Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Inconsistencies of Stop the War Campaigns

Apart from Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson, Hossein, who publicly backed the invasion of Iran as the only way to get rid of a regime that his grandfather founded, I know of no other Iranian who is keen on a military invasion of Iran. We all have loved ones and families back in Iran, how can we possibly not be anxious if a military invasion is on the cards?

There have been a few Stop the War Campaigns which I have come across in UK, in the last few years. Yet despite sharing the same goal, I have always been suspicious of the ones I have encountered. It seems their agenda is not really to stop the war but to support the Islamic Republic and have a bash at America. Take the current very dangerous situation we are in now with the 15 captured British sailors. We are edging towards a military conflict as each day passes by. Even some members of the Islamic Republic establishment like the previous Iranian ambassador to UK, Mohammad Hossein Adeli, claim that "Iran had the right to capture the UK sailors but keeping them as hostages is not in our national interest."

Shady groups like "Iran Action" or "Campaign Against Sanctions and Intervention in Iran", as usual, have been inconsistent with regards to condemning the Islamic Republic when it comes to war-mongering. Surely if one is really against war, then one should be even handed and condemn provocations on both sides.

Even if we accept the Islamic Republic claims that the 15 sailors were in Iranian waters by 400 Metres, I hardly think this is enough penetration for spying purposes! So where are these Stop the War Campaigners now? Why are they not demonstrating now and condemning the hardliners in Iran who really seem intent on wanting a military conflict?

Every time I have asked them why do you not campaign against the crimes committed in Iran by the mullahs, their standard reply is "we think by highlighting such matters, invasion of Iran will be more imminent!"

This kind of logic is as warped and as suspicious as Hoder justifying his wish for Islamic Republic to have nuclear weapons (yes not even energy, weapons!) to bring democracy in Iran. Hoder claims that Islamic Republic is clamping on democracy in Iran because it feels threatened. If she obtains nuclear weapons then she will not feel threatened and will allow democracy in Iran to flourish!! What nonsense! What a pathetic argument from an inadequate revolting bazaar merchant kid!

Following that logic, North Korea should now be a flourishing democracy! and those who fought against Apartheid in South Africa, should have ceased their struggle but pressed for the Apartheid regime to obtain nuclear weapons!

It is these kinds of inconsistencies and pitiful statements that have always made me suspicious of these groups and individuals. For me there is only one sure way of stopping any military action against Iran, and that is the establishment of a secular democracy that respects individual freedoms. A secular democracy which is inclusive of all Iranians irrespective of their religious beliefs. While we have this adventurous, crisis loving, religious apartheid in Iran, we are always risking a military conflict.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

LS Faye Turney and her Letter

I normally avoid writing in my blog about Iran related matters which have had due coverage on the mainstream media in the West. Instead, I try to concentrate on matters that have not been highlighted but are noteworthy in my view, in order to grab some attention.

For the reasons above, I wouldn't have written anything about the capture of the British sailors. I am not in a position to know where these sailors were when they were captured, nor where they are held now.

Leading Seaman Faye Turney's letter, in which she apologises for having entered Iranian waters, does prompt me to raise a point however. Ever since the 1979 Islamic takeover of Iran, we have become accustomed to Iranian dissidents and opposition or those who have fallen out of favour with the establishment, to appear on state TV and recant the crimes they have been accused of. So much so, that these state TV appearances have very little credibility with Iranians.

I remember the first post-revolution Prime Minister, in the provisional government, Mehdi Bazargan, pre-empted himself in the parliament, after his sell by date as a pawn of the mullahs had passed, by starting his speech in the parliament saying "If tomorrow they bring me on TV and make me say things, let it be known that what I am about to say now is what I really want to say not what I may have to say on TV tomorrow".

Thats why I have as much faith in Leading Seaman Turney's letter being voluntarily written as her Islamic headscarf being of her own choice.

Just before Ahmadi-Nejad became the president, a friend of mine had rang me and advised me to vote for Ahmadi-Nejad. Bemused and laughing at the same time, I asked him why?
"So the world finds out what the Islamic Republic is really like, instead of this false shop window dressing that is presented to the outside world by the likes of Khatami."

These forced confessions on state TV went on throughout Khatami's 8 years as president, but not much was said about it in the West. Perhaps my friend was right. We needed someone like Ahmadi-Nejad to wake up the gullible people in the West.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hoder and the "useful idiots"

Shortly after our efforts to publicise the plight of arrested Iranian women activists and promoting their 1 million signature campaign, there was a couple of lines on Hoder's blog, in Persian, below a link to my post on this subject.

