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  • 14 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran

IRI’s Helping Hand

Hardline backers attacked and vandalized Grand Ayatollah Saanei's office on Sunday.

While some Iranians came out to protest on the one-year anniversary of the fraudulent presidential elections this weekend, others came out to attack Mehdi Karroubi and the offices of Grand Ayatollah Saanei and late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

Karroubi, who traveled to Qom on Sunday for a mourning ceremony, planned on visiting Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, and the family of late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. Shortly after arriving at the house of Saanei, a group of pro-regime backers encircled Saanei’s house, chanting slogans against Karroubi and Saanei. They also attacked Karroubi’s car, which despite being bulletproof, was still heavily damaged due to the severity of the attacks.

While these attacks were not particularly surprising — just another statistic added to the many other attacks this past year — what was surprising was the IRGC’s aid to Karroubi. The IRGC not only urged the violent crowds to disperse, but Karroubi also took refuge in a building owned by the Revolutionary Guards per their request until 4 in the morning on Monday when he finally left for Tehran. He escaped through a corridor made by the anti-riot police to ensure safe passing of Karroubi’s car.

As any Iranian who first points to an underlying conspiracy as the reason for an unnatural event taking place, I assumed it was the regime that set up the entire thing. Photos of Saanei’s office greatly resembled photos of university dormitories attacked by the Basij following the elections last year. Plain clothed thugs were hired by the regime, I thought, and then the IRGC came to the ‘rescue,’ showing the regime’s kindhearted nature, even to the opposition. It would serve for a brilliant propaganda campaign. But after fruitlessly searching on Press TV for any news of this event, I realized I was slightly off.

But only slightly. The place to look was Raja News, not Press TV. The state media was broadcasting the event, and of Karroubi’s flee from the people on domestic news sites, not international ones. The state-run media seemed to mock Karroubi for escaping a violent crowd — though I couldn’t imagine anyone in their right mind doing differently.

And all the while, the police did nothing. Shortly after Karroubi escaped, police and security forces stood by, watching while the mob attacked Saanei’s house and office and vandalized the late Montazeri’s office.  Said opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi’s son Hossein:

From the sudden gathering and the behavior of this group, it is obvious that they did not act by themselves and have orders.

This elaborate, and very organized plan, served the regime quite well. First of all, it allowed them to score some cheap points through the fear of violence.  Also, the IRGC very deliberately prevented the mob from going too far — because the last thing they want to do is create another martyr for the opposition movement.

Iran was shaken up after the death of Neda, and again, after the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri last year.  Another martyr would serve as the very flame needed to ignite the relatively smaller protests on the anniversary this year and turn them into something bigger, resembling the protests that followed the previous deaths. And so the IRGC prevented that from happening.

To be clear, this could have been a very major event — and it appears the senior leadership in the IRGC knew it.

For me, it wasn’t the violence that was surprising — thankfully, no one was hurt — it was its target: two grand ayatollahs, Montazeri and Saanei.  I was looking through the pictures of Saanei’s attacked office and saw a broken mohr.  A Mohr is a small clay tablet that Shi’a Muslims use to pray.

There’s no better illustration than this of what Montazeri meant when he said Iran is no longer Islamic nor a republic.

  • 3 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 1 Comments
  • Israel

Quick, create a diversion!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally pulled the red card, in the middle of international criticism following an attack on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza on Monday, which resulted in the death of at least nine people and the wounding of an additional thirty. After claiming that it was Israel’s right to attack the flotilla out of self-defense and that the flotilla “was a boat of hatred,” he deflects. And what better way to distract people’s attention than by bringing up Iran?

In a move that has become a usual recurrence, Netanyahu pointed his fingers straight at Iran, saying that if Israel had not attacked the flotilla, an Iranian regime would be established in Gaza.

“The rockets and missiles that Iran has smuggled into Gaza are now likely to hit areas surrounding Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and some of those are already in Gaza. Therefore, it is our duty and our responsibility according to the international law and according to the logic, common sense, to prevent by air, sea and land smuggling of weapons into Gaza… This is a destructive scenario, and this a very immediate threat to Israel. I’m telling you and I’m telling my friends in the countries that criticize us that an Iranian port in the Mediterranean” will be a threat.

