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Archive for August 4th, 2008

Woman voting in the Iranian elections of 2005. Contrary to statements made frequently in the mainstream U.S. media, women CAN vote in Iran starting at age sixteen.

A woman voting in the Iranian elections of 2005. Contrary to statements made frequently in the mainstream U.S. media, women CAN vote in Iran starting at the age sixteen.

Greetings to all.

Thanks again for your continued enthusiastic reception of these windows. Please feel free to forward to colleagues, friends, and students (or suggest names to be added to the list). Furthermore, I would be delighted with any suggestions you might have to make the material more useable in the classroom.

Two personal messages: first very special thanks to JoAnn Achelpohl whose effective management of the listserv enables me to keep it going
during the academic year. Second, if you did not get Window number 3 (or any in the sequence so far) it might be because your mail box was full
at the time that the message was sent. Please let me know and you will receive the window you missed. Now, to window number 4.

Current Issues:

* Mr. Ahmadinejad continues to be a media sensation here. While he
personally contributes to that, the exaggerations and inaccuracies
associated with him are quite remarkable. On Tuesday morning,
August 29, NPR 9 o’clock News played a part of what the audience
was to consider part of an Ahmadinejad heated speech in “defiance”
of the UN resolution. Here is what I heard the Iranian President
say in Persian: “They (I assume a general reference to the west)
say they would like to negotiate with us. Let them do so. We have
no problems with that at all!”  NPR needs a Persian speaker.
* CNN does not seem to have access to the Iranian constitution
either. Iranian women and men can vote from the age 16. Iranian
electoral participation in general elections is around 90% which
is very high compared to many other parts of the world. Now,
checkout the following cartoon posted on the CNN web site
(courtesy of Shadi Peterman who forwarded it to me):
http://www.cnn.com/POLITICS/analysis/toons/2006/09/01/mikula/index.html

Cultural Social

* Interesting statistics: last week, my historian/sociologist
colleague Behrooz Ghamari (U. of Illinois) wrote “last year alone
more than 2000 titles in philosophy were published in Iran. Out of
these titles, 1321 were translated volumes and 992 written in
Farsi. This is a six fold increase from ten years ago when only
350 books in philosophy were published.”  Behrooz adds he wanted
to send this information to Tom Friedman who wished a while ago
that “Muslims” would also read the works of western philosophers!
* In this part, I have a “Gift” for you. This is the title of a
beautiful short poem by Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967) one of the
most influential poets of the twentieth century Iran. I will
devote a special “window on Iran” to her and her achievements in
the future. In the meantime, let me give you this poem now because
the gift she is talking about is a “window” by which I think she
means openings in the walls of our unquestioned perceptions. This
is what inspired me to call these updates “windows” on Iran. I
have attached the poem “Gift” as a word document (\”The Gift\” by Farrokhzad). Enjoy!

Suggested Reading: Bride of Acacias: Selected Poems of Forough
Farrokhzad
. Tr. Jascha Kessler with Amin Banani (New York: Caravan
Books, 1982). I am not aware of new editions, so the best way to get the
book should be borrowing it from major libraries. Kessler/Banani
translations are – for the most part – excellent.

Visual Delights:

* This week I have many visual delights for you. The first is a
brief tour of three historic Persian churches, two in Isfahan and
one in Qazvin.   http://www.farsinet.com/iranchurches/
* And four sets of art exhibits by one of the most renowned
painters in present day Iran Hannibal Alkhas (b.1930). Son of an
acclaimed Assyrian writer Rabi Adi Alkhas, Hannibal and his family
belong to an Iranian Christian community, one of the oldest in the
world: the Assyrians. He studied art and philosophy in Iran and
the U.S. and, after extended periods of living in either country,
returned to Iran where he has been teaching in the department of
fine arts in Azad University since 1992. Hannibal’s exhibits draw
large crowds in Iran and he teaches private classes. I personally
had the pleasure of hosting Mr. Alkhas in my “Introduction to
Islamic Civilization” in 1997 where he showed slides of his works
and spoke about the place of visual arts in Persian culture.
Contemporary Iranian writers form a central theme in the paintings
of Hannibal Alkhas. In June 1999, he devoted the following exhibit
to Nima Youshij, the father of modern Persian Poetry:
http://www.elahe.net/thumb.php?gallery=26 and a year later one to
Forough Farrokhzad http://www.elahe.net/thumb.php?gallery=25
Just to see the diversity of Hannibal’s work, visit his 2003
outdoor sculpture exhibit on the theme of birds:
http://www.elahe.net/thumb.php?gallery=27 and one of his latest
painting exhibits:   http://www.elahe.net/thumb.php?gallery=24

I hope you have enjoyed Window number 4.  Let me end with One More
Suggested Reading on contemporary Iranian history: Iran Between Two
Revolutions by Ervand Abrahamian
(Princeton U. Press).

