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Windows on Iran 30

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

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

Dear All,

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

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

Visual Delight

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

The colorful countryside of Iran.

The colorful countryside of Iran.

Recent Visit to Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Louis Persian Music Event!

Monika Jalili and her Persian music group Noorsaaz.

Monika Jalili and her Persian music group Noorsaaz.

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

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

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

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Windows on Iran 23

The historical Persian King Xerxes(above), who bares no resemblence to the offensive depiction of him in the Hollywood movie 300. See below for more on this movie and its historically inaccurate portrayal of King Xerxes and the Persian Empire.

The real historical Persian King Xerxes (above), who, notice, bares absolutely no resemblance to the bizarre and, ultimately, offensive depiction of him in the Hollywood movie '300.' See below for more on this movie and its grossly historically inaccurate portrayal of Xerxes and the Persian Empire in general.

Dear Friends,

It is a pleasure to open another window, one that greets the Spring. Iranians everywhere in the world are now busy preparing for Nowrouz, the Persian New Year, 1386! For my Nowrouz gift to you, click here: Nowrouz (the Iranian New Year celebration). I hope it gives you a fun visual tool for teaching about Nowrouz. Happy Nowrouz/spring to you All.
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Hollywood’s Nowrouz Gift to Iranians

A scene from the movie 300. Far from being a harmless Hollywood thriller, this movie is a blatant piece of propaganda that contains numerous historic inaccuracies that all conveniently serve to demonize the Persians and glorify Sparta (the symbol of the Western, free world). Please click on the link to Dr. Touraj Daryaees critique for comprehensive analysis.

A scene from the movie "300," with a utterly bizarre and distinctly 'othering' depiction of the Persian King Xerxes (right) and King Leonidas (left). Far from being a harmless Hollywood thriller, this movie is a blatant propaganda piece that contains numerous historical inaccuracies which all conveniently serve to simultaneously demonize the Persians and glorify the Spartans (the symbol of the Western, free world). Please click on the link below to read Dr. Touraj Daryaee's superb critique of '300.'

* If you are an Iranian, you will have a hard time deciding which misrepresentation of yourself to expose! This year it has been made easy for Iranians. They get their New Year’s gift in the form an ominous movie called “300” that portrays Persians / Iranians as “inarticulate monsters, raging towards the West, trying to rob its people of their basic values.” The movie “demeans the population of Iran and anesthetizes the American population to war in the Middle East” in the words of Touraj Daryaee, Professor of Ancient History (Californian State U., Fullerton). In a review essay called: “Go tell Spartans How “300” misrepresents Persians in history,” Prof. Daryaee critiques the movie eloquently. For example, in the movie, the historical quote “We are the mothers of men,” is addressed to a Persian brute (obviously blind to gender issues). According to Daryaee, this sentence had nothing to do with Persians, but rather was part of a completely Greek debate on the position of women, regarding the fact that Athenian women were forced to stay in the andron (inner sanctum of the house) so that their reputations would not be tarnished. Spartan women were different than the Athenian women, but Persian women of this period had more freedoms than either the Spartans or Athenians and not only participated in politics, but also joined the army, owned property, and ran businesses.

1-21).

A more historically faithful depiction of the Persian King Xerxes (or, also a times referred to as 'Ahasuerus' ) with his Jewish wife Esther (of the 'Book of Esther' in the Hebrew Scriptures fame, see Esther I: 1-21).

As a New Year’s gift to the Iranian Community, please share Prof. Daryaee’s excellent critique of the movie with students, friends, and relatives. It might feel as if we are trying to carve a tunnel in a huge mountain with a plastic spoon. But every single person counts. My thanks to Zari Taheri for sharing this valuable link:
http://www.iranian.com/Daryaee/2007/March/300/index.html

A Threat to All of us!

