Monday, August 23, 2010

Fun Facts About the Insides of an Iranian Embassy in "enemy" land!

I dragged me to the embassy with a cocktail of nausea, grudge, tears, swears, huffs and puffs. I went back and forth over the application and asked myself and my husband: "Is it worth the trouble to renew my passport when I never want to go back?"; "Is it sensible to do what makes me puke, filling a form that needs to bear the permission of my husband or father for me to obtain an Iranian passport?"; and importantly, "Is it morally excusable to walk into the devil's territory without raising a concern about Shiva; about Sakineh, about Saharkhiz & Zeidabadi?" ... "would I become complicit, and accomplice to IRI?", was my dilemma.

At the end I decided to go. I talked myself into "the path to peace passes through compromise"; "you cannot abandon your country and give the occupying goons what they really want: your elimination"; "you will learn from the experience and will be able to blog about it."; "you cannot trust any political stability in the next few years and you better have a passport before the administration of the IRI begins going belly up" and etc.

My "souvenir" from this journey through hell is a few fun(ny) observations:

1) The large pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei on the wall was replaced with large pictures of Iranian landscapes, both natural and cultural. The supreme leaders' pictures were minimized in size and positioned opposite the counters; so that only the employees would be seeing their pictures. The applicants in waiting would be looking at the large TV screen positioned opposite the leader figures!

2) The TV was playing Shajarian's music from a DVD; perpetually. This is strange, and it was noted and joked upon by a few of us. Why?
  • Because it is Ramadan, so technically, "happy" instruments such as daf should not be played during the month of meditation.
  • Because Shajarian has recently been openly attacked by the IRI goons (in Fars News). His Ramadan prayer "rabbana" (which has marked the month since I recall) has been officially (and expressly) banned from the IRIB, because the Ahmadinejadists have established Shajariyan is an anti-revolutionary. The row between maestro Shajarian and IRIB goes back to the beginning of election-coup events; when he was in the US and he sided with the people and stated: "The IRI might be able to contain the situation, but will not be able to sustain governance".
  • Shajarian has objected to IRI playing his music for any motivational or entertainment objective.

3) Not only it was odd to play the "music" (and not the prayer) by Shajarian in Ramadan, but also the background images of the songs were bizarre: Persian miniatures; many of Farshchian's paintings which feature a beautiful women handing wine to an old man (like this); or many beautiful women in some form of "spiritual" orgy (like this)! No matter what spiritualism is assigned to Persian miniature (to rescue it from the religious bigots) images of wine and pretty women in Ramadan is quite unusual!

4) There was an English man who was applying for a visa to visit Iran. He was wearing a silly grin as if expecting us to smile back at him and thank him for his curiosity about our weird country! He was much ignored by all.

5) There was another English man who was married to an Iranian woman with colored blond hair. They had two children and were wishing to go to Iran, but someone had warned them that they had to make sure the consulate issued the right marriage certificates for them, as reportedly Iran was not as welcoming of foreign spouses as it was a couple of years ago. They were haggling to get it done soon so to take advantage of cheap flights!

6) There was entertainment: An Arab driver of Rwanda embassy walked in with an invitation card to a party and his CV!! No one could speak Arabic or French to him; so I volunteered. He had hand delivered the invitation card; and he had his CV in case the Iranian ambassador needed a ride to attend the invitation!!!!!! (he was told that all such invitations should come by mail; and that the ambassador didn't need a ride! I smiled at the naivete of Ahmadinejad's international friends; no wonder he feels himself so popular in the world. We keep ignoring that there exist simpletons in the world who are charmed by A.N.)

At the end, the experience was not as bad as I anticipated. The passport officer was amused by "my having brought my 'master' to give me permission to a passport"; he smiled and said such things were only for women who were residents of Iran and didn't apply to dual citizens like me. The employees were kind, polite, well dressed, more handsome than the last group I had met 4 years ago, and were trying to be efficient. But Iranians are not efficient and it was the customers/applicants who were disorderly, unorganized, uninformed, and unable to understand due procedure had to respected, queues had to be respected, service numbers had to be respected, personal spaces had to be respected ... they kept cluttering around the booths when others were served; kept arguing and haggling about their missing documents; kept jumping in front of the counter to shove their gradually completing documents in ... at the end; this experience reminded me that our people ARE the cause of much of our government's inadequacy and inefficiency.

