Thursday, July 27, 2006
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The Observer, Critic's choice for Thu 27th July:
"An almost impossible to watch documentary about the life of Atefeh Sahaaleh. a 16-year-old girl who was hanged in a public square in Iran in 2004 after being charged with 'crimes against chastity'. Using eyewitness accounts, reconstructions and undercover footage, the programme slowly recreates Atefeh's life and shows why the same life was brutally extinguished. At times you really just want to look away from the screen unable to believe this is happening - but don't, because this truly is one of the best documentaries of the year and one of the most important".
Make sure you watch it and tell your friends about it.
Monday, July 24, 2006
It is built on top of the void of Westminster tube station's ticket hall, supported inside its perimeter on only six columns - yet it is super strong and is built to be bomb-proof.
In fact Portcullis House is an extension of the Westminster 'Parliamentary Campus' with offices for 210 Members of Parliament. This was where Clare Short arranged to meet us.
The reason for the meeting was the petition we started in her support when she stood up for an Iranian family from being deported.
It does not take long to get friendly with Clare Short. Unlike some British politicians or journalists one meets, there is no sign of snobbery about her whatsoever. Very soon you feel comfortable with her and think you are talking to someone you have known for a long while.
"How shall we address you?" was my first question and "You can call me Clare" was her immediate reply which made us feel comfortable and at ease.
I started by saying that the foremost reason we started the petition was to thank her on behalf of the British Iranians for having highlighted the plight of an Iranian family in the Parliament. We wanted to show that her action had not gone unnoticed and British Iranians are not an ungrateful community.
We then talked about the extent of human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic of Iran. "It is not just the prisoners of conscience in Iran who feel the brunt of the state injustice. All layers of the Iranian society are affected by the religious apartheid in Iran, women and children at the very forefront of it all."
Clare was surprised to find out that we had first heard about her defence of the Farivar family in the pro-Iranian government news website, Baztab.org. When I also told her that the article had claimed she once had an Iranian boyfriend and was doing this to make contact with him again, she raised her eyebrows and was overcome with laughter at such nonsense.
Arash then talked to Clare about a documentary he helped to make which will be shown on BBC2, 27 July, 9PM. The documentary is about the execution of a teenage girl in Iran, Atefeh Rajabi.
Maryam who left Iran five years ago, talked about the day to day discrimination Iranian women face in the Islamic Republic.
We asked about the latest on the Farivar family. Clare told us the case is still on-going and as one can imagine, the stress is playing havoc with the mental health of the young girl.
We spent the rest of the evening talking about the latest news topics on Iran, the nuclear issue and the threat of war. All of us expressed our concern at the horrors of a military attack on Iran. We argued that the best option for all concerned is support for the pro-democracy movement inside Iran and that only the establishment of a secular democratic government in Iran will ensure peace and prosperity for the troubled region.
I liked Clare Short, one may not agree with all her views but whatever her views she seems genuine, a rare phenomenon amongst politicians.
I have followed everyone of these "leaks" with an open mind. After all, I too have been duped at times and I will continue to have an open mind, but until now every attempt to rubbish Fakhravar, in my view, has been baseless. Dubious letters made under duress are as much basis for the truth as the concocted Islamic state TV recants of imprisoned combatants. No one believes the confessions made under duress, when dissidents are forced to confess on state TV, so why should we believe some suspicious letters "smuggled" from prisons in Iran?
A wise man once told me, don't listen to rumours and hearsay, but examine the facts.
Here is a link to Fakhravar's speech at the US Senate . I ask anyone who is concerned about bad mouthing Fakhravar, to listen to his talk. Is he in any way defending the Islamic Republic? Is he in any way asking the US to invade Iran? Or on the contrary is he like the rest of us saying, help the Iranian opposition to topple the mullahs.
Be fair, until Fakhravar talks like this, I for one will support him.
Friday, July 21, 2006
His interviews on Persian speaking media are like a breath of fresh air. He has charisma, he is resolute and he has passed his test of standing up to the clerics inside Iran.
