Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Naguib Mahfouz

I am not a literary expert by any means. I was one of those kids whose end of year school reports often included comments such as "Potkin is good at Maths and sciences, he loves sports and is very competitive, but he must concentrate on other subjects and consider them important too."
I treat subjects like literature and history as bedtime reading and so what I am about to write on Naguib Mahfouz, who died today, should be treated within the context of my literary limitations and shortcomings.

Unfortunately, I have only had time to read a few of Mahfouz's books. In fact the Cairo trilogy volumes are the only ones. I read them while commuting to work on the London Underground. What I remember most was the ending of Palace Walk.

Fahmy is 19 years old and son of the book's main character, Ahmad. He gets involved in the movement for Egypt's independence against the wishes of his father, who is a typical Middle Eastern male hypocrite. Fahmy's father asks him to swear an oath not to get involved in the politics and endanger his life. Fahmy refuses and survives many precarious situations in the book. By the time you read the last chapter however, the independence movement has come to fruition. Mahfouz describes brilliantly the joyfulness of the achievement.
"His heart was intoxicated with joy and victory, the whole nation was drunk on the wine of delight and triumph."

Fahmy first tries to make up with his father and tries to explain his disobedience towards him:
"Answering the call of the nation should not be considered rebellion against your will, sir. I really didn't do much by way of patriotic deeds..distributing handbills..what am I compared with those who willingly gave their lives? I understood from your words, sir, that you were afraid for my life, not that you really rejected the idea of patriotic duties.. I am confident I did not disobey your wishes."
Finally father and son make up and Fahmy leaves the house even happier. From there he goes to al-Azhar university and meets up with his comrades to arrange for the peaceful demonstration that the authorities had allowed. Fahmy's assignment was to supervise the groups of students from the secondary schools. He feels relaxed, after all those moments of peril were over and this was a peaceful demonstration sanctioned by the authorities. In fact he is so relaxed that he starts to wish he had suffered more, that he had been imprisoned, beaten, or wounded slightly.
Mahfouz eloquently writes about Fahmy's arguments with his conscience.
When Fahmy reaches the square, he fights hard to conceal his pride and conceit:
"He noticed eyes that were looking at him with interest and lips that were whispering about him. He heard his name, accompanied by his title, being repeated by many tongues 'Fahmy Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, representative of the supreme committee' That touched the strings of his heart. He pressed his lips together to keep them from smiling, out of concern for his dignity".

My face must have shown the delight I was having as I was reading these last pages, enjoying immensely the masterful way that Mahfouz was describing the atmosphere of the place and Fahmy's feelings. I was content with having finished another book and looking forward tp the book's good ending, when suddenly my face went all screwed up and I whispered under my lips, "what? no! It can't be!". Other commuters looked around at me curiously, and I was slightly embarrassed at my uncontrolled mini outburst. The demonstration which was sanctioned by the authorities and was expected to be peaceful goes wrong and Fahmy is shot dead, right in the last pages!

I felt like someone close to me had died and like I said, I am no literary expert, but that is what an excellent writer can do, no?

Today, when I heard the news of Mahfouz's death, it brought me those memories of the joyful times when I was looking forward to get on the tube every morning, just to read his book. I also learned a few more things about Mahfouz that I didn't know.

In 1989, after Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa for apostasy against Salman Rushdie, a blind Egyptian theologian, Omar Abdul-Rahman, told a journalist that if Mahfouz had been punished for writing this novel, Rushdie would not have dared publish his. In 1994 Islamic extremists attempted to assassinate the 82-year-old novelist, stabbing him in the neck outside his Cairo home.

Unlike the ending of Palace Walk, Islamic fundamentalists attempting to kill a brilliant mind, comes as no surprise to me!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Three Iran Student Activists in Danger of their Lives

Three student activists were arrested by Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security on Saturday August 19th. The three are named below:
1- Abolfazl Jahandar, Business Management, 2002 Graduate of Allameh Tabatabaee University
2- Kheirollah Derakhshandi, Industrial Management, 2002 Graduate of Yazd University
3- Jamal Zaher-Poor, Industrial Engineering, 2003 Graduate of Khaje Nasiraldine-Toosi University.

Father of Kheirollah Derakhshandi expressed concerns about the physical well being of his son. Kheirollah Derakhshandi, one of the student activists, was arrested nine days ago and has not since been allowed to see his family.

His father Mojtaba Derakhshandi said: “we have not been able to have any contacts with him since he was arrested. The entire family has gathered in front of Evin prison a number of times but we were told that we don't have permission to see him.”
He expressed concerns about his son's physical health saying: “our only information came from one of the representatives of the revolutionary court who told us last Wednesday that he is being held in section 209 of Evin prison.”

Monday, August 28, 2006

Women's Campaign Seminar Banned

The seminar to launch a campaign against
Islamic Republic's discriminatory laws against women in Iran was banned from taking place yesterday morning by the Islamic security forces.

