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Windows on Iran 30

A peek at the stunning natural beauty of Iran (please see below for much more!).

A peek at the stunning natural beauty of Iran (please see below for much more!).

Dear All,

I hope you are enjoying the beginning of the summer. St. Louis summers are beautifully green. They can be toasty and wet too. We are enjoying a bit of both at the moment. The news from Iran has both good and disturbing parts. Among the disturbing parts are further American action to create unrest in Iran, as is the Iranian government’s move to tighten its enforcement of the ladies dress code in public and of course the continued anxiety over the arrest of Dr. Esfandiari. Good things include news of continued strong resolve among Iranian women to enhance their presence on the social and political scene by forming new coalitions as well as the usual great artistic and intellectual activity in the country.

One of my goals in these windows is to dispel the myth that reduces Iran to a culture of “villains vs. victims.” I would like you to see that regardless of the internal and global issues that Iran is dealing with, Iranians continue to be a lively, creative, humorous, and art loving people like any other in the world. Here it is in the words of one of the major contemporary Iranian painters Iran Darrudi
http://www.payvand.com/news/07/may/1304.html. Or, read about the three-minute documentary that the renowned Iranian director and screen-writer Abbas Kiarostami made on the occasion of Cannes Film festival’s 60th year. Kiarostami included in his three-minute documentary, 24 top Iranian actresses whom he has worked with over the years: http://www.payvand.com/news/07/may/1226.html.

Visual Delight

Nothing connects cultures like a visit. Let’s take a look at some
recent photos of Iran’s natural beauty (thanks to my friend Bahar
Bastani who sent the images). I have kept the slide show short so your
home computers don’t have large files to deal with. Click here: Iran Natural Beauty.

The colorful countryside of Iran.

The colorful countryside of Iran.

Recent Visit to Iran

While disturbing news about visits to Iran get a lot of attention, the
happy and successful ones find it hard to get any. My friend Judith
Ernst who visited Iran recently, had promised to share her experience
with us. Judith wrote a beautiful piece which provides a rare window
on Iran as few Americans make such a visits these days. Her
thoughtfully written piece about the trip received little attention
from the national papers. However, fortunately, it was greeted
enthusiastically by on-line news source Commondreams (thank goodness
for the alternative media). Judy was in Iran with her husband, Carl
Ernst
, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, who was invited to a conference on Rumi and
while there received an award for his most recent book, Following
Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World
.  I recommend the book highly for personal reading and/or classroom use.  Now, for Judy’s take on the trip to Iran click on:
http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/05/18/1348/

Current Issues
* And now to the not-so-exciting current news:

According to ABC News, the CIA has received secret presidential
approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the
Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence
community say. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity
because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has
signed a “nonlethal presidential finding” that puts into motion a CIA
plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda,
disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international
financial transactions.
http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/05/bush_authorizes.html

* Though the majority of Americans many not readily connect the two, the
recent harshness on the part of the Iranian government toward Iranians
themselves as well as Iranian American visitors has much to do with
these “regime change” plans cooked here in the U.S. In a letter
recently written by Emaddedin Baghi of Defending Prisoners’
Rights Society in Tehran, Iran and circulated through the
International Society for Iranian Studies here in the US, Mr. Baghi writes:

In recent years, the government of the United States has announced
that it has allocated a yearly budget for the support of civil
society, democracy, and human rights in Iran. This so-called
“democracy fund” is approved by the United States Congress and
extensive media coverage of this financial endeavor has been
encouraged.

Given the existence of long-standing hostilities between the
governments of Iran and the United States, the government of Iran has
shown extreme sensitivity to the idea of individuals or groups
receiving funds to engage in activities that, in the public words of
at least some American officials, is intended for an eventual “regime
change” in Iran. I am sure the United States government would show
similar sensitivity if it was revealed that there were individuals or
organizations in the United States that were receiving funds from
hostile groups or countries intent on creating instability in that
country.”

