Feed on
Posts
Comments

Dr.-Alireza-Marandi-2

Dr. Alireza Marandi is the Charmian of Iran Academy of Medical Sciences. He served as health minister under Mir Hossein Mousavi. He is Chairman of the Iranian Society of Neonatologists; the Board of Directors of the Islamic Republic of Iran Breastfeeding Promotion Society; and the National Committee for the Reduction of Perinatal Mortality and Morbidity.

He writes a letter condemning sanctions against Iran and its repercussions on the sick.

Dear sir,

Following letters I wrote on the 26th of November 2012, and the 26th of January 2013 on the detrimental effects of Western led sanctions against the health and welfare of the people of Iran, I write once again to emphasize that these inhumane sanctions have quite seriously and negatively affected the health of the people of Iran, including women, children, the sick in hospitals and all those in need of medical attention.

As an individual with national oversight on the health of the people of my country, as a person who is responsible for defending the essentials of human rights, I warn you that these sanctions have led to the serious shortage of food and medical supplies. These sanctions have also resulted in very high costs of these essential items. Thus, these essential items have become impossible to access for those most vulnerable in society, including children, mothers, the elderly and those who suffer from cancer and other diseases. This problem [sanctions] practically means they are unable to get access to the medical supplies that they need.  We thus are witnessing an increasing number of deaths in children and those suffering from certain diseases [cancer, etc].

For more than three decades, with the help of the World Health Organization, Iran has run very successful programs to promote public health. These programs have led to the promotion of public health in Iran. The increase of barbaric sanctions in the last few weeks, specifically led by the United States, seriously puts this progress under threat.

Thus, I once again call your attention to this important matter. The egregious indifference of the United Nations and other international organization to this important matter will be documented in history. But not only that, only serves to weaken these international organization in defending the most basic rights of innocent people in the face of such sick [he uses the word "pathological"] punishment.

Dr. Alireza Marandi

Head of Iran Academy of Medical Sciences

 

Sanctions

Call to join Civil Society Movement Against Sanctions

Professor Ali Naghi Mashayekhi [Founder of Sharif University of Technology's Department of Economics]

It is the responsibility of all educated, elite people of Iran to raise their voice of protest in defense of their countrymen against inhuman sanctions imposed on Iran. Now more than ever, as the government of “moderation” and “pragmatism” takes shape, a civil society movement against sanctions is a reforming, logical, valuable move that can complement the government’s diplomatic efforts.

Especially, if influential well regarded groups like “university professors”, “journalists”, “doctors”, “artists”, “law makers”, “teachers”, “engineers”, “entrepreneurs” have an active, caring role in this process, they can send a powerful message to influence public opinion in the United States of American and Europe. This will also help to weaken pro-war lobbies in the United States and Europe.

To start, it would be befitting for this movement to compose a well-coordinated message addressed to the leaders of P5 + 1. In this letter, the viewpoints of well regarded figures, such as “professors of economics and political science”, “journalists”, and ‘law makers” – groups that both in Iran and the West are highly regarded.

Naturally, the contents of this letter should be a logical, well-documented protest to the unjust sanctions on Iran that have had inhumane consequences. And have put Iranian society under unprecedented pressures. A peace loving society whose civil, peaceful actions are exemplary in the region. A manifestation of this we can see in the recent presidential election, in which they came together to elect the most moderate of candidates.

After the letter is written and calls are made for it to be signed, we can expect that intellectuals and elites from wide areas of work both inside and outside the country, both as individuals and as groups, will join efforts to sign and widely distribute it. We can hope that by widely distributing this letter both inside and outside the country, we can prepare ground for which the P5 + 1 talk will move more swiftly. This way, we have both helped the government in these talks, and can also begin a process by which Iranian elites [journalists, writers, etc], along with civil society organizations can more actively participate in transforming Islamic Iran.

On Media & Empire

Mag

I live with the reality that my continent of current residence (specifically the two northern nations) lives a life far removed from the reality of the Middle East. That this is the security, safety and prosperity that comes with owning a “new” continent lacking in human history (history always bringing new layers of human conflict and strife) and rich in resources. A continent geographically an ocean away from the “real” world where wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, occupations, dictatorships etc were/are a part of the recent reality. But even with that understanding, this week’s covers of the Economist and Time still stand on the monumental peaks of apalling.

May these servants of empires that run that media in the Western world, and the United States of America specifically, remember slavery, civil wars, WORLD wars, colonialist pursuits and all the other ugly “failures” that have brought them to the “democracy” they revel in today. It has certainly been quite an accomplishment, but not without a hefty price. And if media, journalism, the questioning of POWER is the one last shred of hope they once had to maintain this accomplishment long term, to keep the empire running longer and stronger I shiver to think what is happening to the cores of their own societies as those who were once there to question absolute power, are only there to absolutely serve & obey.

 

Rouhani Speaks

Rouhani2

Our new President-elect, Hassan Rouhani was at a Media conference this morning in Tehran, titled “Media Horizons.”

