Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

I wish you all a great year to come. Happy 2005.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Exilic candidate for Iranian elections!!

This is the funniest email I have received in a long time! My eyes are still teary from laughing. ouch, my ribs hurt! You've got to read this.... Before you read on, you should know that this person has sent me several emails, saying that Iranian women in Iran are lazy monsters who are oppressing their husbands... Just a bit of background!
"Man shoma ra nejat khaaham daad, no englees, no amrica
I shall rescue you, not the British nor American imperialism

Are we all aware that Khatamy has invited Iranians in exile to put their names forward as candidates for the next presidential elections in Iran?

I am and so I have decided to throw my hat in the ring and declare myself a candidate to be the next president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and here is my Manifesto.

(1) As the president of Iran I will revolutionise the Education System so as to make gentlemen of Iranians who choose to join it; for a decent education system must be proactive and enable today's children, tomorrow's adults constituting society, to think for themselves and stand on their own two feet and provide for themselves, instead of looking out and up to the State to provide for them.

(2) Iranian Education System will deliver gentlemen/women to Iranian society and world stage as of the day one of my presidency. No Iranian will ever again consider him/herself inferior to English, American, French, Italian men and women. They shall see themselves as equals to all Western men and women and behave as equals with them when coming into touch with such men and women from the West.

(3) New Education System in Iran will ensure children and adults are able to distinguish friends from foes; will appreciate good from evil; will acknowledge good deeds and promote not only good deeds but also people who act them out.

(4) New Education system of Iran will teach by means of personal experience and will not learn / know anything unless seen, tasted, felt, known by physical experience, and will denounce any kind of learning by rote.

(5) Children will be brought up free from fear of any kind. Parents will be punished severely if they use any kind of psychological or physical threat or abuse against their children.

(6) Children will learn to respect their neighbours and never trust foreigners about whom they know nothing. Having mutual respect for one another, peer groups, class mates, neighbours, work colleagues, and other fellow Iranians shall be the cornerstone of the New Education System, by means of which all social skills such as odaabe moasherat va lozoome gozardan e ehteraam be deegaran e hamnoo shall be taught and learned.

(7) I will eradicate unemployment in Iran using the same resources available to the current govt of Iran; and I will guarantee a well paid job to any Iranian which is born anywhere in Iran and all jobs shall be well paid, and include perks such as long annual holidays etc.

(8) I will provide a home / roof over head for every single Iranian that lives in Iran and therefore is entitled to a decent home. My policy would be Home for Heroes, as Iranian people are heroes and have put up with a lot in the last 26 years under the inefficient Islamic Republic.
Homes shall be big enough to accommodate all members of family quite comfortably.

(9) Free Health care will be provided for all Iranians throughout the country and shall include dental care, optical and care for ear, nose and throat.

(10) Income Tax will be abolished categorically and completely, and redistribution of income shall not be allowed under no circumstances.

(11) All foreign politicians residing in Tehran, as well as foreign advisors to Khatamy and his cabinet shall be dismissed immediately and removed from the Country as soon as possible.

(12) All foreign employees of the govt and various institutions within and without Iran will be dismissed, and their jobs will be offered to Iranians with a decent salary.

(13) Training for doing all kinds of jobs will be provided by the govt free of charge for all employees without exception.

(14) Universities of the Country will become centres of search and analysis on a global basis so as to provide advisors and experts on international relations and domestic issues and policies for the govt and its executive personnel.

(15) Learning of all languages spoken by the people of the planet earth will be compulsory for pupils, students, trainees and applicants for various posts in the country.

(16) One of my main objectives would be to establish an Institute of spoken and written languages on the planet earth, which will have branches in every nook and corner of Iran.

(17) Creating, building and establishing an infrastructure for the Publishing business and industry will be another one of my main objectives as the president of Iran.

(18) All publishing business and industry shall be nationalised and their employees shall be considered govt employees; and all books, pamphlets, periodicals written and produced by Iranians in Persian language shall be published and distributed throughout Iran by the nationalised publishing industry.

(19) Price of buying books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, magazines shall come down dramatically in order to encourage Iranians to become readers, researchers and seekers after knowledge and information.

(20) All land belongs to God and therefore I shall nationalise all and make it impossible for the crooks, estate agents, and besaazo beforooshha to do as they wish with the valuable and rich land of Iran. All people who earn their living via these means shall be employed by the govt according to their skill and inclinations, guaranteeing a good wage / salary to them so as to make sure they will not become impoverished and anti-state.

