Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Boroujerdi Taken into Hospital

Ayatollah Boroujerdi is reported to have been taken to hospital from section 209 of the notorious Evin prison. It is not clear whether his transfer to hospital is due to a heart attack or problems arising from going on hunger strike. In the past months, two Iranian political prisoners have died under suspicious circumstances while on hunger strike.

Meanwhile, St. Andrews university is honouring Khatami for his efforts in promoting religious tolerance! later today and St. Anthony's College at Oxford University on 3rd November will give him yet another platform to spread his nonsense. Khatami will deliver a lecture to students and faculty of Oxford University entitled 'Religion and the Promotion of Democracy'!. This shameful visit is disguised as "opportunities for academic discussion" :))

Contact for further information on Khatami's lecture at Oxford University can be obtained from:

Vanessa Hack
Antonian Network and Public Relations Officer
St Antony's College
Oxford OX2 6JF

Tel: +44 (0)1865 274494
Fax: +44 (0)1865 274526
Email: dev.office@sant.ox.ac.uk

Hope Vanessa Hack and others at Oxford university who are providing this platform to Khatami can sleep well! Meanwhile two Iranians who were tortured in prison while Khatami was the president will be giving a press conference at the Foreign Press Association today between 4 and 5 pm.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Weekend in Bratislava and Vienna

One of the great advantages of living somewhere like London is you can actually travel to two or more different countries in one weekend.

If you have been fortunate to wait at the arrivals in Stanstead airport recently, you could not have missed the parade of East European beauties currently flooding into London. What a delightful site it is :) But its nothing compared to what you see in Bratislava itself. Really stunning girls.

We took a cheap flight to Bratislava from Stanstead on Friday. It only takes a couple of hours to get there. I had been to Slovakia before but never really stopped at Bratislava itself. Only 10 minutes from the airport and opposite the Opera House is a historic hotel building, Inn at The Three Green Trees, dating back to 1820. Now it has been fully reconstructed & renovated to the highest standards of a modern hotel while maintaining the reputation and history of days gone by. Outside the hotel there are pictures of famous people who have stayed there before.

Names like Albert Einstein, Thomas Eddison, Roosevelt, Elton John and few others that have skipped my mind for now. The masseuse in the fitness centre told me that in 2002 the England football team had stayed there and she had massaged David Beckham's legs for three hours before the match. Four years later she was still excited by her experience :)

Within a short walk from the hotel, there are busy and lively bars and night clubs. I saw no police on the streets but everyone seemed to be well behaved despite the large amounts of alcohol they must have consumed. Actually that was with the exception of one Austrian bloke I came across in the Malecon bar. Full of Dutch courage and probably some other banned substances, he kept pushing into me while I was standing next to him, and then he had the cheek to turn around and tell me "excuse me, but I got the feeling that you keep pushing into my back." He stood while expanding his pidgeon chest into my face as if trying to intimidate me :)
"Well I dont know how you got that impression, coz I am just holding my ground here while your elbows are flying everywhere." I told him while his chest slowly deflated. He asked me where I was from and bought me a drink. Normally if someone buys me a drink, I have to buy him a drink back but this time I was happy to drop my principles.
He told me he was from Austria and he was a lawyer. I hate lawyers, I always tell my son he can become anything he likes but not a lawyer. I find them unproductive leeches that feed off other people's hard work and do nothing good for the world.

After he bought me a drink I saw no reason to continue conversing with him, until he started insulting the people working behind the bar that is. At which time, I pinned his arm down with the full weight of my forearm and elbow, I thought he was going to throw a glass at them, and told him sternly "Hey dont say things like that, you might be an Austrian and a lawyer and think they are lower than you, but they are not begging or stealing, they are working hard for their living, so show them some respect.." It seemed to sober him up a little bit and he went away from the bar to join his friends. Then one of his friends got close to me and started having a loud conversation on his mobile so I could hear him. I dont know why he thought his conversation impressed me.
"Bring us few grams of Coccaine, make sure its ze good stuff, none of zat cheap shit" and then he put his hand on my shoulder and said "Vell you might as vell have ze gut stuff hey?" I put on a false smile briefly, as if I could care less what crap he got himself! I just wanted to enjoy the delightful scenery. I am not kidding every single girl in that bar was ravishing to say the least.