The translation of the two lines on his blog is:

"The participation of monarchists in women's campaign"
"Its these kinds of actions that makes movements inside Iran threaten the national security"

As usual I was happy to see Hoder write about something we had done. Whenever he gets annoyed about something we do, it means what we have done has been worthwhile. Hossein Derakhshan, aka Hoder, is the spoiled child of a wealthy Bazari member of the very conservative Islamic Coalition in Iran. His first wedding ceremony was performed by no other than the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, himself. Hoder wants to enjoy the joys and comforts of living in the West and at the same time for daddy to remain rich and wealthy in Iran, in order to support his life style.

What is Hoder's role? Simply put, to present an acceptable face of the Islamic Republic to the Western intellectuals. His mission is to show the world, that despite the Islamic Republic being a religious apartheid, with the exception of a few fine tunings here and there, its actually an ok regime!

The type that were described by Stalin, as one of my readers once pointed out, "useful idiots", is his target audience. Hoder knows how to "play the game" and win over these "useful idiots".
To "play the game", you have to be anti-American, look trendy, and justify the wrongs in the Islamic Republic by pointing the finger at the West. Once you "play the game" right, the "useful idiots" will be won over.

So why is Hoder annoyed with what we did in South Bank University? Because we told an audience, who were active in womens rights campaigns, about what was going on in Iran. We were, in fact, a mixture of Iranian monarchists and non-monarchists. We were there to tell the audience about the Iranian activists, no one promoted monarchy in Iran or otherwise, as this was not the issue on the day. Finally to suggest that by telling the world about Iranian activists who have been jailed for a peaceful protest, will "turn the movement into threatening national security" just goes to show how intellectually bankrupt, Hoder and his "useful idiots" really are :))

Friday, March 23, 2007

Iranian Teachers in Evin Prison

Its the Iranian New Year, Nowrooz, and hundreds of Iranian teachers are in Evin prison. They should have spent Nowrooz with their families, around the Haft-Sin table waiting for the exact hour, minute and second when the Spring Equinox takes place. Their children should be thinking of nothing but their new clothes, and their new presents. Yet all they have on their mind is when will Mum or/and Dad come home?

What is the "crime" of Iranian teachers? Why are they in prison? According to the Islamic Republic, they have threatened the national security of the regime by peacefully demonstrating for a better standard of living!! What an insecure regime this Islamic Republic is that its security is so easily threatened. In fact all the teachers have asked for, is the enactment of a public sector pay bill passed by the parliament!

I wish I had time and could translate this article in this Iranian blog:
It is written by a reporter who got mixed up with the hundreds of teachers who were arrested. More than 50 plain clothes agents on motor bikes attack the teachers, and the reporter is taken along with the rest of the teachers to an abandoned house, where cleric judges decide who should go to Evin prison in summary trials that last only a few minutes. He then describes how these ordinary decent people were treated. How men and women, old and young were beaten up and what kind of vulgar insults were hurled at the women teachers. How their headscarfs were pulled off and when the male teachers stood up for their female colleagues, how badly they were beaten up.

The army conscripts seem to be apologetic and sorry. One of them tells the inmates "Please forgive me for what they have made me do to you". But the plain clothes cavemen seem to be from another planet or another age! Everyone is asking "what kind of animals are they? Don't they have wives and kids themselves? Where are they from?"

And it wouldn't surprise me, if one day we find out these cavemen were imports from Iraq. May be Moqtada Sadr's followers who have escaped from Iraq recently.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Reza Pahlavi's Nowrooz Message to Iranians

Translated Excerpts of Reza Pahlavi's message on the occasion of Nowrooz (Persian New Year ):

. . . The Iranian New Year, Nowrooz, reminds us that no power can suppress or hold back the natural and fundamental desires of humans; whether they are in pursuit of happiness, bettering of lives, or finding sanctity and peace within the arms of law, order and freedom.. . .

Nowrooz has withstood much tumult throughout the millennia, resiliently serving as a symbol of resistance against untold assaults on our rich culture and prideful heritage.. . .

This year, however, I am deeply sorrowed over the serious and very grave circumstances facing our homeland -- to spiritedly wish you a joyous celebration of Nowrooz. We face real and unprecedented danger. Our homeland is confronted with an abyss, threatened with sanctions, violence and destruction, even partitioning, at the hands of adversaries, both domestic and foreign.. . .

The clerical regime, its principals, values and nature being the root cause of our national ills is faced with two choices: the continuation of its adventurism, reckless and rogue behavior; or, reversal of course, concession and compromise of its very principals. Unfortunately neither scenario bodes in favor of our national interests, for our national ills are deep and our problems vast -- all rooted in the nature of a regime whose end must come if we are to have a chance to renew our nation for a better future.. . .

