Sunday, January 27, 2008

Remember the Days of Free Speech in UK?

The ripples of the 1979 Islamic revolution did not just extend to Iran and the Middle East region. Freedom took a set back in Western democracies too.

There was a time when entertainers and writers weren't scared of fatwas against their heads and the BBC wasn't scared of offending the terrorists. Here is a sketch from the Not the Nine O'clock News comedy team which used to be shown on BBC2 in the early 1980s. The program launched the careers of now established British comedy icons, Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys-Jones and Pamela Stephenson.

Can you imagine the BBC showing a sketch like that now or even show a repeat of this sketch:

Perhaps those who helped engineer this calamity, should have realised the dangers of a fundamentalist state with billions of petro-Dollars at its disposal.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hopeful Signs in VOA Persian

One must not always criticise without giving credit when it is due. There has been some worthwhile improvements in VOA Persian programs recently. Most noteworthy was a very professionally managed program presented by Shahla Arasteh who had invited Gene Sharp as her guest. The program started with some good background footage in civil disobedience, appropriate questions were asked in a coherent manner by the presenter, and professionally interpreted from Persian to English and vice versa.

Also what I liked was how an IRI plant intent on causing embarrassment during the first call was quickly recognised and dealt with quickly.

Robert Tait also appeared on the News and Views program and talked about how foreign journalists are restrained in reporting news from Iran. How they must be careful not to be too critical and how they have to tread carefully not to cross the red boundaries in order to avoid getting expelled and banned from Iran.

Hopefully all this signals a re-awakening into what is relevant in today's situation than what we have seen before, i.e. irrelevant programs, airtime for IRI apologists, not checking the credentials of the guests and obvious cronyism and favouritism.

It all begs the question as to why VOA management like Sheila Ganji and Kambiz Mahmoody always claimed VOA must be an impartial news agency only and can not broadcast programs which advocate political dissent to viewers!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Iranian student Dies in Custody

Remember the Iranian student at UCLA, Mostafa Tabatabaii-Nejad, who had refused to show his ID card to the campus security? Remember how so many Iranian ex-pats who always turn a blind eye about human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic suddenly became student rights champions? Remember how Islamic Republic lobbyists and agents in America, fanned the flames and encouraged Iranian students in American universities to take action? Remember how the Islamic Republic backed LA TV stations like Shabkhiz, Tapesh and Rangarang, suddenly became so vocal about student rights?

Well since then there has been at least two Iranian students who have died in the custody of the Islamic Republic police, Zahra Bani Yaghoub, a 27-year-old female student, who died in prison in the western city of Hamedan in October, shortly after she was detained by the morality police while out for a stroll with her fiance, and more recently on January 15, Ebrahim Lotfollahi, who was kidnapped by security forces in front of Payame Nur University in Sanandaj and died in custody nine days after.

So, where are those Iranian ex-pats who had become so vocal for Mostafa Tabatabaii-Nejad? Their heads buried in sand as usual!

What Was Shown on Al-Jazeera English

So here is the clip of what the decided to show. I appear right towards the end, and the only part shown is when I am talking about how much more organised, focused and professional the IRI propaganda is compared to how pathetic and amateur the US propaganda is. I had a feeling that the program was going to be about how the US tries to manipulate the media for its own end and I was trying to say that actually the US is so naive in propaganda when it comes to the might of the Islamic Republic and all the media they have at their disposal.

and look at what they put down as my occupation, blogger!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On Aljazeera English

I was contacted by Aljazeera English TV for an interview request on reaction to Bush's visit and to the Iran-US boat incident from an Iranian point of view. I declined the interview at first thinking they are looking for some expert on international relationship, which I am not, but when they insisted they are just after a lay man's view, I accepted the offer. Before going to their recording place, I also asked around other friends what they thought I should say, so I could represent a more collective view.

The recording was not live, it is scheduled for tomorrow. Excerpts of what I said will be edited for the program broadcast. I find these kind of interviews more difficult. You never know what part of what you say will be included and in what context. You also don't have a lot of time to explain the background to your answers, what the program makers are looking for are sound bites they can use and you just have to hope for the best that your point of view is reflected.

So for the record's sake, here is the gist of what I said on the subjects:

On Bush's visit:

"Its all very well sending messages of solidarity to the Iranian people but often these empty messages are not followed by any meaningful help or even worse judging by past experiences we will see the state department doing some kind of a deal with the Iranian regime or some US intelligence agency will give undue credit to the government of Iran. Iranian people who want to change the regime in Iran can not trust the US as a reliable or even well informed ally."

On the Iran-US boats incident:

" The incident highlights that those who fear war between US and Iran and campaign in No War marches etc. should also campaign against the Iranian government which seems to be hell bent on adventurism and actually welcomes war with US to solve its domestic problems and gain more allies. As usual however the US has made a complete mess of the situation and discredited her claims, another PR disaster and is totally losing the media and the propaganda war to the Islamic Republic"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Haleh Afshar, the People's Peer!

A friend outside the UK recently sent me an email asking if I have any contact details from Haleh Afshar. I replied citing Haleh Afshar's university web page which displays her university email account. I was hesitant to continue with saying what I thought of Haleh Afshar in my reply email however. I have seen Haleh Afshar a few times on British TV and on each occasion she has been an absolute disgrace in my opinion.