Have a great weekend.

Fatemeh
========================
Fatemeh Keshavarz, Chair
Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatuares
Washington University in St. Louis
Tel: (314) 935-5156
Fax: (314) 935-4399
========================

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Jewish wedding in beautiful synagogue in Iran.

Jewish wedding in beautiful synagogue in Tehran.

Hello Everyone!

We are officially a listserv now. Welcome to the “Window on Iran”
listserv!  It took just a bit longer than I thought. Now that the list
is up and working, the weekly updates should be back on track. Let us
move to the updates:

Current Issues:

* This week, Iran responded to the package of incentives
aimed at suspending its nuclear program with a 30 page
document which is not public yet. Comments from various
European and American officials point to the fact that the
Iranian government has given signs of interest in starting
“serious”  negotiations while at the same time, it wishes to
save face by not suspending enrichment as a “pre-condition”
to the start of the negotiations. Some experts in Washington
warned against a hasty rejection of the Iranian response and
suggested to open up to Iran’s indication of readiness for
negotiations. Such negotiations should ideally include:
enrichment suspension, the Iranian role in the region, and
keeping Iran accountable for its own human rights record.
You may read more on these at:
http://www.niacouncil.org/pressreleases/press423.asp

* In the meantime, a key House committee issued a
stinging critique of U.S. intelligence on Iran yesterday,
charging that the CIA and other agencies have failed to find
information on Iran’s true intentions for its nuclear
program and its ties to terrorism! It is not clear how the
committee knows about these “intentions” and “ties” if
intelligence agencies are not able to find any information
about them. Here is the article on this in Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/23/AR2006082301309.html?referrer=email

Cultural/Social

A lot questions are asked about Iranian religious and ethnic
minorities in the west. Many people think, for example, that
Jews cannot freely worship. Some even wonder if Jews still live
in Iran. Again, I don’t wish to present ideal conditions for
minorities in Iran. Iranian activists will tell you that legal
reform is needed with regard to minority rights. Furthermore,
modern nation-states are built on nationalistic ideologies that
— despite their rhetoric of national unity — marginalize
racial difference. The 1979 Iranian revolution further
emphasized such differences by fore grounding religion as one of
its organizing principles. Despite all of that, the answer to
the above question is: yes Jews — and other minorities — do
live in present day Iran and are very much a part of the social
and cultural scene. The main problems that the Iranian Jews face
at this point is the antagonistic relations between the two
countries of Iran and Israel. Not being able to travel between
the countries affects their personal lives.

The Jewish Community in Iran:

The current population of the Iranian Jews is estimated
approximately 30,000 (one of the oldest and largest in the
Middle East). The official web page of the Iranian Jewish
Association
says:

Synagogues

There are about 100 synagogues in Iran of which about 26 are in
Tehran. Iranian synagogues in terms of the history and place of
construction have a variety of architectural styles. There are
several synagogues in Tehran, Yazd and Isfahan cities, which
because of their antiquity and beauty of architecture have been
ear marked as national historic sites by Cultural Heritage
Organization

The most widely known Iranian Jewish Scholar is Solomon Haim the
author of Persian-Hebrew Dictionary.
This dictionary is compiled by “Solomon Haim” (1889-1968), one
of the most famous Jewish scientists of Iran. He has compiled
the most well known French-Persian, Persian-English, and
English-Persian dictionaries and for this he is of high respect
and prestige among the people of Iran.

You can visit the site at:
http://www.iranjewish.com/Essay_E/Essay_e1.htm to read about
cultural organizations, schools, libraries, journals, community
centers and more.

Suggested Reading:

Esther’s Children: A Portrait of Iranian Jews (Hardcover) by Houman
Sarshar (Editor)
<http://www.amazon.com/s/002-3695249-7660814?ie=UTF8&index=books&rank=-relevance%2C%2Bavailability%2C-daterank&field-author-exact=Houman%20Sarshar>

This week’s visual delight:

The paintings of  Yacob Amamepich, a Jewish painter from
Tabriz, was on display in July 2006 in the Elahe Gallery in
Tehran. Please click on:
http://www.elahe.net/thumb.php?gallery=38 to view the paintings.

And please click here to read more about some young members of the
Iranian Jewish Community: http://www.mfjc.org/board_briefings/dec2005.htm .