Women campaigners intended to use this seminar as a launch pad to collect 1 million signatures to demand changes in the discriminatory laws.

Two hundred participants had gathered outside the venue which included Shirin Ebadi and the women's campaigner, Shahla Entesari, but they were told that the seminar was illegal.

Islamic Republic's security forces were seen filming and photographing the participants in order to intimidate them. Western media and cameras did not cover the event.

Wives and Children of Sanandaj Workers Beaten up

Islamic Republic anti-riot troops attacked a gathering of a weaving factory workers, in Sanandaj. The defenceless striking workers were picketting outside the factory, along with their wives and children. They were protesting against the short term employment contracts imposed by their factory bosses who recently reduced year long employment contracts to that of one to two months duration.

Amin Sha'bani, member of the Islamic consultative assembly for Divandareh and Kamyaran, criticised the troops for not even sparing the wives and children of the protesting workers in their assault which included the use of tear gas.

The incident was reported by ILNA.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hoder Goes Nuclear

Hoder's latest post and why he thinks the Islamic Republic should obtain nuclear weapons:
Iran Needs Nuclear Weapons

Everyone is entitled to their views, but I like people who live according to their views. My only problem with the likes of Hoder is why do they choose to live in secular democracies where they can think and say what they like?

Hoder seems to think Islamic Republic is not that bad, fine. So Hoder why don't you pack your bags and go and live in the Islamic Republic of Iran which has nuclear weapons and preferably some where near Natanz or other nuclear installations?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How VOA Confuses the Iranian People

Hoder was a guest at Voice of America, Views and News program on Monday. The host, Baharloo, was back from his holidays and the interview was a fine example of how VOA completely confuses the Iranian public.

For those who cannot understand Persian, let me explain what was said on this pathetic interview.

Hoder presented two of his ideas on how to combat the Islamic regime's onslaught on bloggers in Iran. His first idea was to target the service providers who remove dissident blogs. He explained how the service providers have a close relationship with the regime and he suggested writing letters of protest to these service providers. In other words let the regime know that you are one of those reading dissident blogs! But wait, worse is to come yet.

Hoder then went on to say that the Islamic Republic is based on the principles of Shiite theology and in Shiite theology, private property is considered sacred. So we should try to get one of the Shiite Sources of Emulation (Grand Ayatollahs) to issue a fatwa that weblogs are also private property!!!

I don't need to tell those who follow Iran news that the Islamic regime has confiscated people's houses, properties, musical equipment, tapes, videos ..., but straight after this ridiculous statement, the interview turned to the recent renewed crackdown on people's satellite dishes. Here was a clear example of a weak VOA interviewer, whose constant "Hossein joon, Hossein joon" - Dear Hosein - made the interview look more like close buddies chatting on air. Even then Baharloo didn't click to ask "Hossein joon", but satellite dishes are private property, so is there much point in wasting time to get a fatwa on blogs being private property?

Hoder also commented on Ahmadi-Nejad's blog and repeated what he had said on one of his posts that Ahmadi-Nejad is not a fundamentalist but a populist. He said we should encourage Ahmadi-Nejad by writing comments on his blog, so that Ahmadi-Nejad will recognise the potential of getting more votes in this way for the next presidential elections. Hoder was cleverly suggesting that elections in Iran are free and it is really the people who decide the outcome. Again Baharloo didn't have the savvy to pick up on this.

Normally there are lots of phone calls from the public on Baharloo's programs. This time there were only a couple. One didn't really ask a question and just gave a report on the satellite dish crackdown. The other caller did ask a good question. He told Baharloo that his guest is a bit of naive optimist and added that if being a populist means jumping on the bandwagon and riding on the wave of people's demands, neither Ahmadi-Nejad nor any one else in IRI give a damn about what the Iranian people want! Hoder did not answer this question - the only question - and Baharloo did not remind Hoder to do so either, as a good presenter should.

And that was it, a wishy washy interview that just confused the Iranian people further. Throughout the program, Baharloo did not press Hoder on his shameful posts on Akbar Mohammadi, on Hossein joon's problems with Ganji's hunger strike, Hoder's resentment of the recent BBC documentary "Execution of a Teenager", on his views that Shahroodi is a reformist, ... Baharloo as usual was having problems constructing sentences in Persian and rabbitting "Hossein joon, Hossein joon".

This was President Bush's address to the Iranian people on radio Farda:
"For many years, the United States has helped bring news and cultural broadcasts for a few hours every day to the Iranian people via Radio Freedom. Yet the Iranian people tell us that more broadcasting is needed, because the unelected few who control the Iranian government continue to place severe restrictions on access to uncensored information. So we are now making our broadcast available to more Iranians by airing news and music and cultural programs nearly 24 hours a day, and we are pleased to continue Voice of America and VOA TV services to Iran. "

Well someone needs to tell President Bush, that it is not this kind of broadcasting on VOA thats needed, this kind of broadcasting that brings a dubious person on air and presents him as an opposition to IRI to the Iranians, can only confuse the Iranian people. The Islamic Republic has an Arabic satellite TV station, Al-Alam, which was aired immediately after the war on Saddam. Al-Alam television does not pull back any punches, it is clear in achieving its aims and objectives, it is being successful. The VOA on the other hand is as confused as the Iran policy makers in the US State Department. Success does not come about from confusion. The VOA needs a shake up right now and those who have passed their sell by date need replacing asap.