Netanyahu forgets that the attacked flotilla was not carrying rockets or missiles, however, but humanitarian aid.  While I see the common sense in preventing smuggling of weapons, I do not see the common sense in killing in order to prevent the smuggling of school supplies. And despite Netanyahu’s claims, this flotilla was completely unrelated to Iran. It was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza with goods such as school supplies, building materials, and electricity generators. (This is because despite Israel’s claims of already providing Gaza with its humanitarian needs, according to the UN, Gaza receives only about one quarter of the supplies it used to receive before the increased blockade in 2007.)

But the sad truth remains that it is always convenient to bring up Iran, the demonized, to detract attention from inconvenient problems.

Also, it works.

Rather than condemning the attack, the US has carefully  avoided treading too heavily in response to this incident. A 19-year old American was shot by Israeli soldiers, and still, all US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said about the attack was “I think the situation from our perspective is very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned.”

Now, I am no apologist for the regime, but when it comes to US policy towards Iran and Israel, the great double standard gets me every time. As Kouroush Ziabari said, what if Iran had carried out the Gaza carnage?

Simply replace the two names and then read the news as reported by CNN: “The Free Gaza Movement, one of the organizers of the aid, said that Iranian commandos dropped from a helicopter onto the deck of one of the ships early Monday and immediately opened fire on unarmed civilians.”

  • 3 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Shifting on 20% enrichment?

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Permanent Envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh relayed seemingly coordinated messages yesterday, hinting that Iran might consider giving up its 20% enrichment work, which is currently the biggest stumbling block for the fuel swap deal.

While reiterating the usual assertion that uranium enrichment is allowed under the NPT, Mottaki added: “if we do not need the 20 percent we won’t move into that direction.”

“We have to do it since we have been facing a lack of any legally-binding assurance of supply,” Soltanieh also told reporters yesterday, adding “when we don’t need 20 percent uranium, we will not produce it.”

These statements might represent a cautious foray into a shifting position by Iran on the 20% enrichment issue.  Iran realizes that with 20% enrichment serving only as a backup plan, and possibly being wholly eliminated in the future, the West’s excuses for rejecting the Brazilian/Turkish deal would evaporate.

For me, now seems like the time to commit to diplomacy, especially when Iran is finally showing some willingness to compromise.

  • 2 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Oh, the Irony

When I first heard about France and Belgium’s proposed laws for banning the burqa, I was outraged. As an American, I thought it ridiculous, violating the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and free exercise of religion. I could not believe that two modern, democratic nations would not allow someone to practice their religion simply because they dress differently. As a Muslim, I was hurt.  Counter-arguments of “Well Christians can’t wear the cross either” were not even comparable to me and, quite frankly, made me angry.

But today when Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s Foreign Minister, denounced the law, saying that Iran “attaches great importance to the rights of religious minorities,” I laughed.

Mr. Mottaki, where have you been the past 31 years?

If Iran attaches such great importance to the rights of religious minorities, why are the Bahais still denied access to a university education and the right to inherit property unless they recant their faith? Why are they subject to arbitrary arrest and detention and violent attacks on their homes or property? Why are they denied establishment of places of worship or schools? Is it out of respect that Iran continues to detain seven Bahais after two years, violating their constitutional right to due process?

What of the Jews who until 2003 were not even considered equal to Muslims and Christians for compensation of murdered relatives in court? The Jews who have to build walls around their cemeteries to protect their dead out of fear that tombstones will be smashed or desecrated with anti-Israel slogans. Was Habibollah Elghanian murdered because of Iran’s great respect for religious minorities?

Why does religion continue to be on all identification papers in Iran if all religions are equal? And is imposing a hijab, with penalties for violations, really any better than banning it?

Mr. Mottaki, I ask what of all the Iranians who are not Shi’a Muslim? Before denouncing intolerance in Europe, look to the great intolerance in your own country. Iran, of all countries, does not have the right to denounce France and Belgium’s moves when it continues its much greater discriminatory practices.

