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Windows on Iran 28

Jewish School in Shiraz, Iran (photo courtesy of www.iranian.com). Read below to learn about the strong and proud Iranian Jewish community.

A Jewish School in Shiraz, Iran. Please read below to learn about the strong and proud Iranian Jewish community. (photo courtesy of http://www.iranian.com).

Dear All,

Welcome to another Window on Iran. I am delighted to report that I
have just welcomed our first subscriber from Italy! Is this cool or
what? Thank you all for doing such a super job of promoting these
windows globally. Now practically anywhere I do public speaking, a
number of people in the audience are familiar with these windows. I am
also grateful to you all for forwarding to me the interesting stuff
you like to share with others.

On to our Window number 28!

Current Issues:
* I start this week’s current issues with an amazing piece of evidence
that came to light on April 29:

Barely a week has been passed since our speaker Professor
Ghamari-Tabrizi made his excellent presentation “A Manufactured
Crisis: Facts, Fiction, and the Politics of a Nuclear Iran” at
Washington University. Professor Ghamari spoke to a surprised audience
about numerous steps taken by Iran over the past few years to reduce
tension with the U.S. and to end the crisis. These steps were ignored
by the current U.S. administration. An op-ed piece in yesterday’s NY
Times by Nicholas Kristof reveals exactly that: a secret proposal that
the Iranian government sent to the current American administration in
the hope of making peace. Mr. Kristof, who still uses a demeaning
language to speak of Iranians, admits nevertheless that “The officials
from the repressive, duplicitous government of Iran pursued peace more
energetically and diplomatically than senior Bush administration
officials.” The Iranian proposal offered “full transparency”
concerning the Iranian nuclear technology, “active support for Iraqi
stabilization,” and “pressuring Hamas to stop violent actions against
civilians inside Israel” among other things. Obviously, Iran wanted
something in return. These demands described by Mr. Kristof as ‘a lot’
included “mutual respect,” abolition of sanctions, access to peaceful
nuclear technology and a U.S. statement that Iran did not belong in
the “axis of evil.” Sadly, the Iranian diplomats, (obviously
moderates) who had worked hard to make this proposal possible, were
ignored by the American administration and the opportunity that Mr.
Kristof calls “a real hope for peace” was lost. Here is the link:
http://www.nytimes.com/ontheground

More to the point is that another window of opportunity for engaging
Iran in a positive way seems to be around the corner provided we sing
songs different from the one proposed by Senator MacCain.

Suggested Reading:
* If it is hard for you to accept that Iran may have a diverse political
landscape in which there are moderates who oppose the view points of
the extremists and work hard to move Iran in the direction of positive
change, take a look at this excellent recently published book on the
subject: Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty by
Professors Ali Gheissari and Vali Nasr (Oxford University Press,
2006).

* You have heard me complain about the misinformation on Iran. Starting
last summer, the popular media allowed incredibly slanted reporting.
There were times that I felt I was reading about another country not
the one I had just visited. At first, I searched for critical
responses and discussions that would subject such slanted reporting to
scrutiny. Little by little, I lost hope. Finally, I felt so concerned
about the intensity of the misinformation that I decided to start
these windows. Last week, a journalist gave me new respect for our
media. In a special edition of his journal “Buying the War: How did
the Mainstream Press get it so Wrong?” Mr. Bill Moyers asked why the
press did not scrutinize the ‘information’ that led to the war in
Iraq. I pray from the bottom of my heart that we scrutinize the
information given to us which suggests that Iran is a threat to the
world, before it is too late. Please watch this program and compare
the rhetoric to the one used against Iran:
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/btw/watch.html

Time to Laugh!

* Let’s get a bit light-hearted with all this political talk. Some
members of CodePink have had a little fun with Senator MacCain’s idea
of using a Beach Boy song to “joke” about bombing a country:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTEBjPCNBbc

Abadan, Iran.

Abadan, Iran.

* While we are on fun themes, Americans who lived in Iran in the 60s and 70s think about Iran nostalgically. Joy Martin, a subscriber to these windows, has sent me this beautiful photo-essay of the city of Abadan by Paul Scheroeder. Thank you Joy!
http://www.iranian.com/Abadan/2007/April/1958/index.html

Science

* Apparently, last year the American Chemical Society suddenly decided to expel its Iranian scientist members (no explanation given). The ACS simply decided not to renew the membership of its Iranian scientist members starting January 2007 without disclosing it to the public. Members heard of this decision when it was reported in the March issue of the Science Magazine. A number of prominent Iranian American scientist have written an open letter to the ACS trying to reverse this decision which they consider to be politically motivated, unfair, and damaging to Iranian scientists:
http://www.payvand.com/news/07/apr/1351.html

Social

Iranian Jews in a synagogue in Tehran (photo courtesy of AP, Hasan Sarbakhshian).