Nazanin Makes us Proud Again

Former Miss Canada, Miss World runner-up and Pop singer Nazanin Afshin-Jam will be receiving the "Hero Award for Human Rights" and delivering a speech this Friday August 25th at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The award to be presented to Nazanin by Anne Archer and Jenna Elfman will be followed by Artists for Human Rights Concert, an outdoor event open to public in Union Square Park (14th & Broadway) from 7pm to 9pm. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Ms. Afshin-Jam is being recognized by Artists for Human Rights (AFHR) in co-operation with Youth for Human Rights International and the International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance for the campaign she initiated to help save the life of 17 year old Nazanin Fatehi in Iran who was sentenced to death by hanging for having defended herself and her 16 year old niece from three men who attempted to rape them. Nazanin Afshin-Jam has managed to collect over 200,000 signatures on the
petition she started 5 months ago. Ms. Afshin-Jam has lobbied and received support from the UN, EU and Canadian Parliament. Ms. Afshin-Jam has appeared on the cover of the Globe and Mail and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBC and other international news agencies around the globe spreading awareness on the case of Nazanin Fatehi and the plight of women in Iran. She has created to keep the public up to date with the campaign. She has also dedicated her song "Someday" to her
namesake and the other oppressed youth of Iran.

Nazanin Afshin-Jam encourages everyone who has not yet signed the petition to do so immediately as Nazanin Fatehi's retrial will be next week.
Save Nazanin Campaign: Nazanin Afshin-Jam's official website

Monday, August 21, 2006

Iranian Hezbollah in Action

Here is a glimpse of the Iranian Hezbollah in action, smoking opium with a woman. According to Amir Farshad's blog, the subject is Haji Abdolreza Helali, who sings anthems praising the joys of martyrdom for the Iranian Hezbollah.

Last year during the Shiite holy month of Moharram, Haji Helali was asking the "supreme leader" to give him permission to shed the blood of those women who do not observe the Islamic Hijab properly. This is a guy that encourages young gullible devout Shiites to become martyrs and on Friday prayers praises the heroics of the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The video shows how Haji himself performs heroics of martyrdom alongside devout women :))

I so detest hypocrisy.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Trip to Paris

It has been 10 years since I last went to Paris. My last trip was just a two day business trip where I had a brief chance to do some site seeing in the evening with the help of my hosts.
This weekend, I decided to take the Euro train from Waterloo and see some more of Paris. The journey started quite well and it was a comfortable relaxed train journey. I used the time to read the newspapers. All of the papers had articles on the Hezbollah victory and biographies on the Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Nassrollah.

When I arrived at Paris de Nord station, it was truly a culture shock. It was as if I was not in France, for there were hardly any French people, except three French soldiers I saw walking around the station with guns. Their beret made me laugh though. It was like a huge Pizza stuck on their head, slightly tilted to one side. Had it not been for the guns they were carrying, I may have even thought they were French chefs. Perhaps thats why the French have never won a war. With those kind of hats no one would take them seriously.

The station was so dirty and poorly maintained. There was water leaking from the pipes and the ceiling. If you have a few moans about London, go to parts of Paris. London compared to Paris on the whole is clean and well maintained, especially the tourist areas. Even around the Eifel tower, the statues are immersed in bird droppings and grifitti is every where.

Champs Elysees, may once have been a pleasant walk, where the chic and the stylish paraded and one could relax sipping a drink in the many cafes there. The chic and the stylish however seem to have been replaced by the black clad Muslim women walking behind their bearded men, with only their eyes showing, if that.
From the time you order your drink to when you finish, at least 4 or 5 beggars would have approached you. Add to all this, the exuberant prices they charge and the uncomfortable pollution, and you can forget about relaxing.

The Metro, is so suffocating and drab, and I was surprised to see an underground system more depressing than the London Undergound.

The hotel I stayed in was probably the worst, pound by pound, that I have ever stayed in. The room was so small, the bed almost ran into the toilet. I remember when I stayed in Paris last time, the hotel was not all that either and that was paid by a blue chip company, so I wasn't expecting much but this was taking the piss. The bathroom was so small, when you stepped out of the shower, you had to be careful not to fall in the toilet.

There were a couple of highlights to the evening though. We went to the Moulin Rouge, a long queue of jovial, stylish people queued outside. It was the sort of scenery I was expecting to see in Paris. The show was sold out but we were guided to another place where they did a similar show, called the Eve. The show was brilliant and brought a smile back to our faces. Some really top quality acts of dancing, including the can acan, magic, acrobatics, singing and comedy.
Really enjoyable.

