Thursday, November 29, 2007

Your Children will Curse Your Name

I have spent a large part of my post operation recovery, reading the book, "Guests of the Ayatollahs" by Mark Bowden, which was kindly sent to me by fellow Iranian blogger, Winston.

The book is almost 600 pages and it kept me well occupied, but more than that it was a great eye opener for me too. All I had known about the hostages was the few tame press interviews I had watched and the recent disastrous VOA Persian appearance by the most senior ranking former hostage, Bruce Laingen. Throughout their captivity, there were former school friends of mine and others that I knew about who were suffering much worse in Islamic Republic jails. The American hostages must have been better off and yet to me they seemed no way near as heroic as some of the Iranian teenagers who were standing defiant against the mullahs.

My heart went out to our own people who were in jail first and foremost, those who were forgotten by the world and never received any international attention, before I had any time to think about the plight of the US hostages whom appeared on TV conferences every now and then and said how friendly they were being treated .

The press conferences and TV interviews showed whole loads of international delegations of bishops, rabbis and university professors etc. who kept coming to Tehran to say hostages were looked after and the Islamic revolution was so wonderful. Naturally such shows did not help to increase my sympathies any further for the hostages.

What I did not realise was that not all the hostages were represented in these public TV shows. There were many who remained defiant throughout. Michael Metrinko, the political officer, for example, spent most of his time in solitary confinement and used every opportunity to taunt his captors, and so many other hostages on so many occasions did not bow their heads and its worth reading the book to learn about them.

It was only when I read the book that I learned the priest Darrell Rupiper, a man who epitomizes the term 'useful idiot', was given a note by AL Golacinski and Kevin Hermening written on a foil wrapper from a Wrigley spearmint gum, which described their ill treatment and poor conditions, but instead Rupiper handed the note to the hostage takers! Rupiper really was a USEFUL idiot!

The takeover of the US embassy, did not seem to me at the time, but it turned out to be a defining event which shaped the next three decades of Iran. The students who took over the embassy were pawns in the hands of the radical clerics who wanted to eliminate all their other political rivals in Iran. The feebleness of the Carter administration in not expecting the takeover and then not knowing what to do about it was another building block that made the Ayatollah's regime seem so invincible to the Iranian masses.

With the total consolidation of power by the most reactionary and backward section of the clerics, Iran entered a slippery slope of further curtailment of personal, political and civil liberties. The most progressive country in the region suddenly became comparable with the most backward countries in the region.

Towards the end of the book, Dick Morefield, the embassy consul is quoted to tell Ebtekar, the most prominent female hostage taker and US educated herself,
"Your children and your grandchildren are going to curse your name."

What a remarkable prediction at that time, for I believe the post-revolution generation of Iranians cringe at the thought of being reminded of what Ebtekar's mob did.

One thing puzzles me however, Ebtekar the hostage taker, has never regretted her prominent part in the hostage taking. She was appointed by Khatami in his cabinet as the first woman vice-president and the West still thought of Khatami as the best thing since sliced bread, and was charmed and impressed by his empty phrases of 'dialogue amongst civilisations'.
How many times in history must stupidity and credulity win over common sense?

Friday, November 23, 2007


Deutsche Welle: For the last nine years, every year you try your hardest to hold the commemoration worthy of your murdered parents, and every year the Islamic Republic authorities put up more obstacles in your way, I simply want to ask you until when will you continue your persistence?

Parastoo Forouhar: UNTILL I AM ALIVE! I told the ministry of intelligence agents too, until I am alive I will continue to come to Iran and try to hold the commemoration ceremony for my parents. Every year I will try to keep their memories alive, and I am just a small player amongst many many people who share this effort with me. As my parents' daughter however, I take the first step. On this very day, many people have phoned me saying they have come all the way from other cities but we have not been allowed to get near the house and take part in the ceremony. Others have phoned saying we are in the nearby streets and although we can not come near the house, we will hang around, know that we are with you. All this shows that the memory of my parents will live on, and until I am around I will do my part.

Every year the Islamic Republic has put more restrictions on Parastoo Forouhar, the daughter of the murdered Iranian secular dissidents Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, to hold public commemorations on the anniversary of her parents's extra judicial murder. Last year, the authorities banned the commemoration from being held in a public place and the ceremony was held in Forouhars's home instead. Despite these restrictions, giant slides displayed images of the Forouhars to large crowds gathered outside their home and in the nearby streets.

This year, the authorities have put up physical barriers and fences, to stop anyone from going anywhere near the house. Even relatives and close friends have been prevented from entering the house.