Iranian Jews in a synagogue in Tehran (photo courtesy of AP, Hasan Sarbakhshian).

* There is a recent story in the Christian Science Monitor about Iranian
Jewry. No one should pretend that Iranian society would not benefit
from social reform. Neither do minorities in any society enjoy
identical privileges as the main stream. But Iranian Jews are proud
people. They feel offended by being portrayed as victims, or a
minority whose way of life is disrespected in present day Iran. What
affects them most is the political tension between the Iranian and
Israeli governments. But as you read in the interview, they focus
mostly on positive aspects of their peaceful coexistence with Muslims
and the fact that they are Iranian. Currently there are about 100
functioning synagogues in Iran. I’d like to thank Behrooz Ghamari for
sending me the link to share with you:
http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0427/p01s03-wome.html
Visual Delight

A beautiful painting by Iranian artist Sholeh Reshad (click the link below for more).

A beautiful painting by Iranian artist Sholeh Reshad (click on the link below for more of her work).

We have to end in our time honored tradition of visiting a painting
gallery. By now, I have sent you slide shows of the paintings of close
to 20 contemporary Iranian women painters, their ages ranging from 20
to 50, and their works technically impressive, artistically
imaginative and colorful (thematically as well as visually). Here is
one to add to the collection: Sholeh Reshad, a 52 year old painter
with long experience and a style of her own. I hope these artistic
works show something of the sophistication of contemporary Iranian
women and the fact that they are not passive fantasy objects locked up
in harems. Click here: Sholeh Reshad Art. Enjoy.

Till Window 29, 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 Qashqai women in Iran. The Qashqai are one of Irans many ethnic minority groups (See below for more information).

Beautiful Qashqa'i women of Iran in their colorful traditional dresses. The Qashqa'i are one of Iran's many ethnic minority groups (See below for more information about them and other ethnic groups).

Greetings Everyone!

I don’t know how to thank you for all your kind messages, for forwarding these windows to others, and for recommending it. Over thirty names have been added to the list in the past two days alone. All I can say is I am delighted these windows have so many onlookers. Welcome to window number eight!

Current Issues

* On the last day of House legislative business, Iran sanctions advocates pushed through legislation ( HR 6198 ) strengthening sanctions and promoting a policy of regime-change in Iran.
Managing the bill on the House floor, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen made the
case that IFSA’s policies complemented US diplomatic activity.
“Sanctions target the Iranian regime where it is most vulnerable:
its energy sector,” said Ros-Lehtinen in her opening remarks.
Leading a bipartisan corps of members who spoke in opposition to
the measure, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) characterized the latest
version of the Iran Freedom Support Act (IFSA) as a “cruise
missile” and stated that, “the timing for this legislation could
not be worse.” Right he is. The most immediate impact of this
“cruise missile” — besides hurting ordinary people not the regime
— is weakening the moderates within the Iranian political sphere.
The hard-liners will loose no time in using this legislation to
remind the country that America is indeed Iran’s enemy.

Nothing heals like a good poem! In response to this aggressive move,
let’s read together a stanza from a great classic of twentieth century
Persian poetry by Ahmad Shamlu (b.1925), Shamlu, known as the “Poet of
Liberty,” faced hostility by the Shah’s regime and remained out of favor
with the Islamic Republic. He wrote some of the most poignant
revolutionary, as well as lyrical, poems of modern Persian language.
Here is an excerpt from a poem he dedicated to his wife Aida called
“Aida in the Mirror” translated by my good friend Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak
(University of Maryland):

Tempests play magnificently a tiny flute
in your grand dance
And the singing of your veins makes the sun of always rise
(Let me rise from sleep so that the lanes of the city
perceive my presence).

Your hands are reconciliation
and friends helping that hostilities may be forgotten

Suggested Reading: An Anthology of Modern Persian Poetry, selected and
translated by Ahmad Karimi Hakkak ( Westview Press, 1978 ) Still is
available through Amazon Books.

Science

* On a much happier note, Iran’s cloned sheep born yesterday is
alive and kicking, reported Iranian doctors in the Royan
research center in Isfahan. More significantly, a combination of
the cloning methods and the new progress made by Iranian
physicians in the field of spinal injuries has created
possibilities of curing those suffering from spinal damages,
Nasr-Esfahani said. Iranian specialists recently announced a
breakthrough in curing spinal injuries with the culture of Schwann
cells enabling those suffering from paralysis to move. For cute
pictures of the newly born cloned sheep click on the first link
below (here the text is Persian)
http://www.isna.ir/Main/NewsView.aspx?ID=News-799766&Lang=P

For more reading on the subject, click on this link:
http://www.irna.ir/en/news/view/line-16/0610015225123117.htm and
http://www.payvand.com/news/06/oct/1015.html

Social

* This is the Children’s week in Iran. Each day is devoted to a
topic such as “Children and Health”, “Children and Equal
Opportunities,” etc. The United Nations International Children’s
Fund (UNICEF) will participate in the events. Activists such as
Shirin Ebadi have been instrumental in drawing attention to
children’s rights in Iran. More needs to be done, particularly in
relation to minority children such as abandoned children of
Afghani fathers who have returned to Afghanistan after the
collapse of the Taliban regime.