We, as a nation, are endowed with an ancient heritage that has gifted mankind a great plenty: great statesmen, prominent leaders and pioneers in multitude of fields. The destiny of our nation should not be determined at the hands of an incompetent, corrupt and inept few. Iran and Iranians deserve better!. . .

As spring renews our day, I reaffirm my commitment to you and our homeland. Above and beyond all personal ambitions and interests we must join ranks, move forward and find our way towards the end goal.

May your new-year be victorious!

God Bless Iran

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Nowrooz in Amsterdam

If you stay in Amsterdam long enough, you are bound to get run over. Least likely by a car but most probably by a push bike. Here bicycles rule! They come every each way and from every direction and they care not what is in their way. I learned my lesson when I got run over by a push bike on my second day. I was looking out for cars, trams and buses and somehow assumed that bicycles will look out for me, but a fading bicycle tyre burn mark on my right calf is a reminder that I should not make such assumptions again.

I will be working here for a while, and only go back to London for weekends. Few people have told me that when they left London, they missed even the things they complained about. Now I understand what they meant.

Most of all I miss my social circle, and just feel a little bit out of touch here. Nowrooz outside Iran is never ideal, but at least over the years, we celebrated Nowrooz as best as we could. This year, I am resigned to the fact that it will be the drabbest and most boring Nowrooz of my life so far.

I don't think the Dutch believe in luxury. In fact living a Spartan life, I am told, is part of the Orange order. Take the Hotels for example, a three star hotel here, is probably equivalent of a one star hotel anywhere else. The rooms are so small, I feel claustrophobic, and they are all very dimly lit. The reason for the lack of lighting, I am sure, is to do with the Dutch being tight. My God, they are tight! Its only now that I understand what the expressions used in England, 'Going Dutch', 'Dutch Treat' and 'Dutch Date' really mean! I am sure their love affair with bicycles is also nothing to do with environment or health. They are just too tight to use a car. You never even see a nice modern, comfortable bicycle. They all look old and second-hand, probably handed down from generation to generation.

As tight as the Dutch are however, they are ever so friendly and tolerant, and they all speak English. Even when the beggars and the bums approach you and you tell them you can't speak Dutch, they will beg in Shakespearean English. I had to laugh once when I heard an English tourist, must have just got here, asked the barmaid, "excuse me do you speak English?". You really don't need to ask, you can speak to anyone in English. You can even watch comedy shows in English, along with a Dutch audience. In fact, I watched one of the best improvised comedy shows here in Amsterdam, in a theatre called Boom Boom Chicago.

Everyone seems to enjoy roughly the same standard of living here. If you earn too much money, they tax you for everything and you get nothing from the state and if you earn nothing, you get loads of state handouts. This must be the closest it will ever get to a real Socialist system.

You can go up to any woman on her own, in a typically badly lit street, and ask for directions, and she will gladly stop and help you. In London, understandably so, a woman would be perhaps too frightened to talk to a stranger in those circumstances, but here in Amsterdam, women feel safe.
I wonder if this is anything to do with their liberal laws and their red light district oddity. It seems to me that no one here can possibly be sexually repressed to bother a woman. Interesting that in Islamic Pakistan for example, where everyone must be sexually repressed, a woman is raped once every hour and gang raped every eight hours, but in liberal Amsterdam, women feel safe and secure.

The Dutch women are quite stunning. An Italian colleague tells me, he has never come across an ugly Dutch girl, and I yet have to prove him wrong. A combination of good genes and lots of pedalling on the bicycles has made the Dutch girls looking fit and desirable.

One of the first places I went to see here was Ann Frank's house. Its an overwhelming experience to be in the same house as Ann Frank and her family. To know that you are looking out of the same window as the Frank family did. To imagine their fears every time they peeked out of the window. There in that house a family was torn apart and suffered a tragic end at the hands of the Nazis, and you were in their hideout amongst their memories. An amazing experience. At the end of the tour, there is a really interesting exhibition. The audience watch a film explaining the background of the question they are about to be asked on limits of freedom. Then at the end of each clip, they express their opinion by pressing a Yes/No button. Two charts then display how the audience have voted in the room on the day and overall since the exhibition began. Some tough soul searching questions are asked which really make you think.

