Archive for July, 2011

Dear All,

Greetings! I hope your July is not too hot wherever in the world you are. I would like to open this window without further ado with the most important topic of the day.

The Latest on the Segregation in Universities

In the last window update I spoke about the latest danger to the women’s equal opportunities in Iran, namely the looming threat of setting gender specific classrooms (and perhaps ultimately separate universities in Iran). The topic which has been revived by extreme conservatives is not taken as seriously by all Iranian academics.  In some observer’s view, the return to this issue is in preparation for the parliamentary elections in December 2012. In other words, the hardliners are trying to appeal to their base, and by the same token, those who oppose the idea are banking on the fact that the plan is very unpopular, and practically improbable if not totally impossible.

While these readings of the situation may not be invalid, the threat to Iranian women’s equal access to first rate educational resources is so important that even a slim chance of segregation in universities must not be taken lightly.

Please Sign our Petition before Closing this Window!

Given the significance of the situation, a number of us (academics based outside and inside Iran) have written a letter to Iranian University Presidents and Administrators asking them NOT to allow the segregation to be implemented. The petition is on line and has already received hundreds of signatures from people all over the world. We are so pleased that the letters is turning into a global effort. Please go on line here now and support our letter to these Iranian educational authorities by signing the petition and sharing it with friends and colleagues you think would like to sign. We may have to send the letter soon, so please do it at your earliest convenience.

VOA Does a Special on Gender Segregation Plan for Iranian Universities

Fortunately the news media, which are followed by large numbers of listeners with interest in Middle Eastern Issues, are taking keen interest in this matter. Last Monday,Voice of America did a special episode in its popular program Ofogh “horizon” on this very issue. I was interviewed on the program. For those of you who like to watch the program (which is in Persian), the links are here and here. I have already received thank you e-mail messages from Iran.

In an interesting gesture, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has expressed opposition to segregating men and women in Iran universities. Is he trying to win the hearts of the young Iranians? Well, he might. But is it not too little and too late? Read more about it here.

Pegah Ahangarani, the Woman who is no Longer Missing

After a week of being missing, actor and documentary maker Pegah Ahangarani called her family from Evin Prison today

Pegah Ahangarani was scheduled to be in Germany (July 4-12) to publish her personal coverage of Iranian women soccer players for the German Deutsche Welle. The day before her trip she received a call from Iranian intelligence authorities to the effect that she will be arrested if she goes to the airport. Even though Ms. Ahangarani cancelled her trip, she disappeared about a week later. Ironically, today after Ms. Ahangarani made a brief and nervous phone call to her family from Evin Prison, everyone felt relieved. At least, she is alive. Today Iranians who went to movies chanted slogans in support of Pegah Ahangarani and added a few “death to dictator”s as well before they left movie theaters. No one has been arrested in this connection yet. Click here to read about Gooya news report on the public support for her.

There is a Pattern Here

The same thing happened to Mariam Majd an Iranian woman photographer and sports writer recently. Photo Journalist Mariam Majd got arrested in her house the night before her trip. She has a special interest in women in sports and was similarly scheduled to be in Germany on June 17 to photograph the FIFA Women’s World Cup. She was arrested by four man – believed to be security forces – who searched her apartment the night before and took her away. Majd was first believed to be missing until sources close to her family informed the media that she had been taken to Evin Prison. You can read about the incident and follow her story on the International Campaign for Human Rights here.  These woman participate in no subversive activity. However their powerful personal presence poses a threat to the regime and the ideal of piety and womanhood it tries to promote.

Iranian Movies Win Major Prize at St. Petersburg Festival

Despite the tremendous pressure on journalism and art to express no critical view of the current culture and politics in Iran, Iranian film-makers and journalists continue to produce lively art that has the courage to look at the social reality in Iran and elsewhere.

Asghar Farhadi's Nader and Simin: A Separation continues to win top prize in international Festivals

Farhadi’s film added St. Petersburg to its previous honors. Read more at Payvand News of Iran.

Visual Delight – Paintings from Aida Zoghi

Let’s close this window, as usual, with images of delightful paintings by an Iranian woman painter, this time Aida Zoghi.

Aida Zoghi born in 1973 received her B.A. degree in painting

 from Alzahra University. She has had person exhibits in Iran.

  The Paintings you see here are from 2003 and 2004

And, another oil on canvas from 2003 to close this window for us beautifully:

Have great week!



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Dear All,

I hope you are enjoying the summer. I am back with more updates on Iran. A significant development in the political scene is that the fight between the supporters of Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad seems to have reached a critical stage. Still, I would like to start by celebrating Iranian women activists.

Sotoudeh Makes History Again!

A few weeks ago, I told you about the Iranian woman lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state securityShe has been imprisoned in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. In January 2011, Iranian authorities sentenced Sotoudeh to 11 years in prison in addition to barring her from practicing law and from leaving the country for 20 years. I posted the images of Sotoudeh appearing in court handcuffed but serene and confident. The publication of those images cause the Iranian authorities embarrassment in the country. Today, for the first time, the letter that Sotoudeh wrote from Evin Prison after hearing her sentence was publicly released. It is addressed to the Head of the Iranian Judiciary and is being circulated widely by her activist friends. First I’d like you to see the poster prepared for the distribution of the letter with her hand writing in blue on right hand side. Then I will translated her letter.

