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Dear All,

I hope this window opens on a happy day for you. News of a possible war and new draconian sanctions on Iran clutter our screens once more. Kind friends ask if I have any relatives in Iran, I say “Yes, 70 million!” But actually, a military campaign of any sort on Iran would mean a major world crisis much larger than what we have seen with Iraq and Afghanistan. It would mean disaster for a larger body of our relatives across the globe, nearly seven billion.

And broader sanctions will tear the fabric of life. Take a look at this short slide show called “life in Tehran.” This is what will suffer not the governmental officials. The slide show has been produced by Iran Review which  describes itself as the leading independent, non-governmental and non-partisan website – organization representing scientific and professional approaches towards Iran’s political, economic, social, religious, and cultural affairs, its foreign policy, and regional and international issues within the framework of analysis and articles, enjoy!

The Story of Simorgh Put to Music for Homayoun Shajarian

Before we get deeper into politics, I would love to share a work of art with you fresh from Iran, a new composition. This is the story of Zal, father of Rostam the Hero of the Persian epic The Shahnameh “Book of Kings.” According to the myths preserved in the Shahnameh, Zal was brought up by the legendary bird Simorgh. What makes this composition more special is that Hamid Motabassem, the composer wrote it specially for Homayoun Shajarian, son of the celebrated Iranian vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian.  Homayoun who was first a curiosity because of his father is quickly establishing himself as master vocalist and Tomback player. Here is a short you-tube clip which sets about seven minutes of the piece on a slide show:

  For the full performance on the stage in the Netherlands watch the video click on this link.

Sorry, but we have to return to the New Sanctions Now!

Yesterday, the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) offered an amendment that would impose draconian sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, effectively making it illegal for any country or company to do any business with Iran.  Senator Kirk has stated that his goal is to “collapse the Iranian economy,” turning Iran into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Kirk says that his plan is to cause so much suffering among ordinary Iranians that they will be forced to rise up against the regime.  And if that doesn’t work, then we will go to war with Iran.  I wonder if these two Senator’s definition of ordinary Iranians includes the old, the sick, and the children. This is the policy we applied to Iraq. And a decade of suffocating sanctions failed to displace the dictator leading us ultimately to a devastating war.

Please investigate this topic for yourself, through any sources you trust most and use your voice to stop another global disaster.  This amendment will be voted on within the next 10 days. There is still time to tell your elected officials you oppose these indiscriminate sanctions and oppose war with Iran.

Iran is Taking the War Threat Seriously

The headlines in the Iranian public media quoting various authorities, including the Supreme Leader, suggest that the possibility of military threat from the west is being taken seriously. Mr. Khamenei declared any action against Iran will unite all fronts against the aggressors. Mr. Ali Larijani, Speaker of the parliament,  also  suggested to the U.S. and Israel to “lower their voice,” tone down their rhetoric against Iran and watch their actions or they will regret their them. In particular, he emphasized that a “hit-and-run” strategy is not going to work because, Iran will pursue the aggressors. Sardar Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Iranian Air force added his voice to those of many others reminding the U.S. authorities that their high ranking officers, and other army members and citizens are very close by in Iraq and Afghanistan and therefore accessible to the Iranian military. For the fuller range of headlines in Persian please click here.

In the Meantime, a major explosion shook one of the Revolutionary Guard’s military bases outside Tehran in which seventeen of the official personnel of the Guard were killed and an almost equal number injured. Among the dead was the founder of the Iranian Missile program, Commander Hassan Moghaddam. Iran has so far not accused anyone and explained the explosion as an accident, here. Days after the accident, the Iranian central computer systems seeme to have been attacked by a deadly virus. Read about it here in Persian.

Free Mousavi and Karrubi from House Arrest!

Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karrubi are in the 170th day of their house arrest with has not followed any trial or explanation

Mr. Mousavi and Karrubi, the two candidates who disputed the 2009 election continue to be in a form of house arrest which in fact – according to members of their campaigns – resembles full incarceration. That is to say, all furniture has been removed, the doors and windows blocked, and their contact with the outside world – except for sporadic short phone calls –  completely cut off. Last Saturday, three reformist authorities, Ayatollahs Dastghayb  and Sane’i and Sayyed Mohammad Khatami, Iranian ex-president repeated their pleas to the government once more to free them. Read here.

Mohammad Khatami the Reformist ex-president, together with two grand Ayatollah's demanded the freedom of Mousavi and Karrubi

Baroon, a Song from Lorestan

Iran houses a rainbow of different ethnic groups with languages, art forms, and traditions of their own. One such ethnic group is that of the Lors who leave in the historic Lorestan Province in Western Iran. I’d like to close this window with a lively song from Lorestan by a group of young Iranian musicians, called Rastak, which has built itself a reputation for excellence in folk music. From the group Rastak, below, listen to the Lorie song Baroon “rain.” 