Yesterday, one of the worst Persian satellite channels from US, Rangarang TV, the lowest of the lowest out of a low quality pool, the one which presented Hakha and raised the hope of some stupid Iranians, was constantly on about Fakhravar being a stooge of the regime :))
The reasons given by this apology for a TV station were quite amusing. There were pictures of Ganji and Fakhravar shaking hands and conversing and laughing! What damning "evidence" from this station that brought us Hakha to fool and dishearten some Iranians :))
After all while the loutish proprietor of this station was making money from his scams in America, Fakhravar and Ganji were in Evin prison together.
Another reason was a picture of Fakhravar talking on the phone with his hand over the phone. The conclusion of Mr. Davar, the conman head of this TV station, was that Fakhravar was reporting to his paymasters in Tehran :)))
The day these US based Persian satellite stations are closed down for good, is the first day of our freedom.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
It was the last day of the hunger strike in London, which took place in solidarity with Iran's prisoners of conscience.
Those who took part in the hunger strike had two common denominators. They were Iranians and they wanted to see the prisoners of conscience in Iran set free.
Whether they were republicans, monarchists, Left or Right, they respected each other for the hardship they put themselves through to publicise Iran's political prisoners of conscience.
Today there was also a pleasant surprise call from Reza Pahlavi. He spoke to most of the participants on hunger strike. Monarchists or Republicans, it didn't matter, they were more than happy to converse with Reza Pahlavi on the phone.
What they all admired was that Reza Pahlavi backed any unified action in support of all of Iran's political prisoners, irrespective of who had called for it. Unlike some others who made five minute appearances and were quickly interviewed by the BBC Persian Service outside the Bush House and then quickly left, Reza Pahlavi wasn't after scoring political points for himself. What mattered to Reza Pahlavi most, was that we were standing side by side for a common goal, helping to create an Iran where no one will be harmed for their views.
Iranian political figures who are constantly being interviewed by Persian media across the world and are stuck in the same old useless discussions relating to more than a quarter of century ago, should learn from the rank and file who made this hunger strike possible.I will have more pictures soon.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Akbar Ganji's lecture at SOAS:
clip 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxajEhOdECc
clip 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ox66J5GgH_o
clip 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIWZ93bjjyc
Friday, July 14, 2006
Prior to going to Bush House, I went to Ganji's lecture at SOAS. The hall was completely packed with many people standing up or waiting outside the hall. Luckily a friend took me back stage and I managed to hear the questions and answers.
There were a lot of people in the hall shouting and making accusations against Akbar Ganji. One person had draped a sun and lion flag over him and I have to tell everyone about this person. He calls himself Arshid, but his real name is Mohammad Hossein Moti Ghavanin. In Iran he was a member of the Baseej and the revolutionary guards. He came to London claiming he has a group called Red Faravahar and he leads a unit of 700 people against the Islamic Republic. No such group exists in Iran and the stupid Home Office which refuses genuine Iranian refugees but accepts all sorts of bogus claims quickly gave this person political asylum.
Since this person has been in London, he has embezzled and conned many innocent Iranians and non-Iranians. He is a busy body that goes everywhere collecting information and comes from a very religious family himself. He is one of the lowest of the lowest you will ever come across. I have no doubt he is definitely an Islamic Republic lackey operating in London. Now this same person had draped a Sun and Lion flag! He got up during question time, started talking against Islam, opened the Koran and read out verses from it in what sounded to me like perfect Arabic, which only proved his Baseej background, then he ripped out the page from the Koran that he was reading. I want you all reading this to see through the plot. Here was something similar to the Berlin conference which resulted in the arrest of Ganji when he returned to Iran. In Berlin a man and woman got completely naked, and another one partly took her clothes off while Ganji was speaking, supposedly in "protest".
The one who partly took her clothes off was a known member of an Iranian Workers Communist Party. The other woman who took her clothes off completely, no one knew and nor has anyone ever heard about her since. It was as if she was planted from nowhere and disappeared into nowhere. The man who got completely naked was found dead in the Sistan province of Iran one year or so later. While these stooges were carrying out their "protests", Islamic Republic cameramen were filming the event and this was later shown on Islamic Republic state TV and resulted in the arrest of all the panel members. Today, Islamic Republic had their stooge draped in a Sun and Lion flag ripping a page out of Koran. Put two and two together and see through the plot. Islamic Republic wants to tell the people, look what those people who wave the Sun and Lion flag do, they rip out pages of the Koran.