The focus of his speech was moderation – a word he used dozens of times. He spoke at lengths about the need for state broadcasting to have a different approach. While not naming names, he directly stated that Iran’s foreign policy should not be “hypocritical” as Iran accuses Western powers. “Oppression is oppression. We cannot name it differently if it is done by a country with which we are friends.”

He named the late Ayatollah Beheshti as a prime example of moderation in politics.

Below is a translation of his speech, as I was live tweeting on Twitter. Note it is not the full speech, but those parts that I translated live. It is however more comprehensive than what state media outlets are disseminating (through which most translations will be made) -  as they took out much of the criticism he directs at them.

Election

73% of people came to the ballot box. And those won’ didn’t for any reason, now regret not doing so. The joy, the very participation was a victory.

The People of Iran understood international affairs and came to the ballot box in record numbers. Not only will this historic event be in their memory forever, it will live in the history of our nation. Our people voted for rationality, moderation, dialogue and justice.

The election showed our “pure” election process. Iran had first parliament in the region, and has led the region in the voting process. The Islamic Republic of Iran itself came about from a ballot box. Imam Khomeini taught us that choosing both the political system and the individuals who govern them, is up to the people.

Across all divides, people, parties must understand message of the election. This election was the choosing of a new path, and showed the people’s commitment to their country and to wanting change. The government is the government of all people of the country, but it will move in direction that the majority voted for. The people have voted for moderation and this word has manifestations in all areas of life: the social, personal, political and it is interpreted in a wide spectrum. Our people have always grappled with extremism, and in this election they asked for moderation.

Every last person in this country must answer to the law – the law of God and the law of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Three events came together for people to celebrate: the elections, our {Shia} religious celebrations, and sports. Happiness and joy are the right of the people. Let’s be tolerant of that. Our people are virtuous, and know ethical boundaries as we saw in the celebrations. And if there are a few who don’t, we should speak kindly to them. Those boys and girls in the streets (post election) are like our own children. Let’s speak  to them as if they were our own. People’s dignity must be respected.

Foreign Policy

Moderation in foreign policy is neither confrontation nor subjugation. It is dialogue according to mutual interests.

You well know that in foreign affairs, we are in a unique place. The world is going through a transitional period. The bipolar world of the past ceased to be in the 1990s and a new paradigm has not yet fully formed. We must act very carefully. You saw countries in this very region that did not, and whose destinies went awry. And yet you saw in this very continent countries that have [played the cards right] and have earned their place in the world.

We must act within our national interests. We can and we must. We must play our historical role. The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the greatest [the greatest?] power of the region and must be able to play our historical role. But we must pass through these unique circumstances. The enemy wants to portray us as a security state. We must not let them.

In foreign policy, we must be realists. But also must consider the ideals of the revolution. The [trick is] creating balance between the two.

Dialogue with others must occur based on mutual respect, and mutual interests, and by creating trust, but both sides need to create this trust.

Transition Period

In this transition period [until the new government takes office] I must say one thing: I am speaking to the honorable president now, to coordinate the transition. The next government will stay faithful to its promises – with the help of the people. The next cabinet will work beyond party lines, choosing experts and those suitable for the job. This government has made no promises to any party. Despite the huge hurdles the country faces, many of which I have spoken about during the campaign, [I am certain] we will transition beyond them.

No one in the new cabinet has been selected. I have only been speaking to people and to experts. Anything you hear are rumors.

State Broadcasting

I want to ask state broadcasting to promote moderation and to allow experts to speak. I ask state broadcasting to maintain independence, and to increase its credibility and to help the new government achieve people’s righteous demands.

Nothing is more important in today’s world than media. Media is not just a tribune, or a monologue. We have seen the end of the era of monologues. We must have a two way conversation. Media must promote dialogue and keep from promoting ethnic divides. It must be a mirror to reflect reality of society.

There are no differences across ethnic divides. Oppression is bad everywhere, and for everyone [suffering from it]. We hae no right to humiliate any group or any country. We can’t say oppression in a country friendly to us is ok, and oppression in a county we are not on good terms with is bad. We can’t be accused of the hypocrisy and double standards we blame the West for. We can’t overlook oppression in a country that is friend.

Don’t believe that the number of viewers of a media source means that source is trusted. People might only see a show through that media, and get their news elsewhere.

Imam Khomeini’s view of state broadcasting was that it is a public university. Meaning, it promotes understanding and education. But it is also public, meaning it belongs to everyone. We have one country and one people. We have different customs and cultures. But all are flowers of the same orchard. The orchard of [...] Islam.

We must promote state media and turn it into a source people trust and go to. We must create a safe environment for different thoughts [to be expressed]. Media must help bridge generational gap, promote moderation and rationality. And avoid extremist views.

A political system that has roots in the trust of the people, and gains legitimacy from people’s vote, is not afraid of free media.

I thank state broadcasting for giving me this opportunity. From 1979 to 1983 I was a part of state broadcasting, as head of [...]

 

Ministry_of_Silly_walks_by_Micinus

[Names and titles loosely translated from today's Etemad Newspaper]

So now that we have a president, the next question is: Who will his cabinet ministers be?