We had a few drinks there and left. Ending up in the Cocoloco Cocktail bar. From the outside and judging by the noise you think this is a big club but it is actually quite tiny. I found it too dark and the heating was turned on so high that with all the smoke it was actually quite uncomfortable. Next to our table there were five or six young Slovak lads, sharing a bottle of Vodka in small shots with some snacks and having a laugh and unlike our Austrian lawyers, really decent and well behaved chaps. The rest of the punters were all couples busy dancing together or having a drink at the tables. Cocoloco was our last stop, and I was really tired.

The next day we headed off to Vienna. We are so priviliged to live in this day and age. I mean it is so easy to travel now. Our parents couldn't even dream of it. Brief passport checks at the border, none of those US immigration idiots, a windscreen display for the motorway tolls and if you have a GPS navigator, you can go anywhere in Vienna you fancy, all within an hour. I had never been to Austria before, and so this was now the 25th country I visited. I can't complain, I have had a good exciting full life and I am always grateful for it.

The first place we visited was the magnificent Schonbrunn castle. I always thought the English were the best gardeners but just take a look at the The Great Parterre, in the link and you see how magnificent it is. So we took loads of pictures which included one of me doing a royal wave from the balcony. First time I got an imagined sense of how it must feel to have the multitudes of the crowds longing to see your simple wave from the above. So tempting and intoxicating :))

Then we went to Stephansplatz. Parking was murder and just like London, the no parking signs were not clear at all. The local authorities in Vienna like in London must purposely aim not to be clear so they can collect more revenue from the innocent drivers. In search of a legal place to park, I came across a young friendly Austrian couple who put themselves out to find out if we could park outside a bookshop. What lovely helpful couple, a credit to their country, unlike their charlie consuming compatriots from the night before.

Stephanplatz reminded me of Covent Garden in London. Busy bustling place with street performers, expensive shops, coffee bars on the pavements and really chick Viennese men and women out on a weekend stroll. We had a drink at one of the coffee shops in the main square, enjoyed the scenery and finally called it a day. Back to Bratislava for great beer, costing less than a pound, and a Slovak dish I enjoy called halušky.

Nice rest and a great weekend in a peaceful free Europe. The way all countries should be.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Vicious Attack on Iranian Political Prisoners

A vicious assault on political prisoners in Gowhardasht took place yesterday. The attack was carried out by ordinary criminals who are kept alongside political prisoners in Gowhardasht. They used knives and cut glass to injure the political prisoners.

Behrouz Javid Tehrani, one of the victims of this attack has had 17 stitches and many of his teeth broken. Despite his injuries he is still kept in the cell, where he fears further attacks.

In a separate incident, two students in Shiraz, Hamid Kargar and Bahador Dareh-Shoori were abducted by plain clothes agents. The two were recently expelled from university for their political activities. Their families are unaware of where they have been taken to.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

At VOA Persian Studios

The agenda on the last working day of our group during our US visit, included a visit to the VOA Persian services studios. My first brush with VOA Persian was when an IRI emblem was unnecessarily displayed on their website at the top of their Iran News section. The email protest which many others took part in as well, fortunately led to the removal of this un-Iranian symbol.

I had also been critical of SOME of VOA Persian programs and presenters on a handful of occasions. See:
VOA Persian versus Al-Alam TV
How VOA Confuses Iranian People [This was a pathetic interview with IRI agent, Hossein Derakhshan aka Hoder, portraying him as an opposition figure to the VOA audience.]