And it doesn't matter how much we nag at Ahmadinejad, the 15-years long western-dwelling Mr Doctor who could not even sort out his photocopies when he stole my turn at the counter and delayed me by an hour, was responsible for the inefficiency of the service I received.

To obtain an Iranian passport cost me close to 250 dollars! Other Iranians were also counting how much it had cost them to travel, to eat, to pay for the forms and etc. People all talked together and although complained; but had fun! Complaining is the seasoning to Iranian taste!

But I appreciated the fact that they played Shajarian, that they provided nice/fresh espresso; that they had removed the omniframes of Khamenei and Khomeini from the walls; that they were polite, courteous, humorous, hard working, civilized. I observed people who wanted to drink coffee stayed in the little coffee corner; and did not defy Ramadan openly--although I doubt anyone in that room was fasting. It is because of this implicit respect for other's belief, that I believe, the most fanatic of the governments will only succeed in annoying us with a few of their trained criminals for a short period of time ... until they too, learn to respect ... in that room, packed together with some 50 Iranians, I sighed pleased: "my country will NOT succumb to fascist war mongers ... we are too fun-loving to take anything really too seriously!"

I am happy I adhered to the principle of "measured compromise"; and I am happy to have a passport again.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Keyvan Samimi, refusing to break his hunger strike.

This is Keyvan Samimi کیوان صمیمی.
Keyvan is a journalist: the editor of the banned periodical Naameh نامه (letters), who also blogged on a now banned site, Kharabaat خرابات. He was also a member of National committee for peace. A committee formed in 2007, by a call from human rights Nobel laureat, Shirin Ebadi, and in response to increased foreign threats about IRI's nuclear program. Their motto: No to War, Yes to Human Rights.)

Last year, in Ramadan (which has begun now), his daughter wrote a moving letter praying for her father's broken heart for witnessing injustice, and prayed for his safe return.

Now his life is in danger. He refuses to break his hunger strike. From the 17 prisoners who went on strike over three weeks ago, 15 of them have broken their strike (yesterday). They have broken their strike, after the Green leadership pleaded with them to save their own lives (a very respectable gesture from Karroubi and Mousavi who insist they are not going to play with "the blood of others".)

The older ones, however, refuse: one is Keyvan, the other is Arjang. Keyvan remains on strike for his "sons" (who are still in solitary confinement).


Samimi was arrested a few days after election coup d'etat. Samimi's daughter speaks of his high spirits (after he returned to jail after a new-year break he was given on 100,000$ bail): "Father's going to prison for his ideals. He has chosen this path and he is content. His ideal is justice and freedome and his is determined. He has never stopped, he never will." (Samimi's vacation was not extended, he was punished for continuing to act politically as soon as out of prison.)

When asked why Keyvan refuses to break his strike (while others have), a close relative of his responded: "Mr Samimi is a goal oriented individual. He did not go on strike to protest his own condition, but the abhorring prison conditions for others. Therefore, he will stay on strike until others (the 15 who are still in solitary confinement) are transferred to common wards. Unless his family convinces him otherwise, he will not break his strike. A few months ago he discussed this matter with his family, because he cares for consensus. [...]

According to prisoners who are released, Samimi has a high spirit: he chats with the younger prisoners to lift their mood, he doesn't leave the prisoners alone and gives them home and morale. [...] He also believes in dialogue, he believes dialogue will solve all problems. According to his daughter, he even planned to go visit Hossein Shariatmadari; the fascist in chief and the chief editor of Keyhan.

Samimi is not a "new" revolutionary. When he was young, he was amongst the student protesters who had thrown rocks at Shah in protest to (then) Vice President Nixon's visit to Tehran; a few months after the CIA-coup of 1953. For that, Keyvan was jailed three months but then allowed to go back to university. In the brutal Shah's regime, political activism did not turn into life-time ban from education institutes and public service. (He is now deprived of ANY public/intellectual activity, for life.)

