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The Art Gallery in modern Tehran (click the link at the end of window for more pictures).

The Art Gallery in modern Tehran (click the link at the end of window for more pictures of the modern Tehran that you will not see in the mainstream U.S. media).

Dear All,

Greetings! I am back in St. Louis now getting ready for the academic year. I hope you are enjoying what is left of the summer. If you have written recently, do please give me a few days to reply. I am getting back into the swing of things and have tackled the piled-up mail and e-mail only recently.

It is good to be back and to send you one of the regular large windows, Window on Iran – 35. So, let’s get started without much ado:

The Best in the World

Iranian Americans of all backgrounds and political persuasions take a
lot of pride in educational achievements in Iran. The latest clip of
film (one minute) circulating in the community quotes the chair of the
department of electrical engineering at Stanford as describing the
department of electrical engineering in Sharif University in Tehran to
be the best in the world!  http://youtube.com/watch?v=s957W6jomBc

Iran’s Role in Afghanistan

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN, President Hamid Karzai of
Afghanistan, in a feat of courage unprecedented for US-supported local
leaders,  contradicted the US claims that Iranian arms were helping to
erode the security situation in Afghanistan. He described Iran as “a
helper and a solution:”

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“Iran has been a supporter of Afghanistan, in the peace process that
we have and the fight against terror, and the fight against narcotics
in Afghanistan,” Karzai said in the interview conducted Saturday. He
went on to say that Afghanistan and Iran had “very, very good, very,
very close relations. … We will continue to have good relations with
Iran. We will continue to resolve issues, if there are any, to arise.”

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Here is a brief commentary: If you have wondered why President  Karzai
should be so ungrateful as to make such  embarrassing comments about
his American friends, the simple explanation is that he is the one who
has to face the Taliban and the al-Qa’ideh on the ground. He knows who
in the region will come to his help. Furthermore, Iran rushes to
Karzai’s help in facing these extremist groups because they are its
sworn enemies as well. If that is not enough, they infest the region
with their narcotic trade. Iran loses about 300 soldiers annually
preventing drug dealers from crossing into the country. Finally,
instability in Afghanistan is not good for Iran which has ethnic
populations close to the border, and which would love to see economic
ties (rather than ethnic uprisings) on the two sides of the border.

All right, call this one the happy window! I have more good news:

Americans Wage Peace on Iran

* It is unfortunate that we hear a lot more about war-mongers than those
who wage peace. The truth is a large number of peace loving Americans
are devoting their time and life precisely to that, chief among them
CodePink. When Leslie Angeline of CodePink started her fast to get the
attention of Senator Lieberman who had promoted a war with Iran,
little did she know that she would be unleashing a new campaign to
stop the next war now. But that’s precisely what has happened. Click
on the link below to read about CodePink’s Cities for Peace in Iran:
http://codepinkdc.blogspot.com/2007/07/codepink-launches-cities-for-peace-in.html

* Also, the Virginia Anti-War (VAWN) and the Richmond Defender Newspaper
organized a People’s Peace Delegation to Iran in response to a
suggestion by the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention
in Iran (CASMII). The five member delegation traveled over 1,750
kilometers during its 12 day trip in Iran and returned to the U.S. on
July 31. Here it is a picture and more details:
http://www.payvand.com/news/07/jul/1343.html

Virginia Anti-War Network (VAWN) and the Richmond Defender newspaper organized a People's Peace Delegation to Iran recently.

The Nuclear Issue — a correction and some comments

* A dear friend who shared window 32 with his friends has brought a
couple of queries to my attention. Since they pertain to the nuclear
issue, I thought of sharing them – and my responses – with you. In
that window, I contrasted the U.S. and three other countries
(Pakistan, Israel and India) with Iran in that they have not become
members of the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty). The critic pointed out
that this is partially incorrect, the U.S. is a signatory to the
treaty. S/he is right. This is a mistake on my part, and it must have
occurred because of the abundance of discussions on the ways in which
the U.S. is in breech of that treaty. Here is the latest example of
that from N.Y. Times:
http://ploughshares.org/news.php?a=4&b=0&c=0&id=438
Nevertheless, the fact remains that the U.S. is officially a signatory
of the NPT. I’d like to correct the mistake.

