Friday, March 28, 2008

The Islamist by Ed Husain

I finished reading the Islamist by Ed Husain over the Easter holidays. Ed Husain was born in Britain to a Muslim Bangladeshi family. At the age of sixteen, much to the horror of his parents, he became an Islamic fundamentalist. Five years later, having witnessed the horrors and hypocrisies of political Islam at first hand, he rejected fundamentalist Islam.

His book, the Islamist, is a captivating explanation of why young British Muslims become extremists and how the British politicians and college administrators are party to this disturbing trend.

If it was down to me, I would make his book as part of the school curriculum text books.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Nowrooz

Happy Nowrooz to all those sons and daughters of Iran who have chosen not to stay silent against the present day Zahak's rule.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Foreign Policy Centre Meeting in the Parliament

I was debating with myself whether I should go to a Chaharshanbeh-Suri party, the Iranian fireworks night leading to the Iranian New Year, or to this meeting in the Parliament organised by the Foreign Policy Centre and Progressive. At the end I decided there will be plenty of Iranians at the party, but I should attend the meeting.

The title of the meeting was 'The Left and Iran: A progressive approach'. The panel consisted of Baroness Shirley Williams, Nazenin Ansari - Diplomatic Editor of Kayhan -, Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Professorial Fellow, RUSI and former Special Adviser to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Mark Fitzpatrick, Senior Fellow for Non-proliferation, International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Chair was former MP, Stephen Twigg.

I missed Nazenin Ansari's part and got there towards the end of Mark Fitzpatrick's speech. Somehow I was hoping that the Left are beginning to see the light and have become more realistic about the Islamic Republic of Iran, but Baroness Shirley Williams's talk soon dashed my hopes. She ranted on painting this image of the Islamic Republic of Iran having felt constantly threatened which justified her desire to obtain nuclear weapons. Although she also said this is not to say executing gays and other human rights abuses should be condoned.
She also made a strange comment that she has three Iranian friends and each give her a different picture making it difficult for her to make a judgement on Iran.

I thought Shirley Williams clearly displayed the kind of naivety we have seen in the British administration in the past years regarding Islamic extremism, the kind of naivety that granted Omar Bakri political asylum in Britain, to sow the seeds of terror in British universities, colleges and mosques that led to the 7/7 bombings of the London transport.

All I remember from Professor Malcolm Chalmers, former advisor to Jack Straw, was that in typical fashion in these meetings, he brought up the 1953 coup again as if the Ayatollahs were the victims of what happened in 1953. This 1953 event seems to be a must to mention amongst British academics, I think they then feel like they know about Iran.

Another speaker who said he had contacts with the British-Iranian businessmen, complained that by restricting business with Iran, Britain was reducing its source of information from Iran and all it meant was that the Chinese were moving in instead. He thought it was important to maintain contacts with the Islamic Republic, and gave example of how in meetings with the Iranian ambassador he had told him executing gays in Iran is not good. Although he doubted himself if that did any good.

There was so much to ask about what was said, but as the central theme was that the Islamic Republic feels under threat, I thought I concentrate on Shirley Williams. I refuted her suggestion that the Islamic Republic has been under threat for the last 28 years from America and Israel and co. I started with the Carter administration, and the grand overtures that the administration made to the Ayatollahs. I gave examples of figures in the Carter administration referring to ayatollah Khomeini as a saint and as Iran's Gandhi, the Irangate affair when Iran obtained weapons from the US and Israel, President Clinton calling the Islamic Republic a democracy, and Madeline Albright apologizing to the Ayatollahs for the 1953 coup against Mossadiq!! and so forth, and I carried on saying 'yet the chants of death to America has never stopped during the Friday Prayers, in the last 28 years, except once just after 9/11, when the Ayatollahs were really scared." I finished my question by asking "has anyone in the panel actually read the Islamic Republic constitution or Ayatollah Khomeini's books to see what the Islamic Republic is really about?"