After being handed his 6 years prison term, he sent a short message from the 209 ward of Evin prison:
"Steady and determined, I Jihad for my sacred ideals, internally and externally. And of course, the prophet has called the internal Jihad the more magnificent and the more important one. Thus, goodbye to 'me', hello to 'us'."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Arjang Davoudi's critical condition

Arjang Davoudi (also spelled as Arzhang Davoodi ارژنگ داوودی) has been in prison since 2003. He is an ardent and vocal activist; he was sentenced to 15 years of prison; and 74 lashes for having dared to spoken to a Canadian journalist, who worked on a documentary (Forbidden Iran) about the death of Zahra Kazemi (an event that crystallized the rift within the ranks of the IRI, as it happened under international watch, during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, and highlighted the venomous powers of the hardliners who have now stolen the power in Iran. It is over Zahra Kazemi's death that Canada and Iran relations fall apart.)

Arjang has not been silent in prison: he secretly wrote a book about savage tortures he endured and there is also a video clip he has made from Evin prison, speaking in English, to the world community, reiterating his hopes and struggles for Iran (video is posted in 2008). He protested to the recent execution of the innocent Kurd prisoners with a poem. He also raised a warning flag when Ali Saremi's death sentence after over two decades of imprisonment was upheld. For being such a noncooperative prisoner, he has been punished by being sent to horrendous prisons in Iran's southern provinces; reserved for the most dangerous of felons: murderers. Nevertheless, he has kept writing his letters and having them heard. His cause is simple and within the realm of the existing constitution of Iran:

"... establishment of a civil society in Iran, which will uphold:
1. Freedom of Speech
2. Freedom of the press
3. Freedom to inform
4. Free elections
5. Freedom to assemble and to peacefully protest
6. Freedom of political parties and groups."

He is one of the prisoners on hunger strike and in critical condition. This is the second time he goes on huger strike. Last time was 2008 (he held on for 51 days, his demand was to be handed in a copy of his charges and sentence.)

According to his wife Nazanin Davoudi, the reason for his current strike is: "protest to eavesdropping of his phone calls by prison officials as well his transfer to the solitary confinement." For this hunger strike, he is additionally punished! His scheduled family visit was cancelled a few days ago. He (56 years old) is in critical condition.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Looming gloom

Please see ...

A relative in prison: Hossein Nouraninejad

His name is Hossein Nouraninejad. I don't know him. I didn't care to know any/many of these reformist journalists when the reformists were in power in Iran. In fact, before this election fiasco, I considered them and Ahmadinejadists entities of the same fabric. But, Hossein is in prison since September 2009. He is not granted a leave (not even on bail) since then. Not even for the new year.

Hossein went on hunger strike close to two weeks ago. The country's begging the 17 of them to break their fast. Karoubi, Mousavi, old political activists, young ones are begging them to save themselves because it has become apparent to us that the world community doesn't give a damn; and the IRI is in fact happy if they die. These individuals were the hard-to-crack ones.

But, the IRI is very wrong. Because they have now encouraged me to read about this gentleman to figure out why he is given such an extraordinary hard treatment that he has gone on a detrimental hunger strike to have his voice heard.

Nouraninejad (حسین نورانی نژاد) is a journalist. and head of the Information Committee of Participation Front. (The Participation front party has issued an invitation to its members to go on hunger strike in solidarity with their jailed comrades.) His charge was "attempting to disrupt public order". Thus, sentenced to three years at first. His jail term was cut to one year, of which he has almost served all. So why is this "mild" case on hunger strike now? Why is he prevented from a short leave? why is he kept in solitary confinement? What are the evin conditions that make a man on the verge of freedom risk all his life? The IRI must answer.

His mother has gone public, in a hope to save her son. But, she was told that the prisoners on strike will face extra charges. Parastoo Sarmadi, his wife, has also joined the strike, publicly. She has also pleaded with the authorities to let them hear the messages of Karoubi, Mousavi, Ayatollah Zanjani, Abdollah Nouri, and Sohrab's mother, and numerous other opposition parties, begging them to end the strike. Interestingly, Nouraninejad's mother is also threatened to jail!