(21) My slogan in this election will be: Homes are to live in, not to make money out of. And so selling homes in which one lives for profit will become illegal.

(22) All homes will be owned by the State and no trading / transaction respecting them shall be allowed; this policy will be a national one so as to encourage Iranians to be fruitful and earn their living by the sweat of their brow, instead of what they now are: parasites which live off the wealth and produce of others.

(23) Earning your living by possessing land or homes will no longer be possible; since I shall guarantee a well-paid job to all Iranians, there should not be a need for such preposterous acts which has resulted in sucking the blood of fellow Iranians; the culprits must learn to live off the sweat of their brow; work to earn their living, instead of possessing lands in the middle of nowhere and selling it for a fortune to desperate Iranians. A crime which Ayatulla Haashemee y Rafsanjaanee is also guilty of, and should be punished for, as soon as I become president of Iran.

(24) All loans from foreign banks and IMF shall be returned to the loan-givers in order to ensure a free and independent govt. Particularly IMF loan must be returned and all future loans from such loan-sharks must and shall be forbidden and resort to such illegal acts shall be considered a treason, if any body in the govt decides or chooses to borrow from foreign authorities.

(25) IMF and World Bank and all similar imperialist institutions do not have Iran's best interest at heart when they agree to give a loan to Iran's govt. And so whoever chooses to go for such loans must be considered a traitor and his or her doings will be treason and punishable by death.

(26) Iran under my presidency will not be interested in joining any Imperialist institutions including World Trade Organisation, whose prime objective is to suck the blood of people of 2nd and third world, so as to make the big business and the rich in the West even fatter and richer.

(27) Any cabinet minister who is to blame for Kaser budget / budget deficit shall be dismissed, arrested and imprisoned immediately and if found guilty of gross misconduct shall be subject to summary execution.

(28) Under my presidency people of Iran will not be punished for unprofessionalism and inefficiencies in the Cabinet or govt. The responsible member for Kasre Budget shall pay for it with his own money, time and energy.

(29) Under my presidency prices of goods and food stuff will not go up under no circumstances; let alone because of Kasre Budget for which Cabinet Ministers alone are responsible.

(30) UN's declaration of Human Rights shall become the law of the land in Iran. Also UN decration of rights for women and children.

(31) All economic rights declarations by the UN shall be studied carefully and if found to be useful for the nation of Iran, shall be implemented immediately so as to enable Iranians to abide by them.

(32) Iran will be a democracy and so the highest authority and power in the land of Iran will be Majles Shouraye Islamy, in order to achieve the ideal of govt by the people for the people.

(33) In order to make Majles representative of all Iranian people, I will encourage Majles to change the Constitution and provide for every 50,000 people to send one representative to the Majles in order to voice their needs, opinions and wishes and make sure it is heard.

(34) Shouraye Negaban will be advised to strengthen their power-base in Iran by electing their members by means of general elections: so that their existence cannot be questioned by anyone inside and outside Iran.

(35) I will advise Majles to insert in the amended Constitution that Shoraye Negahban is no different to the American Senate, and its existence is a must in a democratic Iran.

(36) In order to strengthen Shouraye Negahban, I will ask Majles to amend the Constitution to include the need for Shouraye Negahban to be representative of all Iranian people and so it must have one delegate from amidst every one hundred thousand Iranians.

(37) Rahbare Engelab or Ayatullah Khameneye shall remain in his post as the highest authority; just as the Queen of England is the highest authority in the UK; that is, he will give advise, assurance, criticism, guidance; and his signature will be required before bills can become laws by which all Iranian people must abide.

(38) The rule of law throughout the country will be a MUST and no one, regardless of how great or small they are, shall be allowed to consider him/herself above it.

(39) President and its cabinet shall be executive arm of the govt (goveh y mojreeye) and act within the laws enacted by the Majles Shoraye Islamy. Cabinet ministers who refuse to abide by this constitutional law shall be dismissed and imprisoned for at least one year.

(40) Moral values will be adhered to quite stiffly; so all pedophiles and abusers of children and young adults shall be executed summarily. Anyone accused of child molestation, incest, rape, sexual harassment and / or any kind of sexual and physical abuse of others shall be arrested, imprisoned; and become subject to summary execution.

(41) The right of people to go about their business freely throughout the country shall be guaranteed; and abuse of no kinds in this respect shall be tolerated.