Shirley Williams wasn't really answering my question and I reminded her again what my question was, amidst Stephen Twigg's objection, but I am sorry, I asked a question and I wanted my question answered not her going on about another topic. Shirley Williams then reiterated that the Islamic Republic has justifiably felt under threat, and gave the example of Iran-Iraq war. I interrupted her again saying 'but the Islamic Republic was in a position to end the war and demand substantial concessions very early on during the war but continued to choose war with zero gains at the end costing hundreds of thousands of more lives'. Again Stephen Twigg told me to let Shirley Williams answer. My question as to whether any of the panel had actually read Ayatollah Khomeini's books or the constitution of the Islamic Republic was left unanswered.

An English guy sitting next to me in a pinstripe suit also said in his question that the Islamic Republic felt under threat. He said 'If I was the Iranian president, I would get nuclear weapons too' and he listed just about every other country in the region who were aspiring to obtain nuclear weapons which justified the Ayatollahs also to obtain nuclear weapons.

I noticed he had scribbled Coca-Cola on his notepad in Arabic letters. I was curious to know who he was and how he knew to write in Arabic.

The Kayhan diplomatic editor had the final say, and I must say she did a fantastic job which earned her much applause from the audience. She said its not that negotiations with the Islamic Republic have not taken place in the last 28 years, they have. Time and time again Islamic Republic has been given assurances and incentives but has refused to accept them. When Hassan Rowhani, the Islamic Republic representative at the nuclear negotiations was close to a deal, he was removed from his job, and similarly when Larijani was close to reach a deal, he too was removed. May be not directly by Ahmadi-nejad but by those who really run the Islamic Republic.

She added 'and lets not forget the students and the women and the gays are not the only victims of the Islamic Republic', She mentioned the Sufi sect, the traditional Iranian clergy like Ayatollah Boroujerdi who is only asking for a separation of state and religion are also victims of this regime and finished amidst much approval from the audience and the panel, by saying
'Would it not be better for the Archbishop of Canterbury, instead of asking for Sharia to be implemented in the UK to express concern for Ayatollah Boroujerdi, who has been in solitary confinement since his arrest two years ago and make a humanitarian plea for Boroujerdi's release so that he can be amongst his family for the Iranian New Year?'

It was time I find out who the guy sitting next to me was. I asked him how was the Islamic Republic under threat in the first year of the revolution and yet they were already intending to export the revolution?

'The Shah was a puppet government propped up by the US' he replied.
I failed to see how that had anything to do with what I said, and realising the futility of arguing with him, I asked him what his profession was, but he asked me why I wanted to know?
"Because your arguments are so warped that I think you have a vested interest in the things you say" I told him.
He left while visibly shaking. I think I had made him quite angry.

Outside the committee room, I bumped into Shirley Williams. I shook hands with her but I had one more question to ask her. 'You know you said you had three Iranian friends who each said a different thing which made your judgement on Iran difficult, did you expect all Iranians to say the same thing? Should you not make your judgement based on for example reading the Islamic Republic constitution rather than on what your three Iranian friends say?"

She looked annoyed, "Well I didn't mean just three friends, I have lots of Iranian friends, excuse me I have to go to the wash room" and left without much enthusiasm for a good bye.

It was too late to go to the fireworks party, I missed the traditional jumping over the fire and all the singing and dancing and instead ended up upsetting a few "progressives".

Nowrooz without Aziz

As the Iranian New Year, Nowrooz, is approaching, I can't help reminding myself this will be the first Nowrooz without Aziz. Visiting the house at 32 Templewood, in Ealing was a mandatory part of the Nowrooz celebrations. Like I have said before, Nowrooz in England just does not have the same feel of Nowrooz in Iran. In Iran I felt the spring on the 20th March all the way through. The weather was the most pleasant, the trees were green again and had blossomed, everyone was wearing their new clothes, the streets and houses had all been spring cleaned, the freshness, the cleanliness, the novelty around you, made it exactly what we were celeberating, Nowrooz, a New Day.