* Many of you have been asking questions about ethnic minorities in
Iran. I will keep an eye open for material. Iran’s ethnic
diversity is truly amazing. Of course, like everywhere else, all
kinds of jokes and stereotypes are attached to each group. In
general, however, people are fairly used to hearing different
languages and seeing different costumes on the street. The nomadic
Qashqa’is, for example, still wear their very colorful dresses.
Click on this link to see a beautiful young Qashqai girl in
festive outfit (center of the page):
http://www.11iran.com/Z2INDEX.HTM . To get a general idea of
Iranian ethnic diversity and its geographical distribution click
on:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_minorities_in_Iran

Prominent Iranian Americans:

* This week’s personality is Google’s senior vice president for
global sales Mr. Omid Kordestani, 42. He joined  the company a
year after its establishment as its “business founder” and is
viewed as a force behind Google’s success. Here is the link if you
like to read more (courtesy of my friend Bahar Bastani):
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1187475,00.html
Also, I must apologize for sending the wrong link on the Harvard
Scientist Nima Arkani in the last window. Instead of just a
picture, I meant to send this brief description of his impressive
work:
http://www.physics.harvard.edu/people/facpages/arkani-hamed.html

Art and Culture

* If you are off to France, don’t miss the exhibition of more than
200 items from the last major pre-Islamic Persian empire the
Sassanians on view at the Cernuschi Museum Paris (15th September
to 30th December 2006). By the way, art historians would tell you
that these pre-Islamic objects — and many more — survived
because Muslim conquerors of Iran did not destroy them. Click on
this link to get a brief preview:
http://www.irandokht.com/editorial/index4.php?area=pro&sectionID=9&editorialID=2143

Suggested Reading:  Mostly Miniatures: An Introduction to Persian
Painting by Oleg Grabar
. A more general art history, The Golden Age of
Persian Art 1501-1722
by Sheila Canby both available through Amazon.
And Western art is exhibited in Iran. Check this one out:

* Last summer Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art held a major
exhibit (June-October 2005) called “Modern Art Movements,”
bringing together a historic number of contemporary world
masterpieces owned by Iranian Museums.  Barbara Rose who writes
about the exhibit for “The Wall Street Journal on Line” observes:
“The unprecedented show was a huge success.”  “The first gallery”
she says ” was filled with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist
paintings. There was a Gauguin still life, a rare Léger from 1913
and Picasso’s synthetic cubist masterpiece, “Fenêtre Ouverte sur
la Rue de Penthièvre,” as well as his late cast bronze of a baboon
cradling her baby, which is also in the Picasso Museum in Paris.
There were circus performers by Georges Rouault as well as a
daring watercolor by the German Dadaist George Grosz. Other
European and American modern masters were on view with a special
section devoted to Pop artists Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol,
David Hockney, Richard Hamilton, Claes Oldenburg and Jim Dine.
Also in the collection are sculptures by Magritte, Henry Moore and
Giacometti; paintings by Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miró and Georges
Braque; and three important Toulouse-Lautrecs.”

Now, check out Ms. Barbara Rose’s tone in her write up:

*”Most remarkably,” she observes “an entire gallery was devoted
to Abstract Expressionism, the art movement that proclaimed
America’s cultural primacy.”  She is even more shocked at the
Iranian Museum of Contemporary art’s “continuing to list the works
of modern Western art, including a number of prominent Jewish
artists, as part of its permanent collection, which is presumably
open to the public [can the museum be making this up?]. A more
recent, “ironic” exhibition, she adds :” is that of paintings by
the well-known Jewish painter Marc Chagall also opened in Tehran
this summer.” [2006].

*Here is what she concludes: “No one knows what will happen to
the masterpieces of modern Western art in Tehran. They are said to
be worth billions of dollars now and are too expensive to be
destroyed.”  And finally, concerning a painting of a female leg,
owned by the museum, which has not been on display, Ms. Rose
speculates: “Did some fanatic realize it is a woman’s and throw a
cloth over its offensive nudity? Is it being held for ransom to be
exchanged for a valuable Persian manuscript or an important weapon?”