I am no Islamist nor do I pretend to but I have always said a book is for reading not for burning and not for tearing up.
Ganji answered him very well. He said, I have spoken tonight about specific topics, I expected the questions to be about what I have spoken. If we want to discuss Islam or Marxism then we should do this in another meeting, but even then if I am in a meeting to criticise Marxism, I would not rip Marx's books. I would say my criticisms. By ripping a book you prove nothing and you dont convince anyone with your arguments. You only offend people.
Next a member of the Iranian Communist Workers Party accused Ganji of being a torturer and having executed people. Ganji replied by saying what he has done since the Islamic revolution and how himself was nearly executed in the 1988 massacre. He said recently judge Mortezavi turned up in Switzerland, some organisations rightly called for his arrest because of his role in murder and torture of Iran's political prisoners. Those who accuse me can also call for my arrest. Let me be arrested by international bodies and then tried but don't just hurl baseless accusations against me without a trial.
I must admit, I heard no convincing arguments, no substantial evidence that Ganji was involved in murder or torture of Iranian dissidents at any stage of his life. He was of course pro revolution in 1979, but so were a lot of misguided Iranians.
Yet I am also very critical of Ganji's statement of what Iran's future form of government should be. A republic is not necassarily synonymous with democracy. Saddam Hossein was a president of a republic and Kim-il-jung also is the head of People's Democratic Republic. These are/were terrible regimes. There are also monarchies throughout Europe were democracies flourish. It should be up to the people of Iran to decide the form of their state in a free Iran after the present theocracy. To be adamant about the form of the future government in Iran at this stage, is only devisive and not productive.
I have also witnessed some serious attempts by some of Ganji's hosts in London to marginalise his call for a hunger strike or make it go unreported. I will write about all this later, but luckily we have managed to out manouvere these people and made sure the hunger strike went ahead and the voice of Iran's prisoners of conscience is heard throughout the world.
When I left Bush House tonight there were more than 20 Iranians out there on hunger strike. I knew most of them, they were Iranian monarchists, Leftists, republicans and all sorts. They were not discussing the form of the next government, they were not trying to impose their views on each other. They had one purpose only, they wanted the world to talk about Iran's prisoners of conscience. This was unity in action and not in hotel conferences. Thanks to our efforts, there were also many reporters covering the event. This is how unity for the overthrow of the theocracy in Iran comes about.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Those taking part in the hunger strike will be outside the BBC Bush House. You can help raise awareness for the plight of Iran's prisoners of conscience either by joining the hunger strikers, turning up to support them or simply by publicising the event between Friday and Sunday.
Monday, July 10, 2006
I witnessed the lowest of the lowest thugs and common criminals who had been organised by their paymasters to break heads, club, stab and maime the best sons and daughters of Iran. Too many times I witnessed most of these thugs could not even read or write, for they could not decide what to do with posters and notices in the university which did not have pictures or emblems. As a young teenager at the time, I thought to myself, "My God, these thugs, these criminals who can not read and write are telling our students and academics how a university should be run!" - tofoo bar tow ey charkhe gardoon tofoo!
For three days, I witnessed and participitated in running street battles with these thugs. Everytime the pavement bookstalls in front of the Tehran university were attacked, I helped the booksellers pack and lock their books in their metal containers or simply carry them away. I did not care what books they sold, I just thought a book is for reading not for burning.
[One of the bookstalls outside the university which was attacked during the cultural revolution]
On the last day, the thugs got the fire cover of the revolutionary guards too. I decided to run and grapple with my conscience later. When I got home, I could still hear the shooting and a constant incomprehensible shouting by the people. I sat on the steps in our yard holding my head in my hands, re-living the scenes I had witnessed. I envied the bravery of those who had stayed on till the end.
[We were just teenage kids facing thugs in street battles. what chance did we have?]