Have a great weekend and Happy Thanksgiving!

Fatemeh

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Greetings Everyone,

Hope you are all doing well and cold weather has not arrived in your neighborhood yet. Lots are happening inside and outside Iran. Certainly, we (US and Iran) are back in the headlines. So, without much delay, let us start with latest and the hottest.

The Latest IAEA Report, is Iran Building a Bomb?

No one can guarantee that some time in the future Iran would not reach a point to be able to build a bomb. That cannot be guaranteed about any country. So, I won’t take a position on that. In what follows I’ll give you a summary of what is told to us by the media about the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), how substantial it is,  the measures likely to be taken by the US and other western powers, the Iranian response, and the general outcome of the crisis for Iranians in particular.

The Media Spin

Before the report was published, the US media flooded the news with references to yet another proof that the Iranian government appears to be determined to build a nuclear device and that it remains defiant in the face of the anxiety felt by the “world community.”  Four days ago, Reuters reported based on Washington Post quoting David Albright, a former IAEA official who reviewed the agency’s findings, as saying that based on intelligence the U.N. agency has concluded that Iran “has sufficient information to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” using highly enriched uranium as its fissile core.” I draw your attention to the fact that piece, written prior to the release of the IAEA report, was still based on the old argument of Iranian “know-how” rather than action, the full article here.

The same day, CASMII (Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran), which is very critical of the way information regarding this matter reaches the American people, posted a joint statement by CASMII and The Virginia Defender called Tightening the Noose: the IAEA Report on Iran’s Nuclear Program. In this statement, you can read a complete counter perspective to the mainstream US media here. Since the release of the report others have gotten busy finding holes in its claims. The American historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter wrote in an article for antiwar.com that “the Soviet nuclear scientist” which the report suggests helped Iran with its nuclear program is not in fact a nuclear scientist, full article here.  Justin Raimondo, author and editorial director of antiwar.com himself published a piece critical of the report suggesting that “may,” “might,” and “could” qualify practically every claim made in the report. The piece is called Five minutes to Zero Hour here.

Iran’s Response

Iran’s response is so far as predictable as the IAEA report itself: these are western conspiracies against us. On Wednesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran “won’t retreat one iota” from its nuclear program, and he insisted again that Iran has no plans for weaponization, here. The Iranian official media took full advantage of yet another God-given opportunity to reveal the United States’ real face as the enemy of Iran. No doubt, the upcoming support the U.S. will express for harsher sanctions against the Iranian people will also find widespread publicity in the Iranian mass media. Today, in the daily Keyhan, Hussein Shari’atmadari, the most official voice of the Iranian Leader, Mr. Ali Khamenei, analized the IAEA report and thanked the agency for releasing such a flimsy and unsubstantiated report. Here, if you read Persian.

The new IAEA report, a God's gift to the Iranian leader?

This is a God’s gift for the Leader in another sense too. While the attention of the world is focused on the vague suspicion of building a bomb, Mr. Ali Khamenei is steering the Iranian Judiciary system, slowly but surely, toward changes that are aimed at curbing the smallest possibilities of democratic change. He has gone as far as saying that it is not out of the question to do away with the position of the President in the Iranian political system. Right now, he is testing the waters by having officials making announcements about such possible changes and then refuting them, an old tactic used by the IR before. Last week, a senior parliamentary figure spoke about amendments to the constitution that may lead to eliminating the presidency altogether. A day later, he announced that was his personal understanding, not an official announcement by the leader’s office. Here, again in Persian.

Where To Go From Here?

By now, you have an idea of my personal stance on the IAEA Report: despite the widespread publicity it received, the report appears to add very little of substance to what we know about the situation. And probably, like me, you are thinking, okay where do we go from here? Two kinds of outcomes seem to be on the horizon when one looks at the reactions in the popular media. Carrying an opinion piece by Jasmin Ramsey, Aljazeera views the events surrounding the report as part of a Washington attempt to isolate Iran further and pave the way for a new conflict in the Middle East, here. I personally do not think a military option, particularly on a large scale, to be a possibility. Given the fact that even targeted attacks could lead to uncontrollable escalation, I believe much of the support for military action is often aimed toward making broader sanctions look like a soft, even merciful act.

The Possibility of Broader Sanctions

Many fear the possibility of broader sanctions against Iran. I share this anxiety as I believe such sanctions do not effect the ruling government but the common masses, particularly at the low end of the scale.  I know, through family and friends in Iran, that the ordinary people are those who get penalized by not having access to proper medication, nutrition or other necessary means to live a normal life. Small businesses also break down as they do not have access to official channels to bypass the sanctions.  How Iraqi children suffered and perished as a result of medicine and food shortages because of sanctions is still a recent memory. As such, I personally consider sanctions that effect main populations to be “weapons of mass destruction.” Here is a piece posted  by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) called Don’t punish the Iranian People: Say no to Broad Sanctions, here.