And while I am still shocked at the proposed law banning the burqa, and at the fact that Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands are also preparing similar bills, I beg the hypocrites to please not speak out and demean the more valid arguments of many, rightfully-outraged Muslims around the world.

  • 28 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Regime doth protest too much

It seems that despite any claims to the contrary, the Islamic Republic is still at least a little bit fearful for its safety and survival with the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections.

This can be seen in the detaining of artists, hikers, Canadian journalists, and French academics (among many others). It can be seen in the execution of Kurds, Afghans, Bahai’s, and election protesters. However, perhaps the most controversial, the most offensive, and the most un-Islamic, is the recent declaration of a documentary to be released by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry to “complete the removal of ambiguities surrounding the murder of Neda Agha Soltan” and provide “new evidence” about the West’s version of events. In other words, to prove that Neda’s murder was staged.

I understand the obsession with Western conspiracies, as there have been many in Iran’s history. I myself am often the first to point to an underlying conspiracy as an explanation for things. Nonetheless, it is clear to any reasonable person that Neda’s death is not a conspiracy. If the initial evidence was not enough to prove it, the regime’s reaction was.

Neda’s family was threatened to make false confessions attributing her death to the West. Her family was prohibited from holding a funeral for her, despite funerals being very important in Iranian and especially Muslim culture. Neda’s fiancé and the doctor who tried to save her life in the video, both scared for their lives, left the country. Her grave was desecrated by supporters of the regime. And now, after all this time, the regime brings it up, yet again, by pointing its finger to others.

But I do not want to argue that Neda’s death was indeed the work of the Islamic Republic, because there are many others who have done that before me. Rather, I would like to point out the regime’s psychological insecurity, at bringing up a death from nearly a year ago. This documentary, like the recent arrests, executions, and detentions, is to be released shortly before the one-year anniversary of the June 12 elections. These events all happening in the span of a few days are more than a coincidence; they are to continuously dissuade people from participating in expected protests. This documentary is likely meant to undermine the powerful symbol she has become as well as the legitimacy of the opposition movement in Iran.

But how long is a family to suffer? The Islamic Republic ought to stop exploiting and hurting the Iranian people simply to allay its own fears and insecurities. Besides, who is really going to believe that the blood coming from Neda’s death was from a ketchup bottle?

As one of the many who cried upon watching Neda’s death, I can only imagine how her family must feel. My advice to the Islamic Republic: show a little Muslim compassion, it is what we are best known for. Let the dead rest in peace. And let the living finally move on.

  • 26 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Israel

And Yet Another Great Satan

Having made some important concessions on the proposed nuclear fuel swap with Brazil and Turkey, Iran now seems to have compensated by taking a harder line at home ahead of the June 12 anniversary of last year’s election.

Iran signed onto the Brazilian-Turkish deal, marking a significant concession from Iran’s previous position which had demanded the fuel swap take place in small batches, inside Iran’s borders, and simultaneous to the delivery of reactor fuel.

But every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

The Iranian government now is cracking down on public morality and what it calls “bad hijab.”

Last week, Guardian Council member Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati in his Friday prayer called for a crackdown on Iranian women, beginning with government employees and students. He also recommended the students to dress conservatively to get good grades. Ayatollah Ahmad Alam-al-Hoda of Mashhad went on even further, describing badly veiled women as foreign agents.

Morality police squads have now begun to crackdown on people with outfits and hairdos deemed un-Islamic. This time around, though, it’s not just the offenders of the dress code who are targeted, but shopkeepers as well. According to Babylon & Beyond, many clothing stores which sell coats for women deemed provocative by the anti-vice squad have been shut down as well. The vendors were warned by the police to sell only long coats and keep customers with daring outfits out of their stores.

“We were told by the moral security police to go to court and the judge will decide how much of a fine we will have to pay to reopen,” said one shopkeeper. “From now on we can only sell [coats] with a minimum length of 110 centimeters [about 43 inches] and we must not display them in a provocative way. Boys with spiky and fashionable hair and very short sleeves … are not allowed in our shops.”

“Our enemies intend to pull the rug of religion from under the feet of our youth by spreading bad veil in the society,” said al-Hoda. “Anytime badly veiled women and girls sport strong makeup to deviate a young man from the right path, the enemy will be pleased with victory.”