Fatemeh
========================
Fatemeh Keshavarz, Chair
Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatuares
Washington University in St. Louis
Tel: (314) 935-5156
Fax: (314) 935-4399
========================

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The cropped (Left) and real (Right) picture from the front cover of Azar Nafisis Reading Lolita in Tehran.

The cropped (Left) and real (Right) picture from the front cover of Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran" (see below for further explanation).

Dear Friends, Greetings,

First:
We have grown too large for a group email list! This is wonderful news
but has a practical implication: I must turn the “Window on Iran” into a
listserv. My colleagues at the university computing services will kindly
assist me in doing so. I am happy with the change because in a listserv
your names and addresses will be safer from possible spam users and you
can unsubscribe at will. I will soon send you the initial message of the
listserv. IF YOU DO NOT RECEIVE THAT MESSAGE NEXT WEEK, PLEASE E-MAIL ME
TO MAKE SURE THAT YOUR ADDRESS HAS NOT BEEN DELETED IN THE TRANSITION.

Second:
Apparently, my link to Professor Inhorn’s excellent article on Iran in
which she observes:  “The Iran I encountered is far from the medieval
theocracy often portrayed in American media” did not work. If you did
not get my “correction” message, here is the link again:
http://www.sph.umich.edu/news_events/pdf/inhorn%20iran.pdf

And now to this week’s Window on Iran:

Current issues

* Iranian chief nuclear negotiator’s statement that Iran reserves
the right to continue its nuclear program “only under UN
inspection” was presented in American and British papers as
“Iran’s defiance of the UN resolution.”
* 15 day visas of about 40 American educated Iranian scientists
arriving in the U.S. last week to participate in a university
reunion in Northern California were revoked last minute without
explanation. Some were held overnight in what one described to a
friend in a brief phone call as “jail conditions” before being
sent  back to Iran.

Science

* Iranian scientists in a Tehran fertility clinic cloned a sheep
successfully. Although the sheep died soon after birth, this first
cloning in the Middle East was hailed by the world media as a
great breakthrough. Iranian scientists described with excitement
the history of their cloning experiments on mice and cow:
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1874227.cms It may
come as a surprise to you that Iran’s cloning program, like its
work on embryonic stem cell research, has the blessing of the
country’s religious authorities.

Social/Cultural

* This week I would like to introduce you to one of the most
prominent poets of twentieth-century Iran: Simin Behbahani. Known
as the “Lioness of Iran,” Behbahani has remained an ardent
defender of human rights, free speech, and women’s rights. She
spoke against war and violence even as the Iran-Iraq war raged in
the 1980s. Currently President of The Iranian Writers’
Association, Behbahani has published 12 collections of poems and
has stayed in the public eye before, during, and after the 1979
revolution defying all forms of totalitarianism. Behbahani was
nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1997. For a short
biography of Simin Behbahni, please click on the first link below.
And go to the second link to view the “Lioness” in action, and her
pronounced fashion statements!
o http://www.iranchamber.com/literature/sbehbahani/simin_behbahani.php
o http://www.payvand.com/news/05/aug/1105.html

* Most of you have read, or heard of, the book that vilified
most Iranian men and victimized the majority of Iranian women, the
bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran. The cover of the book depicts
two young Iranian girls with downcast eyes hinting at the
unlikelihood of an active intellectual life. The picture, above
this post, is actually of two girls active in the
Iranian general elections (notice Khatami’s poster in the
background) reading a newspaper.

Have a great weekend!
Fatemeh Keshavarz
========================
Fatemeh Keshavarz, Professor and Chair
Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatuares
Washington University in St. Louis
Tel: (314) 935-5156
Fax: (314) 935-4399
========================

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The City of Tehran

Dear Friends,

Thank you for you warm reception of my update on Iran. I started responding to you individually but soon realized that I have to quit my job to handle the volume of correspondence. After the first ten or so, I only answered messages with questions. If you sent a kind note, asked for your e-mail address to be changed with a different one, or provided
a friend’s address for the list, please forgive me for not writing back. You will notice that I have made the necessary adjustment.

A note before the updates: I do not wish to give an impression of a trouble free Iran. The civil society that is forming in the country has
a long way to go. Iranians continue to make sacrifices for that to
happen. What I would like to do is to correct misinformation, give a
taste of the social and cultural complexity of Iran, and supply the
parts of the picture that are missing.

* Speaking of pictures, I would like to begin with a slide show of
Tehran:  The city of Tehran (forgive some obvious captions, i.e. street!).