And so we are back with the main question. Where to go from hereTrita Parsi , the award winning author and president and founder of the NIAC, addresses this very issue in a piece called A glimpse inside the Iranian Nukes, here. I find Trita to be a very insightful commentator and a voice of wisdom. I certainly recommend his (Yale University Press) award winning book Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States to all interested in the region. Take a look here.

Time to Cheer up!

And take a glimpse of some of the people who will actually get effected by broader sanctions against Iran. Watch this lively folk group which recently performed music from the south of the country. You would be interested to know that this folk performance includes a classical component as the main vocalist is singing quatrains of one of the Iranian 11th century master poets and mathematicians Omar Khayyam.

My Recent Piece on Rumi

I recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about the medieval poet and mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi in whose work joy is primary. I’d love to share that with you, here.

Visual Delight!

And as you know, we cannot close these windows without a visual delight from Iran. Will give you two paintings of a young artist Mahnaz Sorooshnasab born in 1973.  I leave you with these splashes of color and wish you a great weekend.

Best, Fatemeh

Mahnaz Sorooshnasab has a B.A. from Alzahra University

Greetings,

I have been away from the blog for a while for family and work reasons. With Iran back in the headlines, it’s time for more updates. But first some good local news.

Sharnush Parsipur at Washington University

This week, we hosted one of the most prominent Iranian Writers of the 20th and the 21st century on the campus of Washington University. Parsipur, the author of Women Without Men and Touba and the Meaning of the Night, among many other great titles, was here to speak with students in Advanced Persian who had read Women without Men. In addition to writing her own wonderful work, Parsipur has been a powerful advocate for creativity, freedom, and human rights in Iran, ideals for which she has endured many prison sentences. Now living in the United States, Parsipur continues to write novel after novel. The two novels I mentioned here both exist in English translation and, hopefully, others will follow. Read more about her here.

The students of Persian at Washington University admired Parsipur's frank, energetic and engaging style

Alleged Iranian Murder Plot on the American Soil

The Iranian and the American government don’t seem to be able to live without accusing each other. By now you have all been reading about this one. According to American officials: The Iranian Quds Force used an Iranian-American Used-car Dealer, and $1.5 million, to hire assassins from a Mexican drug cartel to murder the Saudi Arabian Ambassador and attack the Israeli Embassy. Much has been said about this and skepticism about the news has been a feature of most reports. English Aljazeera called it the fast and furious plot to occupy Iran A more neutral – but still critical – article by Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi appeared on Huffington Post soon after the news broke out. The piece called The “come to Jesus” moment in US Iran relations criticized the scenario for its sloppiness quoting Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer in the Middle East say the “Quds Force has never been this sloppy, using untested proxies, contracting with Mexican drug cartels, sending money through New York bank accounts, and putting its agents on U.S. soil where they risk being caught… The Quds Force is simply better than this.” See the full article here.

A central question, raised by many, is what could Iran have gained by having the Saudi Ambassador murdered. If anything, the Iranian government has been trying to build a steady relationships with its neighboring countries. It’ll be interesting to see what other details about this case may emerge. For now, I leave you with three interesting pieces, one about the personality of the alleged terrorist here, one on the Justice department conceding “no conclusive proof” here. And the third, an interesting analysis by the ex-CIA officer here.

Iran’s Reaction to the Allegations of a Murder Plot

The alleged murder plot has united the various factions – if momentarily – inside Iran. The Iranian leader described the allegations as absurd and a way to distract the American people from the protests taking place in the U.S., here. As for the Quds force, one of its top leaders boasted that if they had such intentions they could assassinate King Abd’allah himself without coming to the US soil.

Iran Blames the Outlawed MKO for the Murder Plot

The Iranian government is pointing its finger toward the outlawed Iranian dissidents Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) as the force behind the plot, here. The MKO has been working hard recently to get its name off the terrorist list in the US and has such supports as John Bolton (U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, 2005-06) among American politicians.

The MKO participated in the Iraqi invasion of the southern parts of Iran by Saddam Husein’s Army which led to an eight year war (1980-88) between Iran and Iraq and the use of chemical weapons by Saddam forces on Iranian soldiers and civilians.

Weather in this case the MKO is involved is not yet clear. However, the organization pursues a policy of preventing normalization of relations between US and Iran and prefers military confrontation between the two countries. For this reason, the MKO has been condemning any peace activism with Iran, considering such activists “lobbyists for Iran.” Recently, The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) which sends peace delegations to Iran and many other countries around the world regardless of their government’s relationship with the U.S., posted an article in Persian on its main website to refute the MKO accusation that its members are lobbyists for the Iranian government, here.

