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Archive for the ‘Noam Chomsky’ Category

Windows on Iran 29

Iranian Cyclists for Peace, Jafar Edrisi and Naseem Yousefi, are cycling around the world in an effort to spread their message of peace and friendship (see below for more about them and their trip). (Image courtesy of www.bbc.co.uk)

Iranian Cyclists for Peace, Jafar Edrisi and Naseem Yousefi, are cycling around the world in an effort to spread their message of peace and friendship (see below for more about them and their trip).

Dear All,

Greetings, after two weeks…and no windows. I hope you are all well. For me, it has been a very busy time. The commencement on Washington University campus has been as lively and colorful as ever. I am enjoying a smaller version of the festivities at home, as my own daughter graduates from high school this weekend. What am I doing sending a window on my daughter’s graduation weekend? I woke up this morning, and simply missed talking to you all. Furthermore, I have had queries about the windows, and about recent events in Iran, which made me think it would be good to open Window 29 even if on a briefer fashion than usual.

I have been traveling. I was away for a week sitting on a panel at MIT in Boston, and then on to New York. The panel at MIT was organized by
the Middle East Crisis Coalition and CASMII (the Campaign Against
Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran) and was titled
“Preventing a War on Iran.” Over 500 people attended. The panel was
also an occasion for me to have the pleasure of meeting Professor Noam
Chomsky, the brilliant linguist and renowned peace activist. It was
heart warming to see that so many people wanted to do something to
prevent a military confrontation with Iran. In the audience, there
were many subscribers to Windows on Iran. Close to a hundred of those
who were not signed up. If you are one of the newcomers to these
windows, welcome!

Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz addressing the United Nations General Assembly (please click the link on the right for the video). (Image courtesy of www.un.org).

Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz addressing the United Nations General Assembly (please click the link on the right for the video of her speech). (Image courtesy of http://www.un.org).

From Boston, I flew directly to New York, where I was to enjoy the great and unique experience of making a presentation at the General Assembly of the United Nations. At the suggestion of the President of the Assembly, a cultural debate had been organized for the representatives of the nations to switch from purely political issues to the cultural matters at the roots of political conflict.  This was a two-day event that brought some ministers of culture, high ranking religious leaders, and scholars to speak. The format of the debate was the usual one at the Assembly. Once we spoke, the representatives of nations asked questions and commented. At the end, we responded. It was absolutely delightful to be welcomed by the President of the Assembly and by the Secretary General, H.E. Ban Ki-moon. Here is the link to the video clip of the panel: http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/ga/61/ga070510am.rm . The panel is long. Around minute twenty-four the moderator introduces us, the three panelists. My presentation is about sixty minutes into the session.

Iranian Cyclists for Peace, Jafar Edrisi and Naseem Yousefi (visit their website at: http://www.rmc4peace.com/).

Iranian Cyclists Cycle for Peace

On May 10th 2007, 14 Iranian cyclists will travel city by city across ITALY, GERMANY, FRANCE, UK and US to communicate the pacifist message of Iranian people to other nations around the world as:

* We Iranians are peace loving people.
* We Iranians love all other nations.
* We Iranians wish to be a constructive member of the international community.

Current Events:

* Not all is peaceful and rosy. Some of you have been asking me about the situation of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari the Iranian American Scholar who was arrested in Iran about ten days ago. The Iranian news paper Keyhan which reflects the views of the religious right in Iran has made accusations of connections between Dr. Esfandiari and regime change attempts outside Iran. This is very unfortunate because security related accusations could imply closed trails and restrictions on contact with lawyers (as is the case with the Guantanamo detainees).The Iranian lawyer and Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has announced that she will defend Dr. Esfandiari and her legal team in attempting to meet with Dr. Esfandiari. This troubling incident is bad news for those of us who work to empower the moderate forces in Iran. It shows that the outside threat of regime change and military campaign in Iran – far from helping the situation – leaves Iranian moderates powerless and gives the upper hand to extremists who prefer confrontation rather than cooperation with the west. Iranian academics and intellectuals have condemned this incident. We all hope for a speedy resolution of this troubling conflict. Dr. Esfandiari’s arrest may well be a response to the arrest of the five Iranian nationals who have been in American custody for months now. According to Iranian  news media, U.S. officials have indicated that these Iranians who have been detained in northern Iraq by U.S. forces could be released by June 21.