* The same reader asks if we can be certain that the Iranians do not
have a weapon’s program. My answer is that our only means of gaining
that certainty is to ask countries to become members of the NPT and
stay open to surprise inspection. Iran has done that and no evidence
has been found. If our reaction to that is going to be “You have done
what is required but we still do not believe you because you are
Iran,” we are proposing to dismantle international organizations and
regulations and act on instinct. Others will do the same and the
result will be chaos. The way out is to examine uncertain situations
and to think of additional ways to get guarantees. This can be
achieved by staying at the negotiation table. Iran is still offering
to do this. Their only condition is “no pre-conditions.” The Iranian
chief negotiator Ali Larijani has said repeatedly that even enrichment
is open to negotiation.

* Third, I had said that “Iranian nuclear facilities are spread out in
the country. It is impossible to target them without horrific civilian
casualties.” The reader asks if this is not something that the Iranian
government should worry about? The problems with this view, in my
opinion, are:

1. these facilites were built over the years (some of them encouraged
by the U.S. government).
2. they were not built by one Iranian government and not during a time
of military tension. In other words, they cannot all be viewed as
President Ahmadinejad’s way of shielding weapons behind people.

* Even if we make that assumption, to say that it is all right to
endanger millions of Iranian lives because their government has used
them as shields would amount to accepting genocide (in the hope of
preventing a future genocide for which we do not have any evidence
besides our mistrust of the other side).

* I draw the attention of this reader to the fact that in many places in
the world, people have a different perception of Iran. Examples? Take
another look at what the President of Iran’s troubled neighboring
country, Afghanistan, has had to say yesterday.

* Before we leave this subject, I would like to clarify and reiterate
the points that I made in window 32 concerning Iran’s nuclear
controversy:

1. Iran has no history of military aggression against its neighbors in
the past two centuries (in the Iran-Iraq war, Iran was attacked and
stopped at the old borders once the invaders were pushed out).

2. Iran is a signatory to the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) which means
its nuclear facilities are open to surprise inspections. That is why
El Baradei insists that Iran should be talked to, not threatened.
Please note that there are countries such as Pakistan, Israel, and
India which have not agreed to become members of NPT.

3. Surprise inspections have not yielded any evidence of a nuclear
weapon’s program in Iran to date.

4. Iran has repeated, time and again, that if the pre-condition of
suspending enrichment is removed, it will negotiate everything
(including suspension of enrichment).

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5. Iranian nuclear facilities – which were built over a period of time
starting before the 1979 revolution – are spread out in the country.
It is impossible to target them without horrific civilian causalities.

Continued Military Threat Against Iran

* The Cheney camp pushes for war with Iran. Once more, the Iranian
government’s offer of its willingness to hold a higher level dialogue
with the American government gets rejected:
http://www.payvand.com/news/07/aug/1040.html

* More on the defense authorization bill that mentions Iran:
http://www.niacouncil.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=834&Itemid=2

Iranian Women in Sports — American women athletes in Iran!

Iranian Womens volleyball team.

Iranian Women's volleyball team (click on the link for more pictures).

Believe it or not, as you read this window, the American women’s softball team is in Iran preparing for a competition with Iranian women softball players. Shirzanan, the Iranian women’s sports weekly which reported the news provided no pictures (unfortunately). I have another sports picture for you, though. Click on the link below and, even if you don’t read Persian, scroll down for images of Iranian women volleyball players: http://www.shirzanan.com/spip.php?article375

Visual Delight

I won’t give you a painting show this time either. This window has simply grown too large. Instead I’ll attach a slide show of Tehran that a dear friend has forwarded. It is different from all the previous shows in that it combines some really old and some very recent pictures of Tehran. The combination is quite fascinating. Just click here: Tehran, A Modern Metropolis.

Another new building in modern Tehran (click the link at the end of window for more pictures).

Another new building in modern Tehran (click the link above for more pictures Tehran).

A new building in modern Tehran (click the link at the end of window for more pictures).

A new building in modern Tehran (click the link above for more pictures from Tehran).



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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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Windows on Iran 32

A snowy day in Tehran (see below for more recent images from Tehran).

A snowy day in Tehran (see below for more recent images from Tehran).

Dear All,

I hope you are enjoying the summer. If you signed up to be on Windows on Iran this weekend in Boston, there will be a few days before you are added to the list. Also, Meghan, Richard, Mehdi, Matt, Prinaz…and a million others, thank you so very much for writing and sending vital Iran-related information in the past week or so. Please forgive me for not being able to write back personally. I do appreciate your help.