Nouraninejad has edited a book entitled: عاشورا در گذار به عصر سکولار "Ashura, in Passage Through Secularism" (2004); it is a collection of essays by a number of religious theoreticians, some founding figures of the IRI philosophy, turned its ardent critiques: Soroush, Aghajari, Ahmad Haj Seyed Javadi, Kadivar and others. It is hard to find much of his writings; but there is a little letter of her sister that tells us Hossein dreaded politics, but found himself obliged by conscience, to act ...

These men in prison are heros. They are not afraid of death. But the least we can do is to hear them out, before the candle goes out.

In fact, the IRI fears journalists, fears information, fears statistics, fears numbers ... Ahmadinejad is treating the pubic opinion as a "civil engineering" project; bulldozing his path, burning the forest, digging the graves of our civilization to erect an ugly monument, ode to his megalomania.

Hossein nouraninejad, a prisoner of conscience ...
On hunger strike ... even though his jail term was to end soon ...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

17 withering away in Evin, entering the 12th day of dry hunger strike ...

Please see International Federation for Human Rights
Their names are:

Majir Tavakoli (this is his second strike. He is suffering ulcer, and kidney failure). He is the brave engineering student who stood up and called Khamenei to task. He is the one who was arrested and forced into women clothing. Iranians responded to this media scandal by wearing a veil, and starting a media counter campaign of "I am Majid".

Bahman Ahmadi Amooei, journalist,
Hossein Nourinejad, a journalist and member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front,
Abdollah Momeni, a student and Spokesperson for the Bureau for the Consolidation of Unity (BCU)
Ali Parviz, a student
Hamidreza Mohammadi, an activist
Jafar Aghdami, an activist
Babak Bordbar, a photojournalist,
Ebrahim (Nader) Babaei, a civil society member and a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war,
Kouhyar Goudarzi, a human rights defender and blogger,
Keyvan Samimi, a journalist,
Mohammad Hossein Sohrabi Rad, activist,
Zia Nabavi, a student,
Ali Malihi, a student,
Majid Dorri, a student,
Gholam Hossein Arshi, a demonstrator
Peyman Karimi Azad, demonstrators.

In solidarity with the Evin prisoners on hunger strike, a number of Iranian refugees (most journalists) were planning to go on hunger strike in Paris. Interestingly, the Iranian embassy pressed charges on the high profile individuals; and they were indicted by the French court. Of course, the activists pledged to use the court appearance as a platform to raise awareness about deplorable condition of fellow journalists and political prisoners in Iran. But I can't find anything in English; so I guess it didn't.

There is a facebook group, trying to raise awareness ...

I hate for this cause to be picked by the McCain gang of human-right-defense torjan war horses .. but 5 of these prisoners are in very bad condition ... everyone is urging them to stop the strike ... knowing that it is he regime's dream that they self-execute ...
I just want you to know ... no; I don't want you bomb us into liberation!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Assassination of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?!

Yup; his wish to go down the history sewage with full glory of an attempted assassination was about to come true. (media-watching and updating below; the contradictions of IRNA and FALSE news are getting hilarious!)

Two days ago, after a significant amount of finger pointing at this, that and the other; and telling the west that looloo (genie) has taken the mameh (boob); meaning that middle east's breast is not to feed the west's brats, he also predicted that the Zionists are plotting to assassinate him!

Because this gentleman is such a zionist insider, and has so much insight into their intentions, in fact about an hour ago a hand grenade was thrown at his motorcade, hitting the car carrying journalists, the profession that these days has low life insurance, the less journalists/reporters, the happier the goons. There is smoke and blood; and of course Mahmoud the Zioniser is just dandy and undead! They say the "terrorist" is arrested.

12:28 PM local time: Parliament news reports the grenade blast
13:11 PM local time, Irna has reported on his speech in Hamedan, but no mention of assassination.
13:34 PM Iran local time: Curiously, no report on Fars News site yet (after an hour of the news announced on Al Arabia, although the news is not tagged for time on their site) 13:34 PM Iran local time.

This silence means they are regrouping for a new oppressive strategy, or that they are caught by surprise and Mahmoud hasn't had time to instruct them Gobbelly?