All the above, in my view, had been constructive criticism from a viewer. Criticisms that an accountable broadcasting media should welcome and have the decency to respond to.

I had no idea however that I had such a reputation amongst some of the VOA staff until we visited the studios. As soon as I entered the room, one of the staff who preferred to speak English, said to our host who was introducing us "Is this the guy who is always criticising us on his weblog?"
"Don't worry, criticism makes you stronger." I replied and followed our host.
"As long as it is fair criticism" He shouted back.
I broke from our group and turned back and asked "Which one do you think was not a fair one?" I was intrigued to know.
"I am not saying you have not been fair, I am just saying keep being fair". He said.

Well that was a fair point. One can't argue with that. We should always strive to be fair.

But the most surprising reaction was from Bill Royce. When he saw me in the studio, his eyes nearly popped out and I thought he was going to have a heart attack. I was in email correspondence with Bill Royce back in 1996, when I started the website for NMIR in memory of Dr. Bakhtiar. I think my last email to him was when I expressed condolences at the time his wife passed away. I saw no reason for any animosity between him and I. Yet it seemed that a few critical reviews of VOA Persian programs and style, had turned this guy very much against me. Well too bad, people that wish to have a job for life and not be accountable to anyone, should not work in institutions that claim to represent a democratic system. It gives the wrong impression.

When I left Royce's office, I heard him say behind my back, "What is that right wing Fascist doing here in the studio?". What an unfair comment, from an elderly man who should know better and choose his words more carefully.

So just to make Bill Royce happy, here is another criticism. Why has the VOA not covered the NUS's opposition to Khatami's visit to St. Andrews? 18 members of the NUS leadership have signed a letter of protest and have backed Iran's pro-democracy movement. Surely this would be an enormous moral boost to the students and activists inside Iran. These 18 members are available for interview and this would be a more suitable news program for the Iranian audience than covering the success of the Nazi party in a district of Germany!
Now if Bill Royce thinks the above criticism makes me a right wing Fascist, then thats his problem. It wont stop me from criticising the lack of initiative amongst the VOA program makers.

Three of us, including me, out of the five in our group agreed to hold an interview with Avi Davidi, about our trip. These interviews can be seen in :
Part I
Part II

Mossavi Khoeini is Freed

Good news! Just got a text message that Mossavi Khoeini was released over an hour ago. Mossavi Khoeini is admired by many Iranian political and human rights activists for his consistence efforts in helping ALL victims of human rights abuse in Iran. His release after 130 days is good news for all but especially for his family.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Civil Rights Museum in Memphis

in Rev. Kyles's office with Deloris. Rev. Kyles was with Dr. King when he was assassinatedYou can not go to Memphis and not visit the National Civil Rights museum. Outside the museum, there is a woman who has been protesting for over 18 years, saying the museum reminds people of a wrongful past and it should be closed down! It sounded to me like a strange demand, after all thats what museums are for, to learn from the past. I didn't get a chance to speak to the protestor, as she was sleep inside her makeshift tent, and I did not want to wake her up.

The museum is built right next to the motel where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. The room is kept almost as it was when the assassination took place.
As you walk through it, you can't help but get the feel of the injustice and the wrongs of the past. The ugly KKK rallies, the horrible pictures of lynchings, films of life under segregation. I sat in one of the buses from the days of segregation. Rosa Parks started her protest by sitting in the Whites Only section of one of these very buses.

Then once you get a good feel of the injustices, the museum takes you through the non-violent struggle of the civil rights campaigners. A film showed how the activists were trained in resisting to lash back at violence, and then an actual film shows how activists are sitting in a whites only bar, getting punched, spat on and cigarette ashes flicked on their head but magnificently resist to return violence with violence. There is the exception of one young black boy. Several white youth gang up on him, at first he takes their punches and kicks without returning their blows, but soon he gives up and fights back :) giving as good as he gets (almost). I couldn't help murmuring with delight "Go on my son!" and wished I was there next to him helping him fight back the thugs. The film shows the young black boy being arrested after the scuffle, his mother is interviewed. As she wipes a tear off her face she asks in her sweet southern accent, "what did my boy do wrong?" and there I got a lump in my throat.