The Real Problem with Alleged Terror Plots

The real problem with these inflated and frequently unprovable allegations is that they form the main headlines about Iran and mask the real problems in the country: the crimes which are being committed against Iranian citizens in Iranian jails.

Just over a month ago, President Ahmadinejad made his annual UN speech and the usual round of interviews in which he claimed again and again no one is harmed in Iran for criticizing him. Guess what? This is not true:

This is Peyman Aref helped by his wife and friends after being released from a year in jail. His accusation: insulting President Ahmadinejad

The “crime” that the Tehran University student Peyman Aref had committed was writing an open letter to President Ahmadinejad complaining of student and faculty purges which are designed to eliminate the presence of the opposition in Iranian universities. The government claims that the tone of the letter did not show enough respect to the President.

The reason why Payman needed to be helped to the car by his wife and friends is that in addition to serving a year in jail, he received 74 lashes upon his release. This what his back looked like after the punishment:

Payman's back after 74 lashes for writing a critical open letter to President Ahmadinejad

It would help if American reporters have such pictures handy when interviewing the Iranian President.

Opposition to Gender Segregation Continues

Despite the harshness of the punishments awaiting any form of opposition, Iranian university students continue to voice their objection to the deteriorating social conditions, lack of freedom, in the country. One of the most controversial issues is the current governments attempt to start a process of gender segregation in the universities. The clip below shows a demonstration in Zanjaan University protesting a possible segregation:

Other students in various universities across the country are protesting the plans for gender segregation.

Time for Some Visual Healing

I usually close this window with images of paintings by Iranian women painters. This time, I am going to leave you with beautifully expressive images of Iranian women painted by an Iranian mail artist Afshin Nikravesh. Nikravesh was born in 1968 in Tehran and his main training is in Hydraulic structures!

A member of Society of Iranian Painters, Nikravesh is faculty at the School of Engineering in Tehran University

Girl reading, exhibited in June, 2011

In fact the main theme of June Exhibit of the paintings by Nikravesh were women. Here is one in a white scarf:

Last but not least, this beautiful silhouette of a young woman:

Before closing this window, a brief personal news. You read these windows in many different parts of the world and are always kind to ask to be informed if I am speaking anywhere near where you live. Well, I’ll be speaking at Pomona College next week, and at NYU in the Iranian Studies Initiative soon after than. You can visit the site here.

Have a great weekend!

Fatemeh

Dear All,

Greetings! I hope your July is not too hot wherever in the world you are. I would like to open this window without further ado with the most important topic of the day.

The Latest on the Segregation in Universities

In the last window update I spoke about the latest danger to the women’s equal opportunities in Iran, namely the looming threat of setting gender specific classrooms (and perhaps ultimately separate universities in Iran). The topic which has been revived by extreme conservatives is not taken as seriously by all Iranian academics.  In some observer’s view, the return to this issue is in preparation for the parliamentary elections in December 2012. In other words, the hardliners are trying to appeal to their base, and by the same token, those who oppose the idea are banking on the fact that the plan is very unpopular, and practically improbable if not totally impossible.

While these readings of the situation may not be invalid, the threat to Iranian women’s equal access to first rate educational resources is so important that even a slim chance of segregation in universities must not be taken lightly.

Please Sign our Petition before Closing this Window!

Given the significance of the situation, a number of us (academics based outside and inside Iran) have written a letter to Iranian University Presidents and Administrators asking them NOT to allow the segregation to be implemented. The petition is on line and has already received hundreds of signatures from people all over the world. We are so pleased that the letters is turning into a global effort. Please go on line here now and support our letter to these Iranian educational authorities by signing the petition and sharing it with friends and colleagues you think would like to sign. We may have to send the letter soon, so please do it at your earliest convenience.

VOA Does a Special on Gender Segregation Plan for Iranian Universities

Fortunately the news media, which are followed by large numbers of listeners with interest in Middle Eastern Issues, are taking keen interest in this matter. Last Monday,Voice of America did a special episode in its popular program Ofogh “horizon” on this very issue. I was interviewed on the program. For those of you who like to watch the program (which is in Persian), the links are here and here. I have already received thank you e-mail messages from Iran.

In an interesting gesture, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has expressed opposition to segregating men and women in Iran universities. Is he trying to win the hearts of the young Iranians? Well, he might. But is it not too little and too late? Read more about it here.

