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Archive for April, 2012

Dear All,

Greetings and best wishes for a restful weekend! St. Louis has been rainy for the past few days its magnificent trees bursting into a beautiful summery green. I am in awe of the trees around me after 25 years of living here (exactly as long as I lived in my hometown Shiraz in south west of Iran). Did I say Shiraz? Okay, let me give a few visual samples. Let’s start with seasonal change. In Shiraz, you can see the arrival of the spring in a matter of days:

The Eram garden, built in mid 19th cent. in Northern Shiraz, welcomes the spring!

While we are on short tour of Shiraz, you should definitely see another 19th century building, Nasir al-Molk school and mosque:

Nasir al-Molk’s stain glass windows are quite famous though perhaps not quite as well known as the blue tiles used in the Safavid mosques of Isfahan. May be we’ll look at buildings in Isfahan in another window.

The inner halls of mosques are cool and serene. Sometimes people just sit there to pray or meditate.

The name of this school is for me associated with the stories my father told us about his youth. He lived in the vicinity of the school and passed through this courtyard often.

The city of Shiraz now has a population of over two million, many sprawling urban areas, as well as pockets of old historical neighborhoods. Every time a new highrise goes up, I pray that it is not at the cost of a beautiful old building. Fortunately, Shiraz municipality has been good at preserving historic sites.

Politics: Nuclear Negotiations

There is every indication that this round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 (representatives of six countries – the United States, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain) will be very different. The headlines I was reading in the Iranian newspapers last week sounded clear conciliatory notes, an indication that the public opinion in Iran is being prepared for compromises on the nuclear front.  The same readiness to overcome differences can be sensed in the comments made by the 5+1 team (though Western politicians continue to use a threatening language). Even the appearances and facial expressions look different on all sides. Sa’id Jalili, the Iranian chief negotiator arrived in Istanbul empowered as the special envoy of the Supreme Leader relaxed and smiling:

The Iranian chief nuclear negotiator who was viewed as uncompromising is rapidly reinventing himself as a smiling and skilled negotiator

To read more on what has happened in the very first round of the negotiations, read this Guardian article. For a real in-depth analysis of the political conflict between Iran and the United States, see this piece by Professor Juan Cole of Michigan University here.  The Huffington Post also has good piece on the Istanbul nuclear negotiations, here. Okay, let me now give you an overview of my observations about what is going on. What is different about this round of negotiations? First, the American side. I believe that President Obama is  very willing to go the extra mile to make the negotiations work this time because allowing for the oil embargo to come into full effect means another serious hike in the price of oil and a kind of gas price that no president would like to deal with during an election year. On the Iranian side, the sanctions have begun to hurt in a deeper way. Shortage of many things – including drugs – are being felt by a large segment of the population. Nonetheless, in my opinion, the Iranian change of approach to these negotiations is more the result of the new internal political dynamics which have consolidated the power of the Supreme Leader, Mr. Ali Khamenei, and left Mr. Ahmadinejad fairly week after the parliamentary elections in early March. There is every indication that Mr. Khamenei would like to solve – or at least reduce – the political tension between the two countries whereby revealing his superior diplomatic wisdom to that of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s uncompromising ways. With most reformist figures languishing in jail, and Ahmadinejad’s camp in disarray, the credit for any success in finding a diplomatic solution to the Iran/US conflict will clearly go to the Supreme Leader. This explains why Mr. Sa’id Jalili has been given the added title of the Supreme Leader’s special envoy.

Seymour Hersh’s Recent Report on Iran

Journalist Seymour Hersh has come forth again with recent revelations concerning American military secretly training an Iranian opposition group, which is on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists, to carry out acts of sabotage inside Iran. Hersh reports the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained operatives from Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada beginning in 2005. Watch his interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy now, here.

An Auspicious Life Saving Coincidence

I have not seen this reported in the American media yet but Iranian media is reporting that an airplane belonging to an unspecified airline flying to the Arab Emirate had to make an emergency landing in Tehran airport because one of the passengers, an unnamed 52 year old American, going through a major heart condition needed immediate attention. According to the report, the passenger’s life was saved by the Iranian medics who rushed to the plane. He is currently under care in a Tehran cardiac hospital. Is this a lucky coincidence? Or, what?

The Third Issue of Zannegar is out!

The third issue of Zannegar, the electronic journal for women's studies scholars and activists is out.

