Monday, January 31, 2005

Iranians oppose military strikes against Iran

"Washington, D.C., January 31, 2005 – The National Iranian American Council released today recent findings from a national letter writing campaign to President Bush on US-Iran relations, showing overwhelming opposition among Iranian Americans to U.S. military strikes against Iran...." This is from an email I got from NIAC today. Read the rest here.


Erecting Bush or calling Baghdad Bushdad

In times of agony, laughter is the best therapy. Niki's post today was the much needed therapy. Niki (Letter N.) has posted this piece of news:
"The U.S. installed mayor of Baghdad, Ali Fadel, would like to erect a statue in the city to honor his boss, George W. Bush."
The witty Letter N. has suggested that Ali Fadel uses this image:

I think Niki's idea is brilliant, but as a second option, may I suggest to Ali Amrikaayee that he considers the following as a second option? Of course I understand that such important matters take precedence over water and electricity in Baghdad, so my suggestion is merely to facilitate the process of decision making by the much respected Iraqi provincial council! Here is my number two suggestion, after Niki's:


Sunday, January 30, 2005

not again... and green home!

As I was browsing the web this morning, I came across Shahram Razavi's images, which are mainly from Tehran. Most of the images depict buildings and streets from the north of Tehran and certainly leave out the other face of the city. Regardless, I find them very interesting. I have read and heard about the construction projects by wealthy Iranians who have close ties to corrupt bonyads, and I was imagining that some of the high-rises may have been built as a result of those projects. Many of the places in Shahram's photographs did not exist or did not look the same when I left Iran, right after the end of war with Iraq more than 15 years ago. After looking at these pictures, the thought of a possible U.S. attack on Iran and the damage that such an attack could cause to these municipal developments in Tehran, Ahwaz, Isfahan, and many other cities made me extremely angry.
It has taken many years for Iranians to recuperate from eight years of war (many have not recovered yet and are still suffering from the losses that the war imposed upon them). It won't be just these buildings that will be ruined and lost. After all, unlike what most of these magnificent images depict, Tehran is very much populated (and so are other cities and villages). It will be numerous lives that will be lost. But for those Iranians who may survive the "shock and awe" of U.S. "liberation" forces, a U.S. appointed/supported regime would also mean the loss of whatever rights they have gained in the last two decades in their struggle against the Iranian government.
It wasn't until after the end of the destructive war in 1989 that Iranian people got the chance to effectively challenge the government and make political changes -tasks which were practically impossible during the war. Similar to what we are witnessing here in the U.S. today, the urgency of war and the nationalist sentiments that often accompany territorial protection were used by the state to suppress voices of dissent. In fact many changes did not take place until after 1989, when the post-revolutionary government could no longer contain people's discontents. The government was held accountable to the people who had sacrificed so much during a long war that immediately followed the revolution.
Iranian people have constantly fought for their rights and have changed laws and policies. It may not seem that way to those who watch from the outside and may only get their news from mainstream media or from some Iranian Opposition groups in diaspora, who for some reason are frozen in their time of departure and have a tendency to see the Iranian state as a unified category. But regardless of such representations, the situation has drastically changed exactly because of Iranian people's struggles. Of course change cannot happen over night and the political atmosphere in Iran has had its ups and downs. People have risked (and continue to risk) a lot in their struggles. An attack on Iran will dismantle all their efforts. U.S. intervention may in some people's view be one step forward, but it will certainly be ten steps backward for many Iranians.
All the energy that is being spent on changes from within will be redirected to fight the U.S. occupation. I think despite their dissatisfaction with the Iranian government, many people would strongly oppose occupation forces. When I was doing fieldwork in Istanbul and was questioning people about their opinions on the Los Angeles-produced Iranian satellite television programs, I encountered an interesting reaction from many people who assumed that I was taking back their views to satellite television programs, or to the U.S. media. A young man who was traveling with his wife and was waiting for the bus to go back told me: "I am strongly against the Iranian government. But tell them [U.S. based satellite television producers] not to make mistakes. Young Iranians will be the first ones to step forward and defend their country if the U.S. attacks Iran. I will be the first one to defend my homeland." Another young man who seemed to have a very successful business in an expensive area of Istanbul told me: "I left Iran because my wife and I don't want to live under the current political atmosphere in Iran. But if the leader, with whom I am not happy at all, appears on national television and asks Iranian youth to go to the frontline to defend the country, I will be in Iran that very day!"
I don't want to analyze the masculinist language used by these two young man (and many others) who coupled the protection of territory with defending the honor of "our sisters and mothers." That is another discussion. But, I want to make the point that unlike what some people seem to assume, many Iranians will not remain quiet if the U.S. launches an attack on Iran; no matter how much they resent the Iranian government.
In any case, here is an image from Iran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square formerly known as "Shah-yaad" Square) which was the scene of many anti-Shah demonstrations in Tehran. The white walls of the monument were adorned/vandalized (depending on how you look at it!) by revolutionary slogans during the revolution years, and by patriotic and Islamic ones during the war years. They seem slogan-less now, but it's hard to say from this bird's eye view. I certainly hope that it does not have to see anti-occupation slogans, or worse yet, bear damages from U.S. bombs.

By the way, a friend encouraged me to visit Hooman's blog to read his thoughts about the possibility of U.S. attacks on Iran. That is where I found the link to Shahram's page.

Added at 2:55 P.M.:
David had asked me to post photos of my garden, so that those of you who are shivering in snow, can enjoy California's green, at least virtually! I don't have a garden, but I do have a patio and a backyard. I also share a courtyard with my neighbors. In general, it is a pretty green area.
Since I am having difficulties with the "Hello" software on my browser, I am posting them using yahoo Photos again. Let me know if you cannot see the pictures in the main post. The oranges are from my small orange tree on the patio. In my Berkeley album, the image titled "Sepeed" is one with my black cat, Sepeed, who is hiding under the tree. Good luck finding her!


Saturday, January 29, 2005

Why do I write about war?