Pegah Ahangarani, the Woman who is no Longer Missing

After a week of being missing, actor and documentary maker Pegah Ahangarani called her family from Evin Prison today

Pegah Ahangarani was scheduled to be in Germany (July 4-12) to publish her personal coverage of Iranian women soccer players for the German Deutsche Welle. The day before her trip she received a call from Iranian intelligence authorities to the effect that she will be arrested if she goes to the airport. Even though Ms. Ahangarani cancelled her trip, she disappeared about a week later. Ironically, today after Ms. Ahangarani made a brief and nervous phone call to her family from Evin Prison, everyone felt relieved. At least, she is alive. Today Iranians who went to movies chanted slogans in support of Pegah Ahangarani and added a few “death to dictator”s as well before they left movie theaters. No one has been arrested in this connection yet. Click here to read about Gooya news report on the public support for her.

There is a Pattern Here

The same thing happened to Mariam Majd an Iranian woman photographer and sports writer recently. Photo Journalist Mariam Majd got arrested in her house the night before her trip. She has a special interest in women in sports and was similarly scheduled to be in Germany on June 17 to photograph the FIFA Women’s World Cup. She was arrested by four man – believed to be security forces – who searched her apartment the night before and took her away. Majd was first believed to be missing until sources close to her family informed the media that she had been taken to Evin Prison. You can read about the incident and follow her story on the International Campaign for Human Rights here.  These woman participate in no subversive activity. However their powerful personal presence poses a threat to the regime and the ideal of piety and womanhood it tries to promote.

Iranian Movies Win Major Prize at St. Petersburg Festival

Despite the tremendous pressure on journalism and art to express no critical view of the current culture and politics in Iran, Iranian film-makers and journalists continue to produce lively art that has the courage to look at the social reality in Iran and elsewhere.

Asghar Farhadi's Nader and Simin: A Separation continues to win top prize in international Festivals

Farhadi’s film added St. Petersburg to its previous honors. Read more at Payvand News of Iran.

Visual Delight – Paintings from Aida Zoghi

Let’s close this window, as usual, with images of delightful paintings by an Iranian woman painter, this time Aida Zoghi.

Aida Zoghi born in 1973 received her B.A. degree in painting

 from Alzahra University. She has had person exhibits in Iran.

  The Paintings you see here are from 2003 and 2004


And, another oil on canvas from 2003 to close this window for us beautifully:

Have great week!

Best,

Fatemeh

Dear All,

I hope you are enjoying the summer. I am back with more updates on Iran. A significant development in the political scene is that the fight between the supporters of Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad seems to have reached a critical stage. Still, I would like to start by celebrating Iranian women activists.

Sotoudeh Makes History Again!

A few weeks ago, I told you about the Iranian woman lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state securityShe has been imprisoned in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. In January 2011, Iranian authorities sentenced Sotoudeh to 11 years in prison in addition to barring her from practicing law and from leaving the country for 20 years. I posted the images of Sotoudeh appearing in court handcuffed but serene and confident. The publication of those images cause the Iranian authorities embarrassment in the country. Today, for the first time, the letter that Sotoudeh wrote from Evin Prison after hearing her sentence was publicly released. It is addressed to the Head of the Iranian Judiciary and is being circulated widely by her activist friends. First I’d like you to see the poster prepared for the distribution of the letter with her hand writing in blue on right hand side. Then I will translated her letter.

The words in blue are quotes from Sotoudeh's letter written from Evin and addressed to the Head of the Iranian Judiciary "Your judge showed that Iranian women cannot under any circumstances be underestimated!"

The Full Letter:

“Your Excellency — Thank you for reminding us of the danger of those objecting to the results of the 2009 Elections, we had forgotten how badly they had betrayed the nation! Thank you for your timely action to arrest some in the first few hours after the election even before they had a chance to express their objections. The forces who arrested them explained to many that their arrest is to preempt problems. Only after the horrendous sentences you issued for us we realized how dangerous text messaging and e-mailing are! When the world watched in amazement how peacefully the protesters had expressed their protests, when they were not given any opportunity to express their views, when they were sent to prison to endure heavy sentences silently, we admired their perseverance. I thank you for showing the world what a big rift exists between the decisions of those in charge and the wishes of the people. I am particularly thankful to you for my own sentence and the fact that your judge did not take any account of my two young children in issuing the sentence. Your judge showed that Iranian women cannot under any circumstances be underestimated! I won’t change my sentence with anything. I was showered with love from the people of my country and freedom lovers all over the world. Thank you for giving me a sentence longer than those of my clients. It would be painful to be released before them. Thank you for always bringing me to court in a special vehicle accompanied by two armed guards and one woman. I felt special. I specially thank you for your fair judgment. Your Excellency, you did not take my defense seriously but we do take the sentences of your revolutionary court very seriously!” Sotoudeh explains that the inspiration for the letter comes from the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. Read the Persian original here.