Mr. Baghi suggests in his letter that “Undoubtedly, not all these
pressures and arrests are reflective of recently developed government
concerns and suspicions. Forces that are against liberty also use the
U.S. budget allocation as a pretext or excuse to legitimize their
opposition to civil liberties and to discredit their critics.”
Nevertheless, he goes on to say: “It is not right for independent
individuals and institutions inside Iran to pay the price for
allocated funds that the United States government spends on
broadcasting from the United States into Iran or for the activities of
exiled Iranian groups that cooperate with various American
organizations.”
Mr. Baghi’s moving letter ends with “This is why I hereby make a plea
to you and your respected organizations to insist that the United
States government change its ways or, in case of its insistence on
allocating a yearly budget, make public and transparent the exact
amount and recipients (individuals and groups) of these funds.”

* On the brighter side, an Iranian woman member of the parliament,
Fatemeh Rakeii has announced a plan to form a coalition of women
political activists to help women gain all their rights in the
political and management arenas. Rakeii described the main goal of the
coalition as “abolition” of gender discrimination. At the same time, a
coalition of reformist women is also about to form in order to
increase women’s seats in the 2008 parliamentary elections. To read
more on these, please visit:
http://www.mehrnews.com/en/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=490115

* In these windows, I am always talking about one-sidedness of the media
on Iran/Islam related issues. At the moment, Iran gets the worst
possible press. But the treatment is extended to all Muslims, as my
student Matt Miller noted recently in an e-mail (thanks Matt!). Matt
writes: “There was a poll by Pew that came out today that surveyed the
U.S. Muslim population. Here is the headline that appeared in U.S.
media outlets (via the Associated Press) about the poll: “Some young
Muslims approve suicide hits.”  While on the BBC this was the headline
about the same poll: “Muslims ‘well-integrated’ in the U.S..”  The
stark contrast in the headlines is incredible. The articles both go on
to talk about the same poll by Pew, yet the AP (U.S.) article focuses
almost exclusively on Muslims and terrorism (citing the 13% of young
U.S. Muslims who approve of suicide attacks to defend religion in
“rare cases”),while the BBC article talks about how U.S. Muslims are
well-integrated into U.S. life, reject terrorism in overwhelming
numbers, and like the U.S. although they don’t often feel welcomed in
the U.S.” Matt finds “incredible” how two stories about the same poll
portray the U.S. Muslim population in such vastly different lights. He
provides the link:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18797530/. Now compare
with:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6680939.stm

St. Louis Persian Music Event!

Monika Jalili and her Persian music group Noorsaaz.

Monika Jalili and her Persian music group Noorsaaz.

We just have to end on a happier note. What better than the news that my friend Behfar Dianati has sent. Behfar, with help from Iranian American Cultural Society of the Midwest, has organized a concert of Persian music by American musicians called Songs of Love from Iran by the artist Monika Jalili and her group Noorsaaz. The group will perform at the Missouri Historical Society, on Saturday, June 9, at 7:00. If you live in or near St. Louis, come to get a taste of Persian music performed by American artists. And, if you like more information, call (314- 746-4599).

Until the next window, I wish you a great week.

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

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A beautiful garden in the city of Yazd, Iran (image courtesy of Afshin Deyhimpanah www.iranian.com).

A beautiful garden in the city of Yazd. See below for more pictures from the beautiful historic city of Yazd (image courtesy of Afshin Deyhimpanah http://www.iranian.com).

Dear All,

I hope you are doing well. Please publicize the information provided
through this window as widely as you can. While the information coming
out of the media here is alarming, in Iran the atmosphere is calm.
There is even hope that a joint proposal by Russia and Iran would find
a way to would to the lifting of the U.N. Sanctions and the halting of
the enrichment. Despite celebrating the anniversary of the revolution,
the Iranian government has been sending a conciliatory message
basically: give us a chance and we will negotiate.

Let me share a fun discovery I made only last week! Iranians are one
of the top ten blogger nations in the world.

With that, let us attend to our Window on Iran – 19.