I wrote this poem in 1999. Prop. 21 and 22 were California laws. The first criminalized youth and the second only recognized marriage between a man and a woman... and Clinton had attacked Iraq in 1998 under pressure from the National Security Council. This is, by the way, Clinton's "Iraq Liberation Act." Sounds eerily familiar today... Replace the "Q" with "N" and ...
I am digressing again. Here is the poem:

why do I write about war
when we all dream of peace
and sugar tastes so sweet
in our morning Coco-puffs
and halva tastes so sweet
in our multi-cultural neighborhood café
congested with
about spiritual matters?
brown chocolate and creamy halva
blended in such harmony
its sweetness sticks your tongue to your palate
leaving you speechless.

why do I write about war
when the freedom to choose
keeps the fire going
yellow and red
like puss and blood
in a green woman’s torch?
and no…
the statute of liberty
doesn’t have to wear a veil
as she watches over the border
in a world you say is “without borders.”

why do I write about war
and why do I not dream of peace
and why do I not sleep?

maybe this is not a dream or a tale of love
maybe this is not a song for meditation
or music to your ears
and no,
bellies stuck to the bone
cannot belly dance.

tell me…
tell me in your dreams
do you see anything
but bombs
in the black eyes of the children
you once captured in snapshots
for your National Geographic?
the children you feel sorry for
and to whom you offer
hunger and death?

and yes..
how beautiful your harmony is
when hatred fills every vein
of your bloodless body

I still write about war and I still yearn to write poems about love
I still yearn to write poems
between your bullets and blood
between detention and welfare cuts
between the sanctions and Props. 21 and 22.

I still yearn to write love poems
I still
beyond your hate
and is that my 3rd strike


Friday, January 28, 2005


"So when did the assault on Americans' civil liberties get jumpstarted? The current liberal establishment seems to deem 9/11 the chief catalyst. Many of the most loathsome specimens within the haughty club imply that drastic incursions on Americans' civil liberties only began after 9/11, while the Clinton Administration represented a civil liberties paradise." Read the rest here.
I finally downloaded "Hello" on my computer and am going to post some pictures that people can actually see this time! But before playing, I really have to read and clean my house.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005


I was browsing Iranian blogs this morning and went through the popular events on weblogistan, using Damasanj (a tool similar to Blogdex). The 20th item on the list caught my attention. The title read (in Farsi): "Do you like basketball? What if instead of the ball, there was a girl?" I clicked on the link and this is what I saw. I was disgusted by the fact that nobody seemed to care about the woman who was thrown through the basket. She seemed to have hit her head against the metal rim, but the boys were too busy spanking each other on the ass to check on her and make sure that she was O.K. She had truely turned into an object, a ball to them.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

War or Sanctions?

David is one of the most responsive readers of this blog. He kindly leaves long and thoughtful comments, engages critically with my posts, and offers his own take on the issues that I raise. I want to respond to his last comment in the body of this post, because I think what he says is important enough (at least to me) to get its own post. Often there are points upon which many of us can agree, like being against Bush's domestic and foreign policies. And then, there are times when we don't agree. I think those are the times that we need to have discussions and delve deeper into the issues in order to have a productive dialogue . This is one of those times. David and I both signed a petition to which I gave a link in my last post. The petition is asking the U.N. to intervene and prevent a possible attack on Iran by the U.S. or its allies.
Here is David's comment:
"Sima, I signed the petition, too. I don't think that attacking Iran will accomplish anything positive. Diplomatic pressure and time are are what Iran needs, in my opinion. Iran is doing a lot of business with Europe and China. If Bush would only see the value of cooperation rather than alienation, significant economic pressure could be brought to bare on Iran's rulers. The Mullahs have become decadent and spoiled by their lavish lifestyles. I think that they value money more than ideology. For this reason, I think that they could be brought to heel if their gravy train were threatened."
I agree with david in that there are some elements in the Iranian government (I think without naming any names, many of us can think of some!) who continue to get richer, using their power and influence in both state and para-state apparatus (like bonyads). However, I think the sort of approach that sees economic pressure as the necessary strategy to bring Iran's Mullahs "to heel" relies on two sets of assumptions:
1. That the world has to heel to the U.S. (and that the U.S. should be in the position of holding moral and economic hegemony.)
2. That economic sanctions will hurt the "ruling mullahs."
I disagree with both. For one, I don't know why the U.S. assumes itself the paternal role in the world. I think many marginalized groups in the U.S. can attest to the fact that claims of equality and democracy in the U.S. do not mean much to them. There is much to be done here at "home." Perhaps before policing the world, the U.S. government can pay attention to the corruption among its own ranks and can fix some of these issues. And the problems are many: homelessness, gang violence, police brutality, drugs, violence against women and queers, deteriorating education, anti-immigrant laws and practices, poor healthcare, silencing voices of dissent on campuses, and the list goes on... I think we could agree that economic gains and geopolitical power, rather than genuine concern for human rights abuses, are what motivate the U.S. to intervene in Iran's affairs. Otherwise, there are plenty of human rights abuses in many parts of the world to which U.S. remains silent (Saudi Arabia and Egypt, just to bring a couple of examples, continue to be in this blind spot!). Let's not forget that many undemocratic regimes and groups have been backed up by the U.S. (Wahhabis and Taliban are two other examples of U.S. sponsorship of fundamentalist religious movements).
Secondly, I think economic pressure does not really hurt the "ruling Mullahs." It is often the ordinary people who suffer from these economic policies. Look at the case of Iraq and see how the sanctions killed so many people. That was diplomacy... as lethal as war. I doubt that Saddam suffered from lack of clean water or food during the sanctions! Thousands of children died as the direct result of sanctions in Iraq, prior to the "shock and awe" of March 19th, when U.S. bombs killed many more.
It is not just Mullahs who rule Iran; in our times, forms of governmentality have changed. Soveriegn nations no longer are "sovereign!" There are multiple networks of power to which we need to pay attention. Without going into a theoretical discussion, I'll just bring an example: Recently, Halliburton got a major gas contract in Iran, despite the sanctions!! Wasn't Cheney the Chair of this giant at one point? Now, let's see which Iranian voices are being shut down by U.S. companies becasue of the sanctions: ISNA, the Iranian student agency!! We shut down the only viable voices that can bring about change in Iran, in order to advocate democracy?!! It is O.K. to dig gas, but sanctions must be implemented when it comes to Internet technology? I think tightening sanctions can only hurt people who have been working towards change in Iran. Not to mention the misery and hunger that it would put people through (again, think of the way sanctions hurt people in Iraq).
I did sign the petition, as I said in that post, because I am strongly against war, be it in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other place for that matter. However, if diplomacy is going to mean sanctions, the way it worked in Iraq, I would ask the U.N. to back off and let the Iranian people be!