I had a great weekend in Boston, a book signing at the Harvard Coop bookstore, and an interview with WZBC, Boston News. I very much appreciated the opportunity to discuss with John Grebe, the host of the show, the mindlessness of talking about an attack on Iran as if it were morally acceptable and practically doable. In these frightening times, when people you think know better –  such as Senator Lieberman – propose violence against Iran, it would be crucial to keep certain facts in mind. I will summarize these below under the headings “Concerning the Nuclear Issue” and “Consequences of a Potential Military Assault on Iran.” Before we get into that topic though, I would like you to see more pleasant things:

Images of Peaceful Life in Iran

Thanks to Joy Martin who sent me these beautiful recent images from Tehran, we can start this window with a colorful show of images from ordinary life in Iran. We think the photographer is Sharam Rasavi (the images have been forwarded by various people and it is hard to determine who is the photographer). Click here: Recent Images from Tehran. There are twelve slides and the transition time between them is five seconds.

Contrary to the images that you will most often see in the mainstream U.S. media, Tehran is a major metropolitan city with all the same things you will find in major capital cities throughout the world (click on the link above for many more images).

Contrary to the images that you will most often see in the mainstream U.S. media, Tehran is a major metropolitan city with all the same things you will find in major capital cities throughout the world (click on the link above for many more images).

Miles For Peace

//milesforpeace.org .

"Miles for Peace" group in Paris. Please visit their terrific website at http://milesforpeace.org (image courtesy of http://www.payvand.com).

On the subject of peace, I have great news for you. A dozen Iranian
men and women cyclists who had started cycling from Iran, and across
Europe, have now arrived in the United States. Their message: Iranians
are a peaceful people,  they love other nations,  and would like to be
a constructive member of the International community.

If you live in the St. Louis area, come to greet the Iranian men and
women cyclists for peace on Thursday, June 21st, at the Arch at
6:00pm. Don’t forget to  bring your bicycle if wish to cycle with them
around the Arch.

You can have dinner with the cyclists at Talaynas Restaurant (Four
Seasons Shopping Center, Chesterfield MO 63017 Tel # 314-956-0451) at
8 pm if you like. To learn more about Miles for peace, please visit:
http://www.milesforpeace.org/home.php.

Concerning the Nuclear Issue:
Now to the crucial facts that should not get masked by the flow of misinformation on Iran :

Iran has no history of military aggression against its neighbors in the past two centuries (in the Iran-Iraq war, Iran was attacked and stopped at the old borders once the invaders were pushed out). Iran is a signatory to the NPT (None Proliferation Treaty) which means its nuclear facilities are open to surprise inspections. That is why El Baradei insists that Iran should be talked to, not threatened. Please note that there are countries such as the United States, Pakistan, Israel, and India which have not agreed to become members of NPT. There is no evidence of a nuclear weapon’s program in Iran. Iran has repeated, time and again, that if the pre-condition of suspending enrichment is removed, it will negotiate everything (including suspension of enrichment). Iranian nuclear facilities are spread out in the country. It is impossible to target them without horrific civilian causalities.

Consequences of a Potential Military Assault on Iran:

Iran has five times as many people and resources as Iraq. Hundreds of thousands (Daniel Ellsberg says millions) of innocent Iranian civilians will die if Iranian nuclear centers are targeted with the so-called bunker busters. Iran can retaliate with thousands of missiles targeting American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if a few of these missiles are intercepted, the rest can inflict major casualties. Iran can make the narrow Straits of Hormuz an unsafe place for the oil tankers to pass through, in effect cutting a substantial part of the oil supply of the world. If desperate, Iran can hit oil tankers in the gulf causing major fuel shortage, and environmental pollution. As of now, al-Qaedeh does not have any sympathizers in Iran. Individual members trying to escape through Iran have been arrested. In the unfortunate event of an attack on Iran, a new front will open for al-Qaedeh recruiters. Iran sympathizers inside Iraq, Afghanistan — and elsewhere in the world — will find themselves engaged in a war with the U.S.