I was not planning this as I thought I would not have enough time, but the next day, when I saw written in front of a bus by the Arc de Triomphe, Montparnasse cemetery, I just had to jump on the bus. It is 15 years since Dr. Bakhriar was buried in the Montparnasse cemetery, and although I was a supporter of him, not being a religious or a spiritual person, I had never visited his grave before. To me it has been more important to continue his path rather than make a pilgrimage to his grave.

Bakhtiar's grave was quite easy to find. The bus took us to the Montparnasse station, there after a short walk, at the very entrance, it has a list of famous people buried there. Bakhtiar's name is the only one under B.

There were still flowers and bouquets on the graves of Shapour Bakhtiar and Soroush Katibeh, as the anniversary of their murder by the Islamic Republic agenst was only a couple of weeks ago.

I took a couple of pictures by his grave and tidied up some of the flowers left there. There was no spiritual experience and I didn't expect one either. Bakhtiar's spirit did not come to me and talk to me or anything like that :))

Nevertheless, it was sad to be by the remains of a man who desperately tried to warn our people of the catastrophe there was to come as a result of mixing religion and politics. Shame not enough Iranians listened to him and more than regretted it later.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hoder's Hypothesis

I have only come face to face with Hossein Derakhshan (Hoder) twice. As he prefers to call himself Hoder and that is what he is better known by, I too will refer to him as Hoder for the rest of this article. Its also less to type.

First occasion was a press conference at the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in London, shortly after Ahmadi-Nejad became the president. I was on the panel along with Amir Taheri, journalist and commentator, and Babak Emamian, who was picked to represent the reaction of Iranian businessmen and entrepreneurs to Ahmadi-Nejad's presidency. Don't ask me why Emamian was picked to represent Iranian businessmen and entrepreneurs. I didn't know a Zurich Life insurance salesman qualifies one as an entrepreneur!

Hoder, who had campaigned for the reformist candidate, Mostafa Moin and had just returned from Iran, was also supposed to be on the panel, but he arrived late and sat amongst the small audience during some of the questions.

Amir Taheri spoke about his new terminology for the new kids on the block in Iran, referring to them as the new Mamluks, saying the militarists had taken over from the clergy in Iran. Not an analysis that I found very appealing.

Emamian, paraphrased some of the stuff he had obviously picked up from some of the sales guru conferences he had attended which had nothing to do with our subject of presidential elections in Iran. "Some people look at this glass as half empty but I look at it as half full", "money is good, because it buys us freedom, if we don't like Manchester, money gives us the chance to live in Paris" and all that salesmaship conference mumbo jumbo. Most importantly, Emamian said he had voted for Ahmadi-Nejad because Ahmadi-Nejad's message to the poor had appealed to him, but if Ahmadi-Nejad turned Iran into a North Korea, he would be knocking on his door :)) - with that statement, Emamian gestured a knocking on the door motion. He then went on to say that Iran's problem is not the mullahs but that we do not have enough entrepreneurs!

Restraining myself extremely hard from chinning this revolting character there and then in front of the audience and instead sufficing to snapping the pencil I was holding in my hand, I interrupted him and said, "we have more than enough good entrepreneurs and successful businessmen and innovators, our problem is that we have too many sycophants like you, who always want to go to bed with whoever is in power no matter what". Emamian not knowing what sycophant meant, and whether it was a good thing or bad thing, stuttered at my interruption.

I talked about how it was so obvious that this was not a free election to start with. A selected few were hand picked and filtered through the Guardian Council to stand as candidates, and no real opposition was given any platform to reach the people but even then within such restricted process, there was massive fraud and voter manipulation. I quoted Islamic Republic's own statesmen who had made these claims and quoted Iran's ministry of interior's own figures which claimed in several districts more than 100% of the eligible voters had voted.

Afterwards we were all invited for lunch. I had a brief chat with Hoder as we were coming downstairs. Hoder claimed that the Iranian election was free. I compared it with the elections in South Africa during Apartheid and said even that was freer than what happened in Iran, because at least the minority there who were allowed to vote had a real choice. He didn't reply and we sat down for lunch.

Emamian took over my attention again. He tried to show off his wealth to me, saying he was worth £3 Million Pounds, in a way which could only remind me of one of British Comedian, Harry Enfield's characters. The one who goes round dressed in a blazer telling people "Excuse me, but it strikes me that I am considerably richer than you". Emamian was even more vulgar than that character, as he was for real :) Anyway, I ridiculed Emamian so much, that he started crying and left the table. Both Taheri and Hoder admonished me for having upset him and making him cry. To hell with that vulgar sycophant, I told them.

Only after Emamian left crying, I managed to get a chance to talk to Hoder properly. He reminded me of the old generation Iranian "intellectuals", the Ali Shariati types. Kids who were brought up in rich Iranian traditional Bazaari religious families, who for the most part of their lives were denied a window to culture and reading, then suddenly at some stage they got an opportunity to read a couple of books and then it wasn't long before they considered themselves an intellectual of the highest levels.