Another favourite place of mine is Leidesplein. Its a little bit like London's Covent Garden with its street performances. Now let me tell you about a little short grumpy man who performs the most amazing football skills I have ever seen. Now I thought my football skills and my kick ups were a little impressive but this guy is the supremo. Let me try to explain to you just one of his amazing acts. He bounces the ball on his head and moves towards one of the street lamps in the square, while still bouncing the ball on his head. He then climbs up the lamp post, still bouncing the ball on his head. Once he reaches the top, he hangs from the lamp's strut and then bounces the ball on his feet! He then climbs down, bouncing the ball on his head again. I mean how much ball control can he have?! I think his name is Roberto. Really recommend seeing him if you are in Amsterdam. Don't try to talk to him though, he is the most unfriendly performer in the world.

So this is where and how I am spending my 27th Nowrooz outside Iran. A bitter cold wind that penetrates into ones bones takes away any illusions of a Spring equinox. We say in Persian, You can tell what the year ahead will be like from its Spring!! It won't be the most memorable one. The most memorable one, of course, will be the one I wrote about before. The Nowrooz with the Prince and Iranian refugees in Crystal Palace, a day we will never forget.

Happy Nowrooz everyone, wherever you are.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ahmadi-Nejad's Popularity

Remember MacAakill and Tisdall's article in the Guardian? Couple of anti-American "journalists" who went to Islamic Republic of Iran, had a wonderful time, talked to Ahmadi-Nejad's childhood friend and then reported to their readers in the West that Ahmadi-Nejad enjoys a 70% approval rating?

Well here is some pictures from Ahmadi-Nejad's visit to Yazd and the number of people who greeted him despite all the rent a crowd efforts by the state:

Ahmadi-Nejad in Yazd

They say a picture is worth a thousand words :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I haven't watched the Hollywood "Historic Epic" 300 yet and if I ever do, it will probably be on a pirate DVD. I have had lots of emails about boycotting the movie and protests etc. In my experience however these kind of actions against a movie are either pointless or they just create more publicity for it.

Anyone with half a brain cell also knows that when it comes to historical accuracy, Hollywood is pathetically hopeless. Sensationalism brings more revenue than historical accuracy, thats a fact.

However if we are so concerned about the historical reputation of our ancestors, we could do a lot more good than sending emails to each other to boycott a movie which is already breaking box office records. Few years ago a young director by the name of Alexander Jovy wanted to make an epic movie about Cyrus the Great. Some of my Iranian readers may remember me interviewing Alexander on Azadi TV, outside the British Mueseum in London.

The budget for the Cyrus movie was estimated at 50 Million Pounds. Two non-Iranian investors had each provided 20 Million Pounds towards the making of the film. Both investors wanted to show the spirit of tolerance and greatness in Cyrus. Had the film been made, it would have been a source of pride for all of us. Yet not one Iranian investor came forward to close the remaining £10M balance!

Even people like Iranian born Lord David Alliance, with a huge personal fortune, were approached. Lord Alliance however was not interested, complaining that the UK Labour government had closed the tax loop holes for movie investments. One would have thought the Jewish Lord Alliance, would have had more incentive to make the Cyrus movie than just think about the tax loop holes.

So if our heritage and our ancestors are now being shown in a bad light, lets point one finger at Hollywood but four fingers at ourselves. Iranian ex-pat community includes many super wealthy individuals, the vast majority of them have lots of money but no sense and passion about Iran.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Promoting the 1Million Signature Campaign at South Bank University

A conference organised by the South Bank University Student Union, titled "The Empowerment of Women from the 1960's to the New Era" and the recent arrests of Iranian women campaigners, gave us an opportunity to raise awareness about the struggle of Iranian women and in particular about the one million signature campaign.

Speakers for the event included former First Lady of Ghana, Mrs Nana Rawlings, the local Lib Dem MP, Simon Hughes and the London based Persian Weekly correspondent Nazanin Ansari.

Participants were handed a brief outline of the recent arrests of women activists in Tehran before entering the lecture hall. Nazanin Ansari did an excellent job of outlining the challenges faced by Iranian women and how through peaceful non-violent means, Iranian women are fighting for their rights under extremely difficult conditions. Her speech was well received by the audience and nearly all the 100 people who attended, signed the petition and were keen to learn more about the plight of imprisoned activists in Iran.

More photos:

Lib Dem MP, Simon Hughes, Signing the petition:

The South Bank University SU President, Victor, who gave us all the help he could

Nazanin Ansari doing a fantastic job for Iranian women:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Best Solidarity Action with Iranian Women

I had a lot of emails since the Iranian women campaigners were arrested last Sunday. "What can we do?" was the question most of them asked. In my opinion the best and easiest solidarity action, not the only one, is to sign and help the “One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws in Iran ” campaign.

