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Dear All,

Greetings! I hope you are keeping warm wherever you are. I have not opened a new window for a while. My daughter e-mailed me two days ago and said “Mom, aren’t you sending out a new window? There is a lot of nonsense  in the media about Iran!” I am working on my next book, and I guess I was just trying to make all  the political conflict go away so I can live the life most academics do: enjoying the classroom and carrying on research. All Iranians have that feeling from time to time. But my daughter has a point. There is just too much going on inside and outside Iran for these windows to stay closed. So, here it comes, update number fourteen!

Winter Celebration

Let us start with a fun cultural topic, something all Iranians of different age and ethnic background celebrate, Yalda, the heart of the winter, the longest night of the year. The actual Yalda night has passed. It is usually celebrated on December 21st. But it is still winter, and nights are cold and long. Take a look at the way Iranians celebrate that night to warm up the winter.

Celebrating the Anniversary of the 1979 Revolution

On Saturday February 11, the Islamic Republic celebrated the 33rd anniversary of the 1979 Revolution with a major rally that brought thousands of people to the streets. The government has been showcasing images from the rally to indicate popular support and therefore legitimacy. However, people working in government offices have smuggled out images of memos, such as the one I post below, sent to heads of units instructing them to bring their employes out for the rally and reminding them that attendance would be taken to ensure full participation.

Example of the memo sent by the Iranian officials to institutions demanding full participation by the employees in the February 11 rally threatening that attendance will be taken.

Peaceful March by the Opposition

The peaceful rally announced by the opposition for Tuesday, February 14, however, met with full militarization of the announced routes and arrests of over 400 people in Tehran and other cities, particularly in Shiraz. The main objective of the rally was to protest the house arrest of Zahra Rahnavard, Mir Hussein Mousavi, and Mahdi Karrubi whose objections to the result of the 2009 disputed general election led to the their captivity without trial. Their house arrest just entered its second year. You can join the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran demanding their freedom, here.

Mousavi, Rahnavard, and Karrubi are under house arrest and cut off from the world without a trial. Their fault is objecting to the results of the 2009 disputed election

Iranian Women Scholars and Activists Going Strong

As the Iranian Supreme Leader, Mr. Ali Khamenei spoke about marriage and motherhood as the first duty of every woman, Iranian women scholars and activists held a major conference about women in Muslim countries. The conference was organized by the Society of Iranian Women Historians.  Read the full report here (in Persian).

The organizers expressed appreciation to Afsaneh Najmabadi, the Harvard scholar for participation in the conference and her over all contributions

The Poster for the Conference Organized by Iranian women historians

To remember how such simple but brave acts of exploration and self-expression can be in present day Iran, read about the two Iranian bloggers Vahid Asghari and Hosseing Derakhshan both likely to face the death squad because of running blogs which presented the Iranian government in a poor light and “enticed the population to rebel.” It is kind of ironic to kill people for demonstrating that life in Iran is better than they have suggested! Read more here.

Iranian Woman Engineer Invented Metal Foam

While on the topic of Iranian women, watch this short video about Afsaneh Rabiei, an Iranian woman engineer living and teaching in the United States who just invented something rare and apparently very useful: metal foam

Iran and Syria

Back to politics, the Iranian Regime has put itself in a dire situation by continuing to support the much hated regime of Assad now responsible for the death of over 6,000 Syrian citizens. The Syrian protesters, who have repeatedly sent messages of support to the Iranian people, view the Iranian government as one of the forces that has kept the regime of Assad from falling. In an unprecedented rally held on February 18 in the center of Damascus, close to Assad’s residence and the Iranian Embassy, the Syrians expressed anger at the people inside the embassy whom they referred to as armed thugs. See the full article in New York Times.

Massive demonstration in central Damascus against Assad and the Iranian Regime keeping him in power (reported in New York Times)

Extensive Sanctions on Iran and New Conflicts

Before I get any deeper into the details of the recent conflicts between western countries and Iran and look at a possible clash between Iran and Israel, let me say that although I find the Iranian foreign policy deeply flawed and in places totally unacceptable, I still disagree with our popular media here in the U.S. when it speaks of the “threat” of Iran in no uncertain terms. This view is overly simplistic and not backed by the facts that we actually know about the abilities and intentions of the Iranian government. Those who base their assertions on facts that are available to us often agree with me. I have collected a number of articles for you published by respectable activists, politicians, and investigative journalists here, here, and here. Furthermore, there are those scholars and journalists who believe that marginalization of Iran will indeed lead to more serious conflicts, here. More recently, there has been talk of the need to take military action to curb the threat Iran causes the world and particularly Israel.