Etemad newspaper today ran a long article on the people behind the scenes of Rouhani’s campaign and those who are likely to lead his cabinet. Seeing these faces is all the more surreal to me – these are faces I grew up watching on Iranian state TV, they have been a part of the “system” since its inception, but we’ve heard very little of them in the past few years.

You can call this election many things, but one thing you can certainly see is the rise of an old revolutionary guard – not in the military sense, but I mean that term quite literally.

Ministry of Intellingence

Younesi

The man tipped to be the next Minister of Intelligence (and yes, even after Ahmadinejad we’ve got lots of that to go around!) is none other than Ali Younesi. Younesi received his kickstart in the IRI legal system as the head of the military court (gulp) after 1983  and served as Intelligence Minister under Khatami. He also oversaw the committee to investigate the (gulp) chain murders of writers and dissidents. The committee who went on the release the name of Saeed Emami.

Ministry of Oil

Torkan

Yeah, hopefully we got some of that left too. The only non-military minister of defense (under Rafansanjani) he has had various roles in the IRI, including governor or Elam, governor of Hormozgan (under Mirhossein Mousavi) and deputy of the oil ministry (under Ahmadinejad). Joining Mousavi’s campaign in 2009, he left his government post. He served as one of Rouhani’s campaign managers.

Minister of Mining and Industry

Nematzadeh

Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh is the man behind the man, Rouhani’s campaign manager and a key player in his campaign. He has had various government posts since 1980, including minister of labor, minister of mining and industry (under Rajaee and Rafasanjani), deputy of oil minister (under Khatami). He worked as a deputy in Ahmadinejad’s first term but was let go after disagreeing with Mahmoud one two many times.

[this post will be updated]

So the BBC has decided that the megalomaniac, Netanyahu’s opinion of the Iranian election deserves a headline.

BBC

As one citizen of Iran, I give him our peaceful, loving message: GO SUCK IT!

Morning Mist

AmostChapple_theAtlantic_Iran_Palangan

This is a time when I feel as if I want to be around my Iranian friends. While I don’t believe the birth of the “nation” state in the modern world was one of our better human ideas, and so regularly a label like “Iranian” would mean very little to me, in this circumstance it means people connected to geographical boundaries in a way that ties into understandings of histories, peoples and politics.

I don’t think many people outside of that realize what is happening, really, in the social, cultural, historical fabric of our society outside the chaos and tumult with which our political events are perceived. While final results are still pending, there was much much in this election that made it exceptional. Not because it was a political act entirely reduced to ballot boxes and categories and numbers the Western world could once again understand, or at least care to (while for the last two years, an entire nation has been crumbling under ruthless, barbaric Western led sanctions, and that sense of urgency for understanding was certainly not present. Of course, the crumbling of people and the collapse of nations is just not as interesting as political punchlines.)

No, not because of any of that, but because it was an accumulation of social, historical understanding brought to the ballot box.

While those from afar, may accuse us of repeating patterns and falling for political gimmicks, I would strongly disagree. No matter what the result of the election, both people and rulers in Iran have been engaged in a conversation, often incoherent to outsiders, but an ongoing, changing dialogue nonetheless. From the moment a few weeks ago when voting for Rowhani seemed to me to become a viable option – and that was a journey many of us took – I was worried of one thing: fraud is not an on/off button. Whether the Supreme Leader had decided to make certain of “fair” elections after his filter that is the Guardian Council, systematic fraud means systematic sieving of its forces into the political system, and how could even he stop it? … And perhaps in that answer we have the reason the Islamic Republic has endured, despite its evils, the ability it has to go one way, and then, change course entirely. Do not be fooled: the absence of fraud in this election, in part made sure by the political capital the likes of Rafsanjani still hold, despite everything that has befallen them, is a huge,  accomplishment for the political structures that be.

From most accounts, systematic fraud in this election has been nonexistent. Most discussions on this election have been civil and calm. The Guardian Council could have omitted every last “reformist” but it didn’t. The reformists could have boycotted, but they didn’t. They were able to gather and join forces, and that they did. That they were able to inject new blood into their battered, bruised body half rotting in prison cells, and that they did.

And this often tumultuous dialogue between state, power and people continues in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In this dialogue one sees many things. One can see the growth of the reform movement into a political force to be reckoned with. One constant failure of the reform movement is so well accurately exemplified by one of its most trusted leaders, Mohammad Khatami: in his dignified smile, there is also that lack of fighting to the bitter end, or winning at all costs. That diplomatically they will not play ruthless games. That in all out war, they will not call their side to play until death. The movement out to fight extremism, is not willing to play with the same rules, and for that it will often be forced to lose.

And within my lifetime, we have seen this political movement come to life. Once again by people coming to the ballot box, but that is why our elections are not just about politics, but the social, religious dynamics through which the political will unravel, situate and live. We’ve seen it be born,  be suffocated, raped, brought back, (or perhaps kept) to life. The reform movement itself has had a constant, ever changing dialogue with its constituents, students, mothers and fathers who have made the message their own, and their own the message, thus creating yet another story, among others, to be told.