The museum is really a must see and I definitely recommend it. Shame one is not allowed to take pictures inside it.

In the gift shop, I purchased this mouse mat for my son to remind him that it is always the courage of a few that makes this a better world. It is a picture of three black youth in Birmingham, Alabama - 1963, resisting the high pressure water hose, looking proud, resolute and defiant. That's what I like to see, people who stand up for their rights :

Batebi Back in Jail

Ahmad Batebi, Iranian student and prisoner of conscience and honorary vice-president of the NUSis back in jail after two days leave. Batebi was released after having spent several weeks in solitary confinement. The condition of his leave from prison was a large bail and the promise not to talk to media.

Students Rally to Demand Freedom of Keyvan Ansari

Several hundred students at Amir Kabir university gathered to demand the release of their student colleague, Keyvan Ansari.

They sang the student solidarity anthem, and the banned Iranian national anthem, Ey Iran.

It seems the regime is using its interrogation methods, learned from their North Korean counter parts, to force Keyvan Ansari to recant fabricated evidence against another prisoner, Moussavi Khoeini.

Keyvan Ansari was a young volunteer who took part in defending Iran against Saddam's invasion of Iran. His father was also a POW for many years.

Amir Kabir students who have taken a risk to support their imprisoned student colleague should be an example of courage to the Student Union representatives at St. Andrews, who could have joined the rest of the NUS body and demanded the release of Ahmad Batebi without taking a risk, but are too much of a coward to join a humanitarian effort.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Broujerdi Video on pajamasmedia.com

I came across this site today while googling:

It has the footage of Ayatollah Boroujerdi's last recorded speech before he and his followers were arrested after heavy clashes. Boroujerdi's speech is not translated word by word but a brief description of what is going on and is said is published along with the full film footage.

Have to look up this site more often in the future. The two pictures used here are from alertnet.org

At the American Way School in Memphis

I kept thinking I will write about our US trip starting from day 1 and so on. However after three weeks absence I am so snowed under that I may not be able to start working on that straight away. Yet I promised the kids in the American Way school in Memphis, I will post their pictures and write about them asap when I return. Since I dont like letting kids down, here is about the pleasant experience we had in Memphis.

We were greeted by William Tucker (in his suit and tie), Alex (to William's right), John (behind me) and Andreas (on my left) from grade 8. All three were a credit to their school. So courteous and welcoming. They gave us a tour of their school and the way the school runs. They showed us their school library and their computers which were connected to the internet. I tried to access my blog but it was blocked :))

I then gave a little talk about Iran to a class. I talked about Iran's geography and a brief history of Iran starting from Cyrus the Great. In order to keep the kids interested, I said I have a little present for whoever asks the best questions. I had a copy of the Return of Schehrzad by Eric Jerpe, which is fiction novellete but it gives a lot of information about Iran and its history.

After the class we had a VIP school dinner. I found that Alex's family only migrated to US two years ago from Honduras, and he did not speak any English when he first enrolled in the school. It reminded me of my first years in England. I encouraged Alex by telling him that he is so lucky, because he will be completely bi-lingual and bi-cultural, something very useful in the global world.

When we finished dinner, one of the kids came up to me and reminded me that he had asked the best questions and deserved to get the prize I had promised :) I was more than willing to give him the book but one of the school officials objected because the picture of the woman on the cover did not meet the school's standards!

I was shocked at this denial of knowledge for the sake of such unnecassary prudence. This however was why our trip was so varied. We had to learn aboul all aspects of life in America.

Kristian Gravenor on Gunaz TV

I said a lot more to Kristian Gravenor on Gunaz TV and the nonsense of Azeri separatist movement than just the one sentence I was quoted in this:
Agitator on the airwaves.