Yet the house in 32 Templewood, was the nearest you would get to reincarnating that same ambiance in England. Aziz's house was like a little Iran island in middle of a cold and windy environment indifferent to Nowrooz. There was no need to make an appointment or anything, anyone could just turn up. How Aziz fed so many people I will never know.

It was also an occasion to meet other Iranians, some I liked, some I didn't, but it didn't matter, on Nowrooz, in Aziz's house, we were all Iranians.
After exchanging greetings with Aziz and others, I would check the Haft-Sin table decorations. Aziz would read my mind and say, "don't worry I haven't put that book you don't like, its a Shahnameh".

Now that Iran island will just be memories. Of course I will have many memories of Aziz, but one that led to creating the first NMIR website is probably the most relevant one to share here.

After the assassinations of Dr. Boroumand and Dr. Bakhtiar, National Movement of Iranian Resistance was nothing but a name on paper. Rafsanjani's assassins had decapitated the organisation and the body was just not functioning. Even printing the monthly publication was a struggle. The Internet was becoming more accessible however, and I could see this as a tool we should and could use for our political purposes. I discussed it with Aziz, he was keen on it almost straight away, he said I should go to a conference which was being held in Stuttgart, where many of the Iranian opposition groups were due to attend, and discuss it with people there. It was during that conference that I realised what was going on in the Iranian opposition, they had no imagination, dinosaurs straight out of Jurassic Park. I had sat there wasting my valuable weekend time listening to speeches which were neither relevant nor important.

After the long boring unnecessary speeches were over, I went up to Daryoush Majlesi, NMIR representative in Holland. I had prepared several pages explaining about the Internet, what it would cost, how we can use it, how we can communicate with it etc. As I was explaining it all going through the pages I had prepared for him, I noticed he was not listening to me but looking around. I gave him the little folder I had prepared and said, "would you like to read these in your own time and then get back to me when you can?"
"Yeah, yeah, leave them with me, I read it all later" He said showing little enthusiasm.

I spoke to other NMIR officials there as well. Many of them displaying their titles of Dr. and Engineers and making a point that we should know about their educational credentials, yet it was the same with all of them. They were not taking any interest in what I was saying, they were thinking about the speeches they were going to make or already had made.

Two weeks after the pathetic conference, I still had not heard from Daryoush Majlesi, so I decided to ring him.
"Mr. Majlesi, its me, Potkin Azarmehr"
"You know from NMIR in UK, I spoke to you about the internet"
"The Internet! I left you a folder explaining to you what the Internet was"
"Oh I lost that"
That was it! had he been next to me I would have wrapped the telephone cord round his tiny pencil neck.
"You lost it? so why didn't you ring me and tell me you lost it, you little prick?!"
Of course, he was too high and mighty to let someone like me talk to him like that and put the phone down on me.

I saw Aziz again and told him I am not getting anywhere with these Doctors and Engineers, as far as I am concerned they may as well flush their titles down the toilet for they are a bunch of idiots. Aziz listened to me and said to me unequivocally, "Go ahead, set up the website. If anyone objects as to why you did this on your own, refer them to me"

From then on, it was just Aziz and me working on the website. He would notify me if there was some worthwhile news and I would publish it on the site. NMIR first refused to publish the url in the monthly publication. When they finally did, they mistyped it twice and then gave up again! but who cared, no one apart from a few dinosaurs they had on their mailing list, was reading the publication, the website was having more browsers in one day than their entire recipients of the monthly publication in a year and I was collecting email addresses from all around the world.

Here we were, a tea house boy, as Aziz always described himself, having more common sense than those doctors and engineers in the Iranian opposition. I am surprised the site is still up, 12 years later, it looks all rudimentary and basic compared to the websites today, but that was one of the first few Iranian websites used for political purposes, and there was two people who can be credited for it, Aziz and myself.