Saturday, January 22, 2005

Sanctioning Internet use

It seems like the U.S. companies have started restricting access to Iranian Internet users. This seems to be the result of enforcing U.S. sanctions on Iran.
You can read about it in Hoder's blog. ITiran has an article about this subject in Persian.


Letter to the U.N.

Here is an online petition that I've received through e-mail. It is drafted by a group called "Earthlings United." The petition is preempting a preemptive attack on Iran by asking the U.N. to intervene and prevent a possible war. I am very skeptical about U.N.'s role in some international circumstances. But for the sake of showing my opposition to war, I signed the petition. I am wondering where all these talks about possible attacks on Iran are going. But, let's hope that Bush does not start his second term in office with another war.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

San Francisco Rally

The rally in S.F. was not nearly as big as the one in Washington D.C. I joined a couple of friends and we marched from Civic Center to Embarcadero (I was really tired and the march felt really long!) Here are some pictures.
And here is my favorite dog at the rally! The name of his moneky, I was told by his owner, is George!

------------p.s. I took out the pictures from the body of the post, because on some browsers it only showed an empty frame. See pictures from the link above.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Dissent in the Age of Empire

Tomorrow is the national day of protest against Bush's inauguration and I am posting another flash that the International Answer Coalition has produced. I don't necessarily agree with some of the internationalist agendas of this organization, but they have organizing power in the U.S. and this event is a coalition event. The short documentary is called "Dissent in the Age of Empire."
Here is the information about the San Francisco protest.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

MLK's words

I got this today and thought to share it with you. MLK's words on a flash that invites people to join the protest in response to Bush's inauguration. One interesting point I found is the way people constantly appropriate other's words and give them new meanings. In the vigil on Sunday, the Zionist organizers of the event had produced brochures that had a quote from MLK on the front page: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere." Who would argue with that? But the question becomes whose "justice?" They had named their event the "Rally against Global Terrorism." And again, who defines what terrorism is?
In any case, for the purposes of the protest against Bush's selection, I am posting this flash. If you're close to Washington, you may want to attend. I am for sure joining the protest in San Francisco.


Monday, January 17, 2005


By the way, yesterday I got a series of postcards from Americans for a Palestinian State, which are designed to be sent to U.S. legislators. Here is the text of the card:

Dear Senator[...]

In view of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict being a threat to World Peace, we request that all aid to Israel be redirected from the military and illegal settlements to the removal of the settlements and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, or a unitary state with equal rights for all. Both parties should observe all relevant U.N. resolutions and international laws. Please support S. RES. 276.

Sincerely yours,
Please print
According to this organization, the financial cost of Israel for the American people is $155 Billion (direct aid and interest).
I think this campaign may be one way of helping the situation.


Film Festival at Stanford

For those of you who live in the Bay Area, Stanford's Coalition for Justice in the Middle East & Muslim Student Awareness Network have sponsored a film festival in January and February. Should be informative.

Iraq Film Festival
Thursday, January 20 – Sunday, February 13

Thursday, January 20 7:30 PM BLDG.320-105: Generation X- Saddam

Preceded by Larry Everest, author of Oil, Power, and Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, on “President’s Bush Agenda for Iraq & Beyond”

Sunday, January 23 7:30 PM BLDG 200-034: Greetings from Missile Street


Jan. 27, 7:30 PM BLDG 200-034 - Daily Baghdad

Jan. 29, (Saturday) 6:30 PM BLDG 320-105 - About Baghdad (Introduction by Director Adam Shapiro)

Feb. 3, 7:30 PM BLDG 200-034 - Downwind: Depleted Uranium Weapons in the Age of Virtual War (200-34)
Feb. 6, 7:30 PM BLDG 200-002 - Paying the Price (to be preceded by panel – ‘Cost of War: Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq’)

Feb. 10, 7:30 PM BLDG 200-034 - Outfoxed

Feb. 13, 7:30 PM BLDG 200-034 - Control Room


Sunday, January 16, 2005


Today, Christians for Jews and Israeli Action Commitee displayed a bus that was bombed in Israel in a public Park in Berkeley. Middle East Children's Alliance called a silent vigil in response to this form of representation. I went to the vigil and took some pictures. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators were on the sidewalk across from the park, where Israeli state proponents had gathered. After holding the picture of a Palestinian child who was killed (Samer Tabanja, 12 years-young. Killed on October 1st, 2000 in front of his home), I walked through the park and took some pictures from the posters on that side as well. One poster that drew my attention said "we provide you with everything you need to support Israel on the street!" There seemed to be a lot of plain-cloth agents on the Israeli side (the wired guy you see in the first picture from behind). On the pro-Palestinian side, there were a wide range of people: Jews for free Palestine, people who held rainbow flags, Women in Black, Not in Our Name, and people like myself who were not necessarily affiliated with any group, but had come for support. Seeing a group of Iranians at the vigil was very heart-warming. There were also a small group of pro-Israeli demonstrators who were shouting at pro-Palestinian folks, and as expected, a small group of people who were shouting back (I was very uncomfortable with some of the exchanges between these two groups).
In any case, I tried not to take people's faces and that's why most of the pictures have captured people from behind.
I also got a beautiful Palestinian paintings calendar from a friend. Visit the site and buy the art if you are interested. The money goes to palestinian artisist in Palestine.
And here is a poem from Suheir Hammad, which I posted on my Persian blog this morning. I will post it here as well:


By the river of Babylon...