The next day, I regrouped with some of my friends. Some were missing and we checked the lists of injured in hospitals but to no avail. Then we decided to go to the Tehran university. The president at the time, Bani-Sadr and the clerics, were holding a victory meeting in the main campus. Workers from 'Iran National' factories were bussed into the event. As they got out their busses, they were told to shout, "Bani-Sadr, Karegar, PeyvandetAn MobArak" - "Bani-Sadr, Workers, Blessed is your Union". And then others in the crowd would shout, "dAneSgAhe tAghooti ta'atil bAyad gardad, dAneSjooye vAbasteh exrAj bAyad gardad" - "Universities of the previous regime must be closed down - Students with ties to foreigners Must be Expelled".
[universities in the hands of armed hoodlums]
What ties with foreigners? we had no ties with anyone, we just wanted a better future, where no one told us what to think.
I looked at my friends, we could all see defeat in each other's faces. The night before we knew we were losing the battle, but we thought the people of Iran would realise that it was wrong to close the universities. What a blow to out moral! Not only we had lost the fight the night before, despite all our efforts there seemed no backing from the people for us either. Surely the people of Iran could not be that stupid, I thought to myself.
As we watched with grim faces the parade of the victors, a petty hoodlum looking guy with a few of his cronies around him, pointed at us and said "These lot were with them last night too." Without looking intimidated, I asked him shaking my head sideways, "Who was here?". He looked happy to have found some more victims "You lot, I can tell". He said smiling.
- "How is that?" I asked him, fearing that he may well have seen us the night before.
- "I can just tell by looking at you" he replied, with his cronies looking eager to get the attack command from him.
- "no fellow, you are wrong" Still trying to look undisturbed and not bothered. Then I turned my head and watched the rest of the sheep march past. I was biting my lips but I was hoping the rest of my friends do that and not even glance back at this guy. Luckily they were clued on and we all turned away from the petty hoodlum looking guy, and luckily the guy must have concluded there wasn't much to go on here and left us alone. Enough was enough for us though. We decided that it is best not to hang around much longer, just our looks made us stick out like a sore thumb in that crowd.
In the evening, I watched Bani-Sadr's victory speech in the university on the State TV. Rows of clerics were sitting on both sides of the pathetic president. Both the clerics and the president were full of themsleves, looking at their smug faces one would think they had just won the Third World War. I hated Bani-Sadr so much. This little creepy weasel who lied about his academic qualifications and pretended to be an intellectual, whicle making ridiculous statements such as "A special ray radiates from women's hair that sexually provokes men". Now he was gleaming that he had closed down Iran's universities.
He announced the closure of the universities for the next two years, until all the syllabus and the course contents were re-written again according to Islamic principles! Those academics deemed non-Islamic were expelled along with troublesome students. When the universities were finally opened, apart from the normal academic entrance exam, there would be religious tests and forms to fill too. Questions like, "Has anyone been executed in your family?"
That's it! I thought we lost. Game, set and match. I was convinced that the next generations of Iranian students will be so badly brainwashed by the Islamists that Iran's universities will just churn out some sheep brain graduates.
How wrong I was! Almost two decades later on July 9th, the generation that we predicted would be brain washed, came out in their thousands and shouted "Freedom of Thought, For Ever, For Ever"
For the next 5 days, we followed the news every minute of the day. For two days we rang and rang and complained to the BBC. "Why are you not giving coverage to whats happening in Iran?". The news from Tabriz, my birthplace, was grim. There the students were more brutally put down than anywhere else. Neshat newspaper in Iran reported with big headlines, "Student Unrest Spreads to 19 Cities Across Iran".
Finally even the BBC gave coverage to the story, although on the fourth day, it referred to it as mob rule! I talked to my friends that were with me during the "cultural revolution". We were all convinced that the regime will soon crackdown and will not let the situation go out of hand any longer. This happened on the sixth day. 2000 students were arrested in one day. Soon the kangaroo courts started dishing out long term sentences. Ahmad Batebi, who was pictured on the cover of the Econmist, got sentenced to execution first, and then it was commuted to life.
I made contact with Barbara Smith, the then foreign editor of the Economist. She was shocked and checked and confirmed the news with her own sources in Iran. Reuters which had the rights to Batebi's pictures waved its loyalties and let us have a copy of the high resolution picture so we could print Batebi's pictures on T-shirts.