Not so long ago I told you of the publication of Zannegar whose first issue focused on the intersection between gender and sexuality with science and technology, and  the second examined the women’s movement in its global context. The third issue published on April 7 focuses on Art and Culture from a feminist perspective. Do check out the latest issue of Zannegar here and share the news with interested friends, colleagues, students…

Musical Delight

I’d like to leave you with a beautiful duet sang by two of the greatest  living masters of classical Persian music, the vocalist Parisa and Master Hossein Omoumi, the composer, nay player and professor of music at UCI

Have a wonderful weekend,

Fatemeh

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Greetings every one! I am back in time to celebrate the Persian sizdahbedar سیزده بدر with you. For those of you who are new to Persian cultural practices, sizdahbedar which literally means “the thirteen out,” refers to the the 13th day of farvardin  فرودین , the first month on the Iranian calendar. The expression could be interpreted as ” let us throw away any bad omen associated with the 13th day of the month” or simply “let us get out and celebrate on the 13th day!” Or, perhaps a bit of both.  On this day, finally, the new year celebrations end with a huge picnic. Family and friends get together and picnic in gardens, parks, and any green and open space they find. One of the goals is returning the wheat sabzeh grown on a plate for the haft-seen back to nature:

The Wheat grown before Nowruz and placed on the Haft-seen will be taken out of the house during the sizdahbedar

But of course, the main part of the day is the celebration and festivity with family and friends:

sizdahbedar is the day to get out of town and enjoy the nature

One popular practice during the sizdahbehar picnic is tying two blades of grass into a knot and making a wish! It isn’t that people think that knot changes their lives; rather it is a fun and symbolic way to tie their wishes and aspirations with that of the freshly growing grass, the messenger of the spring. Like the ritual of jumping over fire on the last Wednesday of the year, chaharshanbe suri چهارشنبه سوری , which is part of the Nowruz and therefore disliked by the current Iranian government as a pre-Islamic practice, sizdahbehar is frowned upon too. Here is how one cartoonist used the symbol to express  his / her opposition to the policing of the regime on this matter:

This is how a cartoonist, opposing the policing of the regime regarding Nowruz celebration in Iran, tied the knots on his / her sabzeh!

Iran in Bloom!

Countries that earn the title of “bad guys” are usually presented in the popular media as barren, poor, not-well-cared-for, fighting a harsh environment, and constantly dealing with tragedy. Beautiful panoramas or images of happy smiling people from such countries are hardly available to the American general public. As a result, it is easier to imagine the residents of such countries as unreliable, irrational, and ready to spring into violence. So here, together with the awesome picture (below) from the arrival of spring in the city of Larijan in the province of Gilan in Northern Iran, I gift you a photo-essay that relates the story of Iran in bloom . For the rest of the pictures, you can visit here.

Visit the link I have provided to Iranian.com above to see images such as this showing Iran in bloom this spring!

Spread Ronnie’s  Message of Peace

In my last post, I told you about about Ronnie Edri and his wife Michal Tamir, the Israeli designer couple who designed a logo with a message of peace and love to Iranians. Hundreds of thousands of people have already watched Ronnie’s message on the internet and many Iranians have responded to it already. Here is Ronnie himself on the subject. Do please help get his courageous message of peace and sanity out to more viewers:

And here is one out of numerous responses from Iranians (many of whom as you will see have covered a part of their face to remain anonymous to the Iranian authorities).

The Politicians Don’t Stop!

And yet the politicians on all sides continue with their inflammatory messages and the media keeps the war-talk going.  A piece in The New York Times focuses on the concern of the American intelligence community that hasty military action could take place based on unreliable information. Well, in my opinion, they should be concerned! It is hard to believe that some opinion pieces make it sound as if this caution is misplaced, that it is due to timidity, or a sense of guilt about Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved if we  had not mistaken bread factories for nuclear sites. See the article here:

One of the buildings the American forces were told was a nuclear site in Iraq turned out to be a bread factory. See the article I site above from N.Y. Times.

If we are to avoid another war and hitting bread factories instead of nuclear sites, or if we are to prevent Iranian children from following the fate of Iraqi children, half a million of whom died as a result of food and medication shortages caused by sanctions during the nineties, diplomacy should be given a serious chance. Please don’t forget that massive sanctions are weapons of mass destruction. I already know of one such case: a first cousin of mine who is desperately searching for a medical supply for a surgery she has to have done every few years. I don’t know how life threatening the situation is at this point, but I know she is in great discomfort. For further thoughts and discussion on this and related topics, I have an excellent essay for you by Trita Parsi, author of A Single Role of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran. The essay is called “Five tips for President Obama on nuclear negotiations with Iran.” Trita’s suggestions include broadening the discussion beyond the nuclear issues, and not allowing American domestic politics to direct the exchanges.  You can read the full piece here.

Time for Music…

Time to turn from politics, war, and sanctions, to a happier topic. I usually close these windows with visual delights such as painting or calligraphy from Iran. Let us turn to music this time. Just before Nowruz, an Iranian master setar player and composer Jalal Zolfonun died at the age seventy-five. I had heard him in concert about ten years ago. He was quite amazing. Here is a short clip of master Zolfonun playing

Setar is one of the oldest string instruments used in Persian classical music. Fortunately, young Iranians take a lot of interest in learning how to play it. Bear in mind that while Persian traditional music follows some tight rules, the player has plenty of room to display his or her originality by bending those rules in improvisation. Below, I have taken a delightful moment from a concert in Iran where a young Iranian woman musician named Sepideh Meshki shares the stage with her master Mohammad Reza Lotfi and many other Iranian women musicians. I have enjoyed this piece tremendously. I hope you do too:

Have a great week,

Fatemeh

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