The one million signature campaign to change the law began with a peaceful protest last June in Tehran. Women activists peacefully marched and sang feminist songs. Within minutes the police beat them and arrested them. More than 70 people were arrested. Among them the five who were in court last Sunday.

By signing this campaign and telling others about it, the Iranian authorities will realise that any further such crackdown on peaceful protesters will in fact only publicise the Iranian women’s campaign. It will tell the Iranian authorities that the international public opinion is aware of these arrests and harming the Iranian women campaigners will not go unnoticed by other women across the world.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Decent Living Standard, Our Blatant Right

The Islamic Republic state sponsored slogan, "Nuclear Energy is Our Blatant Right" seems to be backfiring across all sections of the Iranian society. Whether its the Iranian workers demanding their unpaid wages, or Iranian women struggling against gender discrimination in Iran or Iranian teachers asking for a decent wage, they have all taken up the regime's nuclear slogan and turned it to what is really blatant, i.e. before nuclear energy, our people need and deserve a decent standard of living. In all these protests one placard holds the same message "Decent Living Standard is Our Blatant Right".

Iran is a very rich country, both in natural resources and in human skills. With some good government and good management, Iranians should enjoy a very good standard of living. But they don't! Islamic Republic, despite its fancy slogans, ranks high in corruption, drug addiction, people living below poverty line, prostitution, unemployment and other social malaise.

The events of recent days in Iran has brought about simultaneous protests by different sections of the society. It has not yet turned into critical mass, but what is encouraging is that they are not fizzling out with the first wave of arrests and crackdowns.

This is the beauty of peaceful and non-violent protest, after a while the organs of repression just can not justify why peaceful protesters, demanding basic rights, should be beaten up and arrested and after a while those who are ordered to beat and arrest the people even start sympathising with the victims.

Such movements however, need support. Both from amongst the population and outside the country. From Iranian ex-pats and from the international community.

The Left in Europe, as ever, seems to be losing the plot. Those who take part in anti-nuclear protests seem to be backing Ahmadi-Nejad for nuclear power and abandoning ordinary working Iranian people who want a decent basic minimum standard of living.

What would Marx have said if he was alive to see the European Left today? He would have kicked himself back into the grave, I am sure.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Petitions in Support of Arrested Iranian Women Campaigners

I have received and signed the following petitions in support of the arrested Iranian women campaigners:

In English

and this one in Persian addressed to Ayatollah Shahroodi, head of Islamic Republic judiciary and Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, chair of the Islamic consultative assembly:

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Iran's Prominent Women Campaigners Arrested

Thirty seven leading Iranian women campaigners were arrested today outside the revolutionary court.

See pictures and names of the arrested women:

The gathering was in support of five other women activists who were appearing in court today for having organised previous peaceful gatherings. The five who were appearing in court today were Nooshin Khorassani, Parvin Ardalan, Shahla Entesari, Fariba Davoodi Mohajer and Soosan Tahmasbi.

Clashes at Alameh University

Protesting Iranian students at Alameh university clashed with Baseej and security forces yesterday.
More than 700 students gathered to protest at the latest disciplinary codes issued by the school of Social Sciences at Alameh university.

Students quickly gathered and put up placards protesting at further attempts to impose an "atmosphere of Fascist control" in the university. A female student spoke to the students. She referred to recent comments by President Ahmadi-Nejad, saying that if he has dismantled the brakes in Iran's race to obtain nuclear energy, Iran's students have also dismantled the brakes in the fight for free speech and progress.

Another student said the overwhelming students in the university respect different ways of life, and the individuals rights to freedom and privacy. It is only a minority of individuals with their reactionary ways who want to impose their ways upon others. The majority therefore should resist these few who prefer to live in the dark ages. "This minority wants to intimidate us but we will resist their bullying tactics" He said amongst the cheers from other fellow students.

As the students marched towards the main gates, they started singing "Yare Dabestani", the Iranian student solidarity anthem, but the university security forces, Herasat, clashed with the students and closed the gates preventing others from joining the students.

Teachers Demos in Tehran

Iran's teachers have once again gathered to protest at their falling living standards and the restrictions on what they have to teach to Iranian pupils.

28 years after the Islamic revolution that promised people free gas, electricity and housing, living standards for the ordinary people continue to fall, despite the billions of petro dollars that have been flowing in.

The notice held by one protesting teacher on the left reads

"I teach the pupils love and freedom so that the world knows our ancient culture and civilisation was all about this"

This one held by another protesting teacher says

"A human living standard is our blatant right" paraphrasing the official slogan "Nuclear energy is our blatant right".

This one complains about the lack of coverage of such protests by official state broadcasting.

See more pictures: