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Archive for March, 2012

Dear All,

Greetings! This is the first day of spring! Happy Spring to you all and Happy Nowruz to those who were awaiting the arrival of the Persian New Year 1391 (no kidding). “Nowruz” refers literally to a new day and metaphorically the beginning of a new time, a new stage in life of nature of which we human beings are an important part. The Iranian calendar is a solar calendar celebrating seasonal change. In this cosmology which is based on Zoroastrian belief, light and darkness are engaged in a continuous struggle which unfolds inside all manifestations of nature. The role of us human beings is to help light to overcome darkness by spreading “good words, good deeds, and good thoughts” گفتار نیک، کردار نیک، پندارنیک. And by preventing the destruction and pollution of nature. Ancient Iranians considered it a spiritual duty to plant a tree!

How Do Iranians celebrate Nowruz?

First, they clean the house thoroughly. In fact there is a Persian word for especial Nowruz cleaning called “shaking the house” خانه تکانی. You shake the house clean! Then a special table is set with seven items on it all carrying names that begin with letter “seen” or “S” in English. That is why the table is called the haft seen, literally “the seven seens.” All the items on the table are natural, nourishing, or somehow related to life (things like, apples, flowers, sprouted wheat, etc.) The haft seen table is usually decorated beautifully. It is your chance to share your artistic creativity with friends and relatives who visit you to say Happy New Year! Take a look at a few:

Sending Nowruz Cards

One thing that Iranians at home, and all over the world, do at Nowruz is sending each other Happy Nowruz cards. While there is a whole industry of creating such cards – electronic and otherwise – for sale, many people create their own cards. My lovely friends Zari and Reza do that by combining two verses of the great Iranian poet Hafiz of Shiraz (1325-1390) with their own art of design and calligraphy. I just got their card for this year:

The poem reads "All the grace and glory that the autumn had brought // has fallen at the feet of the spring breeze. Thank God! flowers are wearing their lucky hats again // Wintery winds and bare brunches are about to leave us too!

Who Gave Iranians A Great Eidi This Year?

First, you need to know that Eidi عیدی in Persian means a special gift given on the occasion of an Eid, a day of celebration  (in this case the Eid is Nowruz). That is to say, people give each other gifts. This year, a great Eidi for Iranians came from an Israeli, yes Israeli, couple. Last Saturday night, an Israeli couple – two graphic designers named Ronnie Edri and Michal Tamir– decided to cut across the growing anxiety and fear over the possibility of an Israel-Iran war, and address Iranian citizens directly. They created a slogan you can impose over your profile picture or any picture of your choice. Many of the first responses they got were cynical ones. But more and more Israelis took up the call in earnest.

First things first: “Ronnie and Michal! We love you too! And we love the peace loving people of Israel! You had the courage to cut through the cynicism and fear-mongering of politics and reached out to the people of Iran! Some people will tell you, this will amount to nothing. Don’t believe them, this is a changed world and it needs people like you! In last year’s anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, when the officials guided the crowds to say “Down with Israel!”people responded with “Down with China and Russia!” Not that they hate the Chinese or the Russian people. But they were saying, we have nothing against Israeli people. What we really dislike is the policy of these two superpowers who back dictators. Now with the aid of technology, people of the world can speak to each other! Here is the logo that Ronnie and Michal created:

The logo that Ronnie and Michal created. It has already got loving responses from Iranian who are able to access the logo.

Here is a young Israeli mom adopting the logo. Just think how many misunderstandings and fearful thoughts will be demolished with the power these two smiles. Let us get these smiles viral on the web. Please, please, please, share them:

All I can say is that Iranian people love you too! They would not want the slightest harm to come to you.

I can’t believe this, I have tears in my eyes! It is almost shocking how no one thought of doing this before! Thank you Ronnie and Michal. Let us make a promise to each other on this Nowruz occasion. We will stand together for peace, not just between Iran and Israel, but everywhere in the world and won’t let anyone make us think this is naive. For all of you out there reading these words, please visit here, and on Iranian.com here to see who else adopted the logo.  Of course, in Iran you must respond to an Eidi with an Eidi which brings me to my thank you gift to Ronnie, Michal and the people  of Israel: a beatiful wedding picture of an Iranian Jewish couple and their relatives celebrating their union in Tehran’s historic synagogue:

A young couple get married in Tehran synagog in 2007. The Jews of Iran are an ancient and proud people who continue to worship and perform their ceremonies in this and other synagogues to this day

And a Happy and humorous Nowruz song by the Iranian band Ajam to cap it all:

We Will Not Forget!

In all the Nowruz festivity and Eidi exchange, let us not forget those who cannot celebrate Nowruz in Iran because they are too poor:

A Happier and better Nowruz to children of poor families selling flowers for Nowruz festivities on streets of Tehran and other cities

An injustice which is distributed without gender discrimination:

We wish you a happier and more promising Nowruz!