After lunch the three of us walked towards the tube station. I asked Hoder what he did for a living? He said he didn't have a job and was trying to get some funding for a few projects. He exchanged cards with Taheri, saying he had a few project proposals he wanted to discuss with him. Taheri happily gave him his card. I shook hands with Hoder on departing and asked him if he was going my way. Hoder said he was going to Open Democracy offices in Farringdon, where he was fishing for another project proposal. I wondered to myself then, if he didn't have a job, how the hell did he afford to travel so much.

Second time and last time I saw Hoder was at Simin Behbahani's poetry recital in London. I be honest, I am not much of a poetry fan, I am more of a practical man, interested in practical things and rival poetry circles are not my cup of tea. I have a handful of Iranian poets which I really like and admire, the great Ferdowsi of course, Siavash Kasraii, Ferydoon Moshiri and Simin Behbahani. Simin, I admire for her enormous courage too. She is not just the greatest contemporary poetess of Iran, but she is also a courageous woman who despite her advanced years has remained youthful in spirit and has never bowed her head to the clerics in Iran.

Hoder was sitting right in front of me at Simin Behbahani's poetry evening. I am not sure if he saw me but he certainly did not acknowledge me or perhaps didn't remember me, he was too busy smooching, caressing and fondling the girl he was with. There I was trying to listen to Simin Behbahani's poetry and Hoder was busy sticking his tongue in his girlfriend's ear. I think everything has its time and place and thought Hoder was being very disrespectful, even more so when he and his girlfriend left half way through the program. After all, Hoder had campaigned for Mostafa Moin for presidency in Iran. Moin had adopted one of Simin Behbahani's poems - "I will rebuild you again my country" - as his campaign anthem, I don't know if they had her approval, but in any case I thought he could show some respect towards Simin Behabhani; for that reason at least.

So that was my only face to face encounters with Mr. Hoder. Of course I knew him as someone who started blogging amongst Iranians, and I have browsed his blog a few times, but I never found anything with much substance in his writings to browse it on a regular basis. It was only recently when a comment on my last post made me aware of this article he had written, mentioning my name:

Intrigued as to what he could have said or known about me, I read his article and the "hypothesis" that he had concocted. So I feel obliged to separate the facts from the myths, although I think anyone with a half decent intellect would simply laugh at the conclusion of this child of a Nouveau rich Iranian reliogious family and his "hypothesis".

When Ganji came to London, he was surrounded by the likes of Behnood. Another professional sycophant and a perpetual liar by nature. Behnood is another Emamian type character who tried his best to be close to the imperial court when the going was good and when fortunes turned, he tried his best to get close to the clerics. As someone who campaigned against the boycott of the presidential elections in Iran, I believe Behnood must be one of Hoder's mentors too. By the way Hoder thinks Ahmadi-Nejad won the presidential "elections" because the likes of me boycotted the process :)))

In any case, Ganji was surrounded by such people. He was invited to Al-Mahdi restaurant in Hammersmith. A friend of mine who has Left-wing views, but is a fair and genuine person, was also in their party. Ganji spoke strongly against monarchy and said he would not co-operate with anyone who supported the invasion of Iran, such as Reza Pahlavi. My friend asked Ganji, how he had come to the conclusion that Reza Pahlavi supported a military attack on Iran? In all Reza Pahlavi's statements and interviews, he had spoken firmly and unequivocally against any military attack against Iran, and Reza Pahlavi only ever solicited moral support for the pro-democracy movement in Iran as the best alternative for both Iran and the West.

Ganji, apparently was shocked and didn't know all this. Although, I am not surprised, if he was surrounded by the likes of Behnood. Even so, Ganji refused to recognise monarchy as an alternative for Iran, saying any hereditary regime is not acceptable. Well everyone is entitled to their views and people have different tastes.

After Ganji was in London for one week, his call for a hunger strike was becoming a complete shamble. Behnood and his circle had still not managed to decide on a place for this action. Behnood told everyone that he had booked a church in Trafalgar square and would get confirmation after the weekend. We all waited over the weekend. Still unable to announce where the hunger strike in support of Iran's political prisoners would be, we were unable to let others know about it. On Monday, we learned that the lady in charge of the church hall, Behnood was promising, was only able to hire out the hall for two hours! What kind of a hunger strike would it have been if it was for two hours only?!
The reason Jeremy Taylor of the Independent got the place of the hunger strike wrong in his article was precisely because Behnood had told him the wrong location. I have the email from Taylor which confirms this.

After the ceremony for the Iranian victim of the 7/7 bombing which Ganji also attended, we approached Ganji and said we wished to help him in his hunger strike. I gave him a lift in my car and we went to one my friends. There we told him that the people who had surrounded him were making a complete mess of the situation. Ganji said, well forget them, you yourselves go and sort it out. With that said, we took a group photo and set out to get the police permission for the hunger strike outside BBC Bush House where the Persian service is broadcast from. Behnood and his cronies at the BBC Persian were livid and angry with the arrangements. Yet when the hunger strike started, the BBC Persian staff kept interviewing Behnood and not the actual hunger strikers! Behnood also implied in one of his BBC interviews that those taking part in the hunger strike were his supporters!