The transformation of this very movement was evident in this election. Despite having their own flesh and blood in Iranian prisons, the reformists showed that they were still a force to be reckoned with. And in that fact alone you see the nuances, the paradoxes, the complexities of the Islamic Republic of Iran. What you call it, a paradox that can’t be figured out, or a complexity that fits in the greater narrative depends on your tolerance for the unknown, your patience and your power to listen to a tale unfold.

The backing of Rowhani by reformists, and by the very memory of the 2009 election, by Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karoubi themselves, brought him, and the political establishment, a wave of new support. That in and of itself speaks volumes to how this conversation has changed and progressed. That it was the cleric who was to the young and educated, the most “unclerical”. That the very tone of this election, from the SUPREME LEADER to election officials to state Broadcasting was determined by the events of 2009. The leader and the establishment would not stop emphasis:

Your votes will not be tampered with!

Your votes are sacred and the ruling establishment will take proper care of them!

We need your vote!

As if across time and space, an ironically incomplete, insufficient, attempt and answer to: “Where is my vote?”

This goes so far as the state telecommunications agency coming out and publicly declaring that the communication lines had been in “full force and fully functional” and any disruption was due to high demand!

And by all honesty, I was able to get through on cell phones and phone all day today.

That across political spectrums, there is a genuine relief that the days of Ahmadinejad are over and we can look to the future now. BOTH a reformist like Mohammad Reza Khatami, and a hardliner like Ahmad Tavakoli have come out with that message.

That the  hardliners themselves were a part of the narrative that made things so disastrous is of course not a fact we will forget, but one that they will try their best to get us to. And our willingness to never forget, but move on will rest partly on the events of coming days. But that sense of general relief and looking forward to a new day has been quite consistent across all political lines. That Ahmadinejad’s vulgarity and pomp only made it easier for Western extremists (Yes! that’s what I call them! extremism is extremism, whether in an Armani suit or a clerical robe) to embroil Iran in ever more hardship and ILLEGAL embargoes, effectively illegally putting a country under siege. I can hardly think of Iran without thinking of his antics, and what it might be like for that to no longer exist is almost too sweet a thought to entertain.

That a large group of Iranians outside of Iran, showed yet again that despite the distance, they want to be a part of who and what Iranian society is in the process of becoming. That despite the pusillanimity and arrogance of Western leaders like Harper, preposterously attempting to cut those lines, they want to be a part of the process which will politically and socially make their homeland grow. To be a part of something greater than themselves, together, across geographical boundaries and the tête à tête of worthless politicians.

The road ahead is dark, and the waters murky. Extremism both inside and outside the country sits and waits yet another day. But the human spirit needs moments to reflect on the past and to breathe in a tiny moment of triumph, no matter how fleeting, if for nothing else, to contemplate the journey ahead.

I think today we were a witness to such a moment where unquantifiable victories are won. When people’s decisions for calm and pragmatism is reflected in their physical space and in the life for which they aspire. When despite the absolute agony they have suffered, they can still look ahead with grace, dignity and promise.

Despite all and all and all, so much pain that I do not even choose to banalize by attempting to put in a “list”, tiny moments of contemplation and congratulation are also interwoven into our narrative. That’s part of how we have survived for so long. Do not take lightly the monsters Iranians fight everyday: extremism of empires and their own political systems combined. No one not living that reality can quite comprehend its magnitude. And that we make peace with the enormity of what we face, not through acquiescence but finding moments through which we define the limits, as much as the limits define us. We live to tell stories, and to draw into this story new strings of life despite the death that it is otherwise destined to. We learn to keep this story unfolding, and going … For as long as stories live, that only means we are there, telling them, weaving them, bringing them to life.

Yesterday’s General Assembly Vote can be historic. The US & Canada, the clumsy allies that they are stood by while the world …

What exactly did the world do? Will we remember the vote next year? Do you remember the UNESCO vote the year before?

I hope that this vote gives the Palestanians momentum. I hope that it gives Israel a warning.

But hope is a thing I’ve decided to do without, as much as possible, and so I will simply sit on the sidelines and observe.

What people, and the media, forget to mention however, is the historic position IRAN took on the issue. Granted that an Iranian UN representative’s views can’t be taken for a significant policy shift, given how layered the Iranian leadership structure is. It also comes when the Iranian establishment’s relationship with Hamas is less than rosy. But Fatah had Hamas’s blessing in taking the vote to the General Assembly floor.

However, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s words are MISTRANSLATED regarding Israel, Western media, political establishments, etc EXPLODE. But when in a HISTORIC move, Iran votes for a Fatah led initiative, OPENLY supports the Saudi Peace Plan (which directly acknowledges the state of Israel) … not a word is said. Hardly a sentence is uttered. Not a single fuck is given.

Why the complete and total media blackout surrounding it? They’re not, gulp, biased now, huh?

Punching Bag, Anyone?

What would it feel like to be the world’s punching bag?

Come on, give it a try, give it a go, punch all you like, hurt all you want, cut all you wish, punch as hard as ya feel like it … you know why?

Because the world … just won’t give a fucking DAMN!!!!

Just imagine how the world would have responded differently if instead of Gaza, it was … Albuquerque or Bruges that was continuously and routinely slaughtered by a rogue, violent regime. Would innocents be “collateral damage? Would presidents and PMs call restraint on “both sides”?