Yesterday, the Guardian published this article about the damage to the site of Babylon as the result of war. Isn't it sad the way this war is destroying lives and history, both at such a fast pace? I guess it's not Ishtar who sits on the saddle of the lion, it is U.S. helicopters.
Here is the song, "al-atlal" (ruins) by Om Kalthoum...

P.S. This is an excerpt from a site about Om Kalthoum for those of you who are wondering what the song is about:
"'Al Atlal' (1966) is a particularly famous work from this period. The text is a love poem, but the words were commonly given other interpretations. Virginia Danielson writes: "Several of the climactic lines took on political meaning: 'Give me my freedom, set free my hands! I have given freely, I have held back nothing. Ah, how your chains have made my wrist bleed. . . .' In 1966, these lines were perceived by some as addressed to the repressive measures of 'Abd al-Nasir's government. After the Egyptian defeat of 1967, they took on a wider meaning, suggestive of the bondage in which many Egyptians felt the entire Arab world to be held." (Voice of Egypt, p. 180) The title itself translates as "The Ruins" or "The Traces." The piece draws heavily on Western classical music, but long stretches of it rock or swing with Arabic rhythms. Instrumentation includes a violin section, a prominently featured upright bass, and kanun. Though late in her career, Kalthoum's singing is quite powerful throughout this work, which is extremely dramatic even by her standards. Kalthoum's vocal delivery is relatively straight, with few obvious improvisatory digressions."


Saturday, January 15, 2005


I was reading the Iranian and saw this bizarre article about Pentagon's proposed research to develop an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would provoke "homosexual behaviour among troops"! (enemy's that is!) I thought it was a joke and followed the link to the New Scientist article about this. Still not trusting my eyes, I searched the Sunshine Project, an organisation that exposes this kind of research. There I found the 1992 document about "Harassing, Annoying, and 'Bad Guy' Identifying Chemicals."
The top of page 2 in the pdf format (category # 3) made me laugh. I am still not sure about the accuracy of these documents, but if this is for real, whoever came up with this plan must be on crack! This is based on the bigotry that discharges gays and lesbians from military. Not that I am in favor of gays and lesbians being in the military in the first place... But my reason is mainly because I oppose the military industry all together, and not because I think that "homosexual behavior" will make the military "weak!" And to use "homosexual behavior" as a weapon? Give me a break! I guess this is much better than nuclear weapons on which the Pentagon is probably working. Maybe they came across a sticker on a car that said "make love not war!" and thought, "let's kill them faggots while they're making love!" Who knows... I am still thinking this is a joke, but if it's not... If it is not, bring it on! [p.s I meant the aphrodisiacs!!]
Seriuosly speaking, Pentagon's investigation of the Abu Gharib abuses of Iraqi prisoners resulted in the conviction of Charles Graner...
The word of the day, dear farangopolitans, which I've decided to add to my dictionary is: Pentagonexoneration!!
Have a peaceful weekend, my friends.


Friday, January 14, 2005

What is in a name?

When I first started this blog not too long ago, many of the comments I received on my Farsi blog were in English and from people who encouraged me to use "Persian" rather than Farsi to refer to the language. The contestations over the name of the language in English are not unrelated to contestations over national identity and territory. Interestingly, many Iranians in Iran may not care whether you call them "Persian" or "Iranian," but it seems that the issue of naming has caused many debates among diasporic Iranians. Here is an interesting article that Roozbeh Shirazi has written for the Iranian. He doesn't talk about Riza Shah's change of the name (in English) from "Persia" to Iran, which took place in mid 1930s as a result of state's racial and national territorial agendas. Ironically, Riza Shah's Foreign Ministry argued that "Persia" had negative connotations in international arena, as the word evoked the "ignorance and weakness" of old Iran. "Iran," they argued, symbolized progress among other "civilized" nations (and they argued that Iran was the birthplace of Aryans). Ironically, this change of name to Iran was accompanied with a systematic "Persianization" and suppression of ethnic minorities by Riza Shah.
I think it is interesting the way names change their signification. It seems that the same kind of arguments are being made today, except that it is "Persia" and not "Iran" that holds the privileged position in this naming contest. And this, of course, has to do with the baggage that comes with "Iran"; from "axis of evil" to the "hostage crisis." After all, the violence that many Iranians experienced in 1980s made Persia a safer name than Iran (or Eye-ran!). Persia seems to take us to the times immemorial... to the glory of pre-Islamic Iran. In this journey back in time, however, big chunks of history seem to be falling into the swamps of amnesia...


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Occupation, cats, and mice....

"Trapped Like Mice: Palestinians under the New Israeli Disengagement Plan" is an interesting article about the game of numbers (it adds up to 47% after all, despite the claims of the "new map"), the continuous building of Israeli settlements, and living like mice under Israeli surveillance. Obayd Zakani's "Qasideh Moosh va Gorbeh" comes to mind:

گربه کرده است ظلم بر موشان
تا شده عابد و مسلمانا
سال یک موش می گرفت از ما
حال حرصش شده فراوانا
این زمان پنج پنج می گیرد
تا شده عابد و مسلمانا
Need I say more?


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Sex change, Civil liberties pledge, etc.