* On a totally different note, my wonderful American friends Judy and
Carl Ernst who just visited Iran have returned with lots of heart
warming stories of friendship and well wishing. Many Iranians told
them how they do NOT hate Americans and wish for the political
conflict to be resolved in peaceful ways. Judy and Carl have promised
me photographs which I will duly post on these windows.
* Many of you sent me information this week about a recent and very
positive Iran-related cultural event at the United States. Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice, accompanied by young artists from Iran and
Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes, toured an Iranian art exhibit,
“Wishes and Dreams”, May 10, at the Meridian International Center
where she praised Iran’s rich culture and the work of Iranian young
artists: http://www.payvand.com/news/07/may/1137.html

Iranian Americans in California

* Iranian Americans succeed in bringing positive change to American
perceptions of Iran. This includes a wide range of activities,
sometimes very different from the art exhibit mentioned above.
Recently, a  Blackwell medical textbook titled How the Immune System
Works, by Dr. Lauren Sompayrac was removed from many reading lists
thanks to the activism of the Iranian Americans. A required reading by
the Department of Molecular Genetics, Microbiology, and Immunology at
UMDNJ- Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, for example, the book
contains a passage (on p.49, 2nd edition) which draws an analogy
between the response of the immune system to pathogens and that of the
Defense Department “to a threat to our national security”, comparing
the would-be pathogens to “Iranian terrorists” who would potentially
“fire on one of our embassies” here in the United States. It is
shocking that a respectable publisher would allow this to appear in
print in the first place. (Thanks to  my friend Sara Ruebelt for
sharing this news).
* If you remember, I reported in Window 28, the sudden and unexplained
decision of the American Chemical Society not to renew the membership
of its  Iranian scientist members. Due to pressure from Iranian
American Scientists, the society reversed its decision.

* To get and idea of the kind of activities that the Iranian American
community in California engage in, please click here: http://www.nipoc.org/. Their calendar which is put together by the Network of Iranian American Professionals of Orange Country, NIPOC provides social, cultural, and political news. The calendar was forwarded to me by my friend, Minoo Riahi-sharifan. Thanks Minoo jan!

A painting by Sadegh Barirani (click on the link on the right for more of his work).

A painting by Sadegh Barirani (click on the link on the right for more of his work).

Visual Delight

And on to our weekly visual delight before the closing of this window. I would like, this time, to introduce you to two contemporary painters. Elham Bayati is a young and upcoming female artist of 27 who has already had multiple exhibits of her work. The same slide show cotains works of Sadegh Barirani, a more mature artist who has years of teaching experience in addition to producing his own work. As you will see in the slide show, Bayati and Barirani have very different styles. Click here: Bayati and Barirani Art Show.

Until our next window, 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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Beautiful painting by contemporary Iranian artist Parvaneh Ghasemi of a young Iranian woman.

Beautiful painting by contemporary Iranian artist Parvaneh Ghasemi of a young Iranian woman.

Hi Everyone,

Late again!  Walking out of a lecture this afternoon, two wonderful friends commented casually “don’t let being late put pressure on you!” I thought that was great advice, particularly if I want to keep these windows going. So, I am not going to apologize for being late this time. And, I have exciting news: yesterday we got featured on the front page of my university’s student publication Student Life, how cool is that? The article is called “Professor’s
writing aims to reshape view of American Muslims
.” The paper found us on the web where a good friend Sheila Musaji posts these windows on her website The American Muslim. Thanks Sheila! Kind mentions of the write up in Student Life have been coming in.

Now without further ado, Window number 11 on Iran, on the eve of Halloween with trick-or-treaters in the background!

Current Issues

* The spooky subject of  “nuclear threat” suits the Halloween
atmosphere. But before I get to Iran, you must listen to an
anecdote. I was sitting in our local Border’s bookstore with a cup
of coffee and twenty-five papers to read when my eyes caught the
cover of what I think was a September issue of the Newsweek.  It
had a catchy title about the North Korean nuclear threat with a
grim picture of the country’s leader wearing a pair of dark
glasses, a mushroom cloud reflected in each. I should have known
better, but read the report which said more about the leader’s
inferiority complex and hair style than North Korea’s nuclear
technology. A few days later, a friend quoted his colleague (in
the hospital where he works) as saying he would shoot as many
North Koreans as necessary to rid the world of their threat. Only
then I realized that the North Korean leader’s menacing look —
and the official line that Koreans “pretend” to negotiate to buy
time —  had worked on me too. The bigger shock came a week later,
reading a book that actually discussed North Korea’s breaking of
its promise and developing nuclear capability. The book attributed
it to the current U.S government’s breach of its earlier promises
to N. Korea, first by including Korea in the “axis of evil,” and
then terminating its pledged shipments of fuel oil and the agreed
construction of alternate power plants in that country. The writer
of the book was not Noam Chomsky but Jimmy Carter. Since I am
always going on about American media’s shortcomings, I should tell
you that the courage and forthrightness of this American brought
tears to my eyes. He wasn’t being partisan either. Here is what he
had to say about the real nuclear threat in our current world:
o “While claiming to be protecting the world from
proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran and North Korea,
American leaders have not only abandoned existing treaty
restrictions but also assert plans to test and develop new
weapons, including antiballistic missiles, the
earth-penetrating ‘bunker buster,’ and perhaps some secret
new ‘small bombs.’ They have also…reversed another long
standing policy, by threatening first use of nuclear weapons
against non nuclear states.” ( p.138 )
o And here is another quote from President Carter. If you want
to read more, I cite the reference below:
“The ABM Treaty prohibited space-based weapons, but our
government’s abandonment of the treaty in 2002 opened the
door on this extremely destabilizing project. The new
Defense Department doctrine defines our goals as “freedom to
attack as well as freedom from attack” in space. The goal is
to strike any target on earth within forty-five minutes. As
described by the U.S. Air Force, one method, named “Rods
from God,” would hurl cylinders of heavy metals to strike a
target at seventy-two hundred miles per hour, with the
destructive force of a small nuclear weapon.” (p.143)

