Monday, April 28, 2014

If They Are Iranian, Why are they Ashamed of Having Iranian Names?

Ayatollah Montazeri, was once designated to replace Ayatollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader of Iran, instead he ended up under house arrest for much of his later life and the man who was once destined to be the next Supreme Leader, died as a dissident under house arrest. 
Ayatollah Montazeri often said the Islamic Republic of Iran is neither Islamic nor a Republic" and I have always added,  "and it is neither Iranian".

The video above is one segment of the controversial documentary "I am Rouhani". It was made by the media agents of Tehran mayor, Ghalibaaf, in response to Rouhani telling Ghalibaaf "I am a lawyer and not a general", during the last televised presidential campaign debate. 
In that famous televised debate, Rouhani set out to show himself as a moderate man with a different approach to Ghalibaaf's harsh combative style. The full documentary about Rouhani, however shows that actually Rouhani has not always been such a moderate man that he now makes out to be, but I need another post to discuss the documentary in full.
For now, I have just posted a segment of the documentary where Rouhani explains why he changed his surname:
"when I entered the seminary school, my seminary student friends criticised my original surname, Fereydoun. They mocked me by saying, one day you will become an Ayatollah, how can an Ayatollah have a name like Fereydoun?" and so this led him to change his surname to Rouhani.

Fereydoun is a popular Iranian name, it is the name of a major figure in the Iranian mythology. The rightful king, who along with Kaveh the blacksmith, led the popular revolt against the tyrannical usurper, Zahak. 

If these people are Iranian, why are they ashamed of having Iranian names?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Question to Jimmy Wales on Aljazeera Head2Head Program

This episode of Mehdi Hassan's Head to Head program was aired on Aljazeera English on April 4th. Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, was Mehdi Hassan's guest and the topic of discussion was "will the internet set us free" as well as inevitably talking about wikipedia itself. The program was recorded in the famous Oxford Union debate hall back in December. I was also in the audience and managed to get this question across to Jimmy Wales:

I thought Jimmy Wales was an exceptionally able and articulated speaker and answered the questions very well. You can watch the entire program here:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Abduction of Iran's Border Guards

There is much to be learned about the nature of the Islamic Republic and its modus operandi from the way the regime handled the kidnapping of five Iranian border guards by the Jeishaladl terror group.

Soon after the soldiers were abducted it was the usual regime sabre rattlings and threats. Brig. Gen Hasan Shah-Safi, head of the IRGC Air Forces, claimed "If  a single strand of hair goes missing from our soldiers, our reconnaissance teams will identify the probable hiding places of the terrorists and then reduce them to dust" 

Then it was said that the regime is sending its elite special forces, the Saberin, not just to the Sistan and Balouchistan province in South East Iran but even beyond the borders into Pakistan territory to rescue the abducted soldiers. 

Despite all the sabre rattlings however, sadly more than a single strand of hair went missing from the kidnapped soldiers and not only nothing was reduced to dust, the Saberin special forces never arrived either. Jamshid Danaei-far, the only ranked soldier who was amongst the five kidnapped, was executed by the Sunni terrorist group in revenge for a relative of one their members who was executed by the Islamic Republic during the time the five soldiers were held captive. 
Ten days prior to the execution of Jamshid Danaei-far by JeishalAdl terrorists, his wife had given birth to their first child. The father and son never got a chance to see each other. Danei-Far's wife was never brought on state TV to appeal to the kidnappers to release her husband as one would expect in other countries. The news that she had given birth to their son ten days earlier, only came about after Danaei-Far was executed.

The kidnapping of the five Iranian conscripts caused a nationwide outrage amongst all Iranians, including those who oppose the regime. The five were just innocent conscripts who were told to guard the borders and not accomplices in the regime's repression. 

The video of how they were captured was posted by Jeishaladl and it showed how ill equipped the soldiers were. All five were stuck in a tent, in the middle of no-where in a God forsaken land with virtually no facilities. Seeing how poorly Iran's borders were being guarded caused further outrage against both the regime and the Jeishaladl terrorists. 

The regime tried to deflect the attention to Pakistan, saying that Pakistan was harbouring the terrorists and it was Pakistan's responsibility to help release the Iranian soldiers. Pakistan's ambassador was summoned and told that Iran expects Pakistan to secure the release of the five abducted soldiers.

Iranians took to protest outside Pakistan embassies and their other representative offices. The spontaneous call for protests outside Pakistani embassies was welcome by all Iranians at home and abroad, amongst the opposition and the supporters of the regime. The calls for the protests were even given coverage in the regime backed news sites.