The truth was the 15-20 people who took part in the hunger strike, came from across the polictal spectrum. Left, right, republican and monarchists, pro-referendum appeal and anti or even not aware of it. They were not there to argue with each other, they wanted to publicise the plight of Iranian political prisoners and act in solidarity with them. What does Hoder find wrong with that?
There were no pictures or placards of any political leaders, only that of Iranian political prisoners. What does Hoder find wrong with that?

And yes Reza Pahlavi did ring and spoke to those who were taking part. He was happy that Iranians were united in action for a good cause. Everyone there at the time Reza Pahlavi phoned, even those who were anti-monarchist, thought it was very thoughtful of him to show his support. What does Hoder find wrong with that?

The telephone conversations with Reza Pahlavi went on for an hour. People had an opportunity to talk to Reza Pahlavi, discuss their views and have a dialogue with him. What does Hoder find wrong with that?

To answer Hoder's silly hypothesiss, those who organised the hunger strike in London, were from all walks of life and political persuasions or had no set political views but wanted to see an Iran without political prisoners. There were students of Ramin Jahanbegloo and friends of Mossavi Khoeini, and yes even Iranian bus drivers that drove past, hooted and expressed support. So why does Hoder find all this so wrong?
See the best article, in my view, on the hunger strike by Michael Petrou :
which describes who was there.

Hoder's hypothesis gave me an opportunity to read more of his weblog. My hypothesis is that Hoder has a very low regard for Iran's prisoners of conscience. Read the offensive article he has written on Akbar Mohammadi.
He compares Akbar Mohammadi, a young student who took part in the student uprising of July 99, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, and was recently killed in the Islamic Republic prisons with the terror suspects in Guantanamo! Shame on you Hoder!

As for my part in the Iran Undercover documentary shown on Channel 4, I was not a "producer". Film producing is not my profession. The documentary makers wanted to make a program about the student movement in Iran, the course of this program changed after Zahra Kazemi, the photographer was beaten to death in Islamic Republic prisons. It took nearly 10 months to make the film, throughout the making of the documentary, I voluntarily informed the program makers of the latest news and events about Iran and also translated some of the material.
I did not agree with all that was shown, especially the interview with the Iranian intelligence defector which I had no part in, but I had no part in decision making in what was to be shown or not to be shown. During the 10 months of the making of the documentary, I developed good friendships with Jane Kokan and the other members of the team as well as with Fakhravar. I do not choose my friends based on their political views but I stick by my friends through thick and thin. Friendship is not a word I use lightly. Fakhravar, I found the most courageous of the people, the documentary makers, had contacted. In the time I have known Fakhravar since, he has not changed his path or what he says even an iota. It does not mean I agree with everything he says or does, that is not a condition for my friendship, but I admire people who are resolute and don't change course with the wind, Mr. Hoder.

So based on what I recently read from Hoder's weblog after his article, here is my hypothesis.
Reading Hoder's bio in his own words, he got his Iranian national diploma with appalling grades, struggled with his university course too and soon dropped out. Like many children of the rich religious Iranian families, he was sent to live in Canada. As I have never known him to have a proper regular job, his parents must continue to fund him in his mid-thirties. Economically he enjoys the business privilegess his family have. He feels threatened by Ahmadi-Nejad, his ideal situation is a Khatami type government where his family would continue to prosper financially and fund him and also for him to be able to go back and forward to Iran but not actually live in Iran.
Some people tell me that the Supreme Leader performed his first wedding ceremony but I do not listen to hear say and that sort of thing is not important to me, I am a fair person, credit must be given to Hoder for starting the blog amongst Iranians, other than that, judging by his hypothesis and the stuff he writes, he is a person of average intellect with views that are not genuine but have a selfish agenda attached to them.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Possible links of Hezbollah and IRI

First time, I ever heard the word Hezbollah was during a post-Islamic revolution dissident rally in Tehran. It was a small rally compared to the then revolutionary standards of marches in Iran. We were just approaching the then Prime Minister's office, Mehdi Bazargan, and I could feel trouble was looming. The march organisers got some of the male participants, including myself to link hands and form a human chain to protect the women and the elderly in our small rally.
An angry mob had gathered in a side street to disrupt our march. Those of us who were forming the chain had to get face to face with them as we passed the side street. Our crowd were chanting for freedom and pluralism and the angry mob in the side street were chanting 'Hezb faghat Hezbollah, rahbar faghat Rouhollah' - 'The only party is the party of Allah, the only leader is Rouhallah (Khomeini's first name).