Before you read on: I just saw this survey about the Iranian diaspora in Canada. In case it applies to you...
Also, ACLU is asking people to take a pledge on Bush's inauguration day. The pledge is called "Refuse to surrender your freedom" and is in response to the Patriot Act, the attack on abortion rights, gay and lesbian rights, etc.
Now the sex change post:
A couple of days ago, I wrote a short piece in my Persian blog about sex-change surgeries in Iran and critiqued the reification of sexed and gendered binaries through the use of tropes such as "being trapped in the wrong body." I pointed to the history of this trope in the U.S. and questioned the "truth of sex" that it sought to establish. I was pleased to see that in today's Iranian.com, Afsaneh Najmabadi has eloquently written on this subject and has addressed the issue, using her expertise on the history of sexuality in modern Iran. Three years ago, I wrote a review of Farkhondeh Aghayee's book, jensiyat-e gomshodeh ("lost gender"), a psycho-social account of sex-change surgeries, in which the author perpetuates the view that transsexuals suffer from psych-sexual disorders. Since that time, the proliferation of the discourse on sex-change has enabled more and more surgeries to take place, which is a positive change for many Iranian transsexuals. This discourse, however, continues to construct non-heterosexual desires as "disease" and "abnormal." Sex change is legitimitized only as a way to fix "abnormal" desires. As such many forms of sexuality that remain outside of this naturalized heterosexuality continue to be marked as abnormal, deviant, and "sick." I think currently in Iran, medical, psychological, and religious discourses are coming together to produce and discipline the category of "do-jensi." While the discourse has proven to be productive in that it has given legitimacy to many transgenders in Iran, it also reconsolidates heterosexuality as the only legitimate form of sexuality. In any case, read Afsaneh's article and if you have any thoughts, let's discuss them here.


Good news: filtering updates

I read these in the Iranian about the filtering situation in Iran:
January 11: "Third note:I'm writing again to update you on the filtering situation. This will most likely be my last update on the story, since everything seems to be back to normal, so to speak. [Petition to unblock Orkut]
Neda Network is back. Rumor has it that they refused to filter Orkut and that's why they had to close down briefly. Pars Online apparently never closed according to some, and was "plumbed" according to others.
People are just figuring out different ways to circumvent the filters and get to Orkut. One of the most effective ways to do it is to use Orkut's IP address instead of the regular URL, which would mean just typing in the address bar in order to reach the site. Of course, proxies could be used for the purpose too. There are a few guides on how to use proxies already on the web.
Most importantly, the rumors about the restriction of blog sites definitely don't seem to be true and only hype. Persianblog, blogger.com and the rest are all functioning as they always did. The filtering only concerns Orkut. >>> First & second note
-- Anonymous, Tehran"
[January 9]:
"Second note:Hi again,
I'm writing to update you on what I reported earlier about the crackdown. I've checked persianblog.com, and contrary to what the BBC is reporting, it is alive and well and living on the Iranian web shores. [See petition to unblock Orkut]
There are no updates on rumors concerning Pars Online and Neda, but this also might be of interest: Apparently, there has been a case made against [Vice President] Abtahi at the clerics' court ("daadgaah-e rowhaaniat") after he created the commission to investigate allegations of mistreatment made by arrested bloggers. This is also still a rumor, but the difference is that Abtahi himself has claimed having heard about the case.
I'll attach two screenshots [from my computer monitor in Tehran] of the now filtered Orkut as well as the filtered petition site.
First note:Thought you'd want to know that there are rumors of a major Internet crackdown over here. Orkut has definitely been filtered "be dastoore ghovveye ghazayie", Neda.net is not working anymore (though according to the company itself, it's only for 24 hours), Pars Online has been "plumbed" ("polomb!") this morning according to another rumor, and so on.
Weblogs haven't been filtered (yet?), neither is iranian.com -- at least not on the ISP I'm using. People can still get on Orkut if they use the secure version of the site (by using https for every page they're trying to retrieve), but apparently, there's a way to filter that as well.
-- Anonymous, Tehran"


Sunday, January 09, 2005

The drama of elections in the Middle East

The elections in Palestine seem to be coming to an end. Alrhought the results won't be official until Monday, it seems like Mahmoud Abbas has won the elections. The mainstream media news is full of narratives about the prospect of peace and democracy. This is another view which I found interesting.
And this is an article I read in ProgressiveTrail.org today. The author, Dahr Jamail, makes an analogy between U.S. troop increases in Vietnam war and the recent increases in Iraq. He says, it was called escalation then, it is called elections now...
I read in another article today that the U.S. support for Tsunami so far equals a day and half of the cost of War in Iraq. Sigh...
And finally, I received an email from MECA (Middle East Childrens' Alliance) about a silent vigil in Berkeley on January 16th. If you are a Bay Area resident, you may be interested in this.
On a happier note, Joojeh Kabob was lovely and Sanam seemed to be doing great.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Between a rock and a hard place: secular Muslim

Oops, I've done it again.... Not in the Britney sense, but in the sense that I am posting a long comment here as a post again! I am not an engineer and not tech. savvy at all, so please bear with me until I learn how to send my long posts to another vitual place, as hyper-text. I guess I need to get my own domain in order to do that. No? I'm not sure.
I am back home, on the “hot seat” behind my computer. It is raining outside and in this cold weather, sitting on this hot seat is actually not bad at all. Although I don't know why my cat, Sepeed, has decided to go out cruising in this rain!
Pantea-ye aziz, I am not sure what in my posts makes you come to the conclusion that I “believe in Islam.” If by believing you mean that I am a follower, then no. If you mean that I believe that Islam is a reality of many people’s lives today, then yes. I think I have tried to explain by using anecdotes, and through a simplified explanation of performative identities, what I mean by being a Muslim. I am not going to repeat what I have said in my last two posts and comments, but let me just bring examples, through which I may be able to make myself more clear.
A friend of mine, an Iranian queer woman, always takes issue with my claims to Muslim-ness. She grew up in a very religious family, which wasn’t quite the case for me. Although my mom became born-again Muslim before the revolution, soon after the revolution she became less religious, because unlike others in my immediate family, she was a Shah advocate! (She was religious, but not in favor of the Iranian regime, which is the case for many Iranians). In any case, my family came from all kinds of political inclinations and as I have said before, I ended up becoming a leftist at the age 11. I was even expelled from school in the 7th grade, because I took “Tarikh-e donyaye Qadeem” to my Islamic Knowledge (Ma’aref-I Islami) class in order to prove to my teacher, a “hezbollahi” woman, that there was no God (I tried to do this through the Darwinian evolution theory!) Thanks to “party-baazi” of a relative who taught in that school, I was re-admitted with a permanent red mark on my school file! So, I too, have occupied the subject-position of an “atheist” at some point in my life. But, saying that I am a Muslim does not mean that I have repented, brainwashed, or that I am a “believer.” I say I am a secular Muslim because I come from a part of the world, where Islam has had a significant cultural influence (as a joke, I always use the example of my beloved Aftaabeh. But that is a joke, people. Don’t start sending me comments arguing that Aftaabeh is an Iranian invention and not an Islamic one!) In any case, because of my positioning as a diasporic subject in a Christian-dominated location (and we can talk about how religious the U.S. is, despite all its claims to secularism), I have found myself in a position of being interpellated as a Muslim and also in the position of being denied my history. In the 15 years I have been here, I have encountered so many different ways of being fixed into rigid stereotypes and subjected to many instances of being required to prove my “authenticity.” From, “but you don’t look Iranian, where is your veil or long hair?” to “Oh, I should have guessed that you don’t drink alcohol and you don’t eat pork, because you are a Muslim.” This last one coming from an anthropologist who specializes in a Middle Eastern country (I guess after all, not all anthropologists are that smart, huh? One point for engineers, Mo! :-)). [By the way, let me digress for a moment. I take issue with social sciences and humanities being excluded from the realm of being “scientific.” Back to my story now…]
I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t eat bacon, not because I practice Islam, but because I have stomach problems, and because I was a vegetarian for 13 years (I just started eating meat again, due to health issues... And joojeh kabab is my favorite now!). Believe me, eating bacon and drinking alcohol are the least of offenses that would have made me into a kaafar in some people’s eyes! That is why my queer friend objects to me: “but how can you be a Muslim?” Well, that is exactly what I am trying to complicate! “Being” vs. “becoming.” This is my point about questioning essentialist notions of identity. "Being a Muslim" does not just mean one thing and does not remain the same. As David has put it, identities are not immutable. So, my Muslim-ness in Iran has a very different meaning than my Muslim-ness here in the U.S. I am constantly becoming, as we all are. We are subjects in making. My Muslim-ness now is contingent upon the transnational discourses on Islam and my geographic, political, and cultural positionality in relation to these discourses.
Now, why do I not approach Sura Nisa (Nesaa)? Because there are many different forms of feminism and I do not have the same approach as the feminists who try to re-interpret Islam. Many Women who live under Muslim laws have taken up this approach, either for strategic reasons and the immediacy of the issues they deal with, or because they believe in Islam as their faith and are negotiating a legitimate space for themselves in patriarchal settings (remember the recent discussion about the meaning of “rijal” in Iran?) Mernissi, for example, questions the whole notion of “sacredness” of the text, pointing to the political and economic issues that were at stake after the death of the prophet of Islam in Ad 632. In a sense, she questions the history written by male elites and without refuting Islam, points to relations of power in the formation of a patriarchal Islam (this would require a long discussion, so if you are interested, read Mernissi’s The Veil and the Male Elite). Now, it may be the anthropologist in me, but I do think that rather than whole-sale rejection of a theory or concept, we can take pieces from it and develop new ways of approach, a bricolage, in anthropological terms. So, there is no way I can tell you, Pantea, “exactly" what being a "Muslim" or being "Secular" mean. They have different meanings in different locations and times (I witnessed a very interesting version of it when I was doing fieldwork in Istanbul last summer, for instance). “Exactly” is an impossibility in my view. We can only get near, get close to meanings, as they always shift and are deferred (the “excess” that I was referring to in my last post).
Dear David, I hope I have to some extent answered to your comment. Let me say that print actually enabled the massive distribution of the bible, as the first thing that was produced through what Benedict Anderson calls “print capitalism.” Also, I have added two new books (not available yet, but forthcoming) to the side bar. The one by Minoo Moallem talks about fundamentalism as a modern phenomenon. Elsewhere, Moallem has shown how egalitarian feminism and Islamic fundamentalism share many principles and histories. Both, she argues, are engaged in a crisis of rationality and identity (again, she is not talking about all forms of feminism, but egalitarian feminism). I would highly recommend her new book to those who are interested in the subject. The one by Afsaneh Najmabadi talks about the masquerade of homo-eroticism in modern Iran. It is also a fantastic re-writing of history.
On a different note: In my Persian blog, I had written about my friend's finch, Sanam, who became very sick when my friend was away. While Sanam was in the hospital, we found out that "she" had been a male bird all along! (It's hard to tell their sex when they are babies. My friend has had Sanam for four years, thinking that she was Sanam Khanoom!) In any case, I just got a call from my frined. Sanam is doing better and is back home. To celebrate, I am going over there for lunch tomorrow. We are having joojeh kabob!! Sanam's name remains Sanam and her owner has decided that she will still see sanam as a female bird. Sanam and Julio, her male cage-mate, are apparently all over each other! I thought that was funny :-). What can I say.... Performativity of gender and the discursiveness of sex!
Post-script: Isn't it saddening when someone removes you from their list of links when you disagree with them on something? I guess I need to become "poost-koloft" and get used to being "de-linked!"


Friday, January 07, 2005

on identity...

