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  • 23 December 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 2 Comments
  • Culture, Diplomacy

The Deep South Thanks the Iranian People

The Deep South has found a partner to resolve its healthcare woes: Iran.

A recent Times Online article has discovered how local health officials, consultants, and doctors working in the Mississippi Delta region have partnered with Iranian health officials and strategists to address their financial woes and lacking healthcare system.

The grim reality facing local Delta residents include:

Some of the worst health statistics in the country, including infant mortality rates for non-whites at Third World levels…The southern state has the highest levels of child obesity, hypertension and teenage pregnancy in the US. More than 20% of its people have no health insurance.

James Miller – a consultant based in Mississippi brought in to advise a hospital facing financial difficulty – was shocked when he found out Mississippi had, “the third highest medical expenditure per capita, but came last in terms of outcome.”

When mapping out a strategy to turn around the state’s appalling results, Miller recalled a European health conference where Iranian health officials presented their revolutionary healthcare policy :

Facing shortages of money and trained doctors at the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, the new government launched a system based on community ‘health houses’, each serving about 1,500 people.

Locals were trained as health workers known as behvarz, who would travel their area, dispensing advice about healthy eating, sanitation and contraception as well as monitoring blood pressure and conditions such as diabetes.

It was a stunning success, reducing child mortality rates by 69% and maternal mortality in rural areas from 300 per 100,000 births to 30. There are now 17,000 health houses in Iran, covering more than 90% of its rural population of 23m.

Miller, and a number of other healthcare advocates, embarked on a campaign to incorporate the Iranian “health houses” strategy into the Mississippi system by partnering with Iranian universities and health officials and winning over local residents. While the campaign to incorporate the system may be an uphill battle, its success can have far-reaching implications:

‘The Iranians are a proud people with 5,000 years of history and huge contributions to science and medicine,’ said a State Department official.

‘A project like the Mississippi one is incredibly powerful as it appeals to that Iranian concept of history. It’s a great way to keep the door open between the two countries.’

Paula Gutlove – deputy director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies – points out similar meetings between American and Soviet scientists in the 1980s helped pave the way for the end of the cold war. “What we did in the 1980s created lasting relationships which cut across the divide,” she said.

‘It’s a win-win project,’ said Dr. Aaron Shirley, a leading health campaigner. ‘Not only do we finally have a way of addressing disparities in Mississippi, but also building relations between peoples.’”

  • 18 December 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 5 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

The Basiji Road

“Now that I look back on it, I feel those men deserve pity,” says Ebrahim Mehtari.  He is responding to an Al Jazeera English interview question, asking “If you could face your torturers again, what would you say to them?”

“It’s a difficult question, but I feel they are more tortured than me…[They] need help. Because these guys – knowingly or unknowingly – have become part of a system which has turned them into machines of torture and death.”

Ebrahim Mehtari – a pro-democracy campaigner and a participant in the protests that happened after the 2009 election in June – provides an interesting perspective on the Basijis and the crackdown that ensued as a result of Iran’s unrest. Mehtari himself physically abused and sexually assaulted at the hands of Iran’s hardline security forces, believes that the polarized narratives between the government and its basiji forces against opposed – or even non-aligned – citizenry creates an identity clash that justifies extreme violence and violations of human rights.

“The reality is that even those who claim that they do not know what is occurring in the jails are only deceiving themselves. Many illegal prisons exist inside Iran where, once the prisoner is incarcerated, his jailers believe they own him.

They tear you apart because they have lost their humanity and see you just as an animal would. For them, the end justifies the means.

For a long time they have been dividing people into two groups: Either ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’; and ‘outsiders’ have no rights. Inside Iran’s prisons, anything can easily happen.”

This viewpoint is substantiated by a former Basij member himself who tells of his experience right before and after the June election in Iran:

“Any hint of protest was to be firmly supressed. If anything occured, to attack. Attacking people meant nothing. As I told you, anyone who thought differently to Ayatollah Khamenei and outside of the Velayat Faqih [the Iranian Supreme Leader] was considered an outsider. Therefore his protest has no place, therefore his opinion and protest is meaningless.

It was simple. It was not for us to think anything of them – both voters and protesters. In our view, it was not a protest against the issue but a protest against Ayatollah Khamenei himself. And it’s just not comprehensible to us that someone should want to question him. He is our guide.”

Mehtari also opines that while Iran’s government expresses itself as following the highest moral principles found in Islam, Mehtari and the opposition are filled with disgust to such blatant “lying”:

“For a long time Iran’s rulers have spoken a great deal about morality – and to be fair, part of this ruling system was genuinely moral – but today my country is infected by a disease of lying and immorality, and this sickness is spreading throughout the state.