* All right, we need more antidote. Let’s just visit a few of our
concluding Visual Delights, some recent exhibits of the works of
Iranian painters and art-lovers who — no doubt — enjoyed the
above exhibit tremendously (and luckily won’t have to read Ms.
Rose’s review). I have particularly enjoyed the portrays by Nemat
Lalehei
http://www.elahe.net/thumb.php?gallery=316 . Lalehei is an
artist from the northern city of Rasht. Be sure to double click on
each portraits to see the enlarged version. Another male artist,
and one very different in style and temperament is:  Masoud
Dashtban
http://www.elahe.net/photo.php?picid=3416 . Finally,
please take a look at the works of the young photographer, Salomeh
Manouchehri
. Here too, you must enlarge the photographs to see the
subtleties of her work. Enjoy:
http://www.elahe.net/thumb.php?gallery=313

Have a great week. I hope to be opening another window in about a week.
Best,

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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Jewish wedding in beautiful synagogue in Iran.

Jewish wedding in beautiful synagogue in Tehran.

Hello Everyone!

We are officially a listserv now. Welcome to the “Window on Iran”
listserv!  It took just a bit longer than I thought. Now that the list
is up and working, the weekly updates should be back on track. Let us
move to the updates:

Current Issues:

* This week, Iran responded to the package of incentives
aimed at suspending its nuclear program with a 30 page
document which is not public yet. Comments from various
European and American officials point to the fact that the
Iranian government has given signs of interest in starting
“serious”  negotiations while at the same time, it wishes to
save face by not suspending enrichment as a “pre-condition”
to the start of the negotiations. Some experts in Washington
warned against a hasty rejection of the Iranian response and
suggested to open up to Iran’s indication of readiness for
negotiations. Such negotiations should ideally include:
enrichment suspension, the Iranian role in the region, and
keeping Iran accountable for its own human rights record.
You may read more on these at:
http://www.niacouncil.org/pressreleases/press423.asp

* In the meantime, a key House committee issued a
stinging critique of U.S. intelligence on Iran yesterday,
charging that the CIA and other agencies have failed to find
information on Iran’s true intentions for its nuclear
program and its ties to terrorism! It is not clear how the
committee knows about these “intentions” and “ties” if
intelligence agencies are not able to find any information
about them. Here is the article on this in Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/23/AR2006082301309.html?referrer=email

Cultural/Social

A lot questions are asked about Iranian religious and ethnic
minorities in the west. Many people think, for example, that
Jews cannot freely worship. Some even wonder if Jews still live
in Iran. Again, I don’t wish to present ideal conditions for
minorities in Iran. Iranian activists will tell you that legal
reform is needed with regard to minority rights. Furthermore,
modern nation-states are built on nationalistic ideologies that
— despite their rhetoric of national unity — marginalize
racial difference. The 1979 Iranian revolution further
emphasized such differences by fore grounding religion as one of
its organizing principles. Despite all of that, the answer to
the above question is: yes Jews — and other minorities — do
live in present day Iran and are very much a part of the social
and cultural scene. The main problems that the Iranian Jews face
at this point is the antagonistic relations between the two
countries of Iran and Israel. Not being able to travel between
the countries affects their personal lives.

The Jewish Community in Iran:

The current population of the Iranian Jews is estimated
approximately 30,000 (one of the oldest and largest in the
Middle East). The official web page of the Iranian Jewish
Association
says:

Synagogues

There are about 100 synagogues in Iran of which about 26 are in
Tehran. Iranian synagogues in terms of the history and place of
construction have a variety of architectural styles. There are
several synagogues in Tehran, Yazd and Isfahan cities, which
because of their antiquity and beauty of architecture have been
ear marked as national historic sites by Cultural Heritage
Organization

The most widely known Iranian Jewish Scholar is Solomon Haim the
author of Persian-Hebrew Dictionary.
This dictionary is compiled by “Solomon Haim” (1889-1968), one
of the most famous Jewish scientists of Iran. He has compiled
the most well known French-Persian, Persian-English, and
English-Persian dictionaries and for this he is of high respect
and prestige among the people of Iran.

You can visit the site at:
http://www.iranjewish.com/Essay_E/Essay_e1.htm to read about
cultural organizations, schools, libraries, journals, community
centers and more.

Suggested Reading:

Esther’s Children: A Portrait of Iranian Jews (Hardcover) by Houman
Sarshar (Editor)
<http://www.amazon.com/s/002-3695249-7660814?ie=UTF8&index=books&rank=-relevance%2C%2Bavailability%2C-daterank&field-author-exact=Houman%20Sarshar>

This week’s visual delight:

The paintings of  Yacob Amamepich, a Jewish painter from
Tabriz, was on display in July 2006 in the Elahe Gallery in
Tehran. Please click on:
http://www.elahe.net/thumb.php?gallery=38 to view the paintings.

And please click here to read more about some young members of the
Iranian Jewish Community: http://www.mfjc.org/board_briefings/dec2005.htm .

Fatemeh
========================
Fatemeh Keshavarz, 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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