The extremism inside Iran, the brutality and fascism outside of it have just left me speechless and at a loss for words.

What is there to say? What is there to do?

But rage has an unequivocal way of waking the senses. Screams come from deep INSIDE of you and hit the walls of the universe … with no consequence. For those questions I have NO answers. For my own rage and anger, I seek to find a few.

Today I purchased drugs for a diabetic cousin who no longer has access to her drug in Iran. I was lucky enough to know an Iranian drug store owner who was willing to accept cash for drugs offered to me under the counter, lucky enough to know a person willing to take them to her by the end of the week … luck has a funny way of working sometimes, huh? and a cruel, cruel way of not. For I am sure that there are thousands of cousins out there whose stars weren’t aligned this morning.

Today I read of the 100+th death in Gaza as the world watches in silence, in complete & utter indifference, in total oblivion. Yes, I’m sure the US president  has “regrets for loss of life”. But he can take his regret and stick it up his a** as it is HIS government, HIS artillery, HIS veto power that give the Israelis the go ahead  to kill and destroy EN MASSE with NO consequence.

Today I write with RAGE. Rage that always exists in some form or other, anger and disillusion that I carry with me every minute of every waking day. Anyone who has followed my journeys on this blog would know that in my own small way, it has been an attempt to change this rage into conversation, into words, into poetry … as best as I am able. As badly as I am unable.  I have learned to walk, talk and eat with this anger, to carry it on my shoulder as one does a never growing, disabled limb.

And yet, sometimes, the images in the outside world grow so dark, so evil, so monstrously macabre that the limb simply stops to function.

WHY do we live in a world where victim and victimizer are turned upside down? Where day is presented as night and night as day? When people living in the world’s biggest open air prison are subject to indiscriminate slaughter and NO one stops to wince? When a country is ILLEGALLY forced to endure WAR time conditions, elaborately called “sanctions”?

Call Obama, Harper, the lot of these murdering, monstrous fascists by what they are: KILLERS & murderers dressed in Armani suits. We in the Middle East are too used to these killers and murderers. We can smell them from thousands of miles away. So please, the next time I see you carrying a sign of Khamenei with devil ears, if he’s not sitting beside Obama in the picture, I will fail to take you seriously. Not only will I fail to take you seriously, but you are only a walking symbol of why we endure the pain and suffering that we do: blindness from the ignorant, cruelty from monsters.

The people living in America, Canada, etc today can simply NOT imagine what it is like to go to sleep one night and die under bombing. They can not imagine how it must be to die in a battered hospital after being attacked on the fields with nerve gas. What it must be like to have a sick child whose drugs you can no longer afford or find.  They can not imagine what it is like to have your entire life go up in flames and shadows and death. And so the LOT of us become criminals by our acquiescence, by our silence, by that blind, ugly prejudice that you may not even speak of …

but the rage you do not feel, and the anger you do not express and the tears you do not cry are your green light to let the fascists burn the earth with no consequence.

Welcome Home!

A hint of fear … sprinkled with some magic fairy dust: I have to admit, that without exception, that is my first gut reaction to entering Iran and nearing passport check.

Obviously, with the thousands and thousands of political prisoners they are torturing already, no one is going to come after a twirpy blogger with a twirpy nickname. My blog is blocked in Iran, but that too by random chance I like to think, than any serious consideration of me as a big bada** revolutionary who poses “threats to the regime”.

Even still, the fear, (or hint of) gripes at me, remotely contemplates being taken away into the dungeons of Evin and laughs at itself for being so gullible like those “other” Iranians.

Alas, it is not meant to be. I politely say hello to the passport agent, hand in my documents, get them back and begin the ride to my least favorite part of the entire trip.

ARGH.

My second reaction upon passing the passport check-in counter after arriving at Imam Khomeini International Airport. Get ready for the zoo …….

No, not Iran, but baggage claim which is surrounded by glass, where relatives stand with flowers, chocolate and tears on the other side. I Always feel uncomfortable knowing that I am being watched as I attend to my baggage, swear under my breath that IKI has no porters (as of 2009), that I will have to carry my two suitcases, my bagpack, my carry-on and my two bags (tobacco purchased at duty free, of course!) I am here to stay a while after all, who knows how many cigarettes that will mean?

As I stand in the long line to the customs, I try not to look the other way, not at the glass, so I do not have to make eye contact. I am filled with too many questions, too much fatigue, too many worries (no, not about Evin, but of the familial sort) to want to make eye contact, to force a grin or a smile.

The great wall of China, the Berlin wall, the Separation Barrier in the West Bank, … I try to remember as many separation barriers as I can, all made for different reasons, some more legitimate than others (and yet some with not a shred)  - it puzzles me how something as thin as glass can create such dichotomy. The waiting parents, grandparents on one side. The tired, groggy traveler on the other. And in between them a world of longing, stories, separation.

I reach the baggage x-ray scanner which I am dreading, I have to lift the suitcases once again, retrieve from the other end … at least it will be the last time.