Every year on the anniversary of the Forouhars, I remember a conversation I had with Arash Forouhar, the son of the late Forouhars, who was describing to me the events during the funeral of his parents, which was attended by tens of thousands of Iranians. During the funeral people were holding Iranian tri-colour flags but with a X in the middle instead of the Islamic Republic un-Iranian symbol now in the country's official flags, as a sign of protest. Just before laying the coffins to the ground, a working class woman with her chador wrapped around her waist and arm, stood in between the coffins and shouted 'People, do you know why there is no Sun and Lion (the true Iranian symbols that should be on our flag) on these flags that are draped over the coffins? Its because the Sun is inside this coffin, pointing to one coffin, and the Lion lies in that one'.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Before and After

It was a weird feeling before going for the op. Imagine you are 90% back to normal but to get back to 100% you are told you have to go through this painful process that sets you back to worse than how you were when the injury first happened.

Perhaps the before and after pictures shown here demonstrate the dilemma I was going through. I tried to keep a brave face but I was dreading the next few hours, days and weeks.

The first hurdle is over and now I am going through the critical post-op aftercare days.

As I have always said, I am not a spiritual person, I don't know if things happen for a purpose or not, but one can learn so much from each experience. Once again I have been reminded how mortal and feeble we all are. You can be the cock o' the north and rule the roost one day, and then bed ridden the next day. One must always be humble and recognise that nothing, good or bad, will remain the same forever. We should appreciate the good times and remain hopeful during the dark times.

These experiences are great opportunities to learn who your real friends are too and who reads your blog :))) which reminds me to thank again all those who wished for my recovery.

Its frustrating typing with just the left hand but at least this has now filled part of my day, I better go and do some exercises now.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Had a Dream

I am just getting ready for my pectoral tendon operation tomorrow. I am told I will have my arm in a sling for a few weeks, and I may not be able to type. Its such a comfort to know however that there are so many good Iranian bloggers now that do the kind of work I do, i.e. tell the world about what is happening in Iran.

I am a bit in two minds about the operation. I am almost back to normal now, except that I lack confidence about doing heavy lifting with my right arm. Even swinging the golf club the other day worried me and I had to stop after a few attempts on the driving range. I am reassured by the surgeon that I should be able to get back to 100% in a few months if I have the operation and I will be able to continue with all the sports I love doing.

Any way back to the subject of my post. I had a lovely dream last night, it seemed so real and strangely enough I remember while I was dreaming, I kept saying I should write about this in my blog :) I dreamt I was back in my ancestral town of Astara by the Caspian sea.

Astara is derived from the Persian word Ahesto-ro, where travel gets slow, because of the marshlands that surround it. It was divided into two and the northern part was lost to the Tsarist Russia after the treaty of Gulistan. Whole families were divided by the river, and separated families used to come by the opposite sides of the river and ask each other how they were for many years after the divide.

The spoken language in Astara until the early to mid part of the previous century was Talysh before a mixture dialect of Turkish and Persian spoken today in the Azerbijan province took over. Talysh is an old Iranian language which can be traced back to the Medes. See examples of Talysh language. Persian speakers can easily understand most of the Talysh language. I am told my maternal grandfather used to speak in Talysh and considered it his mother tongue. There is still a sizable minority, around 800,000, of Talysh people who live in the province of Aran, which unfortunately changed its name to the Republic of Azerbijan in 1919. The Talysh people who live in the Republic of Azerbijan are severely repressed by the Turkish chauvinists who rule Aran today and are banned from speaking their language and practising their culture.

Last time I saw Astara, it was still a small town and most its inhabitants knew each other. The people in Astara were decent, truthful and honest people. Burglaries, for example, were unheard of, and people left their front door open without fear. I remember telling my grandfather to lock the front door as we left his house once, and him telling me not to worry for there are no thieves in Astara.

I am told Astara is no longer like that and because it is now an important border trading town, many people from outside the town have moved in and its original indigenous character has greatly changed. In fact I have been warned I would be unpleasantly shocked if I ever see it again.

Whenever I go to Cyprus or some Greek island, I am most reminded about Astara. It had that Mediterranean look and feel to it.

But back to my dream. I was surrounded by my many cousins and taken to my paternal grandfather's house, where we used to stay during our summer holidays. To get to the house itself, one had to walk past where they kept the turkeys and the chickens and then through this big delightful garden, with all kinds of fruit trees; figs, pears, apples, lemons everything. If you wanted a fruit, you just picked it from the trees. I could actually smell that unforgettable scent in my dream. Then there was the water well and the hand operated water pump and finally the house itself. It was built of wood and raised above the ground on wooden columns. As I walked up the steps to the porch, my eldest uncle greeted me in the usual way, "Hey little sledge hammer, you are back!"