The last post was an interesting experience for me. I wasn't quite surprised by the comments, yet it was interesting to see the reaction from two seemingly opposing sides: Those who reject religion as a rational way of answering questions of modern times, and those who seem to be religious and refer to Qur'an in order to answer to today's social issues. Their approaches may be different, but there seems to be a consensus between the two sides (well, I only had two people who voiced their concerns in this oppositional manner, so really by "them," I mean the two sides who saw my statement about being a secular Muslim as paradoxical. By no means am I attempting to generalize their views to the bloggers in Weblogistan. Of course there was also another person who went beyond the either/or binary). "How can one be gay and Muslim?" "How can one be a feminist and a Muslim?" The multiplicity of one's identity seemed to be seen as an oxymoron. More dichotomies were created in the course of this long discussion. Science became opposed to religion, mathematical reasoning took the privileged status.
Here are my post-discussion thoughts and some explanations that may be helpful in shifting this discussion to another level:
When I put forward the idea of being a secular Muslim feminist, the first question came from a friend who was interested to know what my interpretation of Sura Nesaa was. I said in my comments that interpreting Qur'an is not my expertise. I think there needs to be a clarification: there is a difference between being an Islamic feminist and being a Muslim feminist. The former is interested in re-negotiating Islamic laws and operates within those laws, the latter may not even practice Islam, but uses her/his Muslim identity to refer to being implicated in a culture that has historically and politically been informed by Islamic discourses. So, when I say I am a Muslim feminist, it doesn't necessarily mean that I am religious.
But a more important issue that I am going to address here, is the way one is asked to choose between being a feminist and accepting Islam. While I do not consider myself to be an Islamic feminist, I still do think that Islamic feminism is legitimate, as neither Islam, nor feminism are monolithic categories. It is only when one tries to fix Islam and feminism by rigid definitions that the possibility of Islamic feminism becomes paradoxical (or halted).
So, when I say that I am a secular Muslim feminist, one of my goals is to destabilize categories that are often defined as exclusionary. We all use identities to represent ourselves in one way or another. One may see he/his career as an important part of her/his identity. Another may use something else as a way of representing her/himself. We use our identities as a way of REPRESENTING ourselves. This means that we are not inherently something or another, but are always a representation of something that itself is a representation. So, when I say I am a Muslim secular woman, none of the three parts of this identification is fixed. Muslim has multiple meanings, so does secular, and yes, so does woman. All of these are discursively defined. They have different meanings in different times and locations and become meaningful according to discourses that are available in specific historical junctures. By this, I don't mean that we can pick and choose freely from what we want, as if identities are free-floating. No. We are often defined by dominant discourses (be it discourses of gender, race, religion, science, etc.) and as Althusser would say it, we are interpellated by these discourses (although Althusser used "ideology" and not "discourse"). Yet, we are not without agency either. We are subjected to these discourses and become subjects of these discourses through what Butler, using Derrida would call "performativity." That means we occupy the available subject position of being a "man," a "woman," "Muslim," or "queer," and then through repetition, we make these into identities. So in a sense we consolidate these hegemonic discourses, but at the same time we shift them, because in every repetition, that womanhood, or manhood, or Muslim ness, or queerness, moves a bit further than what it was before. There is always an excess. So, while we may not quite transgress these hegemonic discourses (as we are subjected to them and implicated in them), these discourses do not remain the same. They do employ disciplinary apparatus to produce subjects (who are law-abiding, religious, etc. etc. depending on which discourses are dominant at the time), but this doesn't mean that we are docile subjects and that these discourses remain fixed. that would be depressing, no?
O.K. this post is getting too long, but let me just add one other thing: Islam and modernity are not mutually exclusive. I think there are plenty of examples that can attest to this.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

From Islamic movements to queerness

O.K. I am posting another long response to a comment, in the main body of this post. If I am disrespecting blogging etiquette, I apologize. But disrupting conventions is not always bad either. Besided, I think this subject deserves to have a discussion of its own.
Here is my response to Ahmadreza, who has kindly engaged with me in a discussion about anti-Arab sentiments and queerness. his comment is under my last post...
I don't disagree with you about the anti-Islamic base of anti-Arab sentiments in the U.S. (and elsewhere) today. yet, anti-Arab sentiments have histories according to their context. Among Iranians, it is actually connected to the Arab conquest of Iran and its traces go back to Ferdowsi's poetry (Kathryn Babayan in her Mystics, Monarchs, and Messiahs has an excellent chapter on this "Persiante ethos"). Many Iranians, of course, also become complicit with anti-Arab sentiments that are prevalent in the "West" and are connected to the Orientalist discourses that people like Edward Said have critiqued. The anti-Arab sentiments that we witness in the U.S. today, also have their links to the post-WWII ways of governmetality and "civilizational thinking" of likes of Huntington, whose Manichean rhetoric is echoed in Bush's crusade. The Islamic movement, which you refer to, however, is vague to me. Islamic movements have their specific histories in diffferent locations and different times. As Tim Mitchell has shown, some of these movements (such as Muwahhidin in Saudi Arabia) have not been in opposition to U.S. expansionism, but very much complicit with it.
My point is that anti-Arab sentiments among diasporic Iranians are contingent upon historical events. The same goes with hegemonic Anti-Arab sentiments in the U.S. Yet, this does not mean that these sentiments discriminate when it comes to targeting Muslims- or people who are from parts of the "Muslim world" (many queer Arabs were bashed after september 11... No one cared if they were "practicing" or not! Many Sikhs were killed, no body cared that they were not Muslim!) This was also demonstrated when many Iranians in Los Angeles were arrested during "special regstration" processses. I recall that many Iranians attempted to distinguish themselves from Arabs, by saying that "we are not terrorists, they are!" Unfortunately, it seems like there is a lot to be learned about coalition-building in the face of anti-Muslim, anti-Middle Eastern hatred.
But, let me go back to the issue of Islam and homosexuality. I believe that there are many forms of Islam. Who am I to say that "this is Islam, and the other is not!" Some feminists, like Fatima Mernissi have argued for different interpretations of Islam, while some queers, such as members of Al Fatiha have reinterpreted Qur'an's Sura, Lut. Now, you can call that a "sin," but you will be surprised to know that they even have Imams among them here in the U.S. They practice Islam fully and observe all its principles (some are Sunni, some Shia).
For me, Islam is something I grew up with. My mom, a born-again Muslim, took private Qur'an lessons before the revolution, as I sat next to her, listening to her teacher, Mr. Atashkaar, who was a talabeh at the time. It was then that I added divinity school to the long list of occupations that I wanted to be when I grew up! Of course, being a doctor, a lawyer, and an engineer were on the top of the list. I never did any of that. I ended up becoming an anthropologist and a feminist instead! Like many teenagers, I was also exposed to Islam's teachings as a "child of revolution." I was a "joojeh" leftist, and my mom never attempted to force me into practicing Islam. Yet, Islam in America took a different signification for me. At times, I was interpellated as a Muslim, by default. At other times I defended it in a political gesture against fundamentalist Christians or fundamentalist Zionist jews.
In any case, Islam in its different forms has been a part of my becoming and my identity. I do not practice it, but consider it as a fragment among many fragments that constitute me as who I am. I consider myself to be a secular Muslim woman, and frankly, I do not see a contradiction in this iteration. Is this the Islam that you believe in? Probably not. Is it one that you can tolerate? I certainly hope so, because I am willing to tolerate you, my friend. Am I a liberal? Not a chance! I have had my disillusionment with tenets of liberalism. However, I certainly hope that we can accept criticism from each other without hostility. I do believe in coalition politics and that is very much needed in these times.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Sacred profanities