(42) Freedom of dress is tolerated, as long as men and women of Iran are prepared to respect their fellow countrymen, by not appearing before them in any immodest and outrageous shape or form. That is, wo/men can dress as they wish, but they will not be allowed to expose their private parts in public; meaning no one can walk the street of Iran in mini skirts or in topless clothes.

(43) The slogan Azaady e man dar jaayee khatm meeshavad ke Azaadee deegaran dar onja shoroo meeshavad will be adhered to. That is, wo/men must dress modestly for the sake of respecting other people's freedom not to have to set their eyes on things they do not wish to see in public places and in wider society.

(44) Foreign Relations: There can be no relations with the West unless govt of Iran agrees to consider itself below and subservient to it. Therefore speaking of relations with countries such as England, USA, France, Russia, China, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain is absurd. For as far as these countries are concerned Iran is a "savage" and "uncivilised" country and they are coming to "reform" and "civilise" it according to their own understanding of these terminologies. While Iranians are a nation which is considered to be the super race on the planet earth. Iranians are the true Aryans, whether the English govt likes it or not; and so, I as the president of Iran will not accept anything less than being the super race, above the Anglo-Saxon race. Iran and all 3rd world countries are indeed the civilized nations and countries; it is the West, American and the English who are uncivilised and must start reforming and civilizing themselves.

(45) And so, there will either be no relations with the West, or the West will have to consider Iran an equal partner and an equal player on the world stage. My govt will not allow any Western govt to get away with forcing Iran into a subservient position in relation to the West.

(46) Before starting any negotiations with the West, I shall ask it to refund, reimburse and return to Iran all the frozen assets belonging to Iran (since 1979) and in which govts in the West have been having a free hand for the last 26 years. It shall be, for the West, payback time when I become the president of Iran.

(47) For as long as every penny and every cent of all frozen assets belonging to Iran has not been returned to Iran, there can be no relations with any Western power or "allies". I shall force Tony Blair and George Bush to respect Iran's Govt and Nation as equals to their own govt etc.

(48) Iranian army shall be trained and mobilised fully so as to be able to face and challenge any threat from UK and USA.

(49) Since Iran is a country superior to all other countries in the West, any attack or interference within its borders, any forceful and compulsory requirement imposed upon it, shall be responded equally forcefully; if necessary by bringing them on so that the Iranian army can play centre stage and show its true qualities to bullies like Blair and Bush; Iranian Army shall from day one of my presidency be brought into the centre stage of international relations. For Iran under my govt shall not tolerate any imperative commands from anyone, not even UK or USA.

(50) For as long as UK, Israel and USA have nuclear bomb, Iran will have it too. For equals must be equally armed, before anyone can claim to have won any wars with foreign govts and nations. There is nothing to be proud of in defeating unarmed, weak and unaware nations and govts. Blair and Bush must be ashamed of themselves because they only go to war with govts and nations who are unaware of their true intentions respecting them; stabbing others in the back, when they are not looking, is cowardly and disgusting; Iran under my presidency shall not put up with such mean and outrageous policy on the part of British and Americans.

(51) Iran is equal in power and authority to USA, Israel, uk, France, Germany, Japan and China. And so Iran will demand to have the right to VETO anything it does not like within the UN.

(52) All cities on the borders shall be developed andstrengthened and shall become known as and amongst the major cities of Iran.

(53) Iranian army shall have bases in all cities bordering Iran.

(54) All borders shall be protected by the presence of Iranian army so that Israel cannot infiltrate into Iran by the back-door, just like its allies in the West, by means of back-stabbing, and when Iran is not looking; Israeli army shall never be allowed to infiltrate Iran via Turkey as if mooro malakh.

(55) Freedom of speech, press, gatherings / ejtemaat, movement shall be guaranteed to all Iranians under my presidency.

(56) In order to ensure these freedoms will not abused, I shall appoint a Press Secretary whose job it shall be to provide answers for any criticism, accusations, allegations and charges against the govt and all mass media will be required by law to publish such responses by the govt to all critics; so that mogarezeen / provocateurs (including Britain and USA and their secret agents) could be prevented from achieving their unholy goals within the country.
(57) Because Iranian govt is engaged in trading with the people of Iran; buys cheaply from and sells back to Iranians very expensively; I shall put an end to this practice, either by nationalising all production industries, or by dropping this practice altogether and allowing individual private tradears and businessmen pick it up and start buying and selling internally, doing business with the people of Iran without any govt interference. I shall do all in my power to encourage Iranians to do business with one another.