The nonsense from Gunaz TV is so apparent and obvious that at the end, Gravenor's conclusion was:
"The point is that it doesn't matter whether Gunaz is spouting nonsense or not, it's whether or not they can win the hearts and souls of the Azeris they're courting. If they can convince those people to want to split from Iran, then the whole thing becomes something of significance."

Document on Boroujerdi's Arrest

This document shows the deputy intelligence ministry, Iravani, writing to the special section on clergy in the Supreme Leader's office requesting a "capable" judge to be appointed to issue the arrest warrant for Ayatollah Boroujerdi who is advocating a non political Islam.

The document also shows Commander Talaee's reluctance to lead the arrest operation, saying that he has threatened to resign if force is used to arrest Ayatollah Boroujerdi and his supporters.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

NUS Statement of Solidarity with Iranian Students and Workers

National Union of Students(NUS)in UK have issued the following statement in support of Iran's prisoners of conscience:

Against war, against theocracy - solidarity with Iranian workers and students!
Free Ahmed Batebi and all political prisoners in Iran! Protest when
Muhammad Khatami visits St Andrews!

Former Iranian president Seyed Muhammad Khatami will be visiting St Andrew’s university on 31 October to deliver a lecture on “dialogue among civilisations” and receive an honorary degree from university chancellor and Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell. Meanwhile, Ahmed Batebi, an Iranian student activist arrested by Khatami’s regime during pro-democracy protests in 1999 and kept inside throughout his term in office, is seriously ill in jail.

Ahmed was jailed when he appeared, clutching a shirt stained with the blood of one of his comrades, on the front cover of the Economist. He was elected as Honorary Vice-President of NUS as a gesture of solidarity between British and Iranian students. He was released last January but re-arrested in July. Even Hessam Firoozi, the doctor who treated Ahmed
in jail and had expressed concerns to the press about his wellbeing, has now been arrested!

At the same time, it is important to remember that Ahmed is only one of thousands of political prisoners in Iran, jailed to expressing even the mildest opposition to the Islamic Republic regime.

Khatami is on the “reformist” wing of the Islamic Republic - which makes him a “moderate” right-wing religious fundamentalist. He is fully committed to the theocratic system which has oppressed the Iranian people, and workers, women, lesbian, gay and bisexual people and young people above all, for the last three decades. During his time in office, tiny modifications to the Islamic Republic’s regime of terror were massively outweighed by the stepping up of neoliberal economics and attacks on the living standards of Iranian workers.

We are deepy disappointed that St Andrews Students’ Association has declared itself in favour of Khatami’s visit, bizarrely dismissing the repression he carried out as “tensions which existed within Iran during his presidency” and claiming that he “adopted a brave stance to promote
liberal values in the face of great adversity”. This is an appalling betrayal of Iranian students’ struggle for freedom.

As students, young people, feminists, LGBT and labour movement activists in Britain, we express our wholehearted solidarity with the democratic and working-class opposition in Iran - against both the US’s threat to kill thousands of Iranian civilians in another war and the barbarity of the Iranian regime. We therefore demand that Khatami’s honorary degree be
withdrawn unless Ahmed Batebi is released. When Khatami visits St Andrews, we will be protesting to express our solidarity with Iranian students and others fighting against the theocratic dictatorship for democratic and social rights.