Current Issues (more on Iran)
Some of the misinformation spread against Iran gets refuted later but often the major media – which has carried the original “news” – overlooks the corrective statements. One such topic is the alleged help Iran is providing to the Taliban who fight the U.S. military in Afghanistan:

NATO commanders in Pakistan have long been aware that the Taliban has been dependent on Pakistan for its arms and ammunition. The Telegraph reported Sunday that a NATO report on a recent battle shows the Taliban fired an estimated 400,000 rounds of ammunition, 2,000 rocket-propelled grenades and 1,000 mortar shells and had stocked over one million rounds of ammunition, all of which came from Quetta, Pakistan during the spring months. Despite all of this, and despite the fact that the Taliban have been hostile to Iran from their very inception (in 2005, they killed 11 Iranian diplomats in Kabul), the hawks in the current American administration are still working on presenting Iran as supporting the Taliban to justify a possible military campaign against Iran. As Matt Miller who sent me some recent reports on this topic noted, these claims (most probably generated by Vice President Cheney’s supporters) appear to have been rebuffed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeil, who issued unusually strong denials.
Thanks a lot Matt:
http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/06/12/1832/

Art and Culture

* I will not include a painting slide show in this window. Instead, I will introduce you to an Iranian woman story-teller who is already gaining a reputation as the first Iranian woman Naqqal  (a performer of who reads/enacts stories of the celebrated Persian epic The Book of Kings by the 10th century poet Firdowsi of Tus). Naqqals usually did their story telling in coffee houses (in fact, tea houses because they serve tea rather than coffee!). Do watch the clip, even if you don’t know Persian. It is about four minutes, and does not require much explanation. Her voice recites the epic poetry in the background while you see images of her story-tellling, and of coffee houses in Iran: http://www.jadidmedia.com/images/stories/flash_multimedia/Gordtest/gordafarid_high.html

Fatemeh Habibizad (above)--the first Iranian woman Naqqal--a performer who reads/enacts the stories of the celebrated Persian epic The Book of Kings (see the link above for a terrific video of one of her performances).

Fatemeh Habibizad (above)--the first Iranian woman 'Naqqal'--a performer who reads/enacts the stories of the celebrated Persian epic "The Book of Kings" (see the link above for a terrific video of one of her performances).

* I will close this window, introducing you to an American woman story-teller, a writer friend I have not met yet, though we have corresponded for some time and read each other’s work: Meghan Nuttall Sayers. Meghan writes and weaves in Eastern Washington where she lives with her husband, three children, two sheep and a cat. Meghan has recently published  a delightful novel Anahita’s Woven Riddle (selected ALA’s top ten best books for young adults). This is an historical novel that weaves together rich details of 19th century Persian culture, Sufi poetry, romance and adventure. Meghan has kindly kept in touch since reading my book on Rumi a number of years ago. Following my critique of the May 27th NY Times essay that presented Iran as devoid of bookstores with readers who only read books that lend themselves to discussion with psychiatrists, Meghan sent a link to a very interesting piece called Colors of Iran: Images From Iran’s First International Children’s Book Festival, Kerman, March 2005: http://www.meghannuttallsayres.com/mideast/iran-icbf/. She is currently working on another book about the positive experiences of non-Iranians traveling to Iran.

I hope these rich and interesting cultural pieces have compensated for the unpleasant news we have have to refute on these windows. In the hope of leaving these frightening times behind, I wish you a very pleasant week.

Until the next Window on Iran.

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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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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Windows on Iran 16

Fin Garden in Kashan, Iran (image courtesy of Afshin Deyhim www.iranian.com).

Fin Garden in Kashan, Iran (image courtesy of Afshin Deyhim http://www.iranian.com).

Dear All,

Greetings! And Happy New Year!

Time to open a new window on Iran. I hope you have had a wonderful holiday so far. Thank you so much for all your kind messages concerning window number 15.  A combination of end of the semester duties and holiday activities have prevented me from writing
individual thank you notes.  I am most appreciative of all your responses. Please note that all the recent requests to be added to the listserv will be taken care of in the coming week.

I would like to indulge in a little holiday self promotion with a good
news!  My latest book –  a study of contemporary Persian poetry – was
just named “an outstanding academic title for the year 2006” by the
ALA’s review journal for academic and research libraries known as the
Choice Magazine. A wonderful Christmas present! The list is a small
percentage of approximately 7,000 titles. Here is the full
bibliographic information on the book:

Fatemeh Keshavarz, Recite in the Name of the Red Rose: Poetic Sacred
Making in 20th Century Iran (University of South Carolina Press,
2006).