(58) Because the state has been in the business of doing business with Iranians for over 200 years, since the English East India Company started doing serious business within Iran, giving back such power to individual traders and businessmen may be too daunting and difficult; or even impracticable. For producers are used to selling to the govt and retailers are used to buying from the govt under whatever condition and for whatever price.

(59) So I propose to nationalise all production facilities and industries; make all producers govt employees by paying them decent wages and keeping them happy at all costs, to make them willing to continue producing food stuff and other produce which is consumed by Iranian public. This will give govt the power and necessary authority to keep all prices down and affordable for the masses at all times.

(60) Once the process of electing me to office of the President is complete, I shall invite all Iranians to contribute to the improvement of economy of the country as a whole. All ideas and comments in this respect shall be taken on board; listened to and meditated upon, in order to find the best solution for the economic problems of Iran. I shall not be afraid of putting to practice good ideas offered by Iranians.

(61) For to-date no one had paid any attention to the fact that it is govt of Iran which is buying from and selling to Iranians. It is a recently discovered fact that the Iranian govt has monopoly over the "capitalist" market; thus making capitalist system of economy a ridiculous system. Iran's economy has been an state-run economy ever since the British East India Compay became a good friend of Kings and queens in Iran, some 250 years ago.

(62) And so, with all due respect, I submit that nationalising all production facilities and sources is the best solution to this problem; and as the only way to ensure current levels of productions of all kinds can be maintained; as well as maintaining the necessary control over prices which are inflatory right now because Khatamy govt is a corrupt govt. and so for the sake of either keeping prices down or raising salaries and incomes to an extent that a decent standard of living could become a reality for all classes of people in Iran. In other words the best solution to current economic problems in Iran is nationalisation of all production facilities.
(63) Right now senior and junior ministers in the Khatamy govt are busy robbing the public treasury / taking all they want from the foreign currency reserves; selling off all assets belonging to Iranians as a whole, and keeping the money for themselves; refusing to do anything for the people; I am anxious to invite all Iranians inside and outside Iran to take all necessary steps to stop Khatamy govt and its senior and junior staff, including ambassadors in the West, from selling off Iranian assets, and turning them into liquid assets for the sake of stealing them.

(64) Right now any decent Iranian must be fully engaged in stopping ministers of Khatamy govt in their dealing with foreign powers, for the prime object of making liquid public assets, for the sake of pocketing them and running away with them. What more can I say, regarding this matter. Right now Iranian ambassador in London is doing all in his power to sell off the buildings and lands which form Iranian Counsul and Embassy in London. We must stop him for it does not belong to him, and so he cannot do with such public assets as he wishes.

(65) I have informed you of this very important fact; I hope you will do all in your power to stop the current Ambassador from getting away with day light robbery of public assets in London.
This is a provisional Manifesto; once I am accepted as a running candidate I shall elaborate on how I shall be running Iran, and give more details about my future administration by means of which I shall be running Iran.

Susan Moeen"


"youth crisis"

Every time I talk to my nieces in Iran, a feeling of joy and hopefulness occupies every cell of my body. Not because they are my nieces and I am biased about their achievements (I am biased, I won't deny), but because I am constantly amazed by how they and their friends are so well-read and politically aware. They are in early years of college in Iran and yes, they complain about the problems they face as young women, and as students. But, they also, very playfully, talk about the way they fight against restrictive conventions that they face in school, on the streets, or at home. Some time ago, after having a discussion on a Yahoo chatroom with a young American, my niece asked me if Americans really thought that the U.S. was liberating Iraq! We talked about what it means to generalize and say "all Americans think like this, or all Iranians are like this." I digress...
I think of my nieces, and other Iranian youth whom I met in my last trip to Turkey, as anything but docile. The level of political awareness and self-motivated eagerness to learn among this group of youth has been amazing to me. I guess, when you don't have certain privileges, you do not take them for granted...
So, I was quite surprised, to say the least, when I read this article on SF Gate today. I frowned when I read Ms. Enssani's suggestion about the United States encouraging Iran to invest in its youth. One has to think of the United States as the big brother (let's call him Uncle Sam) who has mastered the art of parenting its youth, for one to ask Uncle Sam to give advice to the Iranian state about its youth! For the purposes of this blog post, let's put aside the problematic view of nation as family and state as father, which is implicit in Enssani's article. Let me go along with Enssani's rhetoric for a moment. I live in Berkeley where countless homeless youth sleep in the nearby park; where in neighboring Oakland, black youth are killed as the result of gang violence, drugs, and police brutality on a daily basis. And is the government (state or federal) showing any sympathy? Apathy is what I have seen during my 15 years of residence in the Bay Area. 6 of these years were spent on doing crisis-intervention work in San Francisco, where a large percantage of kids in Bay View Hunter's Point suffer from serious health problems caused by factory waste.
I am not denying that Iranian youth are facing apathy, and believe me, I have heard about the rising problem of addiction among Iranian youth. But Ms. Enssani seems to assume that Iranian youth are helpless victims, waiting for some invisible hand to rescue them! "Let them be young," Ms. Enssani suggests. What does it mean to be young, any way? Watching Disney films and playing war-simulated video-games? I have been a teaching assistant in a few U.S. universities, including Stanford and Berkeley, which I suppose are among the good ones. To me, the level of ignorance and lack of knowledge about the rest of the world among some youth who are raised in the U.S. is disheartening. At Harvard, after watching the Russian Ark for a film class, an art student asked if there had been a revolution in Russia... all I could do was to force myself to smile.
This post is getting too long again. Let me suffice by saying that the decay of nationalism, which Ms. Enssani is so worried about, should be the least of our concerns. Nationalism (be it Iranian nationalism or American nationalism) is well and alive, and that, for me is a source of concern!


