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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

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Arian Band. One of the most popular pop/rock bands in Iran.

The Arian Band. One of the most popular pop/rock bands in Iran. Scroll down to learn more about them and other contemporary musicians in Iran.

Hi Everyone!

I hope you have all had a very good weekend. It looks like Monday nights
is going to be a more likely night to send out the windows. Many thanks
for all your words of encouragement and for placing interested friends,
relatives, and colleagues on the list. This is a drop in the sea as we
say in Persian, but I am sure there is saying in every language to the
effect that every drop counts. So, here we go again, Window number 7 is
waiting for you.

Current Issues:

* How could there be any other current issue when Mr. Ahmadinejad is
visiting the U.S.? During such visits, Iranians usually hold their
breath for the next inflammatory remark he will make. If you are
among those who get really irritated — and I don’t blame you at
all — just remember that President Bush included Iran in “The
Axis of Evil” when President Khatami was in office and did his
best to start a “dialogue between civilizations.”  What the
American media carefully overlooks is that much of the world —
perhaps due to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s criticism of American foreign
policy — has shown him a fairly receptive attitude. 118 member
states of the Non-Aligned countries issued a statement in support
of Iranian nuclear technology at the end of their 14th summit last
week (September 18, 2006).

* Here is what Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a U.N. press conference
(September 21, 2006), answering the question “What can Iran do to
assure the international community that the country is not making
a nuclear bomb?” He responded:  “The IAEA has published many
reports. Numerous reports saying that they do not see any
violation of the treaty requirements of NPT by the Iranian
government. … I am at a loss, in understanding what else we need
to do, to provide guarantees. I have said to the dear gentleman
here. That there is no provision in the NPT that says. That we do
not have the right– that, perhaps it says– that we need the vote
or the confidence of the U.S. government to have peaceful nuclear
technology. There is no such provision. … Should Iran shut down
every technological development? In the biological field? And the
medical field? And the chemical field? Because, in any of these
fields, there’s a possibility of dual usage. Possibly a chemical
bomb. So when we speak of justice. We mean that everyone is equal.
When we act within the framework of international law and follow
the provisions of the NPT. … It’s very important to make these
nuclear facilities program a transparent one … there’s no need
to hide such development. …we’ve actually given information to
the IAEA. We’ve invited international world community to visit our
facilities. Now, we are told, by some, that, “You have to gain our
trust and confidence.” But we don’t have any criteria developed
for confidence-building, as such. It may take a hundred years or
more for you to gain confidence, in what we do. What are we
supposed to do given the context that in the past 27 years. You’ve
demonstrated so much hostility towards our nation. …” (Thank you
Amir Ali Companieh for forwarding the whole interview).

* Last week theatrical events at the U.N. were also interesting to
watch. Mr. Chavez (whose personal attack on Mr. Bush is – in my
opinion – unprofessional for a head of a state) received a
standing ovation. The American media showed little alarm at the
world’s anti-American sentiments and explained the support
for Chavez and for Ahmadinejad to be the result of these two
countries large oil reservoirs. This hypothesis is simplistic and
disrespectful of world opinion. And it can be tested. Next time
the Saudi Arabian representative speaks at the U.N., watch the
reception he gets. We need — in my opinion — to be concerned
with the fact that these two politicians (Chavez & Ahmadinejad)
get away with much simply because of their outspoken criticism of
U.S. foreign policy.

Science

* Fortunately, the Iranian President returned home, and we can now
attend to more interesting matters. A very young Iranian American
scientist Nima Arkani Hamed has been in the news lately (I heard
about him thanks to my friend Behfar Dianati). Nima Arkani Hamed,
currently a professor of physics at Harvard is a leading scientist
in particle physics and string theory.  For a short biography and
reference to his work click on:
http://www.anvari.org/iran/Famous_Iranians/Nima_Arkani-Hamed.html
(It looks like I should keep a regular section on Iranian
Americans).

Art/Culture

* How about a cookbook for a starter? I would recommend any cookbook
by Batmanglij, particularly Persian Cooking for a Healthy Kitchen

http://www.amazon.com/gp/explorer/0934211671/2/ref=pd_lpo_ase/102-6161793-5949765
Do scroll down and look at two other titles: New Food for Life and
— particularly if you are vegetarian like me — Silk Road
Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey by the same author. You will not be
disappointed.

* No, I am not resorting to cookbooks because I have run out of
subjects. Just trying to keep this exchange healthy and wholesome.
Since we are on a touristic subjects, let me tell you that Iran is
trying hard to tell the world that it is visitable. Beautiful
hotels are being built around the country. I have chosen one that
is not just beautiful but rather unusual. A traditional building
in a mountainous location in the North Eastern province of
Azerbaijan (close to the city of Tabriz) has been converted into a
hotel. Click here (Mountain Hotel–Tabriz) to see!

* The category we have not approached at all is Persian music.
Most people are not sure if musical activity has continued in
Iran after the ascendancy of the Islamic Republic in 1979.  Well,
attempts were made by extremist groups to curtail music and other
performing arts in the early 1980s. However, it did not get very
far. If anything, it made music a hot topic. Most music classes
keep long wait lists. Persian traditional music remains very
popular. I will at some point introduce you to some contemporary
master musicians of classical Persian music. In this window,
however, I would like to concentrate on the two kinds of music
that most of you would not expect to find in Iran. First, the
Iranian Symphony Orchestra is alive and well and performs
regularly. Last August, it performed in Germany (amid speculation
in the western media that the Islamic republic will not allow the
musicians to perform in the west):
<>http://www.payvand.com/news/06/aug/1331.html

* Even more surprising for non-Iranians is to hear about: modern
Iranian Rock and Pop bands. To read a report on that, click on:
http://www.flyglobalmusic.com/fly/archives/africamiddle_east_features/the_young_iran.html
be sure to scroll down to get to web addresses of individual
groups. Arian is among the most popular Iranian Pop groups and has
two women in the band. Last May, when I was in Iran, I saw at
least 8 or 9 CDs by them in music stores. Here is their web page.
Do click on English for more pictures: http://www.arianmusic.com/

Visual Delight

* And we will follow our tradition of visiting some contemporary
Iranian painters’ studios before closing Window number 7.  Here
are three delightful Iranian women painters and samples of their
works:

First, Nadimeh Abdollahi (b. 1980)
http://www.caroun.com/Painting/IranPainting/NadimehAbdollahi/NadimehAbdollahi.html

The second artist is Sahar Seyedi (b.1972)
http://www.caroun.com/Painting/IranPainting/SaharSeyedi/SaharSeyedi.html

And finally, Miranda Ansari (b. 1971)
http://www.caroun.com/Painting/IranPainting-01/MirandaAnsari/MirandaAnsari.html

I wish you all a very a good 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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