This post started as a response to a comment below, where Alireza Doostdar has problematized Iranian.com's "nothing is sacred" slogan. Since my response became too long, I decided to make it into a post:
It was in fact this slogan that initially incited me, some time ago, to object to a cartoon on the pages of Iranian.com which had angered me. In my response to that cartoon, I questioned the way "freedom of speech" had itself become the untouched "sacred," while enabling hate speech. However, later I came to appreciate the possibilities that this idea of questioning anything and everything sacred that Iranian.com's slogan suggests. To me, this slogan means that one can question many notions that are assumed to be "sacred" and remain untouched by many diasporic Iranians. This includes things like the "freedom of speech" (or an abstract notion of "freedom" for that matter), nationalism, heterosexuality, "democracy," "Iranian-ness," and many other issues that people often take for granted and don't think about when they say "sacred." Unfortunately, however, more often than not, it is the hegemonic discourses that easily find their way into the pages of Iranian.com. I just wished that more people would write and challenge some of these taken-for-granted idea(l)s. Even though, Mo has rightly encouraged me to ignore people such as the author of the satiric piece to which I had referred in that post[Muslim fags], unfortunately, I think likes of Baniameri are many. Besides, if we accept, in an Austinian way, that to say things is to do things, then we have to admit that the performativity of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-queer hate-speech does in fact have material effects.
Again, I wish more people would write to create an alternative space of dialogue on the Iranian.com, since it is the largest diasporic Iranian online magazine (and I know that Jahanshah Javid is open to posting those writings as well). But, I also know that we choose our battles and that the academic Fordism in the U.S. doesn’t allow many of us, students of humanities and social sciences, whose work should include cultural critique, to write in response to pop culture. But, writing for (and in response) to popular culture, is perhaps another way to destabilize the binary of “sacred” and “profane.” By giving weight to the profanity (or “vulgarity”) of popular cultural forms such as Iranian.com or blogs (as you [Alireza Doostdar] have eloquently written about), one can challenge the sacredness of the “high culture,” and question the assumed profanity of the “low culture.” It is the “high culture” that many Iranian intellectuals seem to insist on preserving, not wanting to admit that all sacredness is already contaminated… That, I think, is the beauty of life: its paradoxes and its impurity. I am digressing again! In any case, I hope that we take this “nothing is sacred” at its face value and question the sacredness of the “sacred,” whatever that may be.


Monday, January 03, 2005

Philosophers for Tsunami

For those of you who live in the Bay Area: The proceeds of Javad Tabatabai's lectures will go to the victims of the December 26 Tsunami. A good way to help.
Here is the email I got today:
Seminars by Javad Tabatabai, prominent Iranian philosopher.

To get more information on the seminars and Dr. Tabatabai please check:


Please note change of location.

The proceeds of the seminars will go to the victims of Tsunami disaster.

The funds will be given to Doctors without Borders through “Iranian Society for Human Rights in Northern California” who are exploring fundraising activities to help in this catastrophe. To help in their efforts please contact koshesh@aol.com

The seminars will deal with current social, economic and political crises of Iranian society. Based on his new research on Iranian history, Dr. Tabatabai will discuss the principle of a new approach to the perennial problematic issues of the Iranian civilization.

Seminars are given in Persian language.

Date: Saturday, January 8, and Sunday, January 9, 2005

Time: 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
2:00 – 4:30 PM

Place: Language Studies International2015 Center StBerkeley, CA 94704

The two days of seminars are related but do cover different topics and may be attended separately.
Fee for each day is $75.00 (Students $50.00)

Sorry for the short notice. Space is limited. If you are interested, to reserve space,
please send an e-mail to: berkeleylectures@yahoo.com


Sunday, January 02, 2005

Muslim fags

I am sitting in a cafe, working on a course syllabus. I have had no electricity since yesterday morning. Even though I started the new year in the dark, I tried to have a good attitude and look at the bright side- at least for the first week of the year! That was until I saw this. I love Iranian.com and admire Jahanshah Javid for being able to maintain this fantastic online magazine despite all the strange material he receives. I often read and move on when I'm annoyed by an article, but there are times like this when I cannot take it any longer and have to say something. No matter how strongly one disagrees with suicide bombing, I find it appalling when in an attempt to condemn it, one subscribes to hegemonic representations of Arabs and Muslims. Baniameri's article not only others Muslim men, but also targets queers by using homophobic and hateful language. His satire is a distasteful repetition of the famous "hijack this fag"- only this time written on pages of a cyber magazine rather than on a physical bomb. How many times have we heard the stereotypical pathologization of Muslim men that uses the narrative of virgins and its psychological implications- a knowledge that is informed by post World War II terrorism studies and has established itself as "scientific truth"? How many times have we seen homophobic men use references to anal penetration in order to belittle others? Can one be more creative in her/his critique or satire and move away from cliche stereotypes?


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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