Ahmadinejad Threatens to “Take Action”

Back to Mr. Ahmadinejad, after three of his close confidants were arrested last week, he warned that if members of his cabinet were subjected to any threats, he will take action.

Ahmadinejad warned last week: "If members of my cabinet are threatened, I will speak with the people."

The clashes between supporters of the Supreme Leader, Mr. Khamenei, and Ahmadinejad’s circle (described in the official media as “the deviant current,”) has entered a new and critical phase with the arrest of three more of the President’s close confidants. This led to his threat to “take action” if this situation continues. The Parliament, which was preparing to question Ahmadinejad on a range of issues (for which it needs 75 signatures in support of the action) decided against that yesterday. This was despite the fact that 100 signatures had been collected. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s threat to take action may have been a response to the threat of questioning and possible impeachment, among other things. How much of the ongoing posturing, on either side, will lead to serious confrontation is unclear. Neither side appears confident enough for big risks.

Who Purchased Ahmadinejad’s Vehicle

Regardless of the outcome, the current skirmishes between the above two factions has its benefits for the Iranian public. Mishaps, fraudulent actions, and lies which would have been carefully covered up now find their way into the headlines run by official newspapers and the state run TV. The story of auctioning Ahmadinejad’s personal vehicle for charity purposes is a case in point.  In this highly publicized auction, which took place last year, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s car was supposedly purchased for two and a half billion tomans (one dollar is about 1000 tomans). Fars News revealed last week that there was no real buyer and the auction had been staged by Hamid Baqai Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff!

58 days and thousands of dollars were spent on staging an auction in which supposedly an Iranian buyer paid millions of dollars to own the President's personal vehicle.

Newly “Found” Documents on World War II

Similarly, last summer the Iranian intelligence sources revealed the discovery of a briefcase filled with documents in the late Shah’s car. According to these sources, the documents shed new lights on the gruesome events of World War II. According to a report published last week in the Iranian official News Agency Fars, no such briefcase was ever found. The news of the discovery had been fabricated in order to distract the Iranian public from a controversial statement made by one of Ahmadinejad’s official envoys.

The Looming Threat of Gender Segregation in Iranian Universities

The hardline conservative in Iran have always dreamed of creating full gender segregation in Iranian Universities. They have – so far – failed to gather enough support for the project which will be extremely costly and controversial. Some in the conservative camp, see the current political crisis in Iran as a perfect opportunity for finally realizing their dream. It is certain that the students will not take the threat of segregation lightly and will protest. At this time, when all civil disobedience and dissent is considered treason, student protests could be put down in the name of national security. I have just published a piece in the Iranian electronic news site JARAS here about the ramifications of such a segregation. It is in Persian. Please circulate among interested Persian speaking readers. I hope to write and to report on this very important topic in the future windows.

An Architectural Jewel in the City of Yazd

How about a break from politics with a visual delight from Iran? Payvand News just published a piece on the 17th Century garden of Dowlatabad in the historic city of Yazd in Central Iran. Take a look at the trees reflected in the pool:

Two elderly gentlemen chatting on the poolside in Yazd's Dowlatabad garden

And the exquisite glass windows:

The view from the outside:

You can see more images and read about this breathtaking garden here.at Payvand Iran News.

Have a great week,

Fatemeh

Dear All,

Last week was an important week in Iran. Monday, June 12 was the anniversary of the 2009 fraudulent elections which led to Ahmadinejad’s continued presidency for the second term. Before I get to a report on the commemoration of the anniversary. I’d like to honor another victim of the Iranian prison, journalist Reza Hoda Saber. Hoda Saber died after ten days of hunger strike at Evin Prison protesting what he called “the murder of Haleh Sahabi” at the funeral of her father.

Cellmates say Reza Hoda Saber was beaten up severely on the 8th day of his hunger strike

A letter signed by 64 Iranian political prisoners says Reza was severely beaten after being taken to the infirmary – to be cared for! – on the 8th day of his hunger strike. These prisoners who clearly put themselves at extra risk by signing the letter describe Reza’s condition after being returned to Ward 350 of Evin Prison where they are all kept. Read more  You can learn more about Reza Hoda Saber, the journalist, translator, and political activist here.

More Hunger Strike

Immediately after Hoda Saber’s death, the American based news site, Gooya News, reported three more political prisoners who were on hunger strike to express opposition to the death of Haleh Sahabi are continuing their hunger strike to attract attention to the death of their cellmate Reza Hoda Saber. They are Mahdi  Khodaie, Arash Sadeqi, and Ahmad Shahrezaie. Read more. Since then, the number of the political prisoners on hunger strike has reached 12.

Dictator Greet the End!