He was an interesting character. He had a fearsome reputation for his temper, and when his eyebrows tangled together as he frowned, you felt big trouble was just round the corner. He left school at a young age, his reasoning was that Hitler will soon invade and all the text books will change so there was no point in wasting time and learning the current ones :) And that's the best excuse I have ever heard to skive off school :)

After he left school, he started trading by secretly crossing the border at night and smuggling goods in and out of the country. As a result of these cross border runs, he had learned basic Russian that he could get his way round with. What he was most famous for however, was when during the Russian occupation of Iran after the second world war, he had beaten up a Russian soldier who had stolen something from his shop. A daring act in broad day light, which had increased his reputation amongst the locals.

His shop was at the only cross road with traffic lights in the town. I used to cycle to his shop on this bicycle which was too big for me and I could just about use its pedals but the bike was too high for me to get off from and once I got close to his shop, I would shout 'Amoo, uncle!' and he would come out of the shop and grab the bike and help me get off. On one occasion I recall, he was too busy bartering with a punter inside the shop, and he could not hear my frightened screams of 'Amoo, Amoo' but I was lucky that the bobby on the crossroad noticed my frantic screams, ran after me and grabbed the bike.

One of my cousins I have never seen. He was born after I left Iran, but I recognised him in my dream from the photos I have seen of him. My cousins have also had children whom I have never seen and I was being introduced to them in the dream as the 'cousin from England'. Of course so many of my relatives have also died without me being able to even go to their funerals. All my grandparents, two of my uncles, aunt, and many friends amongst them.

My cousins then took me on a tour of the town. One by one, landmarks and buildings in the surreal formats you expect to see in dreams appeared to me. The finale was one of the things I loved most about Astara. Grilling this fish endemic to the Caspian Sea, in the evenings on the beach. It is such a meaty chunky fish, you could put it on a skew just like you do with kebab. Yummee, and so I woke up disappointed that my dream had to come to an end.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Women's Rights Activist Abducted

The following has been posted by the Iranian Political Prisoners Association:

Hana Abdi, a 21 year old student of Sanandaj University was abducted from her grandfathers’ house by the Intelligence Ministry agents a couple of days ago and her where about is unclear, says her mother.

According to Hana’s mother, the Intelligence Ministry has not clarified the reasons for Hana's arbitrary arrest, yet the information centre of the ministry has already informed her family that Hana’s court would start in a months’ time, it is suspected that her arrest is due to activities concerning a petition which supported womans’ rights in Iran.

Hana abdi was very much involved in teaching literacy to the poor and especially to the women in villages and used to hold celebrations for those women who overcame addiction in the ‘Azarmehr' association. The association provides the means for battered and addicted women to over ride their problems.

Hana and her friend Ronak Safar Zadeh, had set up collections to support destitute women. Ronak Safarzadeh was also arrested by the Ministry on 9 October 2007, and is reported to be in a bad state of mind. She had recently called her family from prison expressing concern over her extended detention. According to her parents, Ronak's interrogations have finished but she has been kept in detention for unspecified reasons.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Can't Join if You are Critical of Iranian Regime

Yesterday's article in the Independent by By Jerome Taylor confirms the suspicions I had about the inconsistencies of 'Stop the War Campaigns', which I wrote about back in March this year:

I know Yassmine Mather, who is mentioned in the Independent article. I have known her from some earlier campaigns seven years ago, in the aftermath of the student uprising in Iran. She is a committed Socialist and definitely against any military intervention in Iran. If Stop the War Coalition refuses her to join the 'coalition', then it really goes to show that the group's true agenda is nothing other than keeping the Ayatollahs in power.

The Independent article finishes by quoting Andrew Murray, chair of Stop the War Coalition, as saying ".. It's completely untrue to say we are apologists. We are no more supporters of the Tehran regime than we were of Saddam Hussein or the Taliban."

I just wish Jerome Taylor had asked Murray the question I keep asking the SWP, to name just one occasion, in the last 28 years, when they had a campaign against the theocracy of the Ayatollahs in Iran or the Taliban in Afghanistan. Andrew Murray, you are an apologist and a supporter of those who keep people in chains and in misery. You are a disgrace.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

US Embassy Hostage Crisis Days

4th November was the anniversary of the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran, in 1979, by Student Followers of Imam Khomeini's Path. US diplomats were taken hostage for 444 days and finally released when President Reagan was elected by the US voters.