I was invited by the Campaign for Free Education to speak about the student movement in Iran. The audience then recommended Batebi as a candidate for the symbolic position of the honorary vice-president of the NUS. In March, Batebi was unanimously elected by the NUS for the position. Previous holders of the position were people like Tasleema Nasrin and Nelson Mandela.
We all feared a return to the executions of the 80s. This time we were determined to do as much as we could so that were the Islamic Republic repeat the massacres of the 80s, she would pay a hefty price for it.
The Student uprising of 9th July, above all, was a reminder to those who want to imprison thought, that it is a futile attempt. Freedom of thought is like a basic human right. People will want it, sooner or later.
Commemoration of July 9th Student Uprising
Outside the Islamic Republic Embassy in London
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Here in London, the couple led a peaceful life and worked hard to contribute towards their new community. They struggled at first like all immigrants have to, until eventually hard work paid off and the family enjoyed the prosperity they deserved. Their focus was their children and the future, yet the Islamic fundamentalism which they fled in the past, shattered their lives again in London on 7/7.
It was an ordinary day, Behnaz gathered the family for breakfast and everyone set off for work expecting to see her later in the evening. The evil ideology that justifies killing innocent people for "the cause" however, took a devoted wife and a loving mother away. What should have been a normal getting together of the family after work, turned into sleepless nights and frantic calls to hospitals and police stations until the painful truth put an end to all the remaining shreds of hope.
Behnaz's family, friends and Iranians gathered at her graveside in North London, yesterday. Her friends talked about Behnaz and her short interrupted life. One friend read a letter she would have written to her had she been alive. Another read a poem written by Behnaz, while desperately trying to control her emotions.
Right or wrong, I don't care what you think, but I was brought up to think that men should not show their emotions in public. Men should remain strong and shelter the women and children in times of pain and sorrow and hide their fears and fight back their tears in front of them. Yet I found it impossible to fight back my tears when Behnaz's daughter, Saba spoke about her mother. Her brother Saeed held her hand and her father, Nader held her shoulder, so she could find the strength to remain composed and tell us how much she missed and needed her beloved mother.
How can any warped mind justify taking Saba and Saeed's mother from them? how can ending Behnaz's life achieve anything?
After the speeches, I went up to Saba and Saeed and told them how moving Saba's speech was and how much their mother would have been proud of them. Nader thanked me for turning up and I could only reply "It was my duty".
Just when we were about to leave the cemetery, Iranian dissident, Akbar Ganji, who was on hunger strike for 57 days in Islamic Republic prisons, turned up. Nader asked him to say a few words. Ganji spoke of the need for tolerance and creating a society where no one is harmed for opposing an ideology or not embracing it. His presence was comforting to the family.
I remembered how during the 57 days Ganji was on hunger strike, the BBC News not once mentioned him and Kofi Anan at one point said he had never heard of Ganji. There were no reporters at the gathering by Behnaz's grave neither, nor was the London Mayor there. The pain and sorrow of an Iranian family once again went unreported.
Friday, July 07, 2006
I got a phone call from a colleague who seemed to be panicking. "where are you?" she asked. I thought she was complaining about me not turning up for work. "I am working from home, why? do I need to come in?"
- "No! no, stay where you are. They have started on London now."
- "Who?" I asked sounding very confused.
- "The Islamists! a bomb has exploded in Liverpool Street. They have closed the station."
Its not easy to finish a conversation with a woman on the phone, even when there isn't much to say, let alone when something like this is the topic of conversation, but somehow I did manage to get away from her. I wanted to check for myself what was going on. So I browsed the BBC news site. It said an electric fault in Liverpool Street station had caused a train to derail and no one was hurt. Knowing how women often over react and exaggerate, I was convinced my colleague was doing the same, so I carried on with my work and tried to forget about the conversation with her.
Every now and then however I was toggling my screen to the News sites on the web. Bit by bit but very slowly the news was changing. First there was no fatalities and only a few casualties, but then they said one or two may have died and more injured. Eventually there was mention of other stations, and possibility of a terrorist attack.