Iranians are risking their lives in different ways to get out the message that they won’t tolerate dictatorship any more.  On June 12, a large sign which read “Dictator Greet the End!” hung from a bridge over Sadr Highway near Shari’ati Street. A similar sign was used a few months earlier. Take a look at the latest:

Eyewitness Account

“The city was turned a garrison. The Vali-e Asr Square was filled with anti-riot police, all kinds. We are moving forward. All the stores on Vali-e Asr Street have been closed down. In a way this is symbolic of what the regime has done. It has closed down the country all together for the past two years…Despite the fact that the shops have been forced to close down, the pavement is filled with the crowd, people who calmly walk. The street is taken over with motorcycles. Plain clothes security forces lurk among the crowd. A friend who is with me is speaking on his mobile and in answer to “where are you?” says “Vali-e Asr, Hemmat Bridge.” A plain close police says “Are you inviting people to come here?” arrests and takes him inside a van. We rush there and try to explain he has simply explained where he is, all of us explain this very carefully, particularly to our wives when they call us (perhaps we should be careful not to do that within the earshot of plain clothes police!)…eventually, we manage to take him back after one Basiji joins us in interceding on his behalf (the fact that he is wearing a beard is not without effect). Initially, he is the second person pushed inside the van, but buy the time we are done two vans parked under the Hemmat Bridge are filled with arrested people. You can imagine how many people have arrested all through the Vali-e Asr Street.”

Mr. Khazali has an important observation about the arrest of  young women:

“In the ten minutes that I am standing next to the anti-riot police waiting for my friend to be freed, they arrest many people mostly girls! I try to focus hard and understand the criterion for the arrests, but I can’t. Everyone is walking slowly and quietly. All of sudden someone is picked and let to the van. The gut feelings of the anti-riot police seems to be the only criterion, and perhaps the beauty of the women to be arrested. I am not joking, I am recording what I saw with my own eyes. They are arresting young and beautiful girls. Perhaps they saw them as a kind booty in a war! Or wanted to spend the interrogation time with a beautiful girl! I saw this painful fact with my own eyes, arrest of innocent people who had not even chanted a slogan. Perhaps they were going home, or to a party!”

And another observation which reveals people’s feelings about the regime:

“An old man faints and falls on the pavement. A young Basiji approaches him with a kind smile to help him get up. As soon as the man gains his awareness and notices the Basiji he cries out “No, no, I am fine, I am perfectly fine.”  The Basiji who sees the fear in the old man’s eyes moves away. A young man from the crowd steps in and helps the man walk away.”

You have been reading my translation of Mr. Khazali’s account in his Persian blog. Read the original here.

Paris Flash mob for the Greens

On June 12, 2011, to mark two years since Iran’s disputed election, United4Iran and Move4Iran coordinated a flash mob in a Paris metro station to draw attention to the ongoing human rights abuses Iran’s citizens continue to face. I is quite well done:

Three Gang Rapes – a new violence against women

In the months of May and June, three gang rapes have taken place in Iran. This is a new and worrisome crime pattern the victims of which are mostly educated and less traditional women. In one case, the victim was a physician, and in another women partying with friends and family in a private garden. Predictably, the authorities (while condemning the rapists) have exploited the occasion for blaming the victims dressing and socializing habits. Women rights activists fear that these incidents, which make the public space less safe for women, may not receive the necessary legal attention from the authorities. Fortunately, the public are expressing outrage against the aggressors. Websites and other news sources are keeping the debate alive and demanding full legal attention to it.

Baghi Released from Jail

Emadeddin Baghi, Iranian Journalist, Human Rights Activist and founder of the first Iranian organization in support of political prisoners was release from jail yesterday!

For supporting political prisoners, Emadeddin Baghi spent more than half of the past decade in jail himself

Baghi who had been arrested last September, was sentenced to 6 years in jail for “propaganda against the regime” and “conspiracy to overthrow” the government. An appeal court overturned the second accusation. Baghi, was one of the twelve political prisoners on hunger strike whom I mentioned earlier in today’s blog. Yesterday, on his third day of strike, he was release. On the way home from Evin Prison, Mr. Baghi stopped by the residence of the Sahabi and Saber family to express his condolences for the death of these two political activists. You can read about him here.

Visual Delight

With best wishes for Mr. Baqi (including extended freedom from prison), I’ll leave you with two beautiful paintings by Iranian painter Gizela Sinaei. Gizela (born 1967) works mostly with oil on canvas interpreting Persian motifs.

Gizela Sinae - Oil on Canvas

Women have a lively presence in Sinaei's work

Have a great week,

Fatemeh

Dear All,

Greetings, I hope you are well. As the anniversary of the 2009 Iranian general elections approaches, in this window, I’ll try to bring you up-to-date on recent events in Iran. But I must start with the sad news of the death of a women activist, Haleh Sahabi.