Suggested Reading: Our Endangered Values: American’s Moral Crisis by
Jimmy Carter (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2005)

* Now, against this background, look at the Iranian situation
about which this week you have read alarming news of further steps
toward uranium enrichment. Look past headlines, mushroom clouds
reflected in sunglasses, and it turns out that Iranian plants —
even if they become fully operational — are currently configured
to produce low enriched uranium (LEU) rather than the
weapons-grade highly-enriched uranium (HEU). Even the CIA experts
put the chances of making the first bomb — if Iran decides to
make one — at 10 to 15 years ( here is the full essay although
the less alarming part comes close to the end):
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4606356.stm.  In addition,
here (courtesy of my friend Seth Graebner) is a thoughtful and
fairly detailed analysis from the Foreign Affairs magazine on the
possibilities of negotiating with Iran concerning its nuclear
technology. It is by Scott Sagan professor of political science
at Stanford. Though the essay is a far cry form the alarmist
mushroom cloud images, it does call Iran the “rogue” regime,
“hostile,” etc. I suppose, that is the standard language these
days. One thing I really respected about President Carter’s book
was his dignified manner of speaking about other countries.

*I guess it is time to wrap up politics and attend to some more
interesting matters. Before that, however, I have had a request
from a very dear friend Cynthia Richards to distribute a
nonpartisan information sheet about the voting process in the
upcoming election, please click here to open it: Voting Information Sheet.

Cultural

* A hot cultural topic this week in the news concerns two legal
cases ruling the fate of a number of very important ancient
Persian artifacts held at US research universities. These legal
disputes, being heard at the United States District Court level,
revolve around 2,000-year-old Iranian items controlled by the
University of Chicago and Harvard University. If these cases
produce conflicting judgments, they may be taken up at the Supreme
Court, meaning there won’t be swift resolutions. In the meantime,
more Iranian artifacts are likely to be targeted. To read more,
click on:  http://www.niacouncil.org/pressreleases/press476.asp.

* On October 18, The Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization declared
the house of the prominent woman poet Parvin Etesami (1906-1941)
to be named a national monument.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parvin_Etesami.  A charming house of
over 1,000 square meters, located in the neighborhood of
Sarcheshmeh on the outskirts of Tehran, Etesami’s house is nearly
a century old.  Etesami who has been somewhat overshadowed by the
powerful later female poetic voices of 20th cent. Iran, has had a
gentle, yet firm and lasting presence. Her poetic themes range
from celebration of motherhood and descriptions of nature, to
strong advocacy for social and political reform. You can find a
good deal of Etesami’s poems, in the original Persian, on the web
at: http://www.anvari.org/iran/Poetry/Parvin_Etesami/ though I
have to confess to ignorance about the quality of the edition. For
a more reliable source, see the reading below.

Suggested reading: Once a Dew drop: Essays on the Poetry of Parvin
Etesami
. Edited by Heshmant Moayyad as well as A Nightingale’s Lament:
Selections from the Poems and Fables of Parvin Etesami
also by Heshmat
Moayyad are both available from Amazon Books.

Visual Delight

* To honor the trick-or-treat tradition, I have a special treat
this week. My friend Bahar Bastani sent four paintings by a
contemporary Iranian painter Iman Maleki that were just exquisite
images of young women, oil on canvas. Not only was the quality of
Maleki’s paintings almost breathtaking, I was astounded at the
fact that I had never heard of him. And I consider myself
interested in the art of painting, not to mention annual visits to
Iran. So, I put together a small slide show for you of a handful
of contemporary Iranian painters working with human figure in
their work. I call it “portraits” but they are not all portraits.
I provide the artists’ name but don’t always have their pictures
or other details. All the painters currently live in Iran.  As
usual, click here to view the slideshow: Iranian Contemporary Painting “Portraits”. Enjoy!

Have a great week!

Fatemeh

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

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