Despite all the noise and the chants from both sides, I could almost hear my own heart pounding as we got closer. I was a young teenager, thoughts quickly flashed past me. "Will these be the last breaths I take?", "Will I wake up in a hospital next with an eye, or a limb missing?", "should I swallow my pride, let go of the chain, run and save myself?". And just then, bang it went, the angry Hezbollah chanting mob lost their patience and attacked our crowd. The human chain we had formed was no match for them, this was a clash between hired petty hoodlums, used to street fighting, and ordinary decent people who wanted to stop Iran from being monopolised by one narrow minded monopolistic sect.

Our protest march had come to a halt, there was a melee in the middle section of our rally ahead of where I was standing. It was shortly after the revolution, the mullahs had not fully consolidated their power yet and women could still walk around without Islamic head covers. Those women without a scarf were a particular target for the Hezbollah mob. How could I run away now, when the women were attacked? I had to help whatever happened, I tried to reach the trouble spot, predicting unpleasant consequences . Luckily, this was yet another situation in my life where sheer luck somehow saved me. God knows from where but from somewhere, the Air Force Cadets (Homafar) appeared, rifles in their hands, they rescued the women from the Hezbollah mob by shooting in the air. The Cadets managed to push back the Hezbollah chanting mob into the side street. We formed the human chain again, although this was now more symbolic than anything. We carried on walking past the Hezbollah; but fortunately with the Air Cadets forming a human wall between the two sides. I looked at the Hezbollah's faces as I went past them, they were faces of ignorance, hate and brutality.

As the mullahs secured absolute power in Iran, the Hezbollah were no longer just the hoodlum mob paid to break up demos that I came face to face with several times, they were now a sophisticated, well funded offshoot of the Shiite clerics in Lebanon.

It makes me laugh when some Western reporters still say "possible links of Hezbollah with Iran"! Possible links?? Are you kidding? How much more obvious and possible must these links be? Aren't the posters of Ayatollah Khomeini, Khamenei and Ahmadi-Nejad in Hezbollah strongholds of Lebanon proof enough? Perhaps my friend Amir Irani Tehrani's weblog and his account of Lebanon in the one month he was there will give a few clues of possible links with IRI!

I hear that Hezbollah receives $100M a year from the Islamic Republic of Iran just in cash funds - let alone all the hospitals, schools, arms, missiles and trade favours. The reports are keen to mention that the Hezbollah have grass roots support in Lebanon. Well with that much funding, who wouldn't have grass root support?

The picture in this post shows a recent "East Tehran Women's Olympics" parade. Possible links between Hezbollah and IRI? or do Iranian sportswomen love Hezbollah's leader so much that they spontaneously carry his posters? Hmmm, I wonder...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ganji Goes to Hollywood

Read about Ganji's talk on the Middle East at the palatial home of movie producer Mike Medavoy in the Time magazine. I have not had access to Ganji's full speech so I can not comment much. All I can say is, this was yet another rare opportunity for Iranian dissidents to reach the international public opinion and influence the opinion makers.

Shirin Ebadi had such an opportunity when she won the Nobel Prize, yet she utterly wasted it by talking nonsense about Guantanamo etc. that get so much publicity any way. It is a mystery to me why old generation Iranians who owe so much of their present day prosperity, education and social success to the way things were before the Islamic revolution, when faced with an international audience lose their bottle and rather than talk about the plight of their own people in Iran, rant and rave about other issues and causes that already have so many advocates in the waiting.

It reminds me of once when we were staging a play based on imprisoned Iranian student, Ahmad Batebi's letter from prison. I bumped into an old Iranian acquaintance of mine in the street. I told him about the play and asked him if he wanted to come along. He refused saying he had been on an anti US invasion of Afghanistan march all afternoon and his wife and kids were waiting for his return home!
"How many people attended the march?" I asked him
"Oh thousands" he said triumphantly.
"So if you had not turned up, it would not have made that much difference. We have had little funds to advertise our event, one more person in the audience will make a difference to us." I reminded him. He shook his head saying "Its more important to help the Afghan people to resist the US invasion".
I could not be bothered to argue with him further, but it was typical of the old generation Iranians. They enjoyed the years of propsperity and progress, got government scholarships for their education in the West, returned to Iran and instead of applying what they had learned, stirred up the mass frenzy of 1979 and backed the reactionary Ayatollahs. Now in a nostalgic way they protest every chance they get against the US, as if they had no other causes for protest.