First Fars News report emerged at 14:07, snapshot below:

Now things are getting funny, because while Fars News, Ahmadinejad's official propaganda reports teh attack, his english pipe, pressTV is denying the news:

Now this is IRNA's news (at 16:05 local time): "The fire cracker of a joyous Hamedani lad leads to [media] excitement"!

As I said, they seem to be trying to figure out a strategy! Fars News has not updated the previous news. Whether this was an assassination or not, at this point, is less important than the obvious ahmadinejadist-media confusion on the matter! Initially, they had to decide between two narratives:

The "beloved" president came close to an assassination attempt.
The "mighty intelligence office" failed to stop an assassination attempt.

It seems they have chosen the third alternative: "there was no attempt"; "there was no arrest"; "there was no injury" ... as reported initially! I won't be surprised if the orders for this version of the story came from the Khamenei office. Khamenei cannot afford to appear weak; nor can he afford giving Ahmadinejad the martyr/hero status he was hoping for by predicting his own assassination by "zionists infiltrators".

24:00 Local time:
And to conclude this: I have surveyed the Iranian bloggers, who are united in mocking Ahmadinejad and attributing this even to one of his half-assed publicity stunts in which he has attempted to prove, to his brainless followers who consider him the sign of the messiah, that his prediction of a zionist attempt on his life is validated!

I stay by my analysis: the higher-up has ordered him to close the act and let this pass ...

What a nonsensical farce is this man ... i can't help sweating in agony and embarrassment.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mohammad Nouri: Another voice of a past we love, passes away ...

Mohammad Nouri (1929-2010) was the singer of my parent's generation. I heard him more because my aunt played and sang his songs on the guitar and a relative was said to have dated him in pre-revolutionary glory-days.

Nouri was one of the first "fusion" musicians of Iran: influenced by folk songs, and performing them in western style, as far as the vocals and the orchestra composition were concerned. His music is never categorized. He was not a pop singer, not a classical singer, nor a folk singer. His music was not traditional, but his melodies and lyrics were. There is something pulsatile in his music, short harmonics, low pitch, that brings it close to jazz but with 'oriental' rather than African beats. But his music also invokes memories of French singers Edith Piaf, Jacque Brel, and Charls Aznavour.

Nouri was educated in Iran in the Honarestan-e Aali Mousighi (High college of music, or Tehran Conservatoire, envisioned by Reza Khan Pahlavi and founded by the French Alfred Jean Baptist Lemair about 100 years ago). He studied music with several musicians such as Sirous Shahrdar, Fereydoun Farzaneh, Hossein Aslani, Naser Hosseini, Mohammad Sareer, Mostafa PourTorab. (Source)

In addition, he studied English literature and theater, he wrote (or performed) 300 songs, and translated and wrote music articles. He was modest, and not a businessman. For this reason, loved by foe and friends. The You Tube video I posted below, however, is his first on-stage performance with an orchestra, in 50 years of his career. (The concert is in Tehran.)

Nouri was spared the terror other pop singers suffered after revolution, because he was 'pious'. Five years ago, he was recognized as an icon of the Iranian music, by (the now-turned-infamous Iranian broadcaster) Seda O Seema. It is important to know, that Nouri died in poverty and after struggle with 1.5 years of illness. The IRI minister of Culture and Islamic guidance did offer help, but Nouri refused. (Source: Donyaye Eghtesad, 7 July, 2010, quoting The Artistic Deputy of the Minister of Culture and Islamic guidance.)

And he died, yesterday, in a hospital bed in Tehran, at home ...

All newspapers, from left and right, are acknowledging his passing in sadness (including the Ahmadinejadist propaganda machine, False-News)

There was a song that, when aunt Khorsheed sang, made me cry:

Ne-mi-she ghos-se ma-ro [is it possible that sadness]
ye lah-ze tan-ha be-za-reh? [leave us alone one day?]
Ne-mi-sheh in gha-fe-leh [Is it possible that this caravan]
ye-rooz ma-ro ja be-za-reh? [leave us behind one day?]

See? ... pulsatile ...

Rest in peace, lovely man. May one day, your genius and contribution to the Iranian modern music be discovered in a PhD thesis ...