The people shouting in the streets whose blood is spilled, who are tortured and raped in the prisons or killed, or suffer other hardships at the hands of the system – everything they endure is the result of a disease called “the lie”, and the loss of morality.

And at the same time, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad can – blatantly – sit on that chair, stand on that platform at the UN and announce that ‘I am coming from a country where people are very hospitable’.

When those men can sit in front of cameras and stand on platforms and say: ‘We are all moralists, we are the sacred Islamic Republic system …’ perhaps they should delete the word ‘sacred’.

He and his cabinet spread nothing but superstition, lies, insults and immorality.”

This dissonance between the Iranian government and its citizenry also finds itself building rifts within the Basij and Iranian security forces as well. The immorality triggered the interviewed former Basij member into disillusionment as he observed the atrocities and abdication of Islamic morality that he swore to uphold:

“This is such a heavy burden, my head hurts. The faces, the screams are with me every moment. It’s not something you can forget or separate yourself from.

They [the captured protesters] were pleading, they were crying, they wanted help.

There were two men of the Sepah [IRGC officers] and they came forward as we approached. We asked what all the noise was about. They said ‘Nothing, this is Fath Al Moin (aid to victory).’ We said, ‘What do you mean, what are you doing? Who’s in there?’

Because they were Basij from the provinces we didn’t know them. We asked: ‘What’s happening, why are they crying?’

As we pursued the matter the confrontation got worse and they said ‘You have no right to enter.’ My relative said: ‘What do you mean? I’m one of the leaders here. You can’t tell me I have no right.’ And it really was so, but they didn’t allow us entry. We were all responsible and we clashed. After a few minutes a vehicle came into the courtyard.

Someone must have alerted the others that we were trying to prevent them from achieving what they set out to do, the Fath Al Moin.

They had come for us to prevent the scene from deteriorating. They said our superior had summoned us. They said, ‘Let’s go. Haji wants to speak to you.’ My relative was furious and very frustrated.

When we got there he said, ‘What is this? Sexual abuse is a serious crime. Who gave this order? Who authorised this? Haji calmly replied with a smile, ‘This is Fath Al Moin. It’s a worthy deed. There’s nothing wrong with it. Why are you complaining?’

When he said this Haji thought it would calm my relative down to know this. But the opposite happened, he became more upset. He raised his voice saying, “What do you mean it’s not a recognised crime? That it’s a good deed? Haji saw that he had lost control and said, ‘What’s the big deal? Nothing’s happened. What is the issue here?’

My relative said again, ‘What do you mean what’s the big deal? Is there anything more filthy than this, more ugly than this? With children, these are children, they haven’t done anything. They’re from our own home town.’

Haji saw that he couldn’t control him, that he wanted to return to the base and stop what was going on. He [Haji] said: ‘You can stay here for now. Tomorrow we’ll have a meeting about it, we can discuss it and see what the issue is.’

I insisted on staying with him. But Haji said: ‘You go and rest and we’ll get him home. You go, the driver will take you home and wait there. We’ll call you.’

The pain and the shame in front of people and before God. I’ve lost my world and my religion. I never thought that these matters could be contaminated like this. I thought that I was continuing the path of my uncles and our martyrs. All my interest and enthusiasm: to have the integrity for martyrdom.

We really saw ourselves as upstanding and separate from others. We really believed that what we did was correct, that we were serving the people, that we were serving God and that our mission was nothing but worshipping God. But now I am ashamed in front of people, even say that I was mistaken, and I am ashamed in front of my religion. I committed crimes, knowingly and unknowingly.

Now I’m left with my conscience punishing me for what I did. I hope that God and people forgive me.”

To Twitter or Not to Twitter

“It was Sullivan who famously proclaimed ‘The Revolution Will Be Twittered’ and called Twitter ‘the critical tool for organizing the resistance in Iran,’” writes Evgeny Morozov a Foreign Policy blogger and Georgetown University Fellow. “It is easy to see why so many pundits accepted this narrative: they had seen something similar before,” he continues, referring to the “Velvet Revolutions” of Eastern Europe during the eighties and nineties.

However, Morozov quickly points out the fundamental flaw in such pre-emptive victories:

“In reality…this new media ecosystem [like Facebook and Twitter] is very much like the old game of ‘Telephone,’ in which errors steadily accumulate in the transmission process, and the final message has nothing in common with the original.”