And to political prisoners who have committed no crimes and whose charge is spreading “propaganda” against the Islamic Republic. Their families will have to spend the Nowruz with their pictures:

Lawyer and Women's Rights activists, Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 11 years in Jail for spreading so-called propaganda against the government. Her family will have to celebrate Nowruz without her.

Let us close this window with a beautiful painting by Sanaz Dezfoulian born in 1983 in Tehran pictured here.

And below, I post one of Sanaz’s most recent creations, a bedroom.  Acrylic on canvas, the work was a  part of her art show in 2010 in Tehran

Have a great Nowruz wherever you are! Let us keep our messages of peace to each other going. Happy 1391 to you and yours!

Best,

Fatemeh

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Dear All,

Greetings from Washington University in St. Louis. It looks like we are in for a nice warm early spring in many parts of the country. I hope you are all well and your spring is arriving in a timely fashion wherever you are.

There is another celebration we have just left behind – the wonderful and festive March 8. So, a belated Happy Women’s Day to you all! The Iranian women sociologists celebrated the day with a speaking event in Tehran, here. Iranian Azari women activists celebrated the women’s day with a day of hiking, among other things! Here.

Iranian Azari Women celebrated women's day by organizing a hiking which included discussion of women's rights in the broader political context

Here, in the U.S., my totally amazing friend Safoura Nourbakhsh and a team of writers, translators and scholars just celebrated the Women’s Day with the publication of the second issue of their online publication Zannegar Journal. The journal is a great resource for academics and activists specializing in women’s studies who read Persian and work with that language. Congratulations to Safoura and friends. We look forward to future editions. In the mean time, do check out the first two issues here and don’t forget to share  the link with your Persian speaking friends.

Simin Daneshvar Dies on Women’s Day

In a rare coincidence, Simin Daneshvar, one of the greatest fiction writers of modern Iran, and one of the most articulate defenders of women’s rights, died at her home in Tehran in late hours on March 8th. Born on April 28, 1921 in the historic city of Shiraz (my own hometown), Daneshvar studied Persian literature with Dr. Sayyah (a woman Professor) and the great Iranian Rumi scholar Badi’uzzaman Forouzanfar and received her PhD in 1948 from Tehran University with a thesis focused on the treatment of beauty in Persian literature. Even though Daneshvar had started writing her own prose years earlier, her marriage in 1950 to Jalal Al-e Ahmad , the highly acclaimed and somewhat controversial, Iranian short story writer and social critic, at first appeared as a possibility of keeping her in the shadow of her well-known husband.

Daneshvar's marriage in 1950 to the acclaimed writer and social critic Jalal Al-e Ahmad could have kept her in the shadow of his accomplishments

In 1952, Daneshvar traveled to Stanford as a Fulbright fellow and studied creative writing with the American novelist and Pulitzer prize winner, Wallace Stegner. Later, Stegner who visited Daneshvar and Al-e Ahmad in Tehran, spoke of her in most moving terms. Below, I post a short video that Iranian students made in 2004 about Daneshvar’s visit in 1952 to Stanford. If you don’t speak Persian fast-forward to minute 4:55 where Stegner’s letter about Daneshvar is read in English:

Indeed the tragic death of Al-e Ahmad in 1969 (the same year in which Daneshvar published her major novel Savushun) could have overshadowed her literary achievement completely. In reality, with Savushun, which sold about half a million copies, Daneshvar established herself as one of the most articulate literary voices of the 20th century Iran.

In Savushun, which has been translated into 16 languages,Daneshvar tells the story of Iran during the second world war and Zari, a young woman who over comes her fears and finds her voice

For the English translations of Savushun and her other works, visit Payvand News, here. Daneshvar’s funeral was held in Tehran this afternoon. She was laid to rest in the segment of Behesht-e Zahra cemetery where many other Iranian writers, and artists are buried. For more pictures and a full report on the event, go here.

Hundreds of people walked to the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery where Daneshvar's body was laid to rest next to other Iranian writers and artists

To honor Simin Daneshvar and her legacy of freedom and dignity for all human beings, and to celebrate the recently passed Women’s Day, I would like to introduce to you a woman who is very much alive though sentenced to 11 years in jail for being an advocate for reform, women’s rights and human’s rights: Narges Mohammadi. A graduate in the field of physics and engineering, and an advocate for reform and human rights in Iran, Mohammadi was sentenced to eleven years in jail last September. Over forty women activists like her are in jail in Iran, as we celebrate Women’s Day this year. All highly educated and intelligent, none convicted of any crime other than their dedication to human dignity and freedom which is viewed as a security risk, and equated with spying for the enemy, at present. Read more about Narges Mohammadi, here.

Mohammadi's position as Deputy Chairperson for the Defenders of the Human Rights Center (DHRC) and her dedication to reform have been counted as ‘security crimes’ against her

A Brief Touch on Iran/Israel War Politic

I would really like to keep war politics out of this window. Somehow it should be dedicated totally to women. But I have come across a piece of exciting news which I would like to share with you. It is the kind that our media seem to always miss: nations’ reluctance to go to war.  In a poll conducted this month by Professor Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland and Israel’s Dahaf Institute, only 19 percent of Israelis said they would support an Israeli unilateral military action against Iran. The poll would have likely made headlines if it were 60 or 70 percent in favor of such a military action. Let us hope the two nations leaders learn from their respective people. Read more about the poll here.