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Neocons and their plans for the future of Iran

This is scary! But again, "peaceful" regime change through building alliances with "the people" in Iran is nothing new. This strategy seems to have been in making for a while now. Soon after the beginning of the "war on terrorism," Bush made statements in support of "the people of Iran"; Senator Brownback suggested support of pro-democracy Opposition groups in Iran; the conservative think tank, Hoover Institute (with people such as Condoleeza Rice and George Schultz) hired Abbas Milani to start a program on the "future" of Iran; and .... I am sure many secret meetings have been taking place with those who the U.S. government wants to hire for this project (there seems to be a happy neoliberal alliance between neocons and conservatives on this matter!)
Well, neoliberalism as a new form of governmentality is at work... Are we surprised? The only thing these nice people fail to tell us is that neoliberal economic policies have created huge gaps between the poor and the rich, all in the name of "development." Neoliberal policies have often supported dictatorships, in the name of freedom and democracy.
Things that one can do in the name of "the people and "for the "good of the people!" Can someone please tell me, who are these "people" for whom so much advocacy is being done in U.S. think tanks, and by politicians who have significant investments in multinational corporations? I am sure many who live in Iran and its diaspora desire regime change (I myself being one). But the question is, at what cost?
It seems that the Internet and diaspora are envisioned as having a major role in this plan for "peaceful" regime change in Iran. Can I hope for resistance that comes from within power? Can I hope that people in weblogistan resist such intervention?


