I have been away from the blog for a while for family and work reasons. With Iran back in the headlines, it’s time for more updates. But first some good local news.
Sharnush Parsipur at Washington University
This week, we hosted one of the most prominent Iranian Writers of the 20th and the 21st century on the campus of Washington University. Parsipur, the author of Women Without Men and Touba and the Meaning of the Night, among many other great titles, was here to speak with students in Advanced Persian who had read Women without Men. In addition to writing her own wonderful work, Parsipur has been a powerful advocate for creativity, freedom, and human rights in Iran, ideals for which she has endured many prison sentences. Now living in the United States, Parsipur continues to write novel after novel. The two novels I mentioned here both exist in English translation and, hopefully, others will follow. Read more about her here.
Alleged Iranian Murder Plot on the American Soil
The Iranian and the American government don’t seem to be able to live without accusing each other. By now you have all been reading about this one. According to American officials: The Iranian Quds Force used an Iranian-American Used-car Dealer, and $1.5 million, to hire assassins from a Mexican drug cartel to murder the Saudi Arabian Ambassador and attack the Israeli Embassy. Much has been said about this and skepticism about the news has been a feature of most reports. English Aljazeera called it the fast and furious plot to occupy Iran A more neutral – but still critical – article by Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi appeared on Huffington Post soon after the news broke out. The piece called The “come to Jesus” moment in US Iran relations criticized the scenario for its sloppiness quoting Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer in the Middle East say the “Quds Force has never been this sloppy, using untested proxies, contracting with Mexican drug cartels, sending money through New York bank accounts, and putting its agents on U.S. soil where they risk being caught… The Quds Force is simply better than this.” See the full article here.
A central question, raised by many, is what could Iran have gained by having the Saudi Ambassador murdered. If anything, the Iranian government has been trying to build a steady relationships with its neighboring countries. It’ll be interesting to see what other details about this case may emerge. For now, I leave you with three interesting pieces, one about the personality of the alleged terrorist here, one on the Justice department conceding “no conclusive proof” here. And the third, an interesting analysis by the ex-CIA officer here.
Iran’s Reaction to the Allegations of a Murder Plot
The alleged murder plot has united the various factions – if momentarily – inside Iran. The Iranian leader described the allegations as absurd and a way to distract the American people from the protests taking place in the U.S., here. As for the Quds force, one of its top leaders boasted that if they had such intentions they could assassinate King Abd’allah himself without coming to the US soil.
Iran Blames the Outlawed MKO for the Murder Plot
The Iranian government is pointing its finger toward the outlawed Iranian dissidents Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) as the force behind the plot, here. The MKO has been working hard recently to get its name off the terrorist list in the US and has such supports as John Bolton (U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, 2005-06) among American politicians.
The MKO participated in the Iraqi invasion of the southern parts of Iran by Saddam Husein’s Army which led to an eight year war (1980-88) between Iran and Iraq and the use of chemical weapons by Saddam forces on Iranian soldiers and civilians.
Weather in this case the MKO is involved is not yet clear. However, the organization pursues a policy of preventing normalization of relations between US and Iran and prefers military confrontation between the two countries. For this reason, the MKO has been condemning any peace activism with Iran, considering such activists “lobbyists for Iran.” Recently, The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) which sends peace delegations to Iran and many other countries around the world regardless of their government’s relationship with the U.S., posted an article in Persian on its main website to refute the MKO accusation that its members are lobbyists for the Iranian government, here.
The Real Problem with Alleged Terror Plots
The real problem with these inflated and frequently unprovable allegations is that they form the main headlines about Iran and mask the real problems in the country: the crimes which are being committed against Iranian citizens in Iranian jails.
Just over a month ago, President Ahmadinejad made his annual UN speech and the usual round of interviews in which he claimed again and again no one is harmed in Iran for criticizing him. Guess what? This is not true:
The “crime” that the Tehran University student Peyman Aref had committed was writing an open letter to President Ahmadinejad complaining of student and faculty purges which are designed to eliminate the presence of the opposition in Iranian universities. The government claims that the tone of the letter did not show enough respect to the President.
The reason why Payman needed to be helped to the car by his wife and friends is that in addition to serving a year in jail, he received 74 lashes upon his release. This what his back looked like after the punishment:
Opposition to Gender Segregation Continues
Despite the harshness of the punishments awaiting any form of opposition, Iranian university students continue to voice their objection to the deteriorating social conditions, lack of freedom, in the country. One of the most controversial issues is the current governments attempt to start a process of gender segregation in the universities. The clip below shows a demonstration in Zanjaan University protesting a possible segregation:
Other students in various universities across the country are protesting the plans for gender segregation.
Time for Some Visual Healing
I usually close this window with images of paintings by Iranian women painters. This time, I am going to leave you with beautifully expressive images of Iranian women painted by an Iranian mail artist Afshin Nikravesh. Nikravesh was born in 1968 in Tehran and his main training is in Hydraulic structures!
Last but not least, this beautiful silhouette of a young woman:
Before closing this window, a brief personal news. You read these windows in many different parts of the world and are always kind to ask to be informed if I am speaking anywhere near where you live. Well, I’ll be speaking at Pomona College next week, and at NYU in the Iranian Studies Initiative soon after than. You can visit the site here.
Have a great weekend!