* I would like to introduce to you the First Family of Iranian
Cinema: the Makhmalbaf family. The family includes Mohsen
(father), Marzieh (mother), and their  children Samira, Maysam,
and Hana To visit the Makhmalbaf Film House, please click on:
http://www.makhmalbaf.com/ . While the bulk of the reviews and publications
about the work of these artists is in Persian, you will find photo
galleries and short descriptions for each of their films in
English. Please be sure to visit the personal photo gallery , and
the awards, for each artist.
* For this week, I also have an excellent recent article on Iran
by Marcia C. Inhorn, professor of public Health at the University
of Michigan. Professor Inhorn describes Iran as a country to watch
on many levels. She declares “The Iran I encountered is far from
the medieval theocracy often portrayed in American media.” The
article is called “A More Open Mind Toward Iran.” (The Chronicle
of Higher Education, June 06). You will find the article on google
or at:  www.sph.umich.edu/new_events/pdf/inhorm%20iran.pdf

Have a great weekend.

Fatemeh Keshavarz
========================
Fatemeh Keshavarz, Professor and Chair
Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatuares
Washington University in St. Louis
Tel: (314) 935-5156
Fax: (314) 935-4399
========================

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The Real Faces of Iran

The Real Faces of Iran

Dear Friends,

In the past few months, the U.S. media coverage of Iran has gone from bad to unbelievable. It used to emphasize the negative and leave out the positive. It now appears to be inventing information that those of us in close contact with Iran are unable to trace. For example, in May 2006 there was a report in the papers here that the Iranian Jews will be
forced to wear a uniform. Last weekend, another breaking news was: Ahmadinejad is imposing a ban on the use of foreign words. There is no
truth to either of these (I won’t list more).

Some of us in the Iranian American community feel that, due to the
explosive conditions in the Middle East, we must provide our American
friends and family members with possibility of access to reliable
information, small as its impact might be. This is why I have put this
e-mail update together to keep you informed of events in contemporary
Iran. Its frequency would be once a week — unless there is significant
breaking news. I have made contact with friends who will monitor the
news in Iran, and I will try to follow reliable publications here.
Needless to say,  I will not be able to be comprehensive.

If you feel you don’t need these updates, please let me know to take you
off the list. If you wish to check how informed you might be about Iran,
take a look at the following questions:

On the issue of the Iranian nuclear program, did you know that:

* The Iranian supreme religious leader issued a legal decree (fatwa)
on November 6, 2004  in which all development, production, and use
of nuclear weapons is considered against the Islamic principles
and should not be undertaken under any circumstances.
* Iranian nuclear facilities have been inspected over 2000 time
during the past three years (some surprise inspections) by the
IAEA and nothing illegal has been found. The IAEA’s report has
specified “to date, there is no evidence that undeclared material
are related to any weapon’s programs.”
* Iran is home to tens of thousands of people affected by Saddam
Husain’s chemical weapons, and people have a strong feeling
against the use of such weapons (I know some of these people
personally).
* Iran has described the package of incentives from the west as
potentially acceptable and announced a while ago that there will
be an official and detailed reply by August 22nd, 2006.

On the issues related to the local politics, did you know that:

* the Taliban are an enemy of Iran and have engaged in regular
assassinations of Iranian diplomats.
* The Iranian regime considers al-Qa’ideh a terrorist organization.
* Iranians held night long vigils to commemorate the victims of 9/11.
* Iran does not support the Shiite extremist Moqtada al-Sadr, and
prefers peace, stability, and democratic elections in Iraq because
it does not wish its own Kurdish population to aspire to
separatist ideas and because a democratic election in Iraq will
give a prominent role to the Iraqi Shiites.
* According to all major historians of the region, in reality, Iran
exercises little influence on the Hezbollah.

On the social and cultural front, did you know:

* the latest best-selling titles in Iran are the DaVinci Code and
Hillary Clinton’s My life in (Persian translation)
* according to the latest statistics, close to 70% of the Iranian
university students are women
* IVF, and gamete donation, as well as transsexual operations are
legal in Iran.
* Iranian cinema produces critically acclaimed films (often openly
critical of the regime).
* Iranian women golfers, race car drivers, and polo players compete
internationally.

I hope my next messages will be much shorter. Please let me know if you
wish your name to be taken off this list, or if you wish to add
someone’s name to it. I will send out my first update message soon.

Best,
Fatemeh Keshavarz

========================
Fatemeh Keshavarz, Professor and Chair
Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatuares
Washington University in St. Louis
Tel: (314) 935-5156
Fax: (314) 935-4399
========================

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