My suitcases are hard to miss, with the graffiti sprayed all over, making certain I don’t end up with some old sucker’s black Samsonite again – or vice versa. I am about to retrieve my suitcase for the last time, when suddenly, I hear someone calling me. “You, with the colorful suitcase, take your bags to customs.”

WTF?!

In all of my 20 something years, in all of this travelling back and forth, I have never, EVER been called to customs. Could have gotten away with an alligator in my bag, and they would have never known it.

WTF?!

I pick up my suitcase, and for one minute, am compelled to just follow everyone else to the exit. Who’s going to notice? There’s no one around me. I start walking to exit, until I see a man with a badge looking at me. I look back like a dumb kid. “ummmm, sorry Mr. I think that man in the back said something, I’m not sure I heard him.”

“He said for you to go to customs. The other way.” He sincerely believes I am lost – aren’t we all?

And so with my tail bewteen my legs, I head over to the “customs office”, which is basically the end of the long hall, dreading most of all having to pick up my suitcases again to put them on the metal counter.

By habit, I always stuff the top of my suitcase with tampons, pads and underwear, thinking that if someone out there on this journey decides to take a peak, s/he will decide otherwise upon opening the bag. I always over stuff my bags with sanitary pads, fearing some sort of countrywide shortage or tampon famine.

“Khanom, chamadoon ro baz kon.” [lady, open the suitcase] the customs agent politely asks.

I open them, and sure enough, a burst of lady’s unmentionables falls out.

While I am opening my bag, he starts writing a fine for the man beside me. “100,000 Tomans [$100 when I got to Iran, half of that now], go to the Melli Bank counter, pay your fine and come back.”

The man isn’t willing to budge. “I don’t have anything but a $20 bill on me!” he gripes. They start arguing. Then whispering.

My ears are as sharp as a wildcat right about now. They settle on a comprise: the man hands the agent a 50,000 Toman note, and back takes his bag, walks toward exit. The customs agent shoves the bill in his pocket, rips the fine and moves on to his next victim … moi.

Problem solved.

As I listen in on their conversation, I try to think of what I will do: argue with him? pay my fine? bribe him like the other man just did?

I decide on the middle option: pay whatever I have to pay at the bank, and not a single dime for bribes.

He gets to my suitcases. Starts tearing the first one apart. Throwing things everywhere. Of course, 70% of the content is gifts. with tags attached. He shakes his head some more, “you’re only allowed to bring in $80 a year, per traveller, this is clearly more than $80.” Although he’s come to that conclusion already, he goes to the next suitcase. Starts tearing into that one too, like a hungry bear after dinner. What always pisses me off most about customs agents, anywhere in the world, is their complete disregard for how much work goes into packing – so that things don’t break, wrinkle, gift boxes don’t bend. And the hours and hours of work you’ve put into it – gone, just like that, as they impatiently dig through your luggage like the Tasmanian Devil himself, digging unwanted holes, rigging unneeded pits.

“This is clearly more than $80″ for what seems like the 50th time. EIGHTY dollars? When my frigging plane ticket alone costs $1450? I respond: “I never heard of this rule, why don’t you ask airlines to handout leaflets, like other countries do? How am I supposed to know?”

“It says on our website.”

He bends down to get his fines, and asks for my name. I give it to him, completely baffled and disoriented by now. “You pay the fine or your suitcase will be confiscated” he warns. He calls his colleague, to ask for a pen, and as they are conversing, I call out “kafar” more than a few times under my breath. The third time, I say it louder: “you call this the country of Islam? You’re all nothing but Kafars” [infidels] I say again.

At this point, I realize I clearly need a course in anger management. I am completely disoriented. Even though I’ve seen bribes and zirmizi [under the table cash] many times before, I can not believe that this man is writing me a fine, for stuffing my bags with the cheapest gifts bought on a thin student budget.

I even mutter “jakesh” [cock sucker, dick puller, pimp? Possibly the worst swear word I know in the Persian language] at one point, loud enough for them to hear, as the person to my left clearly does. Although if they do hear me, they are polite enough not to take notice.

“What’s the matter?” the other colleague asks.

“I’m a student, here to visit my family, I have gifts for my relatives, and no one ever told me the $80 limit. How was I supposed to know? Why don’t you hand out papers like other countries do? How are we supposed to know this stuff?”

“Go to our website, w-w-w-i-r-i-c-a-g-o-v-i-r he says very slowly. It’s all written there. See that lady over there? She brought a cat into the country, and she has to pay a 300,000 Tomans custom fee. It’s all rules and regulations.”

“But I don’t have a fucking cat!” I cry.

He looks at me, bewildered for a moment. “Let me see what I can do.”

He comes back a minute later, and says: “ok, ok, I know you’re a student, pay only half. Pay 50,000.”

At this point, my sweet mother has entered customs. I give out a sigh of relief that she’s here, and that she wasn’t here earlier, to listen to her sweet, darling girl call a customs agent in the Islamic Republic of Iran a “cock sucker”.

I explain everything and she turns to the customs agent and says: “you’re going to fine a student? for rules you failed to inform them of?”

He repeats the website, looks down, rips the fine and says: “ok, ok, go ahead, I know you’re a student, you don’t need to pay anything.”