Visual Delight

Time for our visual delight before closing this window. I leave you with two beautiful painting of an Iranian woman artist Jamileh Vafakish. Have a great week,

Fatemeh

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Finally, an Oscar for the Thriving Iranian Cinema

I am sure many of you watched the Academy Award Ceremony as Asghar Farhadi won the Oscar for her superb film A Separation as the best foreign film. Let us take a look at Farhadi and the crew on the red carpet:

Prior to the Oscars, he had won the German and French major festivals as well as the Golden Globe. If you have not seen the movie, I hope you do as it will show you a side of the Iranian society which you are not likely to have seen. Here is the trailer

It is unfortunate that our popular media referred to the Oscar as a diplomatic victory for the Iranian regime. See the article on the Washington Post blog here. You can consider the movie a victory for the Iranian regime only if you had assumed that in the Islamic republic of Iran there were no real people living in normal human conditions possessing real voices. This film certainly changes that perception. Beyond that,however, there is nothing in the movie that can be interpreted as a political move in favor of any regime. Indeed, the Iranian officials have complained about the focus of the movie being on a family conflict and divorce. Furthermore, Farhadi’s acceptance speech at the Oscars in which he said “I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment” could be interpreted as a criticism of possible aggression against Iran. But at the same time, it could be viewed as a criticism of the Iranian officials verbal aggression against other cultures. In this video, taken at a press conference in Germany, you’ll here Farhadi making candid comments about the subject of class conflict and divorce in Iran:

And here is Leila Hatami the leading woman interviewed by the CNN:

I just read that in Israel people lined up outside theaters to see A Separation. This was wonderful news for me in that the more nations see images of each other in real life contexts, the less they would be afraid of each other. At the same time, this is a tribute to the Israeli society not to sensor the film. If the situation was reversed and the Israeli film had received the Oscar, would the current Iranian regime allow its public screening in Iran? My guess would be “no.” I am addressing this issue in an article I am writing for a Persian website.

Mousavi: I have Not Changed my Position

In a rare phone contact with his daughters, Mir Hossein Mousavi started the conversation with “My daughters, I would like you to know that nothing has changed. I am fully committed to my previous positions.” Obviously, he feared that the conversation would be interrupted by the security forces who were listening. He also warned his daughters that the occasional phone contact they’ve had may be discontinued. Read more about the conversation here.

Mir Hossein Mousavi: I am fully committed to my Positions!

The Parliamentary Elections Today

While the Iranian official media was speaking of the participation of 65% percent of the electorate in today’s Parliamentary Elections boycotted by a vast number of opposition groups, the Minister of Interior reported the participation to be 34% until 7:00 pm. The voting time was extended four times which indicates the participation has not been to the satisfaction of the officials. The state run media, played a range of tricks to get the public to the ballot boxes including the false news of voting by popular figures such as the reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami. While the news of his voting remains unconfirmed, the image published of him speaking to the reporters turned out to be an image taken from an earlier event! Take a look:

News and Image of President Khatami supposedly Voting today

In less than ten minutes, the image was found on an a website dated three months earlier and reporting on Mr. Khatami’s participation in a memorial service. That image (below) is now being circulated:

Khatami photographed in a memorial service 3 months earlier

Six Questions Reporters should ask of anyone Advocating Military Action against Iran!

There is an interesting recent article by Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi with the above title. I am so relieved that someone is asking substantive questions. Usually the question is “Is the Iranian government telling the truth about its nuclear objectives.”  And the implied answer is always “No!” As if , the rest of the world politicians are going about revealing the truth about their objectives particularly with regard to security issues. Marashi is Director of Research at the National Iranian American Council and a former Iran Desk Officer at the U.S. Department of State. Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, is the author of the new book  Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran (Yale University Press, 2012), here.

Israel Displeased with Public criticism by U.S. officials of a Possible Israeli Attack on Iran

A recent piece in Haaretz (February 24) by Barak Ravid, reveals open tension between American and Israeli politicians over comments by American officials that a military move against Iran is a mistake, here.

US Agencies See no Move by Iran to Build a Bomb

This is one of those reports that is bound to make some happy and others unhappy. According to The New York Times piece by James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, posted here, the American intelligence community believes there is no evidence that Iran is moving toward building a bomb.

Fields of Dreams

I was looking for some soothing images from Iran. Something really far way from politics and conflict. And I run into a set of amazing pictures form Iran by Mohammad Emdadi posted on Iranian.com called “Fields of Dreams.” Here are two images from this collections:

The lush nature of Northern Iran

And I absolutely loved this one!

A woman Shepherd from Southern Iran?

Do look at Emdadi’s full collection here.  And have a great weekend!

Best,

Fatemeh

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