Yet in Tehran, the regime's security forces decided to attack the peaceful protesters outside the Pakistani embassy and some of the protesters who were identified as opposition activists were arrested. In Mashad however, the protests outside the Pakistan Consulate went ahead peacefully. This showed once again that there is not one coherent centre for making decisions in the Islamic Republic. Some security official in Tehran obviously feared any gathering which was not organised and controlled entirely by the regime and some security official in Mashad had decided it was ok and could be tolerated.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Tasnim Aslam, reacted to Islamic Republic's claims and said "Iranian officials never contacted Pakistan to follow up on the abducted soldiers". Aslam added "a joint committee was set up to co-ordinate the search for the soldiers but after that the Iranians never contacted us".

The regime's indifference to the plight of its abducted conscript soldiers was all too obvious. A simple comparison with how the regime reacted to the plight of its "pilgrims" captured in Syria and that of its conscripts on the border with Pakistan clearly demonstrated this indifference and incompetence.

While the abducted soldiers were missing, I was discussing the situation with a former Iranian Major, Mohamad Baqer Bani-Ameri, who had served in the Sistan-Balouchistan province for years and knew the area and the people in the province well. I asked the former major, if he was serving in the area now and was ordered to find the abducted soldiers, what would he do? The Major replied, "the only way to resolve this is to appeal to the elders in the area, get their support and get them to put pressure on the kidnappers to release our soldiers".

At the end, what the former Major told me, was exactly how the situation was resolved. Molavi Abdol-Hamid, the Sunni Friday Prayer leader of Zahedan and other elders in the province persuaded the JeishalAdl terrorists to release the remaining four soldiers.

Finally the good news came and the four soldiers were released but they did not quite get a hero's official state welcome, like Shapour Bakhtiar's assassin, Ali Vakili-Raad had received. Ismail Kowsari, the Majlis member of the National Security and Foreign Policy commission asked for the released soldiers to be punished. Kowsari, referred to the video of their abduction and said the soldiers were all sleeping in the tent instead of being on guard. Pictures of Iranian MPs sleeping during the Majlis sessions soon went viral on the Iranian cyberspace, in response to Kowsari's ridiculous call for punishing the released soldiers.

Molavi AbdolHamid, the Sunni releigious leader whose appeal to the JeishalAdl kidnappers helped secure the release of the soldiers did not receive a thank you or special recognition either. The official Islamic Republic newspaper [Jomhouri Eslami] scolded him instead by asking "Why did Molavi AbdolHamid not appeal to the terrorists from the beginning and how is it exactly that he has so much influence on JeishalAdl that they listen to him and release the soldiers? " 
Officials then started congratulating the Supreme Leader instead for securing the release of the soldiers.

So in summary, the following observations are noteworthy: 
The sabre rattling and use of special elite forces by the regime came to no use at all.
Iran's mainstream opposition once again showed it is a responsible opposition which will put the national interests and national unity above it's opposition with the regime.
The life of a conscript is worthless for the regime.
The regime will suppress any peaceful gathering or protest which is not in its control or it has not organised itself, even if the gathering or protest is not against the regime.
Lastly, the Islamic Republic establishment will not credit anyone but the Supreme Leader himself for success while failures are always blamed on others.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Former US Embassy Hostage Takers

The recent appointment of Hamid AbuTalebi, as Islamic Republic's new envoy to the UN, quickly made the headlines in the West, as it was suggested by Bloomberg that the new appointee was a former US embassy hostage taker in the 1980s. Bloomberg also mentions the website Taskhir which has a picture of Hamid AbuTalebi as a young hostage taker. Taskhir, meaning capture or takeover in Persian, is in fact a website run by former Muslim Students Following the Line of Imam, or those who climbed the US embassy walls in November 1979 and took 52 US embassy staff as hostages for 444 days.

AbuTalebi on the other hand has denied he was one of the hostage takers and claimed he only acted as a translator and helped with the negotiations.

Reading about all this, I started rummaging through the Taskhir website. It has an interview with one of the former hostage takers, Mohammad Hashemi who mentions Hamid Abutalebi, as one of their representatives who was sent to Algeria to take part in a conference of "Liberation Movements" from around the world.

Another former hostage taker, Faezeh Moslehi, one of the female Students Following the Line of Imam,  also mentions AbuTalebi being sent to Algeria to represent the student hostage takers. She refers to him as "Brother AbuTAlebi".

But there are even more interesting facts that I picked up. For example another one of the former hostage takers is identified as AbdolHossein Rouhalamini, whose son, Mohsen Rouhalamini, was arrested during the 2009 protests, taken to Kahrizak and died as a result of severe beatings. i.e. Father was a US embassy hostage taker and son was killed by the regime's security forces, three decades later.

Another interesting name that came up was Ali Tayebnia, the widely reputed competent and able current Minister of Economy. Tayebnia also studied in the London School of Economics under Professor Laurence Harris. So presumably he managed to get a UK student visa after having taken part in the US embassy hostage takeover.