This attitude is best described by Vali Nasr in his review of Shirin Ebadi's memoir, Iran Awakening :

"As commendable as her efforts on the part of the victims of injustice in Iran have been, Ebadi's confused rendition of Iranian history, which vacillates between celebrating the revolution and condemning its consequences, makes it difficult to regard her as a symbol of democracy....
.....What led Ebadi and her generation of educated Westernized professionals to get themselves into this bind, to be "hypnotized" by the ayatollah's revolution? Why were their rights and their freedoms so cheap in their eyes that they so hastily traded them for the will-o'-the-wisp promise of a revolutionary utopia? "I'd rather be a free Iranian than an enslaved attorney," she cavalierly told a baffled judge who reminded her that the revolution she was championing would destroy her career. What accounts for the tragic mistake of her generation, for the grand delusion that subjected the Iranian people to the ignominy of discrimination and tyranny? "

Like I said, I have not read the full text of Ganji's talk in Hollywood, other than what the Time article has reported. The article mentions how Ganji condemned Christian and Jewish fundamentalism as well as Islamic fundamentalism, and it is at times like this that I have to despair at such missed opportunities. For right now, our enemy is Islamic Fascism, it is the religious apartheid in Iran. Jewish fundamentalists are not telling our people how to live and Christian fundamentalists are not legislating draconian laws in our country and Hindu extremists are not the ones who are involving our country in international terrorism and the threat of war.

For God sake, when you get such opportunities and such audiences, don't get your knickers in a twist when you see Warren Beatty in the audience, focus on our own problems. As the English say, charity begins at home, or as the striking workers and teachers shouted in the streets of Tehran, "Leave Palestine alone, Think about our miserable situation"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

They Needed him then

I had to confirm this with Akbar Mohammadi's sister, Nasrin, as I think it clearly demonstrates the callous indifference of the clerics towards human life. When Akbar was just a 12 year old boy, he was taken from his school to the war front with Iraq, without the permission of his parents.
As a 12 year old boy, as far as the clerics cared, Akbar was good enough to be dispensed walking the mine fields. Had he died then, the clerics would have claimed Akbar as one of their war martyrs for their own evil propaganda purposes.

Yet when Akbar reached a mature age and formed his opinion and wanted to express them and take part in the destiny of his country, the clerics sentenced him to long term imprisonment. Tragically however, even locking him up was not tolerable by the hateful mullahs ruling Iran and they decided to murder him in prison. For the ruling clerics, Akbar Mohammadi was yet another dispensable human being, good enough to be blown up at the age of 12 but not worthy of expressing an opinion as a citizen of Iran.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

If You Want Forgiveness

I have finally got my new service providers talktalk to connect me to the internet. It was so frustrating, August 6th was the anniversary of the murder of my political mentor, Shapour Bakhtiar, and yet I could not write about it in my blog.

I heard an anecdote on VOA's special program on Dr. Bakhtiar from their reporter in Paris, Mohammad Reza Shahid. I had not heard it before and thought it would be nice to share it with others who may not have watched the program.

After the Islamic revolution, the zealot revolutionaries, ransacked Shapour Bakhtiar's home and destroyed all his books from his extensive library by burning them. Years later one of those zealots who had ransacked Bakhtiar's home, fled the Islamic Republic and seeked asylum in Paris. Repentant by what he had previously taken part in, he contacted Dr. Bakhtiar to express remorse and seek his forgiveness. Dr. Bakhtiar had replied "If you want forgiveness from me, all you have to do is read some of the books you destroyed"

What a great man, Shapour Bakhtiar was. I am forever proud to have been his supporter.
Bakhtiar was murdered by the orders of Hashemi Rafsanjani, the darling "moderate" of the European press, and by the assistance of a spineless Socialist French president, Francois Mitterand, who valued business contracts more than principles.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Rest in Peace, You will not be Tortured no More

I was away last week and did not have access to the internet. Even my mobile reception was very limited, and only every now and again I was able to read my text messages. This is how I heard about the murder of Akbar Mohammadi in the Islamic Republic prisons. I was actually numbed for a few seconds when I read the text of Akbar's murder. Only a few weeks earlier, Akbar's sister had sent me a copy of his book by email. It was a translation of Akbar's memoirs since his arrest and time in prison. She wanted to know if I can find an English publisher for the book.

It was so annoying to be cut off from the internet and the phone. Once again I had to hold my hands up to those running the Islamic Republic. What a good timing for them to test the waters, what better timing to carry out such a cold blooded murder while the world news agencies are busy reporting the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Crimes committed by the Islamic Republic don't grab the world media attention even when there is not a lot of news about, let alone when the events in Lebanon are breaking news every hour.

What can we ex-pats do now? I was disappointed to hear that some of the Iranian ex-pats in London had gathered outside the Amnesty International offices. What for? It was not Amnesty that murdered Akbar! Amnesty has done what it can for Iranian prisoners of conscience. Our focus of attacks surely shouldn't be against Amnesty. The Islamic Republic has numerous offices in London representing her interests, why forget about these and demonstrate outside Amnesty's offices?

We have to think beyond of just off loading our frustrations for the sake of it.

To make matters worse when I arrived yesterday, I learned that my new providers Talk Talk, have not connected me to the internet yet as they should have done. So my access to the internet is limited to brief visits to the local internet cafe. I apologise for the delay in publishing some of your comments and most importantly about the delay in writing about Akbar's murder.

Most of all I am sorry for the Mohammadi family. Perhaps the best that can be said at a time like this is, now that Akbar has left us, he will be spared the tortures by the Islamic Republic.
Rest in peace, son of Iran.