With the nuclear swap deal on the table, festering public discontent, and expectations of public demonstrations to mark the upcoming election anniversary, it seems the Islamic Republic has decided it is in need of another Great Satan: improper hijab.

The Bastions of the Paramilitary

Hossein Sajedi, Tehran’s police chief, said yesterday that despite the fact that “some media” (read: Mousavi and Karroubi) have called for rallies on June 12, Iranian security forces will confront any “illegal” demonstrations. “Police will confront any illegal gatherings … police are vigilant and in charge of public order and security,” he said.

My question to Mr. Sajedi is: what is the definition of an illegal demonstration? Is it one that involves students staging a sit-in at their university? Is that illegal? Are singing and holding up peace signs also a threat to national security?

On Saturday and Sunday, students at Tehran’s Islamic Azad University staged a sit-in as protest against the fraudulent June 2009 presidential elections and calling for the release of their classmates who had been imprisoned in the months after the election.

Apparently, this was deemed illegal, as security forces broke up the protests. According to Daneshjoo News, at least four students who were critically injured by Basij forces, rather than receiving medical attention, have been arrested.

I fear for a government which violates its own constitution in arresting those partaking in peaceful protests. Of even bigger concern though, is the way the government has transformed the country’s bastions of knowledge into bastions of the paramilitary. As a result of the sit-in and the attacking security forces, afternoon classes were canceled, reminiscent of the way classes were often canceled for the same reason shortly after the 1979 revolution. In addition, security forces threatened students with harsh sentences from the university’s disciplinary committee, a clear violation of university rules.

When the university officials become involved in oppressing their own students, the very nature of the university as a free and safe atmosphere is threatened. Not only is the canceling of classes obviously detrimental to the students’ learning, but this oppression will undoubtedly negatively affect many students’ forms of thinking at an age when they are most receptive to new ideas. While this may be the aim of the regime, this generation is the very future of the country. And to attack one’s future generation and their chance of flourishing is not only stupid, it is also self-destructive.

  • 24 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran

The People’s Enemy

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEeMnedfUy0&”]

Today marks the 28th anniversary of the liberation of Iran’s southwestern city of Khorramshahr, captured by Iraq in 1980 near the start of the Iran-Iraq War.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei made a speech marking the occasion, declaring that “Enemies of the Iranian nation will definitely be defeated today as they were defeated in 1980.” Denouncing the actions of the US and its allies in different parts of the world, namely Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Palestinian territories, Khamenei attributed Iran’s enemies as the root cause and element of crimes and insecurity in the world.

President Ahmadinejad also made a speech in Khorramshahr for the occasion, but this speech didn’t go exactly as planned. Ahmadinejad was interrupted by loud chants coming from the crowd, saying: “Bikaree! Bikaree!” (“Unemployment! Unemployment!”)

With this interruption, the citizens of Khorramshahr reminded the president as well as the Supreme Leader that they don’t blame Iran’s enemies for the double-digit unemployment in the country.

To top it off, the speech — and the ensuing chants — were carried live on national TV.  This forced Ahmadinejad to respond, saying “The government… with the help of the youth in Khorramshahr and Khuzestan [province], hopefully will eliminate unemployment in Khuzestan.”

Unemployment was also one of the main issues in the 2009 presidential campaign, and one of the main issues distinguishing incumbent Ahmadinejad and reformist candidate Mousavi, who criticized Ahmadinejad for his handling of the economy in his four years in office.  In his 2005 election campaign, then-candidate Ahmadinejad gained significant support among the voters for his promise to put “a chicken in every pot.”

But perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on detaining artists, hikers, Bahai’s, election protesters, Canadian journalists and French academics (among many others).  This has to have been a distraction from the government handling the double-digit unemployment in the country, which is also an “enemy of the Iranian nation.”

  • 21 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Afghanistan, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Ethnic Overshadowing in Iran

The domestic situation in Iran has been overshadowed by recent talk of the deal brokered between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, imminent UN sanctions, and Congress’s push for unilateral sanctions.