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Flu talk

I arrived late at Timoshenko Lounge last night. Having driven more than an hour from Berkeley to get to the plantation I have come to call “school,” I mumbled to myself as I pulled the car into the parking lot, “it’s too late. I should go back; it’s almost 8 PM.” But the light was on and through the window, I could see dark-haired (and some hairless) heads, whose ears were attentively listening to someone in that room. “Thank god for the Iranian time,” I mumbled again, as I parked my car and lazily dragged my flu-struck body to the room filled with Iranian bloggers, students, and Internet savvy Bay Area residents. For once, I felt more “authentic” than any Iranian in the room, as I was by far the most fashionably late person there! But, too fashionable for my wits, as I had missed Hossein Derakhshan’s talk all together!
Fortunately, however, I got to hear a discussion about the political potential of blogs. In this discussion, Hossein said something that was interesting to me (a point that I had noticed when reading the comments on his blog before). He said that he doesn’t know why many people who visit his blog are neo-cons. The laziness of the “Left” for not noticing the potential of blogs, he said, was perhaps one of the reasons for this. His statement led to a discussion about the disillusionment of the “Left” in the U.S., with the concept of democracy. As my fashionable tardiness had excluded me from the earlier discussion, I decided to shut up and listen to what was being said. But I decided to jot down my scattered thoughts about last night’s discussion here in this post --and don’t expect any coherence, as I am drugged by Tylenol Flu capsules, which seem to be working pretty well!
My thoughts: It seemed to me that there was an underlying assumption about what constitutes the “Left” and what characterizes it. I noticed a slippage back and forth between what “Left” means in the U.S. and what it has connoted/does mean in Iran. I think, one needs to recognize that what is known as the “Left” in Iran now- and in the U.S. for that matter- is very different than what it has meant in different historical junctures. The outcome of this sort of generalization, I believe, can be the wholesale rejection of an assumed unity (“the Left”).
Having said this, I want to embark on a little engagement with Hossein’s statement. Let me also say early on, that to critique someone is not to reject them. Unfortunately, many times we seem to take a “naqd” as a “naf-y.” This is certainly not my intention. How else are we to have productive discussions, if we don't engage in critiques of each others work? I am putting these issues forward, hoping that we can have further discussions about them. I don't want to have the last word on these issues and know that there will probably be no agreement on many of the things I say here.
Unlike Hossein, I don’t think that the internet is the turf of neo-cons. In fact, different groups that may identify as being a part of the “Left” have utilized this form of communication in organizing and disseminating information (obviously, there is always the “digital divide” and issues of accessibility that one has to take into consideration, when talking about the political possibilities of the Internet. But we won’t go there in this post).
Now, why is that neo-cons seem to favor a blog such as Hossein Derakhshan’s, is a totally different matter and can have many reasons. I am not in the position to give a causal explanation for what seems to have bemused Hossein, as I don’t think it is clear why someone such as, say, Michael Ledeen would leave supportive comments for this loveable Iranian blogger. But, I want to point to one aspect of this dynamic... and that is: despite the intentions of the author, his/her text will produce different meanings at different times and different places. This point- Derrida’s famous “the author is dead”- seems to be an obvious observation, but one that is often taken for granted and missed. So, while Hossein’s intention may not be to get the support of neoconservatives, it happens that many of his readers in fact belong to this camp. Why? Because it is only within discursive fields that what one writes (or says) produces different (and deferring) meanings; AND these meanings are not separate from relations of power (notice that I am not just referring to the somewhat obvious fact of multiple meanings or polysemy, but pointing to discourse as embedded in power) . So, within a transnational field of power, it is certain hegemonic discourses (such as, say, neo-Orientalist ones that have a particular history) that produce “preferred meanings” and organize particular subjects into the realm of representation. What we say or write is not outside of these discourses and is informed by them. It is at the intersection of competing discourses (and I am not excluding Islamic fundamentalist discourses that are very much transnational at this point) that subjects, such as “Iranian bloggers” who aspire to democracy come into being. Often, this production of subjectivities is implicated in the process of Othering. For example, notice the extent of Othering and violence that is embedded in this comment, sent to Hoder: “They are part of a world-wide Islamic Insurgancy that has taken up arms against the West, primarily the citizens of the United States and Israel. These are enemies, not criminals and need to be treated as such, that is, killed or captured when we can - not subject to the rights of citizens. Bravo to you for sticking your thumb in their eye. Posted by Greg Johnson at November 8, 2004 05:39 PM.”
Or, this other comment: “hoder - be careful. this is serious. your ideas and insights are important, but it is necessary to separate your web and real identities, as nihilia suggested. one day 'they' will be an adult and able to argue - but today 'they' are more than a few and are willing to live in a death culture. take care - an american christian who values your mind and ALL the people of the books. Posted by r at November 6, 2004 10:36 PM.”
Notice the way “they,” in this comment have been infantilized and juxtaposed to the rationality of the “American Christian.” The messianic promise of “one day they will be,” is perhaps the hope for an outcome that a missionary crusade can bring to this American Christian. There are many more of these examples that one can find among the comments sent to Hoder. Although, there seems to be a distinction made between him and the “bad Muslims,” this form of Manichean logic often homogenizes people and places them in camps of “good” and “evil,” while prescribing what is “good” and what is “evil.” Let me clarify that bringing these examples is not to minimize the level of threat that Hossein Derakhshan, as a pioneer blogger has felt. I, too, am concerned about his safety and would encourage him to take necessary precautions. But, Hossein's intentions notwhitstanding, his blog does not escape the politics of location.
One last Tylenol-flu inspired point and I will end this long post: To point to the discursive production of Iranian blogger subjectivities is very different than thinking of them as being victims of “false consciousness.” False consciousness- something that was not named as such, but seemed to be implied last night in talking about the dismissal of democracy by the “Left” in the U.S.- is not certainly a theoretical concept to which I subscribe. Being skeptical of uncritical uses of notions of democracy (which are by the way, the noql-o-nabaat of every diasporic Iranian political gathering, and the legitimizing factor for (neo)colonial projects that we are witnessing today), does not necessarily translate into the wholesale abandonment of this concept . Nor does this skepticism mean that the skeptic perceives Iranian bloggers as “puns of Imperialism.” Perhaps there should be room for an in-between position that neither assumes fully constituted sovereign subjects, nor denies any form of subjectivity to people who are subjected to different discourses. Perhaps this is the reason as to why I have chosen to do an ethnographic project among Iranian bloggers: To see the way Iranian bloggers negotiate their subjectivities both online and offline, as they are subjected to multiple discourses that surround them.
And finally, a not- so-irrelevant piece of news that may be of interest to some of you: The NY Times article about SF's battle against the conservatives' ban on gay marriage: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/23/national/23marriage.html?th
I am off to get some rest. By the way, my apologies to people whom I greeted with a hug and kisses on both cheeks yesterday. I hope I didn't pass on the flu virus!
Post-script: As I was reading Alireza Doostdar's blog, I noticed that there was a comment for me in his comments section. I think my comments link is not very user-friendly and that is probably why Sahand has left his comment in Parishan Blog. I posted the comment here and will respond to it soon. I thank Alireza Doostdar for adding me to his links. I will try to change my comments format in both of my weblogs soon.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I guess, in my last post, I wasn't too off about the curbing of civil liberties of Muslims by the state. This was in LA Times today (I saw it on Iranian.com).
On a happier note, Hossein Derakhshan will be at Stanford tomorrow. Here is an email I got from the Persian Students Alliance at Stanford:
"Please join us for an evening with Hossein Derakhshan (Hoder), an Iranian blogger who currently resides in Toronto and publishes "Sardabir:Khodam" at http://i.hoder.com/. Hossein has created a tutorial on how to create a weblog and has encouraged many Iranians develop their own weblogs.
Date: Wednesday December 22, 2004
Time: 6:30PM
Location: Timoshenko Lounge - Stanford UniversityAddress: 230 Ayrshire farm ln. Stanford, CA
Agenda: 6:30 Socialize 7:00 Hoder: Talk and presentation 7:30 Questions and answers
We will then leave to a nearby restaurant for dinner/dessert and informal chat. Please feel free to forward this e-mail to your friends who are interested in this subject."
I look forward to this event.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Internet Panopticon