There is every indication that unlike the past when the Iranian government took such threats with a pinch of salt, this time it is preparing itself for such an eventuality, here, and here. This is in part because the sanctions are beginning to show their effects in the daily lives of the Iranians. The situation has gotten particularly difficult since the sanctions were imposed on Iranian Central Bank. Indeed, the  economic conditions may deteriorate so much that a war might seem like a way out (at least to certain factions within the Iranian government), here. The worst threat, however, lies in allowing the tension to escalate because, as Trita Parsi observes in this piece, without renewed diplomacy things can get out of control in the Persian Gulf even if neither side is trying to start a war. For Trita’s essay look here. Before I end this segment, however, let me give you another article on the horrors of the military option for all sides, here. I deeply believe we must avoid such a conflict – which I could see as developing into a far deadlier conflict than the one with Iraq.

Okay, let us just take a look at a beautiful recent image from Iran. Let us take a look at this peaceful night in the Naqsh Jahan Square in Isfahan to change the mood for a moment before we get to more politics.

This is what peace looks like on an ordinary evening in the main square in Isfahan!

Skirmishes with Israel, and the Iranian Schindler

Iran and Israel have been savaging each other verbally at least for the past two decades though the media here mostly highlight the Iranian side, particularly when it can be read as anti-Semitic. A recent example is the assertion by the Iranian Supreme Leader who compared the problems caused by Israel in the region to a “cancer.” I must admit, I find the metaphor very harsh and totally unacceptable to be applied to any country even though the Iranian officials claim that it applies to the government of Israel and its aggressive and destructive impact on Palestinian lives and not to the Jews. If you are an Iranian, and hearing about the above remark makes you feel bad, read this article which was sent to me by a loving Jewish friend. It is called the Iranian Schindler, and it makes you remember the kinds of Iranians whom we forget because of the current conflicts, here. Or, take a look at this picture which is just over two years old. It was taken when President Ahmadinejad visited Tehran Polytechnic:

The sign reads: Fascist President, Polytechnic is not for you!

What is remarkable in the recent events is the pressure on the Iranian Supreme Leader due to severe sanctions, Israeli threats to attack Iran (and don’t forget Israel currently has nuclear weapons), the assassination of four Iranian scientists in the past two years (widely seen as the work of Israeli intelligence), and internal conflicts.  Unless you visit sites such as the Counterpunch, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, however, you are unlikely to see an argument for the way the Iranian leader would view the role that Israel has been playing in these assassinations. If you like to see one such argument, take a look at the piece by Ismael Hossein Zadeh, the Iranian economist at Drake University, here. In short, Mr. Khamenei’s angry remarks, and his choice of a more aggressive tone, are a reflection of this point of view.

Another sign of this change of tone, in the Supreme Leader’s talk mentioned above, was his clear reference to having supported Hizbullah in pushing the Israeli army out of Southern Lebanon after its July 2006 invasion. The Iranian government had never acknowledged that fact before.

Such tensions between Iran and Israel are not totally new. Still, the temperature rose dramatically when Mr. Panetta, the American Secretary of Defense, was described in a Washington Post column on February 2nd as being worried about the growing possibility that Israel will attack Iran over the next few months. According to the column, Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June, before Iran enters what Israelis describe as a zone of immunity to commence building a nuclear bomb. Ever since, Mr. Panetta has been trying to avoid making further comments on the subject, here. But the initial observation drew a range of angry responses from Iranian officials.

Furthermore, amidst the Israeli expressions of fear of an existential threat from Iran, the Iranian government has since announced further progress in developing home made techniques for uranium enrichment (though it maintains that none of it is for building a bomb). In other words, threats and assassinations don’t seem to do much except putting the two countries on a collision course. One can only hope that sanity will prevail.

Never Mind their Nuclear Program!

A lovely, ex-student of mine has sent this lighthearted article about a group of Iranian women training in martial arts in a state-sponsored all-women Ninja club 28 miles northwest of Tehran. It’s called “Iran has an army of deadly Ninja Women.” It just shows a side of Iran you don’t usually get to see. I post one picture below but you can read the full article here.

A Member of the Iranian Ninja women

Wedding On the Sabalaan Peak

Let us close this window with a happy picture, one that is about love and union rather than war and conflict. Muslim Najafi and Maryam Fekri two young Iranian climbers celebrated their wedding on the peak of Mount Sabalaan in north eastern Iran. It is good to know that political conflict and economic hardship does not stop normal life for young people.

Muslim Najafi and Maryam Fekri got married on Mount Sabalaan!

Have a great week!

Fatemeh

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Iranian students flooded the streets and campus today, December 7th, 2009. See the videos below for live coverage.

Iranian students flooded the streets and campus today, December 7th, 2009. See the videos below for live coverage.