While last week’s protests against the execution of five Iranians encompassed all Iranians, there was especially large participation by Iranian Kurds. (Recall that four of these five Iranians were Kurds.) This fact has not been  emphasized for several reasons.

First of all, to emphasize the Kurdish aspect of these execution would allow the government to paint the Green Movement as a “separatist movement” similar to PJAK or PKK, which conflicts with the nationalist narrative that Mousavi has worked so hard to construct.  More importantly, however, it has been noted that these executions were more of a warning against the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections than as a crackdown on an ethnic minority. The parallel can be seen in the executions prior to the anniversary of the 1979 revolution in February, also meant to deter protests.

Nonetheless, the role of ethnic conflict in Iran’s internal politics has only increased in recent weeks.  Protests following the controversial hangings took place throughout Iran, and in several cities in other parts of the world, but the protests in Iranian Kurdistan were especially dramatic. Many Kurdish cities in Iran went on strike on May 13 in response to the executions, including Mahabad, Ashnaviyeh, Sanandaj, Boukan, Saghez, Marivan and Kamyaran. All businesses in the area were closed as well as most of the schools, as many students refused to attend school. Due to growing tensions in the area, security troops were stationed in the streets and state troops reportedly threatened shop owners in the bazaar, demanding them to end the strikes, the Green Voice of Freedom said. In response, the Islamic Republic arrested another Kurd, this time human rights activist Ejlal Ghavami.

While this may have been the end of it, ethnic tensions seem to have only increased, this time across Iran’s borders. On the same day of the protests in Iranian Kurdistan, Iran temporarily detained an Iraqi border guard after mistaking him for a member of the Kurdish rebel group PJAK.

Additionally, this past weekend Iranian artillery bombarded parts of Iraqi Kurdistan, where Kurdish rebels opposed to Tehran were said to be holed up.

“From 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) Saturday until [Sunday] morning, Iranians fired on the villages of Khanawa, Totma, Marado, Sourkan and Nalia Rach, causing extensive damage to agricultural land and losses of livestock,” said Azad Oussou.

In the bombardment, Iran’s security forces killed at least two Kurds near Iran, alleged members of a Kurdish guerrilla group near the Islamic Republic’s western borders according to a report by state television on Tuesday.

And Iran’s crackdown on ethnic minorities still continues. According to Human Rights Watch, 17 Kurdish dissidents remain on death row in Iran.

Evidence of ethnic concerns for Tehran goes beyond the preoccupation with Kurds, however. After the execution of a number of Afghan refugees in Iran last week, thousands in Afghanistan protested in Jalalabad, Herat, and Kabul. While Tehran officials put the number at six, protesters and rights groups say Iran has executed 45 Afghans in recent weeks on drug smuggling charges.

While the increased paranoia could be attributed to the anniversary of the June 2009 election, as were last week’s protests, this does not fully explain Iran’s recent clashes with Iraq and its “scenario” with Afghanistan. The more likely explanation is that the very overshadowing of the recent flood of news about Iran has emboldened it in its recent actions. Who will pay attention to such news when the nuclear issue and sanctions are front and center? The issue of human rights in Iran has continuously been subjugated to other issues assumed to be more important, and thus minority rights within Iran are almost completely ignored as well.

The domestic situation in Iran has been overshadowed by recent talk of the deal brokered between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, imminent UN sanctions, and Congress’s push for unilateral sanctions.

While last week’s protests against the execution of five Iranians encompassed all Iranians, there was especially great participation by Iranian Kurds. (Recall that four of these five Iranians were Kurds.) This fact has been not emphasized for several different reasons. First of all, to emphasize the ethnic aspect of the execution would be a cue for the Iranian government to point out the separatist nature of the Green Movement, which has always been looked down upon in Iranian history. More importantly, however, it was noted that these executions were more of a warning against the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections than as a crackdown on an ethnic minority. The parallel was made to the executions prior to the anniversary of the 1979 revolution in February, also meant to deter protests.