I hate to fall into the trap of utopoia/dystopia binary that has for the most part characterized "cyber studies." After all, it is my interest in the productive potentials of computer mediated communications, such as weblogs, that makes me spend the rest of my graduate student life (and perhaps beyond) studying weblogistan. But, let me burst a little bubble here. Last week, at the Internet and Society 2004 Conference at Harvard, I noticed that many people eagerly talked about the utopian mission of taking democracy to far away places... Iran seemed to be a prime example. Well, actually, the South Korean OhMyNews -with columnists such as Howard Rheingold, the Internet enthusiast who is famous for his book, Virtual Communities- won the implicit popularity contest in the "Global Voices" section of the conference. But, Farsi blogs and their democratic potentials did not cease to be mentioned over and over again, in almost every session. The confetti thrown into the air in this happy union of Internet geeks, investors, and politicians? Totalitarianism vs. American democracy; The free "we" in the U.S. vs. the censored "them," there. Well, read today's NY Times article and the bubble may get a bit deflated:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/20/technology/20covert.html?th. Although internet surveillance is nothing new, with all the talk about increasing security, we are all in for a free national colonoscopy! Was I being rude? I'm sorry. But, what else can be a better metaphor for the way our daily diet is saturated with highly manipulated notions of "democracy" and "freedom"? And aren't we told that"terrorism" is the cancerous side effect of this healthy diet? And hence the need for colonoscopy, dear farangopolitans!
----post-script: And yes... then there is Cornell University's national poll about restricting the civil liberties of Muslims. I guess we should not complain. The greatness of U.S. multiculturalism guarantees that the colonoscopy shall be done with proper Islamic codes and in culturally sensitive ways!
----P.P.S. An anonymous reader has left a comment, to which I have replied in the comments section. Since I don't have her/his email, I am hoping s/he will read my response here:
"I am a bit confused about your point. Are you implying that I am comparing Iran and the U.S., and thus reifying binary oppositions, or are you suggesting that one needs to mention Iran, as being run by a government that curtails civil liberties, when writing a critique of the U.S.? If you are saying the former, I don't think I have created a binary. I have pointed to the way discussions about freedom and democracy in conferences such as Bits and Bytes are constructed vis-à-vis narratives of repression in places such as Iran, thereby operating on binary oppositions. If your point is to remind me of the latter, let me clarify: There is no doubt in my mind that many civil liberties are curtailed in Iran. However, I think we need to point out that freedom in the U.S. has its limitations (and the NY Times article is only one minor example of US government's increasing level of surveillance). If you don't believe that the civil liberties of Muslims are being curtailed in the U.S., just look at the news and you will find plenty of examples of people being fired from their jobs, travelers being subjected to humiliating searches in U.S. airports, and students being denied enrollment in certain fields, all in the name of posing the "threat of terrorist activitiy." By the way, "I hate..." is a figure of speech. I don't think any of us is capable of escaping these binaries, as we are implicated in them. Shifting? Perhaps. But escaping the fall, I am afraid not. "
Let me add here that my point is not to compare Iran and the U.S. , but to pay attention to the emptiness of hegemonic discourses such as "freedom" and "democracy" that have historically legitimized violence, here in the U.S., and elsewhere. Have we already forgotten the way that "freedom" was resignified in a violent occupation that came to be named "Iraqi Freedom?" Need I say more?