I remember as a young teenager in those days, going outside the US embassy building in Tehran where I joined the discussion groups on the pavements, as was the custom in those days. There was still relative freedom in the aftermath of the revolution but up to a point. You could not, for example, publicly support the monarchy or Dr. Bakhtiar but Marxists groups and the MeK openly sold their newspapers in the streets. The Islamo-Socialists like MeK, supported the takeover from the very beginning and called it a heroic action against the US imperialism. They were still doing their futile best to win Khomeini's favour. The pro-Soviet Communist Tudeh party was also over the moon about what had happened as you can imagine. They too wanted to win Khomeini's favour and in their publications, Ayatollah Khomeini was always revered as Imam Khomeini in enlarged bold letters. Later when the moment was right, Khomeini did not hesitate to massacre any of their members and supporters, whether they had used bold letters to describe him or otherwise.

The other major Marxist organisation at the time, the Fedayeen took their time in deciding whether to support the takeover or not. In fact it was not until Khomeini referred to them as American Marxists that they decided it was in their best interests to go along with everyone else. This delay in supporting the take over, later played a key part in the split in the Fedayeen organisation into the Majority(Bolshevik) and Minority(Menshevik) factions, with the Majority becoming even more pro-Soviet and pro-Khomeini than the Tudeh party itself.

For days and weeks, the embassy became the focus of different political parties marching in support of the embassy take over and the occasion was exploited as a PR exercise to make themselves and their support for the take over known to the public. The Islamist groups would pledge in their slogans 'If America Attacks, We Shall Turn All of Iran into Karbala' while the Marxists would pledge in their slogans 'If America Attacks, We Shall Turn All of Iran into Vietnam'. Marxists argued sincerely that Vietnam was more contemporary and appropriate in the slogan than what had happened in Karbala 1300 years ago, while the Islamists would argue that this was an Islamic revolution and the Vietnamese were not Shiite Muslims.

It all seems like a comedy when I look back on those days and remember the slogans. Each group wanted to sound even more radical and uncompromising than the others, coming up with more and more heroic slogans. 'Savour that day that Khomeini will give me the Jihad Order, The Army of the World will not be able to match me!"

What was forgotten as usual in the midst of all this frenzy and excitement amongst the Iranians who were arguing the appropriateness of Vietnam or Karbala, was the national interest. When I joined the discussion groups outside the US embassy building, it was not expedient for my health and safety to publicly argue against the take over, instead I used to pose the question as a young innocent teenager would 'what is in our national interest to hold these Americans here?'. The question was asked in a way that it did not deny there was a national interest but was simply asked by a kid who wanted to learn the facts from his 'wiser' all knowing elders. Watching these 'wiser' elders dither and fluster in their replies on the rare occasions where my question was not ignored was often just as comical as the slogans I heard in those days.

Perhaps the one slogan that now has a serious ring to it was:
'Cannons, Tanks and Machine Guns Have no Effect Any More,
Carter has no idea of the joyous moment of martyrdom'

Carter and his diplomats who had called Ayatollah Khomeini a Saint and 'Iran's Gandhi', had no idea what a can of worms they had opened up.

I have been browsing the blogs these days, and a lot of the blogs by the younger generation of Iranians have been apologising for what happened back in 1980. Perhaps if they had watched former top ranking US embassy hostage, Bruce Langdon, on VOA Persian, they would not feel so apologetic. On his VOA Persian appearance, he seemed more apologetic and compromising to the mullahs than anyone else.

I watched with disbelief when Bruce Langdon tried to exonerate even Khomeini, saying his information! was that Ayatollah Khomeini was not so keen on the takeover but just wanted to go along with the power in the street :) Such a statement is typical of the deluded naive illusions of the Carter era officials. Khomeini did not need to go along with the power in the streets, Khomeini WAS the power in the streets. What Khomeini said happened, simple as that. The sad thing is Bruce Langdon is still so flimflammed after 444 days of being a hostage and 28 years after the event.

The post-Islamic revolution generation of Iranians do not need to apologise for what happened back then. We had nothing to do with it. We rejected very quickly the tragic mistakes of our previous generation who left us in this mess, and we are not as deluded as the US State Department officials and diplomats about the nature of these clerics ruling our country.

We have stood up to these Ayatollahs and 'useful idiots' all on our own in a variety of ways without any support from anyone or anywhere and we will continue to do so until an Iranian government is returned to our country and our Iranian Sun and Lion flag is raised again.