people who LOVED their Iran were forced to leave, and thus forcing the parents to follow them. I was sad when an older gentleman was exhausted by the inability of the nurses to communicate a procedure to him. I felt his human right was being violated.

This post is for the mighty Iranian-Americans to lobby their representatives to at least simplify the process of wealth- and brain-drainage out of Iran!!! ...

I have stories of young parents migrating for their school age children as well; and how the Canadian banks are facilitating money laundering; but that shall wait for another time.

I HATE Ahmadinejad for doing this to us ... I HATE him.

Who are the masses who support Ahmadinejad in Iran?

This is a video of Ahmadinejad's motorcade; and hordes (uhm uhm) of supporters welcoming him in Bandar-Abbas (the harbour capital of Hormozgan province).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What's common in Charshanbe Suri and Halloween?

Picture source: Wikipedia

You can find information about our fire festival in the same wiki link that I gave you. You may also hear that tonight, Iranian cities have been defying orders of the soupreem Khamenei, and blastingly celebrating this ages-old tradition of our culture.

And here's what we used to do for charshanbeh souri (Wednesday Festival, literally):
Dress up in such a way to hide our identity; hold a bowl in our hands and go knock on neighbor's door. People who are visited are supposed to put nuts and cookies in our bowls. If they are friends and they detect who we are, they may splash us with a bowl of water. Once I splashed a bucket on a friend. We knock on the door, and then hit our bowls with a spoon. This is called "ghashogh-zani". Resembles Halloween, doesn't it? We too pretend to be the returning ghosts.

We also have to jump over bonfires. There must be seven. The bigger the better. Smaller ones are for little kids. Gigantic ones, I have never dared to jump over. (The reason: being caught in a house fire when I was 7. I have never recovered from the truama) When we jump on fire, we sing. In our song, we take the warmth of fire, of life, of spring, and give back to it our chill, our frost of winter, of heart. On this night we eat plenty of nuts, dried fruit, pomegranate. This is a fun night, a real festival.

Charshanbeh suri nights are prone to accidents, tragic ones at times. Kids do not take proper caution when they play with fire crackers.

Charshanbesuri nights have always been frowned upon since Islamic revolution, but we have ignored that. After the war, things relaxed a bit. But this year, the government is really scared. Let them be. We do what we must, what we have done for ages! Nothing hurts the tyrant more than being ignored and ridiculed!

I am going to go jump over a little candle now :)

Spring is beginning.

Iran will soon be green ... our patience will triumph ...