Dear All,

This window is dedicated to the brave Iranian students who came out today on Students Day in large numbers to make it clear that their protests to the June general  election, and the way it has been handled by the government, are far from over. With security forces everywhere, including the entrance to hospitals, peaceful unarmed protesters were subjected to teargas, pepper gas, physical assault and arrest. The government of Iran had extended the religious holiday of Ghadir in the hope that the students would return to their home towns and today’s protests would remain small. The scope and intensity of the demonstrations, however, made it clear that many students did not take advantage of the offer. Furthermore, many non-students joined them in their protests. In this clip, Amir Kabir Students open the door and let in the outside protesters into the university:

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Protests Continue Amidst Arrests
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Incoming reports, limited to eyewitness accounts, and short clips taken by cell phones and posted on youtube, indicate that the protests continued in many cities in Iran, amidst arrests and attacks, into the afternoon and early evening hours. The most common slogan addressed to the members of the Revolutionary Guards militia, the Basij, was “How much money do you get to wield that baton?” This particular clip was taken from facebook and posted on the NIAC website: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=105011899516362.
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Locations of the Student Protests

The Iranian government suspended the permits of the foreign press momentarily so they could not report the student protests of today. Perhaps they would have been wiser to permit proper reporting. Below there are clips of student demonstrations across Iran. Pieced together, they picture an ominous future for the regime which seems unable to overcome its state of denial of the reality. I could have added many more clips.
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Tehran University:

Ilam University:


Karaj University:

Tabriz University:

Mashhad Azad University:

Streets of Tehran:

Streets of Tehran:

Khajeh Naseer University:

Elm o San’at University:

Elm o San’at University:

Elm o San’at University:

Amir Kabir University:

Amir Kabir University:

Sharif University:

Kerman University:

Isfahan University:

Qazvin University:

Gilan University:

Hormoszgan University:

Honar Unviersity:

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Here are some more, available on Facebook:

Tehran University: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=105011899516362.

Tehran Azad University: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=104953809521406&ref=mf.

Beheshti University: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=104960846187369&ref=mf.

Mashhad University: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=104944512855669&ref=mf.

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Toronto Laser Show in Support of Iran Protests

* Some major cities in the world predicted the events of today and expressed solidarity with Iranian protesters. Let me share the video of a beautiful modern art work that the Canadians made to express their support for these protesters and the Green Movement as a whole.

* A high-power green laser projected on the Sky dome/Rogers Center to bring awareness to the current situation in Iran . Thousands of residents of Toronto were able to see the projections from their apartments, homes and on the streets below.  Watch it all the way (approximately six minutes) with the speakers on to hear the music:


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Zahrah Rahnavard, Mousavi’s Wife, attacked Outside Tehran University

* Today’s demonstrations were used by government forces to make targeted attacks. Among these was an attack with pepper spray on Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of the presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi. Rahnavard, whose eye sight has been effected, is in hospital.

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Mousavi’s Youth Campaign Organizer Arrested

* Another victim of the police was Mohamad Ja’far Tahmasebi, the cultural coordinator of the student organization affiliated with Mr. Mousavi’s campaign. He was arrested today while protesting with fellow students in Tehran.

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Faezeh Hashemi Among the Students

* On the positive side, the student protesters were visited by Faezeh Hashemi, one time representative of Tehran in the Majlis, and daughter of the two times president Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani. She was warmly recieved and thanked by the demonstrators:

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Students of Iranian Descent in Holland

* Before closing this special window, I am going to turn to another struggle the Iranian students have been facing in another part of the world.

* Court Hearing in case of Iranian Students, 10 December 2009: Since July 2008, the Dutch Government has banned Iranian citizens, as well as Dutch citizens of Iranian descent, from parts of certain university graduate programs. In addition, five locations have been designated as forbidden for the latter group. This measure is presumably meant to avoid the ‘proliferation of sensitive information. Iranian students have been objecting to this ban arguing that securing any information can be perfectly achieved without such a discriminatory measure.

* The Campaign of Iranian Students has taken legal actions against the Dutch government, and the case will soon appear before the court. Although the initial assessments are promising, the students have asked for public support, especially in the form of their presence during the court hearing. The court hearing is scheduled on Thursday, the 10th of December at 10:30 am at the Palace of Justice in The Hague.
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Put Your Gun Down!

* There are reports that at least one student has died in Iran today. One can only hope that the Iranian authorities see the reality of the situation and realize that violence will not calm the struggle for reform in Iran. I was looking for a piece of art that would heal the sadness caused by today’s events, and I thought of the Iranian master vocalist Mohamad Reza Shajarian. He has a song based on lyrics by the celebrated contemporary poet Fereidun Moshiri. The refrain to this song, which Mr. Shajarian dedicated to the Green Movement in Iran reads:  “Put your gun down!”  It is the most fitting piece to end this window:

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Please remember to share the website https://windowsoniran.wordpress.com/ with friends.

Good Night,

Fatemeh

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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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