Posts Tagged ‘Newsweek’

Windows on Iran 53

A beautiful picture from the recent water and light art show in Tehran's Parke Mellat. Please see the end of this 'Window' for more photos from this event.

A beautiful picture from the recent water and light art show in Tehran's Parke Mellat. Please see the end of this 'Window' for more photos from this event. Also be sure to check out Brian Appleton's photo essay from his recent trip to Iran, entitled "Five Days in Tehran" (link below).

Dear All,

I hope you have had a great summer. Here at Washington University in St. Louis, we are gearing up for another lively academic year. I have a wonderful piece of news for those of you who have enjoyed these windows, shared them with friends, or taken them to your classroom, during the past two years. My stellar student Matthew Miller has started blogging the windows. He has devoted a considerable amount of time, thought, and taste to the project. Check it out for yourself: https://windowsoniran.wordpress.com/. In not so distant a future, all of the Windows on Iran will be available on line. Thank you Matt! You have done a super job.


Tehran is a World Class City

* Thanks to my friend Brian Appleton, who has just returned form a trip to Iran, I can open this window with a wonderfully detailed pictorial essay called “Five Days in Tehran.” In this essay, Brian captures what some reporters allow to get buried under layers of political conflict. That is, he brings out the vibrancy and the complexity of Iranian urban life. The subtitle to his piece reads: It is important to understand that Tehran is a world class city. Not only does he speak about events, people, and buildings but he remembers other important details: “Since the revolution, 30,000 trees have been planted in Tehran and it is one of the greenest cities you will ever see anywhere on the planet.” Before I give you that address to Brian’s great piece, I would like to add that of course not every corner of Iran is Tehran. Neither would Brian Appleton claim that. Urban life is more affluent and complex everywhere. Here is a rare opportunity for you to read about the beauty and complexity (and of course traffic jams, etc.) of city life in Iran. Thank you Brian! http://www.iranian.com/main/2008/five-days-tehran.


Iranian Olympic basketball player Hamed Ehadadi and the head coach of the Russian team, Israeli David Blatt, embrace in a show of friendship at the recent Olympic games.

Iranian Olympic basketball player Hamed Ehadadi and the head coach of the Russian team, Israeli David Blatt, embrace in a show of friendship at the recent Olympic games.

The Israeli/Iranian Embrace

* It is generally believed that sports and art are the best way to bring people together. During the current Olympic games, there were such rare moments when Israeli and Iranian athletes transcended the political conflicts and exhibited kindness and support for each other. The first attachment to this window is a Kodak moment during which an Iranian 7-foot-2 basketball player, Hamed Ehadadi and the Israeli coach of the Russian team David Blatt have posed for the camera. Earlier, another Iranian player and Blatt embraced. This simple gesture of friendship should not be so rare as to make it to the headlines. However, with the current political tensions, it is good to see any such exchanges. Thank you Omid Jan for forwarding this message.


The Israelis Against an Attack on Iran

* While we are on the subject of Iran and Israel, I should bring a very important declaration to your attention. I have, in the past, quoted Israeli politicians who have called for a military attack on Iran. It is only fair that the voices of Peace Seeking Israelis be included in these windows as well. Earlier this month, a group of Israeli academics and peace activists who call themselves “Ad Hoc Group Against Israeli Attack on Iran” issued a very important press release to publicize their declaration. Its main message: “There is no military, political or moral justification to initiate war with Iran.” This is a courageous move that will be appreciated by all peace-loving readers of these windows, most especially the Iranian segment. However, the group made no secret of the fact that the Israeli well-being is of great concern to them. “After serious consideration,” the press release went on to say “we reiterate our position that all the arguments for such an attack are without any security, political or moral justification. Israel might get caught up in an act of adventurism that could endanger our very existence, and this without any serious effort to exhaust the political and diplomatic alternatives to armed conflict.” To read the entire declaration, please visit: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0808/S00077.htm.


Open Letter to Senator Obama

* Here in the U.S.. many are concerned with the same issue. Here is an open letter sent to Senator Obama on August 14 concerning the dangers of U.S./Iran confrontation: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21735.


Iranian “Star Students” in Newsweek

* I have often talked about the negative light in which the Iranian culture is presented to the American public. This, unfortunately, has impacted the general language used to speak about Iran. The result is that even positive matters are often articulated in a pessimistic manner that counters its positive nature. Let me give you an example.