Nonetheless, and despite the accuracy of both the aforementioned arguments, a recent ethnic focus on internal politics can in fact be seen. While protests did occur throughout Iran, and in several cities in other parts of the world, the protests in Iranian Kurdistan were especially dramatic. (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/05/iran-strikes-in-kurdistan-violent-protests-at-scandinavian-iranian-embassies-over-executions.html ) Many Kurdish cities in Iran went on strike on May 13 in response to the executions, including Mahabad, Ashnaviyeh, Sanandaj, Boukan, Saghez, Marivan and Kamyaran. All businesses in the area were closed as well as most of the schools, as many students refused to attend school. Due to growing tensions in the area, security troops were stationed in the streets and state troops reportedly threatened shop owners in the bazaar, demanding them to end the strikes, the Green Voice of Freedom said. (http://en.irangreenvoice.com/article/2010/may/13/1869 ) In response, the Islamic Republic arrested another Kurd, this time human rights activist Ejlal Ghavami. (http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/Report-Kurdish-Rights-Spokesman-Arrested-in-Iran-93781959.html)

While this may have been the end of it, ethnic tensions seem to have only increased, this time across Iran’s borders. On the same day of the protests in Iranian Kurdistan, Iran temporarily detained an Iraqi border guard after mistaking him for a member of the Kurdish rebel group PJAK. (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64D5H220100514)

Even more important, this past weekend Iranian artillery bombarded parts of Iraqi Kurdistan, where Kurdish rebels opposed to Tehran were said to be holed up.

“From 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) Saturday until [Sunday] morning, Iranians fired on the villages of Khanawa, Totma, Marado, Sourkan and Nalia Rach, causing extensive damage to agricultural land and losses of livestock,” said Azad Oussou. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hH925s3QsKRthLnNPG8qheENUvJw)

In the bombardment, Iran’s security forces killed at least two Kurds near Iran, alleged members of a Kurdish guerrilla group near the Islamic Republic’s western borders according to a report by state television on Tuesday. (http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LDE64H1TZ.htm)

In addition, Iran’s crackdown on ethnic minorities within the country still continues. According to Human Rights Watch, 17 Kurdish dissidents remain on death row in Iran. (http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/05/11/iran-executed-dissidents-tortured-confess)

Evidence of ethnic concerns for Tehran goes beyond the preoccupation with Kurds, however. After the execution of a number of Afghan refugees in Iran, thousands in Afghanistan protested last week as well in Jalalabad, Herat, and Kabul. Protesters and rights groups say Iran has executed 45 Afghans in recent weeks on drug smuggling charges while Tehran officials put the number at six. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8679336.stm)

Granted, because of the diverse nature of the population, minorities have always been of concern to Iran, and not only in the Islamic Republic. Nonetheless, with these recent incidents, one can only wonder what has spurred the recent increase in concern.

  • 19 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 1 Comments
  • Culture, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

The Starvation of Iranian Art

World-renowned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, famous for his 2006 film Offside, has been engaged in a hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison since Sunday.

Tahere Saeidi, the filmmaker’s wife, told the Rahesabz website that Panahi told her on the phone that he will continue his protest until he is allowed to see his family, meet with a lawyer, and be set free pending trial.

“I swear on the cinema in which I believe: I will not stop my [hunger] strike until my wishes are fulfilled,” he wrote. “My last wish is that my corpse be given back to my family so they are able to bury me where they like.”

Panahi has been detained since early March on charges of producing a film on the unrest inside the country after the June 2009 election.

The freedom to make films was the focus of the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, where Panahi was supposed to have been a juror on the panel but obviously could not attend because of his detention.

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami made a plea for Panahi’s release at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday.

“I can’t understand how a film can be described as a crime when it is yet to be shown to anyone,” said Kiarostami, adding, “When a filmmaker is imprisoned, it is the art which is attacked. I believe we can’t remain different to the situation. One can’t give up hope.”

The Iranian culture has been long known for its art: its painters, writers, poets, musicians, and filmmakers. Iran has made a name for itself in the international community through its art. This can be seen in the very fact that many notable American film directors have called for Panahi’s release including Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Robert Redford, Martin Scorcese, Robert de Niro, and Michael Moore.

The Islamic Republic must release Panahi and show the world and remind Iranians in particular just how much art is revered in our culture.  We cannot have our artists continuously punished for their work. We cannot continue to scare Iranians from even trying to produce something truly magnificent.

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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