The words in blue are quotes from Sotoudeh's letter written from Evin and addressed to the Head of the Iranian Judiciary "Your judge showed that Iranian women cannot under any circumstances be underestimated!"

The Full Letter:

“Your Excellency — Thank you for reminding us of the danger of those objecting to the results of the 2009 Elections, we had forgotten how badly they had betrayed the nation! Thank you for your timely action to arrest some in the first few hours after the election even before they had a chance to express their objections. The forces who arrested them explained to many that their arrest is to preempt problems. Only after the horrendous sentences you issued for us we realized how dangerous text messaging and e-mailing are! When the world watched in amazement how peacefully the protesters had expressed their protests, when they were not given any opportunity to express their views, when they were sent to prison to endure heavy sentences silently, we admired their perseverance. I thank you for showing the world what a big rift exists between the decisions of those in charge and the wishes of the people. I am particularly thankful to you for my own sentence and the fact that your judge did not take any account of my two young children in issuing the sentence. Your judge showed that Iranian women cannot under any circumstances be underestimated! I won’t change my sentence with anything. I was showered with love from the people of my country and freedom lovers all over the world. Thank you for giving me a sentence longer than those of my clients. It would be painful to be released before them. Thank you for always bringing me to court in a special vehicle accompanied by two armed guards and one woman. I felt special. I specially thank you for your fair judgment. Your Excellency, you did not take my defense seriously but we do take the sentences of your revolutionary court very seriously!” Sotoudeh explains that the inspiration for the letter comes from the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. Read the Persian original here.

Ahmadinejad Threatens to “Take Action”

Back to Mr. Ahmadinejad, after three of his close confidants were arrested last week, he warned that if members of his cabinet were subjected to any threats, he will take action.

Ahmadinejad warned last week: "If members of my cabinet are threatened, I will speak with the people."

The clashes between supporters of the Supreme Leader, Mr. Khamenei, and Ahmadinejad’s circle (described in the official media as “the deviant current,”) has entered a new and critical phase with the arrest of three more of the President’s close confidants. This led to his threat to “take action” if this situation continues. The Parliament, which was preparing to question Ahmadinejad on a range of issues (for which it needs 75 signatures in support of the action) decided against that yesterday. This was despite the fact that 100 signatures had been collected. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s threat to take action may have been a response to the threat of questioning and possible impeachment, among other things. How much of the ongoing posturing, on either side, will lead to serious confrontation is unclear. Neither side appears confident enough for big risks.

Who Purchased Ahmadinejad’s Vehicle

Regardless of the outcome, the current skirmishes between the above two factions has its benefits for the Iranian public. Mishaps, fraudulent actions, and lies which would have been carefully covered up now find their way into the headlines run by official newspapers and the state run TV. The story of auctioning Ahmadinejad’s personal vehicle for charity purposes is a case in point.  In this highly publicized auction, which took place last year, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s car was supposedly purchased for two and a half billion tomans (one dollar is about 1000 tomans). Fars News revealed last week that there was no real buyer and the auction had been staged by Hamid Baqai Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff!

58 days and thousands of dollars were spent on staging an auction in which supposedly an Iranian buyer paid millions of dollars to own the President's personal vehicle.

Newly “Found” Documents on World War II

Similarly, last summer the Iranian intelligence sources revealed the discovery of a briefcase filled with documents in the late Shah’s car. According to these sources, the documents shed new lights on the gruesome events of World War II. According to a report published last week in the Iranian official News Agency Fars, no such briefcase was ever found. The news of the discovery had been fabricated in order to distract the Iranian public from a controversial statement made by one of Ahmadinejad’s official envoys.

The Looming Threat of Gender Segregation in Iranian Universities

The hardline conservative in Iran have always dreamed of creating full gender segregation in Iranian Universities. They have – so far – failed to gather enough support for the project which will be extremely costly and controversial. Some in the conservative camp, see the current political crisis in Iran as a perfect opportunity for finally realizing their dream. It is certain that the students will not take the threat of segregation lightly and will protest. At this time, when all civil disobedience and dissent is considered treason, student protests could be put down in the name of national security. I have just published a piece in the Iranian electronic news site JARAS here about the ramifications of such a segregation. It is in Persian. Please circulate among interested Persian speaking readers. I hope to write and to report on this very important topic in the future windows.

An Architectural Jewel in the City of Yazd

How about a break from politics with a visual delight from Iran? Payvand News just published a piece on the 17th Century garden of Dowlatabad in the historic city of Yazd in Central Iran. Take a look at the trees reflected in the pool:

Two elderly gentlemen chatting on the poolside in Yazd's Dowlatabad garden

And the exquisite glass windows:

The view from the outside:

You can see more images and read about this breathtaking garden here.at Payvand Iran News.

Have a great week,


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