* There is a piece in the August 18-25 ’08 issue of the Newsweek describing the success of the Iranian students which is a very interesting piece to analyze with the above point in mind. The core news is that, in the field of science, some of the best undergraduates in the world are being trained in Iranian universities. This should be cause for celebration. Not quite. First, we are given the feeling that all of that is on the brink of disappearing. I have no problems with pointing to economic (and other) problems that Iran faces. I am not even talking about exaggerations like “University professors barely make ends meet—the pay is so bad some must even take second jobs as taxi drivers or petty traders.” Yes, Iranian economy is not doing particularly well, but relatively speaking, Iranian professors are good wage earners.

My real problem with the piece is that it views the Iranian students’ success as an anomaly which requires an extraordinary explanation. And here it is: “When you live in Iran and you see all the frustrations of daily life, you dream of leaving the country, and your books and studies become a ticket to a better life,” says one who asked not to be identified. “It becomes more than just studying,” he says. “It becomes an obsession, where you wake up at 4 a.m. just to get in a few more hours before class.” In other words, when other cultures make educational success, they are bright. When Iranians do that, they are frustrated and obsessive.

And finally the piece adds: “Iran’s success, in other words, is also the country’s tragedy: students want nothing more than to get away the moment they graduate.”

I don’t want to discourage you from reading the piece. In fact here is the link: http://www.newsweek.com/id/151684. But it is truly amazing, how the American media has developed a talent for casting the most positive matters related to Iran in a negative light.


The Smallest School in the World

The young Iranian students diligently at work in the smallest school in the world.

Young Iranian students diligently at work in the "smallest school in the world." Please click on the picture to visit the teacher's blog and check out all the great pictures of the students and their school.

* Now that you know about the star students in Iran, I would like you to see why I think the cynicism in the Newsweek article is unwarranted. In other words, Iranians are not promoting learning in their communities so that good students can leave the country. Like many other people in the world, they care deeply about education. In a small and remote village in the southern province of Boushehr, a young man has established a school for 4 students to make sure they get their primary education properly (see the pictures above and below). And please bear in mind, this is not a propaganda tool of the Islamic Republic. The resourceful young teacher Abdolmohammad Sha’rani who runs the school has a personal blog in which he writes about the village, the people, and of course the school. Remember I told you a while back Iranians are number four bloggers in the world. Do visit Sha’rani’s blog, even if you don’t read Persian and enjoy the pictures he has taken of this tiny fishing village on the Persian Gulf: http://www.dayyertashbad.blogfa.com/ Thank you Bahar for forwarding this information.

Two young Iranian students who look quite pleased with their new school supplies! Please visit his blog for many more great pictures of the students and their school.

Two young Iranian students who look quite pleased with their new school supplies! Please click on the picture to visit the teacher's blog and check out all the great pictures of the students and their school.


Iranian Zahra Karimi has won the womens gold medal at the 2008 Wushu World Championships.

Iranian Zahra Karimi won the women's gold medal at the recent 2008 Wushu World Championships.

Iranian Zahra Karimi Wins Gold in Wushu

* An Iranian woman by the name of Zahra Karimi has won the women’s gold medal at the 2008 Wushu World Championships, held in Beijing along side the Olympic Games: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=67454&sectionid=3510211.



The Photographer Capturing Rural Life in Iran

* In these windows, I have usually brought you images from urban life in Iran. This is mostly because I have always found the complexity of Iranian urban life to be the aspect which is not as well known as it should be. However, today, courtesy of my cousin Abe Massoudi, I have the opportunity to introduce to you the great work of a contemporary Iranian photographer who has dedicated almost his entire career to taking photographs of Iranians living in rural parts of the country. Nasrullah Kasraian, who has had many exhibits and published over 30 collections of his photographs, is a national figure in Iran. Please click on the link to view some of his stunning images. Enjoy! http://www.jadidonline.com/images/stories/flash_multimedia/Kasraiian_test/kasraiian_eng_high.html.


Another beautiful picture from the recent water and light art show in Tehran's Parke Mellat. Please see the link to the left for more photos from the event.

Another beautiful picture from the recent water and light art show in Tehran's Parke Mellat. Please see the link to the left for more photos from the event.

Water Show in the National Park

* I opened this window with a look at the city of Tehran. Here is a visual delight from the same city to close Window 53, a great Water and Light show from Tehran’s Parke Mellat courtesy of my friend Farimah. Please click here: Water and Light Show in Tehran’s Parke Mellat.

Till next Window, have a great end of the summer.

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

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

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

Hi Everyone,

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

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

Current Issues

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Visual Delight

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

Have a great week!


Fatemeh 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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