Another more humourous memory of Aziz and his house in 32 Templewood, was when I turned up once unanounced to give back a book I had borrowed from him. He opened the door, and I could hear people upstairs where he entertained his guests in his living room, reciting poetry and applauding themselves.

"Who is here?" I asked with usual curiosity.
"No one that you would particularly like" Aziz replied.
"What do you mean, no one I like?"
"We are having a poetry night. I know you don't like poets and poetry" Aziz said.

I had debated with him on several occasions my views on how harmful poetry in the Iranian culture is for us, with statements like "No other nation has as many poets as we have and we all think we are poets and all we ever do is make up poetry verses. Every time something is wrong, we write a poem about it instead of doing something about it. Yet we have so few inventors, thinkers, discoverers, we don't need any more poets we need doers who will get off their arse and stop reciting poetry and do things and build things. Poetry is the easiest and laziest type of art there is and its the one we seem to be infatuated with most."

Yet despite having debated these points with him on a few occasions, I couldn't see why he was not letting me say hello to these poets and their admirers.

"So what? I am not going to debate with them my views on peotry, just want to say hello and leave"

"As I said they are poets, they have very tender sensitivities, even your hello with your eyebrows crossed like they are now, will grate their tender emotions, go and get on with your business, I speak to you later"

I left but I just kept laughing as I drove away every time I remembered his words, to this day, I am not sure if he was serious or just having a banter with me.

I will miss him greatly this Nowrooz.

Monday, March 17, 2008

It was with much delight when I was contacted about the formation of a new Azeri group, dedicated for the unity and integrity of Iran.

I have added their website to the links section on my blog. With so much balderdash gibberish by a handful of secessionist agitators, it was time true sons and daughters of Azerbijan got together to maintain the long tradition of Iranian Azeris safeguarding the integrity of the Iranian frontiers.

I hope we can be worthy sons and daughters of Babak Khorramdin, Sattar Khan, Baqer Khan and all our forefathers before us who have passed down our Iranain Azeri heritage.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Life in the Islamic Republic Again

When I published the post, Life in the Islamic Republic, someone put an apt comment that I should also put the clip of Ahmadi-Nejad's lies in his interview on state TV, before he became a president.

So here is the clip again with Ahmadi-nejad's lies as the voice in the background. I hope all the "useful idiots" duped by Ahmedi-Nejad's spins will learn from watching this, how easily and blatantly the Islamic Republic officials lie.

Here is a translation of what Ahmadi-Nejad is saying:

"Really is the problem of our government, the hair style of our children? Our children like to have any hair style they want, what has it got to do with me and you? You and I should deal with the fundamental problems of our country. Meaning the government should improve the economic conditions, stabilise the situation in the country, provide psychological security, support the people. Our people have different tastes, with different traditions, different styles, different ethnicities. The government must serve everyone. Why do we humiliate the people? We humiliate the people as if our most pressing problem in the country was what hair style the youth liked and the government does not allow it. No! is this fit for the government? Is this worthy of the people? This is an insult to our people. Why do we disregard the people? Is our most pressing problem that our girls wear such and such clothes? Is this our country's present problem or our people's problems? People have different tastes."

So on that basis best of luck to all those who trust the Islamic Republic in negotiations, because they need it!

Hamas Denies the Rocket Route is through Egypt

Iranian daily, Entekhab, quoted Ahmad Yussef, Hamas's political adviser, denying to reporters in a press conference in Gazza that Iranian built rockets reach Hamas through intricate underground tunnels from Egypt. "Iranian rockets in fact reach us through the Mediterranean Sea" Yussef finished his statement with.