First time I saw her was years ago on a program called After Dark, where her drunken state and continuous unnecessary giggling was just too embarrassing to watch, let alone listening to her utter nonsense. On another Question Time program, where again her constant giggling with Alex Salmond was annoying and embarrassing, she sort of attributed the candle lit march by Iranians paying condolences to 9/11 victims as an Islamic Republic approved event!

Since Haleh Afshar has become a member of the House of Lords, I have been receiving a lot of emails from people outside UK asking me what I think of her, so I thought if I do this post, I can just refer them to this link.

In my view Haleh Afshar, epitomizes the previous generation of over privileged Iranians, confused and full of unresolved contradictions, who liked to embrace fashionable ideas without thinking them through. The very generation of Iranian intellectuals who got Iran in such a mess today and I despise so much.

To make up your own mind just read this BBC religion program interview transcript with Haleh Afshar:
BBC Religion Program

And this is how I summarise it, if you don't have time to read the above:

In her own words she came from such a pampered background that until the age of 14, she had never combed her own hair, dressed or undressed herself or even had a bath by herself without the help of house servants. After reading Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, she became so impressed by the steely women of England who did their own things, that she insisted her parents send her to a boarding school in Britain.

Haleh Afshar is then sent to a Catholic boarding school in England where she embraces Marxism-Leninism.

She then claims to have worked with the Marxist-Leninist Fedayeen Guerrillas group against the Shah [not clear exactly what she did]. This is an underground secret armed organisation, but she tells her father about it! I can just imagine her saying "Daddy, I am working with the Fedayeen Marxist-Leninst guerrillas". Her father's reply, as she describes it in the interview, is you know if they come to power they will execute me and again in her own words in the interview she says 'Oh no, I won't shoot you - I will protect you'.

When the 1979 Islamic revolution happens, she is convinced it will be a Marxist revolution and a Fedayeen victory! But of course after the Shah's men, the Marxists were next to face the Islamic firing squads. She describes this period in her own interview like this:
"y'know every day there would be a lot of people I knew who were dying. So I used to just open the newspaper, read, have a cry and then go to work. And I knew we were defeated"
Just imagine! her friends are dying every day, she opens the newspapers, has a cry and then goes to work!!! No campaign to raise awareness of what was going on? No effort to bring pressure on Islamic Republic to stop the executions? No attempt to solicit the international public opinion? just have a little cry for the abandoned comrades who were dying every day and then go to work??

Disappointed with Iran not becoming a proletarian state, Haleh Afshar continues with her proletarian activities in UK. Again in her own words she describes how she stood in a designer Chanel suit outside Rowntree's factory asking the workers to go on strike! [I am sorry I just had a belly ache from laughter as I am writing this bit in the post]

Oh of course throughout this time she is also a Shia Muslim woman. My mind boggles as she tries to reconcile Marx's dialectical materialism with Shiite theology.
She claims feminism has been her core consistency through life. In one of her replies in the interview she says "I began by always wanting to be a man," :))

Since she has become a celebrity TV Islamic apologist, this is how she justifes gender apartheid in Islam:
"I think that women are oppressed universally by men, and the Islamic countries are no exception"

In recognition of her Islamic apologist stand, the UK government has decided she is an Islamic and an Iran expert and made her a people's peer in the House of Lords, which is just another contradiction in my view. What the hell is a people's peer? when did people decide she is their peer? and I thought I would never live to see a Marxist's delight at becoming a member of the House of Lords!

I think I have said enough and you get the picture. If you get time, read her full interview, and you will see that I have been very fair.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Robert Tait's Expulsion from Iran

What was surprising about the Guardian correspondent, Robert Tait's expulsion from Iran was not that he was expelled but that he managed to last so long. For Robert Tait, was not the Jim Muir or Francis Harrison BBC type Iran correspondents that sat in their offices and waited for the Iranian officials to feed them with the news.

The Guardian correspondent in Iran, Robert Tait, would go after the news. He had gained the trust of the dissidents and activists inside Iran and would make contact with them to report their side of the story. Robert Tait was the only Western correspondent who extensively and graphically reported the confrontations between the Islamic Moral Police and the Iranian women and youth.

Years ago I met Genieve Abdo and her husband Jonathan Lyons in London. They were in the same predicament as Robert Tait today. They opened my eyes as to why so many foreign correspondents in Iran are seduced by the Islamic regime and prefer an enjoyable assignment of luxuries and privileges in exchange for mild reports to the uncertainties of expulsion and looking for their next assignments and how that choice influences what they choose to report from Iran.

While all other correspondents were mesmerized by the smiles of the cunning President Khatami, Abdo and Lyons would report the crackdown on the students and the hollowness of the so-called reformists. While others would suffice by saying "another blow to the body of the reformists", Abdo would ask "How many more blows must be struck before you can say the reform is finished?".

In the same tradition, Robert Tait, preferred to report the real news and the real Iran behind the mask of the Ayatollahs. Tait knew the distinction between the Iranian people and the Iranian regime. Most importantly Tait reported on the conflict between what the Iranian masses want and the Islamic regime can not provide. A conflict which will always make the Islamic Republic paranoid and unsettled. Best described in his last sentence from his last report:
"[Iranian] people are thirsting for a sense of social freedom which the Islamic system is withholding from them."