Visual Delight:

Before we get into the special report that I have for you about the
very important mid-term elections in Iran, I want to give you my
Christmas gift. This is a power point slide show of a 19th century
private house, the Tabatabai House and a 17th century Safavid garden
called the Fin Garden in the city of Kashan, a central city with a
population of about 300,000. The main portion of the slides were
circulated by my friend Bahar Bastani. In case you want to use this in
class, the show has about 30 slides with a six second transition time
between slides. Just click on here: Fin Garden and the Tabatabai House in the City of Kashan.

Tabatabai House in Kashan, Iran.

Tabatabai House in Kashan, Iran.

Current Issues:

Iranian mid-term elections

Two weeks ago, the Iranian electorate made a clear statement in the
mid term elections in which reformists received 40%, the moderate
conservatives 24%, and the supporters of President Ahmadinejad about 3%
of the vote. The rest of the seats went to independent candidates. Of
the 15 seat up for grab in the Expert Assembly, only one went to his
supporters. This despite the fact that the reformists have objected to
accuracy of the counting process and want a recount of 10 ballot boxes
in each city to demonstrate that the overall pattern of the results
was more in their favor.  Since the main stream American media gave
minimal coverage to this very significant event (although it happened
in a country they are too eager to call the most dangerous country in
the world) I would like to give you some important details:

Among the features of this mid-term election was the prominence of
women in urban as well as rural settings. In my home town Shiraz the
top candidate was a 27 year old female architecture student, Fatemeh
Houshmand . In some cities like Qazvin and Hamadan, the top candidate
as well as 50% of the total elected members were women.

In an editorial for the online political newsletter CounterPunch my
friend Behrooz Ghamari wrote:  “Had this election occurred in an
allied country of the United States, it would have been celebrated as
the highest achievement of American foreign policy.”

What is most unfortunately masked from the American general public is
the maturity and thoughtfulness of the Iranian voter who did not allow
outside pressures on Iran to get translated into an exaggerated
“patriotism” in favor of the current regime. Here are examples of what
some voters said:

– “There is no room to breathe freely, Iran’s international
credibility and respect is diminishing, and we hope that we are not on
a path to war, I voted to change this direction.”
– “I voted to prove that our true desire is to transform this system,
and to show that we don’t need American democracy.”
-“I want to know, in which other country in the world do they have
carnivals on the streets and the artists and celebrities go to
neighborhoods to encourage people to participate?”
– a  young voter from Shiraz called the election a “velvet revolution”
that will strengthen “local decision making and non-governmental
organizations.”

To read Behrooz’s full editorial, click on:
http://www.counterpunch.org/ghamari12182006.html

Iranian Diplomats Arrested in Iraq:

Last week the U.S. defense officials declared the arrest of four
Iranian diplomats in Iraq. Two were released right away. The captured
Iranians – who were not named – were supposed to be carrying all kinds
of sensitive lists and documents pertaining to shipments of weapons
into Iraq, organizational charts, telephone records and maps, among
other sensitive intelligence information. No evidence has been
provided by American officials who are apparently unhappy at the
release of the last two diplomats. The story itself seems somewhat
shaky as the “highly sensitive” information claimed to be carried by
these officials can easily be transmitted electronically – or by two
inconspicuous Iraqi citizens – with much less risk.

According to the Iranian version of the story, the arrested people
were diplomats visiting as guests of the Iraqi President – which
explains why he was agitated at the incident. They were arrested
attending a funeral in the house of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, an Iraqi
Shiite leader. According to this version, these people were released
because none of the claimed documents were found on them.

Iranian Women conducting a 1,000,000 signature Campaign

To reform gender related legal codes in Iran, young Iranian women
activists have started a signature collection campaign. They go door
to door, speak to people about women’s rights, and collect signatures
in support of the reforms which they seek. The innovative nature of
the move and passionate persistence of these young and energetic
feminists have earned them support from the Iranian public and shocked
the opposition. Please publicize this movement to friends who can get
on line and support them. My friend, women’s studies scholar and
activist, Nayereh Tohidi has written about the 1,000,000 signature
campaign:  http://www.payvand.com/news/06/dec/1174.html

On this very bright note, I wish you all a very happy 2007,
and great week.

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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