So no denial that Hamas's rockets come from Iran, just a question of how they reach Hamas :))

Even the Iranian daily can't hide its displeasure with Yussef's claim and finishes with this paragraph:
" سخنان این دشمنان دوست نما که روزگارشان با بیت المال ایرانیان سپری می شود، قرابت بیشتری با سخنان مقامات صهیونیسم دارد تا ایران.اما نکته مهم آن است که گروه حماس و اعضای بلندپایه اش از اعلام این دست اخبار چه قصدی داشته و چه هدفی را دنبال می کنند."

"Statements made by such enemies who pose as our friends and their daily lives passes with the hard earned money of the Iranian people is more in tune with statements made by Zionist officials. The important question however is, what is the intention of Hamas and its high ranking officials from making such statements and what purpose do they pursuit?"

Well that is the result of not making a sound judgement on what is in our national interest!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

KDPI Spokesman in US?

I was trying to write about something completely different, but googling for some references led me to this piece of trash post on Pajamas Media, which I had not come across before. Sometimes one is critical of other institutions and managements but it is important to go on the record and not let other unsavoury characters hijack one's arguments and opinions.

So here it is for the sake of going on the record and making it clear where I stand. I may disagree with lots of things in VOA Persian management and programs, but Sheila Ganji is 100% right when she says the lingua franca of Iran is Persian. As I have often said there is no Persian ethnic group, but Persian is the common language of the Iranian people, period.

Every paragraph in this twaddle post on Pajamas Media, contains several factual errors on par with a school boy's homework essay.

Shahriar Ahy, for example, is not an ultra-nationalist monarchist who despises the ethnic minorities!!! Ahy in fact has helped many Kurdish human rights activists and was instrumental in bringing together representatives of Iran's ethnic minorities in several conferences. Gatherings that I felt were a waste of time for entirely different reasons and thats another matter outside the scope of this post.

There are so many factual errors in the Pajamas Media post, I don't even know where to begin. For example, Ahy did not accompany Reza Pahlavi to the “Democracy and Security International Conference” that was held in Prague and in fact one of my criticism of VOA Persian has been not having provided due coverage for the event.

And just have a look at the last paragraph, just to make the school boy essay bulkier and contain a few more words, Ahi's name is mentioned once as Shahriar Ahy and again as Shahrir Ahi!

Hassan Zarezadeh Ardeshir mistyped as Sassan Zarezadeh Ardeshir, is included in a list of supposedly ultra nationalist Persian fascist monarchists. In fact Zarehzadeh Ardeshir is an Azeri himself. You could accuse him of many things but not of being an ultra nationalist monarchist!

Interestingly one of the previous VOA Persian program guests has been the Czech born widow of Abdolrahman Ghassemloo, the previous leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, who was murdered by the Islamic Republic assassins in Vienna. Mrs. Ghassemloo spoke the lingua franca of the Iranian people beautifully and it was a very enjoyable program.

Finally let me tell you that since reading the article, I have talked to the KDPI office in Paris. Not only they were shocked at such accusations against the likes of Shahryar Ahi, they did not even know who Ali Ghaderi, who claims to be the KDPI spokesman in US, is!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Islamic Police Chief of Tehran Caught in Brothel

Iranian poet, Hafez, has a verse which can often describe those who overdisplay their piety on their sleeves. The verse loosely translated, as best as I can:

"The pious who display these gestures in the public
Once in their own privacy, do what they preach others not to"

Islamic Police Chief Commander Reza Zareii, responsible for last year's campaign against "thugs and hoodlums" and Hejab observance, was arrested after having been caught in middle of group sex with six prostitutes.

The women who were arrested alongside Police Chief Zareii said he had asked them to perform prayers while naked!

Police Chief Zareii was often referred to as the 'capable arm of the supreme leader'

Monday, March 10, 2008

Life in the Islamic Republic

This clip posted by Kamangir shows the infringement on personal liberties and unnecessary humiliation Iranians face on a daily basis. The boy has done nothing wrong other than to have a hair style that the authorities don't like. This sort of thing never gets reported by the correspondents but thanks to youtube, perhaps the "useful idiots" can now get a glimpse of what goes on in an Iran run by Ayatollahs.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

International Day for Osanloo

The International Day for Osanloo today surpassed all my expectations. Never in the last 28 years have I ever witnessed such an organised and truly international day of action for an Iranian dissident.