Sofie Buckland, NUS National Executive and Education Not for Sale

Joe Rooney, NUS National Executive, ENS and Young Greens
Keir Lawson, Scottish Socialist Party student organiser
Jack Ferguson, Scottish Socialist Youth national organiser
Laura Schwartz, ENS Women
James Alexander, National Union of Students Scotland President
Gemma Tumelty, NUS National President
Stephen Brown, NUS National Secretary
Joe Rukin, NUS National Treasurer
Colleen Dowdall, NUS-USI Convenor
Scott Cuthbertson, NUS LGBT Officer (Open Place)
Claire Anderson, NUS LGBT Officer (Women’s Place)
Veronica King, NUS VP Welfare
Ellie Russell, NUS VP Further Education
Wes Streeting, NUS VP Education
Kat Stark, NUS National Women’s Officer
Alex Kemp, NUS Students’ With Disabilities Officer
Sam Lebens, NUS National Executive and Co-convenor, NUS Anti-Racism,
Anti-Fascism Campaign
Louise Sweeney, NUS National Executive
Steven Findlay, NUS National Executive
Richard Angell, NUS National Executive
Aled Dilwyn Fisher, LSESU Environment and Ethics Officer, Young Greens

note: Batebi was today allowed temporary leave from prison. International solidarity does yield results, lets keep the momentum going!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Absurdity of US News Channels

We are now in the last week of our US trip. I have learned a lot about the decision making process in America and a lot about the American people. Hopefully I will write in more detail about all this when I get back and have uninterrupted access to the internet.

I have also come to some conclusions about the American TV news channels. Almost since day 1 that we got here, I have been watching the US news channels in my hotel rooms and almost every day, I have heard nothing other than the Foley scandal. Every morning I turn the news on, I think to myself surely there is no more mileage in this Foley affair. What needs to be said is told and the American people can make up their mind about the scandal. Yet after two weeks of being here, the news channels still go on about it, as if there is nothing else happening in the world. Perhaps finally the nuclear test carried out by North Korea will put an end to this ongoing election bickering.

The whole snappy format of the news channels and the constant commercial interruptions are geared for titillating news rather than any in depth information to the public.

The news channels are also more keen on reporting news that will damage the US reputation and credibility. I have been voicing this where ever we go. The PR and the propaganda war is being lost to an enemy that has become the master of propaganda and uses it to the full.

Another Voice of Dissent Silenced for Now

The dissident Ayatollah Boroujerdi who opposes mixing of religion and state and the ruling theocracy in Iran, was last night arrested with hundreds of his followers outside his house after some bloody clashes. I will write more about this when more information becomes available.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Clashes Outside Boroujerdi's House

Several thousand supporters of Ayatollah Boroujerdi, the Shiite cleric who advocates non-political Islam and opposes the theocracy in Iran, clashed with government forces in Tehran last night.

See the film footage.

In one of the film footage, Commander Talaee, chief of Tehran's Law Enforcement Forces, tells the crowd that he will personally visit the dissident Ayatollah himself and asks the crowd to go home and let the neighbours have peace and quiet in the street. The crowd tell him that the neighbours are fine and a woman tells him "we will only listen to you if the state TV broadcasts your pledges."

In the last footage, another cleric tries to calm the crowd and tell them to go home but the crowd stop him from talking and force him out of the street.

BBC Persian posted a despicable report of the incident, by trying to belittle Ayatollah Boroujerdi's position and referred to the Ayatollah's supporters as club weilding thugs who have caused fear amongst the neighbours in the street.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Learning from Sterling

Before coming to Sterling, Illinois, I was under the impression that the people of this small town wouldn't know anything about Iran nor would they be interested in anything outside their state. How wrong I was!

Yesterday morning, we went to see Ted Aggen, the Mayor of Sterling. We were received by the Mayor and his deputy Amy Viering. The city manager, Jay Wieland, gave an excellent presentation on how the town is run, how the revenues are collected and most importantly how the town coped with the closure of the local steel mill. It was interesting to hear how the spirit of volunteerism and the foresight not to fight a changing world but learning how to comply with the new situation, had pulled the town through the difficult times.

In the evening we had a pot luck dinner with a group of peace activists. It really was a pleasure to be received so warmly by such enlightened people that cared so much about the world. The peace group went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Personally I was embarrassed to be given such VIP treatment. We talked around the dinner table, then each of us were introduced by one of the group members who read a short bio about us. We each gave a brief talk about Iran and then fielded some questions. I must say every question was a relevant and intelligent question. I hope I answered them well and gave them some more understanding about the situation in Iran and the global threat of Islamic fundamentalism.