Haleh Sahabi

These days, Iranians in and outside Iran, are grieving for Haleh Sahabi, the latest victim of the brutality of the security forces in Iran. Haleh, who died on June 1st during her father’s funeral, was a scholar activist who dedicated her life to social, and especially gender, justice.

Haleh Sahabi was a tireless activist

“Haleh Sahabi, 54, was a distinguished Qura’nic hermeneutician, a religious comparatist, a women’s rights scholar, and a committed activist to the cause of her people’s civil liberties,” writes Hamid Dabashi. She had been sentenced to a two-year prison term after she had joined a rally in front of the Iranian parliament in the aftermath of the contested presidential election of 2009.

Let out of jail briefly to participate in her father's funeral, Haleh died after being attacked by the police

While serving her term in jail, Haleh Sahabi was informed of her father’s impending death. He was the prominent Iranian dissident Ezzatollah Sahabi (1930-2011), a revered democracy activist, known and admired for his mild manner, open-minded generosity of spirit, a liberal demeanor, and a commitment to non-violent activism on a religious-nationalist platform for over half a century. Read the rest of Dabashi’s article here.

With their non-violet powerful presence Iranian women activists like Haleh continue to be the greatest nightmare of the regime

Events continue to be held across the country honoring the achievements of Haleh Sahabi and her father Ezzatollah Sahabi:

Sara Shari'ati, daughter of the reformist intellectual Ali Shari'ati, spoke about Haleh

If you read Persian, visit the face-book page of madrese-ye feministi for a report and lots of pictures from the event held by Mothers for Peace here.

Mousavi and Karrubi, approaching 5th month of captivity

Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi the Presidential candidates who objected to the 2009 election results, and emerged as leaders of the Green Movement seeking civil liberties for Iranians, are now approaching their 5th month of captivity. Their situation is usually described as “House arrest” which implies being confined to the spaced of one’s normal home. But the reality of their situation is that all furniture has been removed from their home, the windows fully covered, and all contact with the outside cut. In other words, they are in prison.

Mousavi and Karrubi's homes have been converted into a Prison

Major Clashes between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei

The happy days of alliance appear to be over

Having killed a over a 100 reformists, and tortured and jailed thousands more, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad are now fighting each other. The tension appears to be over controlling major economic and other power resources between the followers of Khamenei and a military/revolutionary group that wishes to get rid of the clergy step by step. Since negotiation, and compromise, is not part of the political culture of either group, the two camps seem to be determined to eliminate each other.  Today for the first time, in a press conference, President Ahmadinejad spoke of this rift between his government and “senior Islamic figures” in the country, read more.

Verbal Sexual Assault on Women Political Prisoners

On may 28, on the occasion of Iranian Mothers Day, a number of women political prisoners were given an opportunity to meet with their families. They managed to send out a letter which was written on behalf of 32 of them. The letter described horrendous prison conditions, ranging from solitary confinement, deprivation from family visits, and being beaten up. The harshest condition these women speak of is verbal sexual assault with the aim of breaking their resistance and obtaining false confessions from them.  In the letter, the women compare the interrogation sessions to being repeatedly raped.

The Iranian Nobel Laureate, Shirin Ebadi, and  four international Human Rights organizations, have called on the United Nations to send its special envoy to Iranian prisons and prevent these brutalities.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, A Women for All Seasons

Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Solitary Confinement in Evin Since Sept. 2011

I opened this window with Haleh Sahabi, let me close it with the account of  another amazing women, Nasrin Sotoudeh.  Sotoudeh is a lawyer, and her fault is to have defended reformist clients such as Isa Saharkhiz after the the 2009 disputed elections and  advocating for human rights in Iran. She has been sentenced to 11 years in jail, barred from practicing law or leaving the country for the next 20 year. Her accusation: “spreading propaganda against the government and compromising the security of the country.” If you would like to see how the above mentioned verbal assaults fail in breaking the women like Sotoudeh who are fighting for their freedom and dignity, take a look at the picture below:

Handcuffed in court, Sotoudeh looked everything but broken and humiliated

The circulation of Sotoudeh’s court images in Iran caused major embarrassment for the government.

Handcuffs on, She embraced her husband who had come to the court

Read more about her here.  Sotoudeh is a thoughtful, gentle, and unassuming person with a compelling presence. She has consistently guided the women’s movement in Iran toward a balanced and informed approach to others. Do please listen to the clips of her speeches below (has English subtitles) and share with others:

As you see much is happening in Iran. I’ll try to keep you updated as best as I can. For now, we need at least one piece of creative art work by an Iranian woman to close this window… and to celebrate the positive force they are in present day Iran.

Mixed media, by Marjan Razavi on show till June 15 in Elahe Gallery, Tehran

Till the next window!

Fatemeh