Just like that, without any further pomp and flair my welcome home ceremony comes to an end.

Happy Hooligans

The following is a translation of events as described by a “student”, a fellow participant of the UK Embassy raid in Tehran as told to snn.ir, a state media outlet.

What seems clear to me is that the in-fighting between the Iranian fascist uber-elite is a cause of this mess, but I wouldn’t doubt that there were genuine, imbecilic people there angry at the recent round of sanctions imposed on Iran by the British government. Once again, authentic anger at IsraelEUS is being used and abused to take us down a spiral of possible war (and more sanctions, at the least).

Somebody tell this guy: maybe you don’t have that much time to lock doors and windows when you are fleeing?

With Thanks to Naj @ Neo-Resistance for providing the link to the original article.

—————————-

There were notices about a religious ceremony in front of the embassy at our school.

I got there around 3:30, and the ceremony had started an hour before, around 2:30. Already, people were on the walls of the embassy holding Ashura flags [Yesterday marked the beginning of the month of Ashura, a month of mourning in the Shi'a calendar].

It appeared as if some people had entered the embassy beforehand, had brought down the flag of the UK and had replaced it with an Iranian flag.

It appeared that people were quite distraught with the actions of the British [government], and that’s why they had stormed inside. I tried and succeeded to get in with the second round of protesters storming the embassy.

When we entered, not much was going on except for 3 computers that had been thrown to the ground from the windows.

The computer hard drives were missing, someone had taken them before we got inside.

After that, for about half an hour nothing much was going on. We could hear people chanting against the British from outside. About 60 people left the embassy, but 150 to 300 remained inside.

Once the sunset call to prayer [azan] was heard, protesters outside the embassy were more riled up than before, and about 1700 to 2000 people entered. After that, everything became chaotic.

From inside the embassy this is what we saw: a building surrounded by gates, on the right side of the main entrance. A church to the left. There were very elaborate buildings and an exceptional library which held odd objects, like diving gear and … Alcohol was abundant there and in the rooms and in the kitchens … If you want to picture it, try to imagine Sa’dabad Palace [The late Shah's residence which has since been turned into a museum] with more modern equipment. The kitchens were extremely elaborate, there was a room filled with clothes, and refrigerators abundant with all sorts of food, including Haram food, like Haram meat [pork, etc]. There was a small swimming pool at the back of the library building.

Once we exited the private courtyard, we got to the office buildings to our right, filled with clothing and food. It was obvious that that location was the joint administrative work area for the British and Iranian staff. The area was simple but well equipped.

In all the rooms of the office buildings, there were several telephones and walkie-talkies. Even the plumbing and electric sockets were European, and behind these office buildings was a workshop and a repair shop.

The office buildings and residential areas were connected with a wall. The students that had earlier entered had done nothing to the residential area, except for breaking a few bottles of alcohol, but when the chaos started and the masses entered, the destruction began.

[Just today, diplomats from Turkey, Canada, Venezuela, Mexico, etc visited the residential areas and expressed their shock at what they had seen: torn paintings, broken computer equipment everywhere, food splattered all over carpets, writings on the walls, etc]

The students were trying to protect the embassy, but it appeared that there were many people there bent on destroying everything.

We couldn’t tell who these people were or what party they belonged to, but they were obviously not students. Some were just there to throw things and create chaos, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Old Colonial Master [UK] had sent them to create a media spectacle.

What was very surprising was that the doors of all the rooms, houses and cars were left open. In such a tight security environment, this seemed very odd and unnatural.

Finally, around 7:40, Commander Radan [Tehran's deputy police chief] entered the embassy and gave an ultimatum to those inside. Most people left after the ultimatum, but those who refused were dragged out.

The police’s reaction before Radan’s appearance was forceful but polite but afterwards, some [protesters] were beaten and some even had to be taken to the hospital.

The weather in Tehran is arguably pleasant, and all I hear about is how the heck students and families are going to get their UK visas with the embassy being closed in the foreseeable future …

Meanwhile, it’s nice to see that our fellow countrymen are wasting no time in promoting war with Iran, in the event that IsraelEUS decide to forgo one. Well obviously, bombs on our heads are always a lovely, lovely prospect! So thank you! Your voice is a truly valuable addition to the Cain campaign.

And if you haven’t noticed the little left sidebar, I’m now on Twitter!

It’s  mighty hard to use it in Iran, even with the VPN network my sister has set intact. So I don’t know if I can keep it going for long! :-S

Ray the Hermit brought me there. Even though I still have strong reservations about Twitter “leading” the protests in Tehran, and would gladly arm wrestle any idiot who claims this, it is beautiful and haunting how I, an average pedestrian roaming Tehran, and Ray, a self-described Hermit roaming New York, could be so close, almost as if we were on one of our city excursions together.

Hope he is keeping safe … I shall try to do the same.

Iranian State media is using the “student” label to address the hooligans who stormed the UK embassy earlier today. I can’t help but  laugh at the irony of the situation. Ever since the election in Iran, the protesters (many of them REAL students) were labelled “hooligans”, “thugs” and “goons” by state media and now those same outlets are calling the embassy mobsters, “students”.