This morning we went to Rock Fall middle school. Again the reception we received was exceptional. I gave a brief talk about Iran, where it is in the world, a brief history starting with Cyrus the Great and the first declaration of human rights and the tolerance Cyrus exercised with the citizens of his empire, abolishing slavery and giving people the right to practise their religion. We met with three large groups between 10am and 12 noon.

Once again we fielded a lot of intelligent questions from the pupils and the their teachers as well as the local press. My main message to all the three groups was to fight political apathy and to appreciate the privileges the American youth have inherited and not to take it for granted.

In the afternoon we went to a farm and saw at first hand the efficiency with which an American farm is run. Once again I was so surprised to learn that a farmer in Sterling, knows quite a lot about Iran and is interested to learn more about our country. Dan, the owner of the farm started the farm back in 1980 while he had a $10000 debt after college. I forget how many acres he said he farmed, but believe me it was huge. We also had a lot of fun getting a ride on his combine and tractor.

Tomorrow we will leave Sterling. Like all the other places we have been on this trip, we have been met by a lot of warm and friendly people who have really made us feel at home and left us with a good impression of the American people.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The First Victim of Theocracy is God

It is not just the secular dissidents who are suppressed by the ruling clergy in Iran. Ayatollah Boroujerdi and his supporters continue to pay a heavy price for defying political Islam and the despotic rule of the "Supreme Leader".

"the most afflicted victim of this theocracy has been God. Injustices perpetrated by the ruling clerics in the name of God have forced people to turn away from Him in droves." Kazemeini Boroujerdi insists. Read this good report by Nazanin Ansari.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Batebi's Doctor is Arrested

Lawyers who defend prisoners of conscience in Iran have been sentenced to prison themselves by the Islamic courts in the past. Arresting the physicians who treat Iranian political prisoners however is a new development in the Islamic Republic.

Dr. Hessam Firoozi who is treating Ahmad Batebi, was arrested in his house earlier today. Several plain clothes intelligence ministry agents turned up with an arrest warrant at Dr. Firoozi's house and took him away after searching the doctor's house and belongings.

Dr. Firoozi had contacted the press, prior to his arrest, and expressed concerns for his client's well being. Dr. Firoozi also treated Iranian dissident, Akbar Ganji, in the past.

Campaign! Don't Complain

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usI just loved this slogan by the Mikvah Challenge group. The Mikva Challenge is a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1997 as a tribute to former White House Counsel and U.S. Congressman Abner Mikva and his wife Zoe. They encourage the youth in Chicago to become active participants in the political process through election and issue campaigns, and basically make politics to be more fun and less tedious.

We had a good one hour informative session with the people at Mikvah Challenge yesterday, and then we visited Professor Scott Hibbard and some of his students at the Department of Political Science in DePaul University. It was a lively exchange of views and opinions and hopefully a good starting point for some future dialogue.

We will leave Chicago tomorrow afternoon. I will miss the place, we met a lot of nice people here.

Monday, October 02, 2006

City of Tolerance

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.comI have left New York now and arrived in Chicago. Hopefully I will be able to write more about the city that never sleeps when I get back to London. New York is similar to London, it is fast, it is buzzing and very cosmopolitan, but just on a bigger scale. London to the power of 2 or 3 if you like.

Unlike London however, it is extremely safe, but like London it is very tolerant. I thought I post this picture to demonstrate this point. Here is a cab driver, who some would say, looks and dresses like a textbook Taliban figure. In fact he is a Baluchi and spoke Persian. Yet in a city that suffered 9/11, he feels free and comfortable to look and dress as he wants to, without fear of persecution.

I will write more about Chicago, but I dont think I have to stay here long to know that they love the English accent :)