Current Issues

* A chilling article Charging Iran with Genocide before Nuking it, Gary
Leupp, Professor of History at Tufts writes predicts a U.S. nuclear
strike on Iran by this April. “Within weeks from now,” he writes
quoting a Russian military analyst, “we will see the informational
warfare machine start working. The public opinion is already under
pressure. There will be a growing anti-Iranian militaristic hysteria,
new information leaks, disinformation, etc.”  My comment:  there will
be visual warfare as well using images of flag waving Iranians
celebrating the 27th anniversary of the 1979 Revolution  as proof of
national support for Ahmadinejad and evidence of mass anti-western
hysteria. Leupp’s article is available here: An Existential Threat: Charging

Iran with Genocide before Nuking It by Gary Leupp.

* All the flag waving youth will line up behind President Ahmadinejad if
there is a war on Iran. Take a look at this article in the Guardian
“Only the US hawks can save the Iranian president now” sent to me by
Jamal Rostami:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2001703,00.html

* The American Public still wants the government to directly talk with
Iran, say 71% of the Republicans and 81% , a wide ranging analysis by
WorldPublicOpinion.org of polls from numerous organizations reveals.
According to a wide range of polls, there is substantial agreement
across party lines on many of the most contentious issues facing
policy makers today:
http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/home_page/295.php?nid=&id=&pnt=295&lb=hmpg1

* Certain tendencies within the media work to change the above
consensus. An unlikely contributor to that is he History channel. On
Friday, Feb. 9, the History channel aired a program called “Iran : The
Next Iraq?” Adding disclaimers such as “perhaps” and “may be,” the
show described Iran as “perhaps  the most clear and present danger to
American security.” The program “explored” claims as laughable as
Iran’s attempt “to gain a place among the world’s super powers.” And
looked at “evidence” for Iran’s secret pursuit of a nuclear weapon
which it “may intend to use on the United States or its allies.” The
fact is that Iran is nowhere close to becoming a World’s super powers,
the IAEA reports reveal no evidence for any weapon’s program . All
they say is that the absence of such a program cannot be proven
(sounds familiar?).
* Very important: Last week, Iranian authorities arrested two al-Qa’idah
suspects who were trying to cross Iran on their way out of Pakistan.
Shouldn’t this be a positive sign?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/09/AR2007020902294.html?referrer=emai

Finally please note that  the Iraqi government has distanced itself
fully from the American accusations against Iran’s involvement in
Iraq, the major newspaper asharqalawsat  reports (in Arabic)
http://www.asharqalawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&issue=10303&article=406005

Cultural/Social/Aristic

We all need a break from all the above, don’t we? Here is a second
slide show of the small, ancient, and beautiful city of Yazd in
central Iran. Please circulate the slide show as widely as you can.
Bleak and frightening images of Iran are distributed, to present the
country as a suitable target. Click here: Ancient and Beautiful City of Yazd. Enjoy!

Yazd architecture (image courtesy of Afshin Deyhimpanah www.iranian.com)

Yazd architecture (image courtesy of Afshin Deyhimpanah http://www.iranian.com)

d

Rakhshan Bani Etemad

Here, I have another break for you from political myth making and scare mongering: The Iranian Annual Film Festival Fajr. The award for the best director went to my favorite director, one of the grand ladies of the Iranian Cinema: Rakhshan Bani Etemad.  Bani Etemtmad is most outspoken screen writer and director whose films highlight the problems of poverty, gender, and social inequality. She became known with Nargis the story of a young girl from a disadvantaged family who got involved with a trio of two thieves and a prostitute. For slide show of the final night of the Fajr Festival, click here: Iranian Annual Film Festival Fajr.

Baran Kowsari receiving her award for best actress at the Iranian Annual Film Festival Fajr (image courtesy of Arash Khamooshi, ISNA).

Baran Kowsari receiving her award for best actress at the Iranian Annual Film Festival Fajr (image courtesy of Arash Khamooshi, ISNA).

Scientific

No, it is not about nuclear technology. On Monday February 5, Iranian Scientists at the Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Center announced the use of a new technique in treating spinal cord injuries. According to Houshang Saberi, director of the center, while in case of full paralysis the recovery has been about 15 percent, in partial injuries up to 85 percent recovery has been achieved: http://tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=2/5/2007&Cat=5&Num=001

Have a great week!

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

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