I came downstairs and turned the TV on. The possibility of a bombing was now very strong according to the news. One man with a pair of thick glasses was shown sitting down with a blanket over him. He explained how he survived the incident but when he started crying, the program moved on to the presenter. I remember thinking to myself "Why is he crying? He should be happy, he has survived!". By the evening the truth had unfolded fully. There were several suicide attacks on the London transport. The media and the police had stopped a mass panic by releasing the true picture of the events bit by bit at a slow pace to avoid mass panic.
In the evening, they showed the same interview with that man again, but this time the full version. The reason the man had burst into tears was because he was describing the evacuation and how bodies were scattered everywhere with the injured begging for help from surviving passengers who could do nothing for them.
It was a weird day. I called a few friends and tried to go near the scenes but it was impossible. London seemed to be under siege. We had fled Islamic fundamentalism but it was chasing us even in London. The sad thing is, a lot of us had predicted this. Five years earlier I was talking to another colleague and expressed my anxieties at a UK home grown dangerous militant Islam, but he dismissed it by saying "You worry too much, nothing similar to what happened in Iran will ever happen in this country. The Islamists are a small minority here". Well sadly contrary to how he imagined, something similar was happening now.
This morning, I was determined to go to work by train. At Green Park, walking towards the Jubilee platform, the London Underground revenue staff were checking the tickets. I handed my Oyster card to this thuggish over boozed looking revenue staff.
"You haven't touched your Oyster card when you got on, thats a £20 fine." He told me.
"What? Where I get on is WAGN rail line and they still dont have the Oyster touch facility. In any case this is a fully paid weekly Oyster card and is valid for my entire journey, whether I touch it or not." I told him in no uncertain terms.
"I let you off this time." He told me, as if doing me a favour, instead I turned and continued to say:
"Well I think its disgusting the number of ways Ken Livingstone can think of fining ordinary law abiding citizens. Where is all the congestion charges and fines going to any way? Certainly not on improving the services." I walked away as I said the last words, just feeling happy that I had let some steam off, but soon I realised the revenue staff was walking behind me. He caught up with me and tapped me on the shoulder and said "right I was gonna let you off, but because you were not grateful, I am gonna give you a £20 penalty notice." He said as he started writing out the ticket.
This was war! This uniformed slob, this beer belly obnoxious twat, was getting on my nerves, and the way he was getting close to me and invading my private space, was like he was challenging me to a fight. A few years ago, I would have just decked someone like that without thinking, but as you get older you get wiser, by hitting him I would have lost all my credibility. So I put on this false condescending smile and didn't allow his provocations to get me. He finished writing out the ticket by saying in a very annoying way "Have a nice day!".
This time, I got close to his face, showed him the penalty notice and said "I see you in court sweet heart. Make sure you buy yourself a decent shirt and tie for the occasion that fits you".
He made a gesture with his fat boozey face, I winked at him and we parted company.
For the rest of the journey, I kept asking myself, what does Ken Livingstone do with all these charges and fines? Certainly not spend it on improving London Transport. Then I saw the adverts for this : http://www.alexandrapalace.com/IslamExpo.htm
Well it seems Islam Expo, is one example of how all these charges and fines that decent law abiding people are made to pay is spent by the London Mayor. I am sure not going to pay my penalty notice and contribute towards some Disneyland image of Islam!
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
After this anomaly was spotted by an Iranian blogger, the official MEHR News Agency seems to have corrected the original post:
but the original article claiming Ahmadi-Nejad's father died in a road accident, 13 years ago, is still cached in google.
I have also found someone who has posted the interview with MEHR News Agency on the website of the Ahwaz Oil Suburb's website, shahrakenaft.net. The date of the post is Jul 05, 2005 10:30 pm.
See also : This religious site, Zolfaghar
Could it just have been a mistake and a misprint, or is it just along the lines of one of my previous posts about how the Islamic Republic officials can lie about everything and anything? Was Ahmadi-Nejad trying to ramp up some public sympathy claiming his hardworking father with meagre means had passed away in a road accident just after he had got into university? If not, surely anyone in his position would react if such a false claim was printed about one's father?!
The web version of the article also has a link to Jahanbegloo's site:
Lets hope we will have more balanced news and articles from Iran and not just quotes from official sources presented as facts.