Morozov’s critique – in the Fall 2009 issue of Dissent – on the opinion that Iran’s protest movement is somehow catalyzed through the conduits of social networking would make any postmodern thinker at least grin. However, Morozov posits that it is wishful thinking and arrogance on the side of Western democracy exporters who believe that the gadgets and toys for capitalist mass consumption can be seriously considered a source for “real change”.

  • 4 December 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 3 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Make It A Team Effort

A recent AFP article reveals the growing frustration of Russia and China in Iran’s attitude toward compliance with the IAEA. Traditionally dependable allies of Iran, both Russia and China supported the IAEA resolution on Nov. 26 censuring on Iran due for its undisclosed nuclear facility in Qom. This has led some to believe there may be a chance for another round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran.

“Russia supports the idea of sanctions against Iran,” said Fyodor Lukianov, editor of the Russian foreign policy journal Russia in Global Affairs.

“The real question will be ‘what kind of sanctions’? There will be deep disagreement, and Russia will not support very tough sanctions like those sought by the United States,” he warned.

But for its part, China is not willing even to go that far.

China, which relies on Iran for oil imports, has made no public change of position, and experts warned that while it might appear to support a tougher sanctions regime it would work behind the scenes to weaken it.

“China has joined to put pressure on Tehran. In Western eyes this is progress, but this is not sanctions,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at the People’s University of Beijing.

“China’s position on sanctions on Iran is generally to dilute sanctions. I have not seen any indication that China is willing to put severe sanctions on Tehran. China still has huge energy cooperation with Iran.”

Russia and China play a vital role in any effort to influence Iran’s behavior, and the West would do well to remember that a multilateral approach is the only way to go.

  • 4 December 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Iran Election 2009, Iranian Youth, Sanctions

Ahmadinejad – Not an Economist

The immediate aftermath of the 2009 Iranian election brought heated debate about whether the election was stolen or not. Six months on, while the general consensus is that it was a questionable vote, the debate has since morphed into a question of whether or not Mahmoud Amadinejad enjoys majority support.

Analysts in the past posited the idea of “two Irans” – akin to our own “two Americas” during our recent electoral cycle – where big city “urbanites” (usually associated with elite or privileged classes of Iranian society) were the predominant supporters of Mousavi and the “Green Wave”, pitted against rural (poorer) demographics that sided with Ahmadinejad. However, a recent polling article reveals that the Iranian regime may be losing the backing of some of its rural base.

Study Reveals Ahmadinejad Supporters in Rural Areas No Longer Back Him

…The two post-election polls showed that 39 percent of the youth and 23 percent of the older age group who had voted for Ahmadinejad now regretted their vote. The stated reasons for this: the raping, killing, and torture of young men and women who had participated in demonstrations after the June elections and the realization that Ahmadinejad was to blame for the economic situation.

…32 percent of the entire population live in such rural and small urban areas.

One young rural Mousavi supporter paints the picture of the growing frustration with Ahmadinejad and the regime in the rural and small town areas of Iran:

“Look, I am not educated and I don’t understand politics the way [an informed individual does]. This village has a population I think of around 8,000. My guess is Ahmadinejad got 50 percent of the votes. He is not as loved in the provinces, or at least here, as much as city folk think he is. I personally know three-hundred people from amongst friends, family, and acquaintances who voted for Moussavi. Now they say in our entire village only 43 people voted for him. Do they take me for a fool?”

Thus it seems that the government’s claims that the opposition is confined only to North Tehran’s urban elite may not actually be true. 

  • 12 November 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 3 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran

A Proxy War in Yemen?

The protracted conflict in Northern Yemen has become “a bit” more complicated – sarcasm intended – with Saudi Arabia joining the fray in attempting to destroy the Houthi rebels. However, what has become the source of serious debate is not so much the heavy fighting that is most likely taking and displacing so many lives, but whether Iran – according to both the Saudi and Yemeni government – is actually supporting the Houthi rebellion.

A recent article by Scott Peterson suggests that an Iranian-Houthi connection is more fiction than fact, and posits that such hyperbole distracts from the Houthis’ actual claims of mistreatment by the Yemeni government. As the article points out:

“Iran’s influence may be marginal. ‘There is probably next to no Iranian involvement. I have seen no evidence for it [and] it’s really a bit too far afield,’ says Joost Hiltermann, the deputy Middle East program director for the International Crisis Group (ICG) in Washington.

A Saudi source…told Agence France-Presse that there was no evidence of active Iranian involvement in the Yemen conflict.