I bumped into Owen Tudor, TUC's international secretary, in the park cafe just outside the Islamic Republic embassy in London. He introduced me to two delegates from the Federations of Independent Trade Unions of Russia with 28 million members, who had come to London for the event. I was asking Evgeny Sidorov, the international secretary of the Federation, about the Soviet years and he was telling me how the union was operating in those years, when Owen interrupted us and showed me an email he received on his blackberry, "45000 leaflets were handed out for Osanloo in Japan, demonstration in support of Osanloo in Lahore, and even in Ethiopia...". I was pleasantly surprised at the extent of this day of action and I was glad to be a small part of it as I was glad to see members of CIS who had turned up to support the efforts of the international trade unions.

A red double decker bus with huge posters of Free Osanloo, kept driving past the participants and more importantly past the Embassy of the Islamic Republic. This is just what we should do, we should reach out to the world and mobilise the international public opinion in support of the pro-democracy movement in Iran.

It was an exceptional day, despite all the best efforts of well funded Islamic Republic apologists and promoters, the dissidents in Iran are not forgotten.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

March 6th - Mansour Osanloo Day

A demonstration will be held outside the IR Embassy in London on March 6th from 12:30 to 13:30, while across the UK thousands of transport workers will be leafleting passengers in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Newcastle and other locations.

The Nationwide protests are in recognition that Osanloo is a prisoner of conscience in Iran for trying to organise an independent trade union.

A red double decker routemaster bus will be visiting London protest sites throughout the day. It will be at the embassy demonstration and will host a photo opportunity outside Portcullis House, Bridge Street, London SW1A (this event not yet confirmed, but planned to take place from 10:30 to 11:00), where union leaders and MPs (TBC) can be photographed next to it with the Houses of Parliament in the background.

The campaign is being supported by the TUC unions Aslef, GMB, RMT, TSSA, Unison and Unite, as well as Amnesty International, which has declared Osanloo a prisoner of conscience.

For more information, click on:

International Transport Workers' Federation

National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers

Protest at Amnesty International Hosting Tritta Parsi

Iranian ex-pats including ex-political prisoners in LA protested at Amnesty International hosting Tritta Parsi. The youtube clip below shows the reaction by Iranians when they were told only AI authorised camera is allowed to film the event.

I think the audience rightly protested that all cameras should be allowed to film the event so that the public know what was being said in the meeting. I really can not understand why AI (LA Branch) wanted to ban other cameras from filming? After all this was a public event and it does not make sense for AI to have sole rights on reporting what was said!!

Tritta Parsi has always refrained from criticising human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic saying that the NIAC's role is not about highlighting human rights abuses. So why then speak at an AI meeting?

Watch the Iranian woman in the film who is calling the protesters Israeli lackeys!
As we say in Persian, "what has Mr. Goodarzi got to do with Mrs. Shaghayegh" :)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Destroyed Generation

"I am from the destroyed generation of the revolution, I always ask myself what happened that within a few months it was suddenly bad for me to ride a bicycle as a girl. I was thrown out of school for not wanting to wear a headscarf." Parvin Ardalan, Iranian dissident and campaigner said in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

Yet a typical argument made by Islamic Republic promoters is that "women in Iran unlike women in saudi Arabia can drive cars and do this and that".

The point is to compare the situation of the Iranian women before and after the revolution in Iran, and not with that of women in a different country.

For example, a quote from Imran Shafi:
"President Khatami appointed a woman as his Vice-President; in Saudi Arabia, women are not even allowed to drive, let alone participate in political life"

Imran Shafii is a Foreign Affairs Committee "Specialist" at House of Commons!