I sense a bit of linguistic deconstruction going on here …

To give them the benefit of the doubt, I will assume that many of these delinquents have a university card or two in their pocket, but I can still conjure of a dozen other labels to name them with before their “student”ness (or lack of) comes to mind.

But what perplexes me is the enthusiasm with which Western media were quick to follow suit. Following the 2009 selection, Iranian state media was overtly zealous to call demonstrators, protesters, prisoners and activists, “hooligans” and the Western press hardly ever bothered to note this, calling the people out on the street by their rightful name.

What’s up with it this time? Where is the proof that these mobsters are “students”?! And why has the BBC, AP, the Huffington Post, CNN, etc so enthusiastically followed Ahmadinejad’s RAJA NEWS?!

Could it be that labeling these thugs as ordinary Iranians, (a label such as “student” gets that across completely) helps the warmonering imagery that has been building momentum in Western press? (and which the IRI goons are only too happy to reinforce?)

Either way, someone tell CNN et al.:

Iranian “students” have either been expelled, detained, suspended, been forced to flee, disillusioned, are watching satellite TV, conversing indoors, hiking outdoors …. doing pretty much everything and anything but breaking windows and ripping pictures of an old, tired queen and her henchmen. There is as much “student” in these thugs as there is in the Football Hooligans who your own press dubs the British Disease. 

Paper or Plastic?

It is times like this that I feel very much alone …

Who will put an end to this madness? Or is that what every generation asks itself before its eventual demise?

In times of protest in Iran, you hear the exuberant cries of rallies behind the protesters, offering them useless, albeit enthusiastic support. It doesn’t matter where you go offline or online: Monarchist rallies, sites with the nuttiest commentators ever, like iranian.com to dinner parties, almost everyone is ready to cheer on “the people”, declare their long distance, internet love “for the people”, send their virtual, hearts and prayers to the “people”. Yes, uselss perhaps, and quite irrelevant to what happens on the ground … but heart warming in a cheesy Hallmark-card sort of way.

For those living outside of Iran, this is perhaps a single moment of unity, where those virtual hearts and prayers allow us to feel a connection to “back home”, that allow us to cheat ourselves into believing that we too “have done our part”.

But in times like this, when Iran is hit by a new round of preposterous sanctions,  that will work to cripple the work of millions of ordinary Iranians, those very “people” we were crying for … those same folks, if they find time to take a breather from their Nachos and Prime Time television, cheer on the warmongering of the West, as if IRI’s perfidy justifies the evil perpetuated by their most powerful counterparts in the Western hemisphere.

We can criticize the IRI for its absurd handling of the nuclear issue in light of Western aggression they KNEW was all too real and ready. But that does not in any way justify this aggression.

More peculiar still that this cheer leading is done in the name of “patriotism”.

I don’t believe in “patriotism” so outrageously today associated with support for governments; where allegiance to a country becomes at one with supporting the perfidies of the political establishment … Nor do I believe any land or its people have my unconditional devotion due to blood lines … I do believe in the power of nostalgia, and the power of memory to draw you to the familiar, to ignite in you passion and longing and love. But I would have felt the same had I been born in Portugal, Japan or Chile. That doesn’t prove the moral “superiority” of one geographical space to the other.

But no matter how you choose to define patriotism, I don’t see how anyone living outside of Iran can bring themselves to support sanctions -  when they themselves will be untouched by them. The moral high ground with which many expats cheer on perfidy and evil makes me vomit. Are they a majority? Are they an overtly active online minority?

At school I’d like to think the latter. Students who have just recently left their homeland to study abroad, rarely forget the hardships their families (and they themselves only a few short years ago) had to endure. When you are in school, speaking to students who understand and remember what it is like to walk the streets of Tehran and Isfahan and Ahvaz … the world doesn’t seem too lonely.

But then I visit a forum filled with self-described Iranian “patriots” cheering on this madness, or I attend a dinner party, and it comes back, all over again. I can’t bring myself to support abuse and brutality imposed on any people … Iranian or not … by any government … Iranian or otherwise. How can they support the continued brutalization of their own people, from both ends? It’s all for the “Greater good” they say. “Some day soon it will help the regime fall and it will all be worth it”.

Go to Iran to experience the greater good, and then we’ll talk you fucking, delusional scum bucket.

And for those of you still confused by the latest IAEA report, please refer to the venerable  Seymour Hersh.

Read Hamid Serri, in Informed Comment, talk about how:

Iran’s UN Inspectors are Repeating the Iraq Mistakes

Though I wouldn’t call them “mistakes” necessarily. The word implies a level of misunderstanding or misconception – whereas this feels more deliberate.

One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen lately. Director Meysam Azarzad spends a day at Tehran’s Bazaar and asks local Bazaar men to enact their favorite film scenes … Everything from The Man who Shot Liberty Valance to Forrest Gump to Taxi Driver to Iranian classics like The Cow. The director can also be seen giving them “subtle” directions ;-)

You can view the video here.

It’s stuff like this that makes me miss Tehran. You haven’t lived until you’ve sat down for tea with a witty Bazaar salesman …

Older Posts »