This gets played off as Sunni-Shia, and it’s wrong,” says Hiltermann of ICG. ‘The Shia of Yemen are more Sunni than any other Shia in the world. And the Sunni of Yemen are more Shia than any Sunni in the world.’”

  • 21 October 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Maziar Bahari Reunites With Family

Maziar Bahari, an accredited journalist for Newsweek, was released on bail in Iran on Saturday. Yesterday, he flew back to London to see his family. He returned in time to see the upcoming birth of his first child, due on October 26th.

More from Newsweek:

Bahari, NEWSWEEK’s Iran correspondent and an internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker, was arrested in the aftermath of the contested June 12 re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has been accredited to the magazine in Iran for over a decade, and in that time had established a solid reputation for balanced reporting. His films have won awards abroad and in the words of the Harvard Film Archives, “provide a glimpse inside contemporary Iranian culture as they reveal the human element behind the headlines and capture cultural truths through the lens of individual experience.”

Several hundred authors, journalists, and filmmakers from around the world, including several Nobel prize winners, have signed petitions asking for his release. Last month he was a finalist for Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, which has been compared to the Nobel Peace prize. According to The Wall Street Journal, his case was raised along with those of other detained foreign nationals at talks between the United States and Iran in Geneva recently.

Bahari, his family, and Newsweek also extended thanks to all the well wishers and supporters.

  • 20 October 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iranian Youth, Uncategorized

Protests Still Going Strong

From Mir Hossein Mousavi’s Facebook Page:

Today (Oct. 20, 2009) for the fourth consecutive week , more than thousand students of Tehran’s Azad University held a protest despite the very tight security environment and the presence of the Basij and plain cloths militia who were even brought to… the university from outside. Students were chanting “Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein, “Death to dictator” and other Green slogans in support for the Green leaders and in protest to the coup government.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nb9BTcduW34]

Students of Tehran University protested Safar-Harandi, the former minister of Islamic Culture in Ahmadinejad’s administration, by chanting slogans like “Murderer get out” and “Death to dictator”. Safar-Harandi was invited to Tehran University by Basij to give a talk when many students protested to his presence which made him very angry. According to MowjCamp a brave student threw his shoe at Safar-Harandi to resemble what happened to George Bush (which ironically was promoted by Ahmadinejad’s administration!) to show if Bush was hated in Iraq so are the coup administration and its allies in their own country.(19 Oct 2009)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu__nkXbTHg]

  • 19 October 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 5 Comments
  • Events in Iran

Mousavi’s Letter in Condemnation of the Terrorist Attacks

From Mir Hossein Mousavi’s Facebook website:

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,

The news of the assassination of a number of Revolutionary Guard commanders and others in a terrorist attack has greatly saddened our people. The violence that has been the result of bigotry and racism in our eastern borders leaves us with a very important consideration: if seeds of this nature are planted anywhere, at anytime, they will, within the span of a few short years create deep rooted conflicts and destroy the living prospects of all human beings [who are in the midst of the conflict.]

The responsibility of all Iraniains, no matter what group or tribe they belong to, is not to allow crises which belong outside our borders to permeate their way in. The security, unity and terrirotrial integrity of our nation is a great responsibity and we are all responsible for providing these crucial necessities for future generations.

I fully condemn the terrorist acts and pray for the victims and their families.

Mir Hossein Mousavi

  • 19 October 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

International Community Must Condemn Human Rights Violations in Iran

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran announced that the international community needs to urgently condemn a number of child executions that are to be scheduled in Iran.

“United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, who issued a detailed report on the grave situation of human rights in Iran on 13 October, should lead international efforts to persuade Iran to halt imminent executions of child offenders. In addition, “P5+1” governments, which are engaged in negotiations with Iran, should call for an immediate halt such executions.”

Iran is one of the only countries that conducts child executions and is the only country since 2008 to actually carry them out. This is done despite Iran being party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – an international convention that prohibits the death penalty on persons accused of committing a crime under the age of 18 – and Islamic principles that support banning child executions.

The United States and the other members of the P5+1 must press Iran on this fundamental issue of human rights. This is a veritable soft-spot of the Iranian regime. The issue of human rights is a constant reminder to the Iranian opposition that the international community supports them and engages in action that consistently keeps the Iranian people in mind. In other words, the action of holding the Iranian regime responsible to their signed commitments to human rights and its people is the raw fuel that sustains the burgeoning opposition in Iran.

If member nations of the UN, nation-states, organizations, or individual members want to see real changes in Iran, they must remain persistent on holding Iran to its commitment of human rights.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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