Perhaps influenced by movies of the above kind, a couple of days ago Senator Obama gave his Nowrouz gift to the Iranians by calling Iran “a threat to all of us.” An astonishingly vague, and dangerous, assertion. Please note that in the past fifty years or so, American politicians have worked to persuade the public that: Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Chile, Panama, Nicaragua, Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq were all threats to American and world security. Magically, Saudi Arabia, which produced the majority of the 9/11 hijackers, sponsors Wahhabism, and prevents its own women from driving on the streets, appears not to be a threat.

Chaharshanbe Suri

We need a break. How about watching a ‘dangerous’ Iranian family
celebrating a pre-Nowrouz event in their neighborhood? It is done on
the last Wednesday of the year by jumping over fire while asking for
its symbolic “color and warmth.” Click here: Chaharshanbeh Suri.

Nowrouz (the Iranian New Year celebration) Haftsin (click on the Nowrouz link above for more details).

A Nowrouz (the Iranian New Year celebration) Haftsin (click on the Nowrouz link above for more details).

Regime Change

* I know this is supposed to be a New Year Window. Still, Iranians are
celebrating it with talk of regime change in the background. The
concept is familiar. The people of Chile experienced it. In fact, they
had their own September 11 tragedy with an almost similar number of
casualties (3,000). On September 11, 1973  a CIA sponsored General
Augusto Pinochet conducted a coup, seized total power, and established
a military dictatorship which lasted until 1990. At the time of his
death in 2006, around 300 criminal charges in Chile were still pending
against Pinochet for human rights abuses and embezzlement during his
rule.

* I want to share an Iranian regime change with you that took place in
early 1950s. A democratically elected Iranian prime minister Mohammad
Mosaddeq (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mossadegh)  worked to nationalize
the Iranian oil industry that had been under the control of a British
company. The contracts gave Iranians next to nothing while the British
were laughing all the way to the bank. Mosaddeq was overthrown in a
joint British-American coup. Here is what the American people read on
August 6, 1954 in a New York Times’ editorial: “Underdeveloped
countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy
cost that must be paid by one of their number [Iran] which goes
berserk with fanatical nationalism.” There is another lesson in the
overthrow of Mosaddeq, one that the New York times editorial does not
mention. Be skeptical when people are presented to you as “fanatical.”
They may simply be trying to take control of their own resources. Here
is a suggested reading on this regime change if you like to see a
detailed analysis:

Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953
Coup in Iran: A Joint U.S.-British Regime Change Operation in 1953
that Holds Lessons for Today
(Syracuse University Press, 2004).
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB126/index.htm

Iranian Americans on Stage

* You have not been really integrated into a culture unless people can
laugh at you! Iranian American standing comedians are working on that.
Here is a clip from Maz Jobrani sent by my friend Hayrettin Yocesoy.
Thanks Hayrettin, this is culturally interesting, and funny too:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADU1lhEb1X0&mode=related&search

* Iranian Americans are getting themselves on another kind of stage too,
that of American politics. Beverly Hills eyes Jimmy Delshad, an
Iranian American, for mayor. Here is the report, if you like to read
more: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7770255&ft=1&f=1003

Headlines in Iran

Iran has been ready to suspend uranium enrichment, although, not as a
pre-condition to negotiations. The former Iranian president Mohammad
Khatami urged Iran to compromise on the nuclear issue to avoid further
crisis: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070312/wl_afp/irannuclearpolitics_070312113740

Visual Delight

A painting by Nilufar Baghaei (click on the link to the left for more!).

A painting by Nilufar Baghaei (click on the link to the left for more!).

Let’s see if we can revive the spirit of Nowrouz through meeting another delightful visual artist. This is a young Iranian painter and graphic artist, Nilufar Baghaei (b. 1969). Nilufar’s work is heavily inspired by children’s drawings the themes of which she explores creatively and colorfully. There you are, three themes most relevant to Nowrouz: children, creativity, and color.  To Watch Nilufar Baghaei’s art show, click here Nilufar Baghaei Art, enjoy!

Have a great spring, and see you next 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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