Saturday, December 18, 2004

MIT survey

Speaking of homes, MIT's Iranian Studies Group is conducting another survey among Iranians "who consider the United States their primary home at this time." I hope ISG is also circulating this survey among the Iranians who don't have access to computers, or do not speak English at all.


Where is home?

I saw this on Iranian.com today:
New California Media (NCM), in collaboration with the California Council for the Humanities, is launching a contest to "Write a Letter Home" to a real or imagined relative about their life in California. The twelve best letters received statewide will win a $1000 cash prize each. Please send your "letters" to iranian.com [times@iranian.com]and we will forward to NCM. The winner will receive the full amount of the award. NCM will have them judged by a distinguished panel. The deadline is January 15."

This sounds like a good opportunity for getting paid to write creatively. I look forward to reading the $1000 letter. I wonder, however, what the organizers have in mind when they say "home." What to do with multiple homes?


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

dwelling in farangopolis

Mapping the house and housing the map, the peddler who carried shahr-i farang on his shoulders walked through my childhood alleys, where my young ambivalent female body, not marked by a deviant desire yet, deviated from school to the world of sight-seeing.
شهر شهر فرنگه بیا و تماشا کن... از همه رنگه بیا و تماشا کن
It was this rhythmic song that drew my seven-year-old body to pleasures of scopophilia. Shahr-i farang, the house-shaped box that sat on the shoulders of a man who traveled through my -then familiar and now unfamiliar- city, Tehran, shaped the porous frontiers of my traveling imagination. Putting my ten Rial coin in his scabbed hands, I would wait for the tired peddler to ground the four-legged box and open the round window to the liminal space of this house that contained the world. My left eye (always stronger than the right one!), would connect my body to the peephole, not blinking once. I would let my imagination travel through time and space with the narrator’s voice, as I tightly framed the boxed foreign cities with my young eager hands.
Not too many years from then, the same hands would turn into fists and write anti-Shah slogans on the walls of the revolted city. In another ten years, those hands would be laid on a cold table in the house of immigration to be mapped for their marked foreignness. Having changed their status of alienation, my hands would be summoned to be fingerprinted in the home they had inhabited-but not considered to be habituated- for fourteen years. And with a permit to dwell and travel, the same hands would increasingly be under surveillance for the possible “threat” they could pose to “homeland security.” Yes, my fellow farangopolitan, the same hands, a quarter of a century after framing the window to foreign cities in domestic alleys on a mobile house, would type these words and touch the keys to the house of this box, reaching for other diasporic bodies.
This blog is my grownup diasporic shahr-i farang. This time I look to touch, both optically and haptically, across geographies to imagine a community of Iranians on-line. I take this journey knowing that not all bodies travel and not all dwellers move, except perhaps phantasmically. “This that you see, my child, is Taj Mahaaaaaaal and we are in Hindustan nowwwwwww… This one is the Statue of Libertyyyyyyy, and here is Americaaaaaa. ” This rhythmic voice and the box of pictures that housed my dwelling and motion, are all distant memories now. Liberty remains nothing but a statue.


The sidebar image is taken from Mahmoud Pakzad's "Old Tehran", Did Publishers, 1994. Thanks to Jahanshah Javid (www.iranian.com) for sharing it.

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